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The kayak-equipped, yachtlike 36-passenger Safari Explorer will sail a new “Prince William Sound Explorer” itinerary this season. Photo Courtesy UnCruise Adventures

Small and sustainable alternative sailings

Alaskan cruising is booming. Last summer, a record 1.6 million people took a cruise to Alaska, mostly aboard very large ships carrying thousands of passengers. But you don’t have to cruise Alaska that way.

The following cruise lines offer unique opportunities for getting away from the crowds and off the beaten path. Some of these voyages are aboard unusual vessels; a few are among the newest in the Alaskan cruise fleet, and most represent the latest in environmental technologies and best practices for sustainable tourism. Activities are heavy on outdoor adventure, itineraries frequent less-visited destinations, and your fellow passengers may come from nations other than America.

U.S.-FLAG SMALL SHIP

UnCruise Adventures (uncruise.com) will launch its inaugural cruises of Prince William Sound in May. The eight-day “Prince William Sound Explorer” itinerary sails roundtrip from Whittier aboard the 36-passenger Safari Explorer. This is one of several cruises that will call at Cordova this year, a remote fishing village on the eastern side of the sound, which suddenly has become rather popular with cruise ships. This itinerary will be repeated in 2025, along with the company’s first-ever cruises to the Aleutian Islands sailing between Whittier and Dutch Harbor.

Alaskan Dream Cruises (alaskandreamcruises.com) introduces a new nine-day “Ice of the Inside Passage” itinerary aboard the 49-passenger Baranof Dream visiting seven different southeast Alaskan glaciers up close, with the chance to see five more glaciers from a distance. The cruise will sail from Sitka to Glacier Bay National Park and Juneau, and then visit the Haida community of Kasaan, before concluding in Ketchikan.

Alaskan Dream Cruises is Alaska’s only Indigenous-owned cruise line, run by the Allen family of Sitka, who are of Tlingit descent.

The 12-passenger Kruzof Explorer is a former Bering Sea crab fishing boat converted for expedition cruising. Photo courtesy Alaskan Dream Cruises

Lindblad Expeditions (expeditions.com) offers “A Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii,” a 15-day itinerary that includes four days in the ancestral territory of the Haida Nation. Lindblad has secured special access to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where travelers learn from Haida interpreters and have the opportunity to explore these remote islands. The vessels for this unusual itinerary are the 62-passenger sister ships National Geographic Sea Bird or National Geographic Sea Lion, sailing one way between Vancouver and Sitka or reverse.

FOREIGN-FLAG EXPEDITION SHIPS

HX (hurtigruten.com) of Norway—formerly known as Hurtigruten Expeditions—operates coastal Alaska’s only hybrid-powered cruise ship, the Roald Amundsen. The 530-passenger vessel built in 2019 has a sustainability-focused science center and calls at out-of-the-way places like Cordova in Prince William Sound on its 14- or 15-day “Wilderness, Glaciers, and Culture” (northbound or southbound) cruises of the Inside Passage and Gulf of Alaska. Longer, 18- or 19-day “Inside Passage, Bears, and Aleutian Islands” (also northbound or southbound) voyages venture as far north as the Bering Sea, stopping along the way in Dutch Harbor, St. Paul, and uninhabited St. Matthew Island.

PONANT (us.ponant.com), based in France, operates Le Commandant Charcot—an icebreaker powered by batteries and liquefied natural gas, built in 2021 to take up to 245 passengers to the very top of the world in luxurious accommodations. A 25-day westbound transit of the legendary Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific departs Reykjavik, Iceland, on August 12 and arrives in Nome on September 5. The route includes several days of exploring the Beaufort Sea above the northern coast of Alaska, navigating the sea ice and looking for polar bears.

PONANT’s French-flagged icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot is the world’s first hybrid-powered passenger icebreaker. Photo courtesy PONANT

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (hl-cruises.com), based in Germany, offers expedition cruises for an international clientele. Two back-to-back 15-day sailings in July and August, “Alaska (Inside Passage route south) – Nature’s Gold Rush” and “Alaska (Inside Passage route north) – The Call of the Wilderness,” travel between Vancouver and Seward aboard the HANSEATIC spirit, which entered service in 2021 and carries a maximum of 230 people. The emphasis is on wilderness areas like Aialik Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park and remote communities such as Elfin Cove (population 30) and the Tlingit community on Kupreanof Island. Announcements and printed matter onboard are in German, but the crew is fluent in English.

AND A BIG SHIP…

Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com) sends the 1,964-passenger Westerdam—the only truly big ship to appear on this list—on one of the longest and most unusual Alaskan cruises this season: a new 28-day “Alaska Arctic Circle Solstice” itinerary that stops in 12 Alaskan ports including Anchorage, Dutch Harbor, Haines, Homer, Juneau,Ketchikan, Kodiak, Nome, Seward, Sitka, Valdez, and Wrangell. A single departure is scheduled for June 9 from Seattle, sailing all the way to the Bering Sea and back. The itinerary has proven so popular that another departure has been scheduled for 2025 on June 8.

For more information on these and other Alaskan cruises, visit the cruise line websites above or akcruise.org.

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