A small ship Alaska cruise allows you an even closer look at the beautiful scenery and exotic wildlife than most large or mid-sized Alaska cruises
. There are several cruise lines with ships that carry from a dozen up to 500 passengers on Alaska cruises. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the advantages of 100 or less cruisers exploring Alaska, enjoying excursions, or even just going ashore in the small Alaska towns like Juneau
, and Skagway
. Two or three thousand visitors from one ship really makes a difference in a small town!
The smaller ships can also visit some places that the larger ones can only dream about like the Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, Tracy Arm fjord, or the Dawes Glacier. If you are looking for a more exotic, out-of-the-way itinerary, a small ship Alaska cruise might be the best choice. One word of caution. These smaller ships are usually more expensive and often fill up fast. For this extra cost, you'll probably get smaller cabins and less entertainment on board, but the trade off of a closer look at Alaska is worth it to many of us! In addition, small ships have many organized activities included, so the total fare may not be any more than on a large ship if you plan to take many wildlife or glacier viewing shore excursions.
Let's look at some of the small ship Alaska cruises for 2014. In addition to those detailed below, there are also many other small yachts offered for charter that cruise Alaskan waters. The accommodations on these range from bare-bones rustic to luxurious.
Alaskan Dream Cruises
Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
Small ship company Alaskan Dream features seven different Alaska cruise itineraries, departing from either Ketchikan or Sitka. The itineraries run from 8 to 13-days on one of three different small ships.2014 Alaskan Dream Cruises
American Cruise Lines
Riding the White Pass Railway from Skagway (c) Linda Garrison
American Cruise Lines operates the 92-passenger American Spirit on seven-day roundtrip cruises from Juneau. These cruises will visit Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, Sitka, Petersburg, and Tracy Arm. At the beginning and end of the season, the ship sails between Seattle and Juneau on 10-day cruises.American Cruise Lines 2014 Alaska Cruises
Petersburg Harbor (c) Linda Garrison
Fantasy Cruises operates the 32-passenger Island Spirit on Inside Passage cruises. These nine-day cruises are all-inclusive and primarily sail between Sitka and Juneau or roundtrip from Juneau.Fantasy Cruises 2014 Alaska Cruises
Hubbard Glacier (c) Linda Garrison
Hapag-Lloyd's expedtion ship the ms Hanseatic
features two different Alaska cruises in 2014. The first is a fascinating 18-day itinerary sailing between Vancouver and Nome and visits the Inside Passage, the Alaskan Peninsula, and some of Alaska's most remote outposts in the Aleutians and Pribolof Islands.
The second itinerary is even more tempting--a 28-day voyage of the Northeast Passage between Nome, Alaska and Bodo, Norway that stops at many small islands and ports along the north coast of Russia. This voyage is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit places that most of your friends have never heard of!More on Hapag-Lloyd 2014 Alaska Cruises
Beachcombing in Alaska (c) Linda Garrison
Lindblad Cruises partners with National Geographic to have two itineraries in Alaska in 2014. The 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion sail two itineraries -- a 14-day cruise of Alaska, British Columbia, and the San Juan Islands between Seattle and Sitka, and a 7-day cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage between Juneau and Sitka.Lindblad 2014 Alaska Cruises
Silversea Silver Shadow in Alaska (c) Linda Garrison
Most small ships do not offer private verandas or luxurious accommodations. However, if you are looking for ultimate luxury on board, the Silversea Cruises' Silversea Silver Shadow
will sail 7 to 11 day Alaska voyages from Vancouver or Seward. With 382 passengers, she is much larger than the other ships in this category, but the Silver Shadow provides more amenities and is still considered "small".
Silversea's third expedition ship, the Silver Discoverer
, will also visit Alaska in 2014. As one might expect from a 128-guest small luxury ship, the Silver Discoverer will sail four unique 12- to 18-day itineraries--the first from Japan to Seward, the second from Seward to Nome, the third roundtrip from Nome, and the fourth back to Japan.More on Silversea Alaska Cruises
Mist Cove of The Boat Company in Alaska (c) Linda Garrison
The Boat Company operates two small ships sailing Southeast Alaska. This company has been in operation since 1979 and currently sails 7-day cruises between Sitka and Juneau. I sailed on the luxurious yet comfortable 24-passenger M/V Mist Cove
on an amazing soft adventure eco-cruise
that had marvelous daily opportunities for exploring, hiking, kayaking, and fishing
from Alaska streams or bays on its 20-foot skiffs.
Unlike other cruise lines, The Boat Company ships have a fishing license, so anyone who loves fishing for halibut or salmon will especially appreciate a journey on one of these two ships. In addition, the company is owned by a non-profit educational organization dedicated to SE Alaska conservation. This non-profit status means that some of your cruise fare is even tax deductible.The Boat Company 2014 Alaska Cruises
Alaska Orcas (c) Linda Garrison
Un-Cruise Adventures has eight ships sailing in Alaska in 2014 - the 36-guest Safari Explorer, 22-guest Safari Quest
, 64-guest Safari Voyager, and 86-guest Safari Endeavor are marketed as the company's "luxury" adventure ships; the 76-passenger Wilderness Discoverer
, the 60-passenger Wilderness Adventurer, and the 76-passenger Wilderness Explorer are marketed as the "active adventure" ships; and the 88-guest replica coastal steamer the SS Legacy as a "heritage adventure".
Nine different 7-, 14-, or 21-day soft adventure expedition itineraries explore Southeast Alaska between Juneau
, or Juneau and Sitka
, or roundtrip from Juneau.
Three different 11- or 12-night voyages sail the Inside Passage between Juneau and Seattle.
All the Un-Cruise Adventures' itineraries feature plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and other activities.
I loved our Wilderness Discoverer adventure cruise
between Ketchikan and Juneau and the many off-the-beaten paths we explored, as well as the great wildlife viewing and adventure activities.Un-Cruise Adventures' 2014 Alaska
Harbor Seals in Alaska (c) Linda Garrison
Those looking for a different part of Alaska might enjoy sailing on the small ship the Caledonian Sky. Zegrahm Expeditions sails roundtrip from Anchorage, stopping at ports on the Alaska peninsula, Pribolof Islands, Aleutian Islands, and Russia.More on Alaska Cruises with Zegrahm Expeditions