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Guest Review of Ultimate Adventure 2012

06-15-2012

Guest Review by Sharon Lawrence

Let me begin by saying this was our fourth trip to Alaska and third cruise of the Inside Passage. We have cruised on a 2,000-passenger ship (Yuk), a 140-passenger ship (OK) and now on a 60-passenger ship (Awesome!). The 60 passenger ship is the way to go and InnerSea Discoveries is the way to get there.

Sharon and Dennis at Dawes

Dennis and Sharon enjoy the view of Dawes Glacier from the boat

We were on InnerSea Discoveries' Wilderness Adventurer on an Ultimate Adventure. Two weeks of awe inspiring beauty, animal sightings and adventure. InnerSea even did our laundry for us at the end of the first week!

I always travel with an open mind and an open heart. I take the trip as it comes. Life is a journey and you may as well enjoy the ride. To this end, I don’t pay much attention to the published itinerary on ANY of the trips I take, and we travel on organized trips at least three times a year. I find I am then more open to changes than the people who have itinerary in hand and announce, “We are supposed to be seeing the Tower of London right now.” I appreciate the fact that today the Tower is closed for repairs and instead we are seeing the Changing of the Guard, which wasn’t on the itinerary.

Stellar sea lions

Putting skiffs in the water to watch Stellar sea lions up close wasn't on the itinerary :>)

itinerary map

Part of our "not on the itinerary" route.

Some people on our cruise expected to be able to go off on shore or in kayaks on their own. If that is what you want, I suggest you look elsewhere. I suppose you could go out with an outfitter but you won’t be able to see the multiple aspects of Alaska that you can see on this cruise. This cruise gives you new vistas each day and a new place to explore.

Yes, sometimes that exploration is via a pair of binoculars on the deck of the ship, but you won’t find a way to get a better view than with InnerSea Discoveries.

All of the excursions to hike or do an extended kayak are organized and accompanied by an adventure guide. If you sign up for an extended kayak tour, you are expected to stay with the guide. Some shore landings are limited by the Forest Service or property owner, as example in Yes Bay we could only put groups of ten ashore and each person could go ashore only once per day.

Kayak tour

Long kayak tour departs with Jenny as their guide.

Each night the expedition leader will post sign-up sheets and will discuss the various trips at the end of dinner. Then you sign up for what you want to do. People got wise to the process and so a group would “hover” around the sign up board, so they could get their pick for the next day. Sometimes, if all the slots were filled the crew added additional excursions. The excursions are limited by the number of crew and number of small skiffs or kayaks and the regulations in effect. Sometimes hotel staff is pulled in to help with the excursions. We found that the list might be full that night, but people would change their minds and take their names off, so we would check it again in the morning and we were able to get on the excursion we wanted after all.

On our two weeks there were three “long kayak” trips offered. These were 5 hours long and included a packed lunch for your time away from the ship. There were also several short 2 or 3 hour kayak trips. These are active trips with steady kayaking for a long period and were a little too ambitious for us.

“Open kayaking” is generally offered when the ship is at anchor. You can kayak as long or as short as you like, they just ask that you don’t go out of sight of the ship. They issue you a kayaking life vest on the first day and you keep it in your locker on the back of the ship. If open kayaking is available you merely don your life vest and a spray skirt and show up at the kayak launch platform. The crew will help you into the kayak and secure your spray skirt. They then push you off the launch platform and you glide into the water. When you are ready to come back the crew pulls your kayak back onto the launch platform. This was the option my husband and I took advantage of three times over the course of the trip. Our friends tried a 3 hour trip, but they like us, prefer to kayak for a while, then rest and just enjoy the view or sounds of nature. They decided that the open kayak option was better suited to their kayaking style.

Tracy Arm

Entering Tracy Arm

Next I’ll give you some packing advice. InnerSea recommends layers. Layering is a good idea, however, don’t leave your heavy layers at home. I brought thermal shirts and pants, a wool sweater and a down jacket. I used all of these layers. The day we went through Tracy Arm to Sawyer Glacier, everyone was out on deck viewing the ice on the water. It was cold and the glacier produces cold air. I was toasty warm in my ski pants and down jacket. I was sitting next to a woman from New York. She looked at me and said that she wished she had brought some heavier clothes. When they said to bring layers, she brought all light layers and left all her heavy winter gear at home. I had brought my down jacket in a “space bag” with the air all compressed out of it, so it took up little space in my bag.

Also, you absolutely MUST take a good waterproof rain jacket AND pants. These will be worn often for skiff rides, kayaking and hiking. They also come in handy on deck if you want to take photos in the rain.

Foot wear has been a topic of frequent discussion. We took four pairs of shoes, rubber boots, hiking boots, sneakers and water shoes. We used all of these at least once on the trip. If I was going to leave something at home, I would leave the water shoes and wear my sneakers in the kayak, knowing that they may get wet. Also, I was asked by a couple from Israel to tell foreign travelers to leave the rubber boots at home. The boats have about 30 pairs of rubber boots for loan. If you have a very small or large size, then for sure bring your own rubber boots. My rubber boots were ordered online from Target and cost less than $10.00.

By the way, if you are on a multi week trip like we were, InnerSea will do your laundry for you at the end of the week. They gave us a bag the night before we landed in Ketchikan and it was back in our cabin clean and neatly folded by 3:30 the next day.

wetsuit

Sharon in a wetsuit for snorkeling.

Yes that’s me in the wet suit, but no need to pack one. They supply the wet suit if you go for the optional snorkel trip. Take your waterproof camera for underwater shots.

What does the cabin look like and where will I stow my gear? We had the smallest cabin offered and had plenty of room under the beds to stash our two 25” rolling duffel bags and a 20 inch carryon, along with an odd assortment of shoes (rubber boots are kept in the hallway, along with your rain gear). We use packing cubes and these proved to be invaluable. There is no hanging closet (this is also true in the larger cabins). There are four hooks and a shelving unit. I always travel with packing cubes. Our packing cubes stacked up very nicely on the shelving unit. The cubes kept our belongings neat and accessible during the cruise.

closet

The closet is a shelving unit. In larger cabins it's twice as deep.

window sill storage

Window sill and storage cabinet--at bottom of photo is a small cabinet with doors.



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