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Wilderness Discoverer
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Wilderness Discoverer
Reviewed by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson
A cruise review of Un-Cruise Adventures Wilderness Discoverer in Alaska
 
 
 
Un-Cruise Adventures Review  
Big Alaska! Small Ship.  

 
by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson
July 2011
 
How I Rate This Review Rate Now!
 
 
   
There are some very basic guidelines that one should follow through life. Caviar should only be eaten from a mother-of-pearl spoon; BBQ ribs and fried chicken should always be eaten with your hands, and so on. I would propose a new rule to follow: Alaska is best enjoyed when seen by small ship. There are some excellent Alaska cruises available on the mega ships, but until you have seen Alaska up-close and personal, you have not really seen Alaska. And, you simply cannot get intimate with this great state when you are surrounded by 2,000 other people scrambling to get the latest free trinket from Diamonds International in Juneau or Ketchikan. That's not Alaska.



For as long as I can remember, Cruise West was the predominant player in the small ship Alaska market. It was a great company with an excellent product. Unfortunately, the economy took its toll and Cruise West filed for bankruptcy in 2010. While it is sad to see a market leader go by the wayside, the demise of Cruise West left a vacuum that someone was sure to fill. Enter InnerSea Discoveries. A sister company to American Safari Cruises, InnerSea Discoveries comes to Alaska for its maiden season with two purpose-built vessels designed for serious adventure cruising. While not brand new ships, both have recently undergone major refurbishment and refitting to serve the unique purpose of sailing Alaska's Inside Passage.


"InnerSea Discoveries is the best way to see Alaska, hands down..."


Having sailed in Alaska many times, on both large and small ships, we were looking forward to our 7-night Southeastern Alaska Inside Passage sailing on Wilderness Discoverer. Alaska is one of our favorite destinations and one of the few places in the world you can return to time and time again and never tire of the amazing scenery and wildlife. The pre-cruise documentation from InnerSea Discoveries, while scant, was specific. Guests are advised to only pack what they will need for the 7-day journey and to pack in a soft-sided duffel bag if possible so it is easier to stow the emptied bag under the bed. That is very good advice. In fact, we have included a packing list below for anyone planning an InnerSea Discoveries cruise. Please keep in mind that this is an adventure cruise. There are no formal nights and it is not necessary to "dress up" for dinner. It is casual in every sense of the word. Most wore "convertible" pants with the zip-off legs with a sweater and hiking boots to dinner, similar attire to what is worn during the day.

EMBARKATION

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaWe arrived in Juneau following our seven hours of flying from Dallas to Seattle then on to Juneau. We were greeted in baggage claim by InnerSea Discoveries' ground transportation representatives who gave us luggage tags to add to our bags and quickly collected our larger checked bags to take them directly to the vessel. With our hand luggage, we were then transported to the Goldbelt Hotel at the edge of downtown Juneau where a hospitality suite was at our disposal until the 5:30 embarkation time. We basically had four hours to explore Juneau on foot.

After dropping our carry-on luggage at the Goldbelt, we headed off to explore all that downtown Juneau has to offer. There were four large ships docked in Juneau today, so the little main street was pretty busy. This main street is lined with souvenir shops, art galleries, bars, etc. Our first stop was a local drugstore to buy me a new pair of sunglasses. Mine fell apart as soon as we exited baggage claim!

As you walk farther south, toward where the larger ships dock, the town starts looking more "cruisey" with the ubiquitous Diamonds/Tanzanite International, Del Sol, et al. All the usual suspects are waiting to drain dollars from passengers on Carnival, Princess, Disney, or any other ship stopping here. So, if you want to experience the "charm" of Juneau, stay north of the famous Red Dog Saloon.


"You weren't jostling for a viewing spot on deck since there were fewer people on board. It was a great experience."

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaWe were very fortunate that it was not raining during our brief visit to Juneau. It was cloudy and cool, but dry. Rain is very common in Alaska this time of year, so it was nice to be able to walk around and stay dry. By 3:30, we were back at the Goldbelt where many other guests were beginning to congregate. The hotel arranged for us to use their Wi-Fi for Internet access so we were able to send some last minute emails and re-connect with the outside world for what could be the last time over the next seven days. InnerSea Discoveries' ships do not have onboard Internet access, telephones or even television for that matter. We will go into more detail on this later in the review.

At 5pm, Kristen Roth (left), our Expedition Leader for the week, introduced herself to the crowd of anxious guests and invited us to walk across the street and join Wilderness Discoverer. Captain Marcella "Marce" Branniff was waiting at the gangway to greet each guest before we stepped on board. We boarded the ship on Deck 2, basically walking right into the ship's small lounge. A young man introduced himself as Connor and showed us to cabin #315, our home for the next week.

