Traveller Review: Alaska's Inside Passage
From dramatic glaciers to friendly sea otters, Adventure World traveller Sharmila Patel takes us on a journey to Alaska's Inside Passage and reviews our Discoverers' Glacier Country
small ship cruise.
HERE'S WHAT SHARMILA HAD TO SAY:
Blue sky, sunshine and 15 degrees. Not quite the weather you would expect when cruising Alaska's Inside Passage. We were a very lucky group indeed, claimed the crew members.
We departed Alaska's capital Juneau and headed to Glacier Bay National Park, the second largest national park in the world after Antarctica.
Calm seas allowed us to spot marine life on the water's surface. Sea otters lazily lying on their back, their paws across their chest, seemed to flash smiles in our direction as our vessel cut through the icy water. A pungent smell assaulting our nostrils routinely alerted us to approaching seal colonies before we could spot them sunbathing on the rocks or playing in the water. And every time we unfixed our gaze from the water, we were treated to a stunning panorama of jutting snow-capped mountain peaks. There was never a dull moment.
The ship slowed down to a crawl as we passed an island known for nesting bald eagles. Reaching for the binoculars, I had the pleasure of spotting a lone bald eagle sitting high in the spruce tree.
Thirty minutes later there was a rumble of excitement on the stern of the boat as a large brown bear strolled along the shoreline in search of food. He rummaged along the water, rolling boulders over like they were small pebbles. Occasionally he glanced our way, but his priority was to find food after months of hibernation.
We continued to sail up the bay to the Marjorie Glacier. An impressive large mass of blue ice surrounded by icebergs littered the water. We could hear the sound of cracking ice and watched in awe as huge chunks fell from the enormous glacier into the sea starting the next iceberg.
The next morning the weather had changed. Opening the curtains, we had dropped anchor outside another glacier. The sky had turned grey and you could see your breath as you talked.
First up was an excursion on a 'skiff', otherwise known as an inflatable raft. Wrapped up with layers of clothing, primed for a wind chill factor of 0, we headed out to Lanpugh Glacier.
Searching the shoreline and rocks for bird and marine life, we spotted puffins, Arctic terns and oyster catchers (all breeds of seabird native to the region). As we rounded the corner the glacier came into site. For added drama, high along the glacier ridge sat a bald eagle.
We glided past the glacier slowly in the raft, hoping for the opportunity to see the ice tumble into the bay. Large shards of ice leaned towards the water but none were ready to fall away.
Seals popped their heads out of the water and swam close to the raft, perhaps in the hopes of finding some food. All they got was a lot of camera lenses pointing their way. As we slowly cruised back to the ship, news came across the radio that one of the hiking groups had spotted a humpback whale breaching their tail.
After lunch, it was time to do some exercise. The ship had a fantastic dry dock that provided the perfect launch pad for kayaks. I've never worn layers of clothing, wet weather gear and shoes when kayaking; this was certainly going to be a first. Suited up life jacket and kayak skirt in place, we headed to the kayaks.
Cruising along the coastline, again the group was on the lookout for bears, bird life and marine mammals. The occasional sea otter and seal pop their head above the water. I dip my hand in to test the seawater and it's ice cold. If something goes wrong, I estimate I would have approximately 3-5 minutes before I am in serious trouble! The chunks of ice that float past the kayak don't serve any comfort. However, a little while late I return to the ship safe and sound. The lounge is full of people talking about the day's adventures, swapping stories and showing photos. As happy hour kicks in, the stories become more entertaining.
After a delicious three-course dinner I decide to call it an evening and rest up for another day of wildlife spotting. Looking at my watch, the time is 10.30pm and jarringly it's still daylight outside. At this time of the year it doesn't get dark until around 11pm, and sunrise is 2.30am in the morning. I close the shades in my cabin and retire. Tomorrow's challenge is to spot humpback whales.
Adventure World's Discoverers' Glacier Country includes 7 nights cruising aboard the small ship of your choice, sightseeing as specified, all meals and premium spirits, wine and microbrews onboard, one complimentary massage (except Safari Quest) taxes, port charges and fees. Prices do not include fuel surcharges which may be added up to the time of departure.
Alaska is a sparsely populated place and distances can be large. The best way to see this amazing countryside is by organised tour. The itineraries we offer are carefully crafted to ensure you get the most out of your journey, without any disruptions or un-necessary delays. For cruise itineraries vessels depart regularly from Alaska's capital Juneau.
HOW TO BOOK:
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AU: 1300 295 049 | NZ: 0800 238 368