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Why Bigger Isn't Always Better on Alaska Cruises

By Elaine Glusac, Wall Street Journal

There is no hiking trail to Lamplugh Glacier in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. So our guide-led party of 10 used thickets of willow shrubs and berry bushes that sprout from the rock hillsides as handholds. We paused briefly on the glacier to take photos, then continued trailblazing beside it in the rain, occasionally slipping down moss-covered rock and face-planting in the willows. Three hours later, exhausted and cold, we descended to the shore 50 yards from the glacier, which saluted us with the thundering collapse of a 120-foot-high column of blue ice.

“I have another gift for you,” announced our guide. “Hand warmers!”

After just a couple of days aboard Un-Cruise Adventures, the small-ship line that sailed us through remote corners of Alaska for seven days last August, this not-so-little luxury—as well as having the glacial silt hosed off our boots by a staffer and then being offered a hot, spiked chai—seemed like the most natural thing in the world. The nine-ship company (formerly InnerSeas Discoveries) aims to set itself apart from the cattle-call connotations of big-ship cruises by offering all the adventure you can handle and a pampering base from which to tackle it.