THE SHIP

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaWilderness Discoverer is only slightly larger than her sister ship, Wilderness Adventurer. The ship is 169 feet long with a breadth of 38 feet and a draft of 6.5 feet. She has a cruising speed of 10 knots. Both ships have been outfitted with an Easy Dock at the stern capable of launching kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and zodiacs. Guest accommodations are on decks 2, 3 and 4 with a single staircase amidship. There is no elevator so those unable to traverse steps should be so advised. There is a cocktail lounge and dining area on Deck 2. The lounge also doubles as the ship's library which contains a small collection of books about Alaska, some board games and a few movie DVDs. The decor is rustic and simple, but everything looks new and recently updated.


 
"We never had a problem finding a good viewing spot..."  

 
Deck 3 is primarily guest cabins but also has an outer "promenade" deck that can be used as a viewing area. Aft on Deck 3 you will find two hot tubs, each capable of holding at least four guests. This is also the area from which you go down one deck to access the kayaks and board the rubber motorized inflatable skiffs. There are only four cabins on Deck 4 with the rest of the space used for a "sun deck" with outdoor seating, a small sauna, and some exercise equipment. All of the ship's kayaks, skiffs and paddle boards are stored aft on Deck 4. Forward, you will find the Bridge and more viewing area space overlooking the bow.

There is an onboard "logo" shop selling gear such as trekking poles, water bottles, polar fleece jackets, backpacks, hats, maps and other items needed for an adventure cruise in a temperate rain forest area.

InnerSea Discoveries Alaska

The ship is small with an advertised capacity of 68 and, when it is fully booked, can feel a little crowded at times, but not uncomfortably so. We never had a problem finding a good viewing spot on deck, or a place to sit to enjoy a meal or a drink in the lounge even though it was reported that there were 72 passengers on this trip, including a 5-month-old infant!


ACCOMMODATIONS

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaWhile there are a few different cabin categories on Wilderness Discoverer, all share one common feature. They are all small. Our cabin (315) was only 8' X 10' including the bathroom and closet! The closet is able to hold a modest amount of clothing and has three shelves and a hanging bar but no drawers. We had to remove the life vests from one of the shelves and put them under the bed in order to have more space to put our clothes. Fortunately, each cabin has a lot of hooks on the wall where you can hang items like jackets, pajamas, shirts, and these really come in handy. Each cabin even has hooks outside in the hallway for hanging items that may be damp such as rain gear, hats, and gloves. By the second day of the cruise, hallways are lined with rain gear and even rubber boots! Each cabin is assigned a locker located outside on Deck 3 where you can also store rubber boots, rain gear or snorkel gear.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaThe bathroom is about as small as one can imagine but has a nice full-length mirror on the outside of the door. The shower and toilet are combined, separated only by a shower curtain that you pull when you use the shower. The towels are stored above the toilet so the curtain prevents them from getting wet when the shower is used. Water pressure and temperatures were spot-on and the removable handheld wand comes in handy in the limited space. There is no shelf in the shower stall to hold your own shampoo, conditioner, razor, etc. There is a dispenser attached to the shower wall that holds shampoo and body wash. The shampoo is supposed to be "conditioning" shampoo, but if you use conditioner on your hair, bring it with you. Also, if you want body lotion, you must request it. InnerSea Discoveries claims that "one of the primary features of our “un-cruises” is our ability to cater to individual needs." We found this to be a true statement! When Rickee requested body lotion from Terry Rice, the Hotel Manager, he had to give her a large tube since they were currently out of the small bottles. He listened to her request and did what he had to in order to make sure she received what was requested.

Recommended Packing List  
  • Collapsible soft-sided duffel-style luggage
  • Rubber boots at least 12" tall (the ship has some for you to use but it may be hard to find your proper size)
  • Long thermal underwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses (yes, the sun does shine occasionally)
  • Binoculars (ship has several pair if you don't have any)
  • Hiking shoes or boots (running shoes with good traction will suffice)
  • Rainproof jacket and pants (the ship has some for passenger use, but size might be an issue. It WILL rain!)
  • Several pair of socks made from moisture-wicking materials
  • Waterproof gloves (does such an item really exist?!)
  • Waterproof hat
  • Warm jacket
  • Water bottle (the ship has two per room but they are not new)
  • Casual clothing suited for a cool, rainy climate. It is best to dress in layers.
 
The small sink is located in the cabin itself with a large mirrored medicine cabinet overhead. So if you get up early in the morning to brush your teeth or wash your face and turn on the light above the sink, you may wake up your better half who is still asleep. However, it gets light so early in Alaska that the cabin usually has enough natural light by which to maneuver. There is an outlet located right above the sink that Rickee used when she plugged in the hair dryer that is furnished. In fact, this small cabin had more outlets available than any other ship on which we've sailed!

There is a small bedside table large enough to hold a laptop computer, water bottles, etc. It held an Ipod/iPhone docking station with speakers so you could listen to your Ipod music in the cabin. This bedside table also had a pull-out tabletop and a shelf below. A narrow shelf runs the full width of the cabin just behind and above the bed that can also hold a variety of smaller items like cell phones, digital cameras, binoculars, etc. Four electrical outlets were located under this shelf.There is small window with no screen that can be opened to let in fresh, cool Alaskan air. A shade is attached at the top of the window and can be raised and lowered by an attached cord. Remember, the window looks out over a public walkway! A light with a dimmer knob and another electrical outlet is attached to the wall above and on either side of the bed. A small air conditioning unit hangs ominously over one side of the bed, so caution is advised to prevent banging your head when getting out of bed. The doorway into the stateroom is about 73" tall, which works fine unless you happen to be 74" tall like me. You would think after the second time banging the top of my head on the door facing I would learn to duck. I didn't.


 
"The memory foam mattress is one of the most comfortable we have slept on..."  

 
The highlight of the cabin is the bed. The memory foam mattress is one of the most comfortable we have slept on. There are no chairs in the cabin, so if you plan to sit, you must do so on the bed. There are a few slightly larger cabins that do have a small sitting area, but ours did not. A few cabins have a door that opens out to the deck and a few cabins have a third bed that pulls down from the wall. The ship also offers a few cabins for single travelers.

There is a flat screen TV/DVD in each cabin. All cabins are linked electronically so that videos shot during each day can be shared across the ship on designated channels. Television channels are unavailable due to the remote areas we are visiting. One channel has the view from the ship's underwater camera mounted on the bow hull; one channel has the daily menus and list of activities; and one channel shows eco-documentaries. There is no telephone in the cabin but it is only a short distance to go if you need to find a crew member. The ship does have a satellite phone available on the Bridge and you can make a call for $5 per minute. Of course, no Internet service is available. However, in certain locations near larger towns, a cell signal was available and I was able to use my cell phone.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaThe door to the cabin could only be locked from the inside so you didn't have to worry about losing a room key. Coats and gloves and boots were hung in the hallway all the time. No worries! However, it is a good idea to be sure your name is placed on all your items.

Cabins are serviced once a day, and guests are encouraged to conserve water and re-use towels. Here's a  tip: it is nice to take your towel and dry the shower floor and dry the edge of the shower curtain after you finish so the next person entering the bathroom does not have to step on wet floors or brush up against a wet shower curtain when using the toilet. Remember to put the bath mat OUTSIDE the bathroom door. If the next person wants to shower, either hang the used towels up on a hook outside, or if you want them replaced, put them in the sink until the second person is finished showering, then put them on the shower floor. It took a day or so to work out all the logistics of the cabin and bathroom, but once we got a routine down, it was easy and really very practical.

ACTIVITIES

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaExperiencing Alaska is what InnerSea Discoveries (ISD) specializes in. A lot of thought and planning has gone into organizing a week's worth of activities designed to give guests a true Alaska immersion. Every Alaska adventure activity is ranked with an Activity Level Rating and Activity Description to ensure that you feel comfortable with your selection. Activities include hikes, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and small boat sightseeing. All of these are included in the cost of the cruise. Optional excursions for a fee are also available such as "flightseeing" by float plane, fishing, a petroglyph walk and jet boating.

Each evening after dinner, Kristen would announce the following day's activity choices. A large magnetic whiteboard is used so guests can sign up for their chosen activity. Kayaking and hikes usually start around 9am so there is plenty of time for everyone to enjoy breakfast before engaging in the day's activities, even those who chose to participate in early-morning yoga held on Deck 4. Some hikes and guided kayak excursions are all-day affairs, in which case the galley prepares "to go" lunches in bear-proof plastic boxes and snacks that guests can take with them on their journey. Many activities, however, are split between morning and afternoon, returning to the ship for lunch. Often, guests are able to choose one activity in the morning and another one in the afternoon.

The Wilderness Discoverer employs experienced excursion guides, most of whom are certified Wilderness First Responders, that lead various hikes and guided kayak trips. We found every guide to be very well versed in the local environment and willing to share their depth of information.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaAs stated earlier, the ship carries its own fleet of two-person kayaks. When the ship is anchored in calm waters, "open kayaking" is available. This means guests can simply jump in a kayak and head off exploring on their own. Of course, the Captain advises kayakers of the boundaries for safety reasons. And, the ship will deploy a skiff to go check on kayaks that stray beyond the recommended boundaries. However, ISD is fairly liberal in where they will allow you to explore on your own. That is a very nice feature for those who are comfortable kayaking. The kayaks themselves were new models and in excellent working condition. When preparing for a kayak trip, in addition to your life jacket, you would put on a "skirt" which attached to the kayak around where you are seated and kept you dry! We had kayaked before but had never used a skirt. It was a nice feature. Also, getting in and out of the kayak was so much easier using the "Easy Dock" which was a floating, stable platform at the rear of the ship on which the kayaks rested. Once you were comfortably seated in the kayak, the guides pushed you out into the water. When you wanted to come back to the ship, you paddled up to the Easy Dock and the guides pulled the kayak onto the Easy Dock using a rope attached to the front of the kayak. Nice!

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaWe boarded the small rubber motorized skiffs on several occasions to visit glaciers and explore waterfalls. Sometimes we would just ride around taking in the magnificent scenery that surrounded us. These skiffs transported us to places where we hiked, like Baird Glacier and Tongass National Forest. In Misty Fjords National Monument, while we were motoring around looking at the gorgeous scenery, we were able to spot a grizzly bear on shore and get to within about 100 yards of him and observe from our location on the water. We spotted a total of three bears in various locations while sailing through the majestic Misty Fjords. We have been to Alaska five times but this is the first time we have ever seen bears.

From the ship, we observed humpback whales and on our last day, orca! We spotted eagles in the surrounding trees and saw harbor seals poke their little heads up above the water, only to quickly disappear. The variety of birds was astounding. If you forgot to bring binoculars, don't worry. The ship has several pair that they will be glad for you to use.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaWilderness Discoverer carries several stand-up paddle boards for guests to use. I must admit, I was skeptical that anyone would climb onto what looks like a surfboard and venture out into the cold waters of Alaska standing up and paddling themselves along! But the guests are a hardy bunch and several learned how to use the paddle boards and enjoyed propelling themselves through the beautiful Alaskan waters.

In order for the crew to ascertain who is and is not on the ship, there is a magnetic board with all the cabin numbers and two magnets (or more) for each cabin. Any time you leave the ship, you must move your magnets to the "OUT" column. When you come back, you must move your magnets back to the "IN" column of the board. Failure to do so will result in your cabin number, and maybe even your name, being announced over the loud-speaker system for all to hear. I speak from experience and can say that, most likely, you won't forget to check-in a second time!

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaCaptain Marce (as she prefers to be called) has an "open Bridge" policy and encourages all passengers to visit the Bridge sometime during the voyage. She is a very visible, hands-on type and it was not unusual to see her delivering cocktails to guests in the hot tubs or chatting with guests on deck. She has a great sense of humor and it is obvious that she loves her job. I still would like to see her driver's license. There is no way she can be the age she claims to be. She looks to be about 18! The day we all returned to the ship from the glacier hike, Captain Marce greeted us with hot chocolate laced with chocolate Schnapps. Nice! It was a pleasure sailing with her, and with the rest of her crew as well.

A Hike, A Camera, and Two Broken Ribs

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaOn the fourth day of the cruise, we signed up for the fast-pace group hike of Three Lakes Trail in Tongass National Forest. The "trail" is actually a wooden boardwalk about 15 inches wide leading through the rain forest. Most, but not all, of the boardwalk is covered with a rope mesh to aid in traction. However, there are some spots where the mesh has not been maintained and is non-existent. These areas can become very slippery from rain. About 1.5 miles into our three-mile hike, both of my feet completely slipped out from under me and I fell flat on my back landing on my Go-Pro camera that was in the pocket of my rain jacket. I was blinded by the pain and had the wind knocked out of me. The excursion leader was leaning over me asking if I was okay, but I could not breathe, let alone speak. I felt a stabbing, sharp pain in the right side of my back. It was bad, and I knew it. It took a few moments for me to catch my breath and I was somehow able to be hoisted to my feet. I tried to continue with the hike, but there was no way. Every step resulted in excruciating pain.

I told the group leader, Laurie, that I would not be able to continue at which point she summoned Jenn, another ship crew member, to escort Rickee and me back to the ship. Once back on board Wilderness Discoverer, Kevin Martin, the ship's first mate came to the cabin to check me out. Although not a doctor, he knew how to check my spine for damage and used a stethoscope to check my breathing. He mentioned that there was a guest on board who was an ER doctor and asked if I would mind if he checked me out. I said no problem and within an hour, Brian was in the cabin making me raise my arms and poking around. He felt relatively sure what I suspected, that I had broken a rib in the fall. He instructed me to take Aleve and just try to stay comfortable. The next few days were rough, but the Captain and crew were great. Everyone was always checking on me to see how I was doing. Even the other guests on board continued to ask how I was and sympathized with my situation. It is ironic that I have ridden a motorcycle every day for the past six years and never even stubbed my toe, but walking in Alaska, I bust my butt. After returning to Dallas, I decided to have an x-ray and sure enough, two ribs broken.

I tell this story to warn you that it is very important to wear the proper footwear when hiking in Alaska (or anywhere else). And, even with the proper footwear, you have to pay attention and be careful at all times. That said, I would do the hike again in a heartbeat! The area where we were hiking was incredibly beautiful.

DINING

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaAll meals are served buffet-style in the dining room on Deck 2. Meals can best be described as simple, basic fare. If you are expecting a "typical" cruise ship menu with lots of exotic choices, you will be disappointed. If, however, you enjoy simple fare that is well prepared, you are in luck. Every dish we tried was above average. The preparation and seasoning of the dishes was better than you might expect on such a small ship. So, not a lot of choices, but lots of flavor.

Early risers can enjoy coffee as early as 5am. Good job ISD! And, the coffee is actually pretty good, not the swill you typically find on cruise ships. As anyone who follows our blogs and reviews knows, cruise ship coffee is one of my biggest complaints. InnerSea Discoveries has avoided my wrath in this area. By 6am, a continental-style selection of pastries, bagels, English muffins, cereals, yogurt and fresh fruit is available. Hot breakfast is served from 7:00am to 8:00am (or 7:30am to 8:30am depending on the day). The hot breakfast menu changes every day. The big winner at breakfast was the amazing thick bacon.

Lunch is served from 12 noon until 1pm. Lunch offerings can be as simple as a couple of soup choices and salad. There is usually one meat dish offered and a vegetarian option. There is also a single dessert offered at each meal service. Like I said, "simple". For those diners with special dietary needs, just let the kitchen know and they will accommodate you. It was not unusual to see lactose-free or gluten-free items on the buffet.

Dinner is served from 7:00pm to 8:00pm and, like lunch, usually offers a meat or fish dish, a vegetarian option and accompanying salad and vegetables. All seating is open, so you can sit wherever or with whomever you wish. You can even take your meal into the adjoining lounge area if you wish to dine there.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaEven though all meals are buffet-style, wait staff is available to bring you a choice of drinks, or get anything else you may need. It was amazing how quickly all the crew learned and used the passengers' names! We were well taken care of by Nee, Connor, Brenden and Sean. One morning, Rickee was running late for breakfast (as usual), and Nee, one of our favorite wait staff, noticed this and went to our cabin to tell Rickee that they were about to start putting breakfast away and ask if she could put something aside for her. Now that is service!

There is a Cocktail Hour each evening in the lounge at 5:30pm. The crew lays out a very nice selection of snacks during the Cocktail Hour that often filled us to the point that we would skip dinner! One night, the spread was Dungeness crab legs from crab that some passengers had caught. Another night it was mounds of boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce! Any cocktail you desire is available from Sean or Danielle at the bar as well as a selection of beer and wine. Prices are very competitive and they have a "drink of the day" each day at a reduced price. A Dewars on the rocks is only $5. A glass of beer, $4. Soft drinks, tea, lemonade and most coffees are complimentary. Help yourself from pitchers of water and iced tea and lemonade set on one side of the bar on Deck 2 and available all day.

Captain Marce referred to Chef Ashley as a "rock star". We agree. The menus were limited and the food simple, but the execution was near perfect. Simple food, quality ingredients served in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. What more could you ask for?

DISEMBARKATION

Leaving Wilderness Discoverer was as easy as joining her had been! Bags had to be out in the hall by 7:30am the day we got off the ship and they were taken directly to the Ketchikan airport. This worked well for those who needed to use liquids or gels that were larger than 3 ounces that morning so that these items could be packed in the luggage to be checked. A hardy farewell breakfast was served in the dining room and a guest speaker, who is a Tlingit Indian, spoke to us about the Tlingit culture. He brought his 11-year-old granddaughter along to model the typical Tlingit women's attire. As we left Wilderness Discoverer, the entire crew was lined up out on the dock to bid us farewell. After saying our goodbyes and thanking the crew again for a great week, we headed to the bus to be transported to the Cape Fox Hotel to another hospitality suite to await our 10am transportation to the Ketchikan airport. Since we had never flown into or out of Ketchikan before, we were surprised to learn that we would have to take a ferry to reach the airport. This wasn't a big deal, though, as the van in which we were riding drove onto the ferry and then drove off and up the hill to the airport where our luggage was already waiting.

SUMMARY

As we previously stated, we are big fans of small-ship cruising in Alaska. Not having to fight for space at the rail with 2500 other people is a big deal. Being able to modify your times and itinerary to go to where the wildlife has been spotted or to take the time to enjoy wildlife you have been lucky enough to find, is a big deal. Yes, the cabins are small, but you don't spend that much time in your cabin. You will be out in the cool weather enjoying the majestic beauty that is Alaska. This cruise can be as active as you want it to be. You can hike or kayak or paddle board or small boat ride. Or, you can just enjoy the scenery from the deck or the lounge. The crew of Wilderness Discoverer could not have been nicer! In our opinion, InnerSea Discoveries is the best way to see Alaska, hands down!

What We Like:


  • Great itinerary
  • Excellent activity choices included in cruise fare
  • Warm, capable and inviting crew
  • Relaxed, casual atmosphere
  • Best cocktail hour anywhere (amazing appetizers!)
  • Open kayaking and paddle boarding opportunities included in cruise fare
  • Flexible itinerary allows extensive whale and bear watching
  • Good value for dollar
  • Good coffee!

What We Would Like To See:

  • Need a small shelf in shower
  • More hooks!

ITINERARY

One of the benefits of cruising on a small ship is the ability to modify the itinerary to locate wildlife or journey off the scheduled route if wildlife is spotted somewhere else. When wildlife is spotted, the ship can linger and watch without worrying about arriving at the next port on time. Several times, we anchored overnight in protected coves and, after leaving Juneau, only visited one more town during the entire cruise. This was an "adventure" cruise specializing in viewing wildlife and taking advantage of all the natural beauty Alaska has to offer.  We were able to get closer to glaciers for great viewing opportunities and sail near waterfalls. You weren't jostling for a viewing spot on deck since there were fewer people on board. It was a great experience.

Day 1: Juneau- Embark
After being met at the airport and surrendering our checked luggage, we rode to the Goldbelt Hotel where InnerSea Discoveries had a hospitality room. We dropped our carry-on here and went out walking in the cool, damp Juneau air. With four other ships in port, Juneau was crowded. At 5:30, we walked across the street from the hotel and boarded Wilderness Discoverer.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaDay 2: Chuck River Wilderness / Frederick Sound
Today we boarded the 10-passenger skiff and sailed to within about a mile of Sawyer Glacier. Lots of "bergy bits" were floating in the water around us and the glacier itself was incredible! We also sailed through Tracy Arm and explored some of its many waterfalls from the motorized skiff. The weather this morning is glorious with blue skies and warmer temperatures. This weather is not like Alaska at all! When we reached Frederick Sound, we were rewarded with several sightings of humpback whales. While we were viewing whales, Danielle, a crew member, brought around delicious hot chocolate to warm us up. Nice touch!

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaDay 3: Thomas Bay/Cascade Creek/ Baird Glacier
A hike to Baird Glacier was on the agenda for this afternoon. The weather is cool and rainy, just the way Alaska should be! After breakfast, we decided to kayak. The ship had anchored in Thomas Bay overnight and moved to Sanctuary Cove for the kayaking. The water was calm and the scenery amazing! It is so easy to get in and out of the kayak using the Easy Dock. Some guests tried stand-up paddle boarding. Looks like fun! The hike on Baird Glacier, even though we were in what was designated as the slow-paced group, was challenging, especially in the rain. Just getting off the skiff on the boulders was difficult! You had to be careful to watch for holes in the ice on the glacier and not step in one or slip on the slick surface. Wearing rubber boots was a good call, especially when we came to the "boot-sucking mud" portion of the trail! Rain pants and jacket were a "must" today. Randall Tate, our guide for the glacier hike, made sure to bring trekking poles along for us to use which came in handy. Some guests took a 5-mile hike to the glacially-fed Patterson Lake where they kayaked. When we returned to the ship, Captain Marce greeted us with hot-chocolate laced with chocolate Schnapps! Delicious.

Day 4: LeConte Bay/ Ideal Cove/ Wrangell Narrows
InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaThe Wilderness Discoverer was anchored in Ideal Cove on this drizzly, overcast day. Offerings included an all-day hike with picnic lunch or a guided kayaking tour. We decided to relax this morning and signed up for a hike this afternoon. After lunch, we boarded the skiff and headed for shore to hike in the rainforest. We were told to wear the rubber boots to get off the skiff and bring hiking boots/shoes to wear for the hike itself which would take place on a narrow boardwalk. Once we stepped onto the narrow boardwalk, the scenery was so beautiful! It was as if we had entered the tropics. Lush greenery and tall trees were all around us. And the temperature got warmer, too, causing all to start peeling off layers of clothes. The hike had flat parts and parts where you had to climb fairly steep steps. We crossed over creeks and passed a lake. To be safe, you had to keep your eyes on the narrow boardwalk trail while you walked, so we stopped often to just take it all in. Unfortunately, this is where Chris fell and broke two ribs! The hike came to a premature end for us. However, it was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Later this evening, it was fun to stand at the bow of the ship and watch the red and green lights of Wrangell Narrows, also known as "Christmas Tree Lane."

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaDay 5: Wrangell

We awoke to an overcast, cool, drizzly day. A lot of the optional excursions were departing from Wrangell and the crew had provided a map of the town with suggestions on self-guided walks for those who were not taking an excursion here. We ventured out in the rain and walked up the dock area and found a coffee shop that had Wi-Fi so we could connect to the outside world again. You could also use your cell phone here. In the afternoon, the ship offered a visit to Chief Shakes' Tribal House. It was a nice walk to the other end of town to get to the Tribal House. Here we were welcomed and entertained by a group of Tlingit elders who sang songs, told us stories about their culture and answered questions. After the presentation, we could explore the grounds and the totem poles and then walk back to the ship. I stopped at a grocery store on the way back to the ship to pick up some more pain medication for Chris. The sun came out during my walk back to the ship and the weather was beautiful! There was a huge bald eagle sitting on top of a light post on the dock.

Day 6: Yes Bay

Today we awoke to beautiful sunny skies! This is the place where a lot of people are taking "flightseeing" trips. From the ship, we can see the little float planes taking off and landing at a dock at a lodge on the shore. Today you could also go on an all-day guided kayak trip with picnic lunch, or a 2.5 hour guided kayak trip. Open kayak time and paddle boarding was also offered. You could also take what was described as a "Level 3" hike or a motorized inflatable boat ride. The scenery here is beautiful. There are several eagles in the trees on shore. The water is calm. We are surrounded by the Tongass National Forest to add to the beauty. We opted for a boat ride in a motorized 10-passenger inflatable.

InnerSea Discoveries AlaskaDay 7: Misty Fjords National Monument (Walker Cove/ Rudyerd Bay)

Affectionately called "The Yosemite of the North", Misty Fjords National Monument represents nearly every ecosystem found in Southeast Alaska. Glacial valleys filled with sea water and steep, sometimes sheer, walls are a haven for wildlife. Here you could kayak or explore by skiff soaking in the splendor of this wonderful area. We boarded the 10-person inflatable to explore this beauty and started by getting close to some amazing waterfalls. As we headed to the end of the cove, Aaron, the bosun driving the inflatable, spotted a bear on shore. Our first Alaska bear! We got as close as we dared, then just sat there in our boat for quite some time, watching the bear eat grass and dig for clams on the shore. Soon, the word got out to the kayakers about the bear and they all descended on the area, too. It must have been quite a scene from the Bridge! As we sailed toward Ketchikan through Misty Fjords, the scenery was amazing. We spotted two more bears in different areas, and Captain Marce took the ship as close as safely possible for us to view the bears. Apparently, this is another popular area for float planes as several kept buzzing by the ship and taking off and landing. It was such a beautiful day that most passengers were sitting out on Deck 4 watching the incredible scenery. When it was almost time for dinner, someone spotted a large pod of killer whales (orca)! Could this day get any better?!

Day 8: Ketchikan - Disembark
It is raining in Ketchikan (no surprise!) but Ketchikan is officially one of the rainiest places on Earth! We hate to leave the cool, wet weather of Alaska to head back to hot, dry Texas, but our journey has ended. We thoroughly enjoyed our time aboard Wilderness Discoverer. Her crew is young, enthusiastic, friendly and hard-working. Her captain is a gem. We hope to sail on her again some day.


It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, CruiseReport.com adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines
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24 Comments
JEANNE JACOBSON
Thanks for the excellent review and suggestions for what to take on the cruise. We are cruising Kechikan to Juneau in June and are very excited.
Sunday, February 23, 2014 5:02 PM  
CRUISEREPORT.COM EDITOR
@Nancy, you won't regret it. THIS is the way to see Alaska!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:16 AM  
NANCY
I have read all of the reviews. I think this is the trip for me. I have been on a large cruise ship through the intercoastal and broke my shoulder dog sledding. I would be a single but this sounds like a trip I would love. Last Alaska trip saw so many bears fishing. looking forward to visiting again.
Monday, October 21, 2013 11:47 PM  
MICHAEL
This cruise sounds wonderful - we are considering it for 2014 - can anyone comment on how often you see the big cruise ships while in transit?
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 12:59 PM  
RO IN SAN DIEGO
I am booked on this trip with my husband next week and was glad I stumbled upon this review. We have sailed on small ships and this detailed review is very helpful - especially with our packing!
Thursday, May 02, 2013 2:27 AM  
ANGELA & ROBIN
We were considering doing this trip in August - your wonderful review just clinched it for us. We have never done a cruise before as the thought of 2000 (or even 200) people on a large boat does not attract at all and much prefer the smaller group experience. This seems perfect!
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 4:32 PM  
BCLOWERS
Great review! I appreciate you including your fall. Accidents happen and it's good to know how it was handled and apparently no one freaked out, took the walk off the itinerary and no one sued. What a relief!
Tuesday, January 01, 2013 1:54 PM  
WOODY KNEPPRETH
My wife and I just did the Ketchikan - Juneau trip and had the most wonderful time. The staff is great and there was always something to do. Can't recommend more. It's great!
Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:03 PM  
REGINA BERENS
My husband and I just took the Juneau-to-Ketchikan itinerary and loved it so much we put down a deposit on the reverse itinerary, most likely in 2014. Everything in the review is true- with the caveat that weather varies and so do the critters who feel like showing up in any particular place/time. I'd add that we had a wide variety of fitness levels on our cruise- from intrepid preteens up to 80-year olds. Everybody had fun; there were so many different opportunities that everyone got out and saw Alaska. The staff was very good about describing each expedition so you knew exactly what might make it challenging. I did a hike that was way beyond anything I'd ever attempted, but given the description I figured I could do it- and I was right. This is truly the way to see Alaska.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 3:26 PM  
ANNE AND STEVE
We came over to Alaska last year from Scotland to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary. We took this cruise in June last year and had the most fantastic holiday imagineable. Crew were fantastic, scenery amazing, the whole experience out of this world. Can't praise it highly enough. The review is so accurate ans I really enjoyed reading it.
Monday, June 11, 2012 2:35 AM  
SUSAN DICKENS
Thankyou so much for this review. I am excited to be booked to go in July this year. Just a bit worried about the luggage situation as we are travelling for another 7 weeks after the cruise. Maybe my husband will have to sleep outside so I can fit my bag in the cabin!
Saturday, June 09, 2012 6:44 PM  
JANET STEVENS
I was on this trip and it was fantastic!!!! How is your rib? Fully healed?
Friday, June 08, 2012 9:22 PM  
LINDA J
Good info and this is the trip we are taking later this month. After reading ad watching your video, I am super excited!! We like to travel the off beaten track and like the small more intimate venue that InnerSeas offers.
Tuesday, June 05, 2012 8:02 PM  
RICKEE RICHARDSON
@William, this is something you should ask ISD directly. I am sure they will try to accommodate you.
Saturday, March 24, 2012 1:33 PM  
WILLIAM WHITE
Is it possible to disembark as soon as the boat docks? I need to make the 9:00AM flight out of Ketchikan for connections to San Antonio Texas, the last of which departs Seattle at 3:10. The later departures from Ketchikan are at 12:28 and 1:27 both of which arrive in Seattle at 3:10 & 4:20 respectively. My email is billcwhite@aol.com, if anyone has some information.
Saturday, March 24, 2012 12:53 PM  
DAN KENEVAN
We were on the Sept 2nd to 10th trip. I had no interest in going on this trip and I was wrong. This was truely an amazing trip and the staff were outstanding. I loved this more than any trip we have ever taken. thanks to my wife for making me go!!!! Amazing.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 10:30 AM  
PAM PEDERSEN
I was on this cruise with my husband, Steve, and son, Travis. This was truly a trip of a lifetime. Words cannot describe the beauty. My next dream vacation: joining the crew for a trip up the Western Coves!
Monday, August 15, 2011 7:57 AM  
JOANNE SPINA
we are preparing for the cruise at the end of Aug. it is the reverse trip form Ketichan tp Juneau. I'm sure it will be just as magnificent. Knowing waht to expect in every detail made a big difference thanks wrtie more after the trip
Sunday, August 07, 2011 11:14 AM  
BEV HARDING
The was also my first cruise and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in seeing Alaska. The big cruise ships cannot give you the experiences you will have on this cruise! The crew is great and you have a chance to know interact with your fellow passengers. Chris & Rickee - wonderful website!
Saturday, August 06, 2011 4:20 PM  
BRIAN CLARE
A great experience and great review!!! Best vacation we have ever been on!!,, hope you feel better chris!!!
Thursday, August 04, 2011 5:25 PM  
L. CORRELL
Just booked our Alaska trip aboard the Discoverer for 2012. Can't wait. Great review!
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 4:13 AM  
SUNSTONE TOURS
Great Review !!
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:26 PM  
JANET STEVENS
I was on this very cruise and agree wholeheartedly. We had a wonderful time and I am missing the friendly crew and great passengers (not to mention the beautiful scenery) already. The most amazing thing... when passenger Travis insisted there were orca behind us as we left a cove, Capt. Marce turned the ship around and we went back. We went back!!! We we rewarded with a pod of five orcas that swam along side the ship during dinner. I don't think a big ship would ever do that!
Monday, August 01, 2011 11:44 PM  
PHIL CROMER
Rikee and Chris' comments are professional, accurate, and highly descriptive of our experience. I would emphasize additionally the ultimate relaxation along with the adventure and the quality and highly interesting passengers on this cruise. Our first trip to Alaska, and first cruise of this type. Would do it over in a heartbeat!
Monday, August 01, 2011 10:45 AM  
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