Highlights from an 8-Day Small Ship Expedition Cruise in Alaska with UnCruise
Highlights from an 8-Day Small Ship Expedition Cruise in Alaska with UnCruise

Highlights from an 8-Day Small Ship Expedition Cruise in Alaska with UnCruise

So you’ve decided you want to see the State of Alaska by ship. Deciding on the itinerary and size of vessel can be daunting. If you are considering a small ship with only 90 passengers, I’ve summarized the highlights from our 8-day expedition aboard Uncruise S.S. Legacy that started and ended in Juneau, Alaska.

Day 1: Embarkation in Juneau

Our journey began around 4 pm when we were welcomed aboard the S. S. Legacy by the captain and crew. Then we were shown to our cabins and given a safety briefing. Without delay we were on our way to Glacier Bay National Park.

During this time of the year (between May and July), there was almost 15 hours of daylight so we enjoyed sunshine and daylight on the bow until late in the evening. 

Day 2: Tidal Inlet & Glacier Bay National Park

Alaska cruise kayaking

On day two of our cruise, we arrived in Tidal Inlet.with breathtaking views of the snow-peaked mountains, rocky shore, and smooth seas. 

My husband and I were excited for our first excursion, the “Kayak 101” lesson with our expedition staff, Bobby. We were thrilled about embracing this new learning experience. After 90 minutes we felt confident and comfortable in our kayak, and looked forward to kayaking again.

Following lunch, we arrived in Glacier Bay National Park where Ranger Caitie boarded the ship at Bartlett Cove in her National Parks uniform. Onboard, she gave us an orientation session on Glacier Bay National Park. 

Judi with Ranger Caitie before she departed in Bartlett Cove

I learned from Ranger Caitie that only two large cruise ships, four small ships, and a few kayaks are allowed in the park at one time. I suddenly felt privileged that we would be in the park for two days!  

Continuing along Tarr Inlet in Glacier Bay we were able to see the partially hidden Grand Pacific Glacier in the distance where Canada meets Alaska. 

As we slowly approached the 21-mile long Margerie Glacier, Ranger Caitie requested a moment of silence as we all stood on the bow listening to the glacier grumbling and bergy bits cracking in the water. 

Alaska cruise approaching Margerie Glacier

And with the clear skies we were able to see the snow-covered jagged peak of Mount Fairweather which is the highest mountain in British Columbia. 

Day 3: Lamplugh Glacier & South Marble Island

On day three, we stopped at the magnificent Lamplugh Glacier. What started off as a morning planned day with a skiff ride and beach walk. This was quickly changed to only a long skiff ride after two brown bears were spotted close to the beach. One was spotted walking in a close distance, and another bear was swimming towards our second destination at Lamplugh Glacier. 

Moving towards the odorous South Marble Island where we were able to view the lazy sea lions. The seals who were making belching and farting sounds. We also had seabirds flying all overhead us. And in the distance, we saw humpback whales and flukes!

Alaska cruise wildlife includes Sea Lions

Before lunchtime, many passengers and staff did a “polar plunge” jumping off the ship into the frigid waters of Glacier Bay as the rest of the passengers cheered them on.

Alaska cruise UnCruise Polar Plunge

 We sailed to Bartlett Cove where Ranger Caitie disembarked at the Glacier Bay Park headquarters. As we sailed, we were able to spot a few brown bears, without our binoculars. They were ashore digging for their next meal. I’m pretty certain I would not have been able to see this from a large cruise ship!   

Mama Brown Bear and Two Cubs

The sight of a mother bear and her two cubs on Mother’s Day made my Alaskan expedition even more memorable! 

After dinner, we walked off the ship to see the Huna Tribal House, located on the shoreline of Bartlett Cove. We walked along the one-mile shoreline and admired the carved totems and structures.

Huna House Bartlett Cove in Glacier National Park

Day 4: Neka Bay Wildlife 

On day four of our cruise, we stopped and anchored in Neka Bay. Neka Bay is an untouched wilderness that is quiet and calm. 

Our morning skiff ride was quite the wildlife extravaganza with eagles, gulls, golden plover, pigeon guillemot, harlequin ducks, sliders, porpoises, harbour seals and even a humpback whale blowing and breaching. 

Judi and Lawrence free-kayaking in Neka Bay

Neka Bay was such a serene place that after lunch, we did some free kayaking for an hour. After that activity, we went ashore for a two-hour bushwhack on a rocky beach that had an array of spitting clams, 10 to 20-inch starfish and red rock crabs.

I learned that bushwhacking required a lot of effort and attention.

Judi bushwacking

As we walked the forested and mossy path, we frequently stopped and learned about the moss, fungus and flowers along the way. We even got to taste some of it as well! During the trek I began peeling off layers of clothing until I just had a Tshirt on.

As we made our way to aclearing, our group spotted a lumbering brown bear, and we quickly and quietly made a detour back to our skiff. 

In the evening we sailed to Thomas Bay, which is also known as “The Bay of Death” or “Devil’s Country.” As the Tlingit tribal legend goes, some early prospectors reported seeing “Kushtaka,” which are the shapeshifting creatures that can take the form of a man or otter animal.

Along the way we passed Hua, a former fishing village where, soon after, our Captain announced that a pod of Orca (Killer Whales) was on our port side. He slowed the ship so we could see and hear them bobbing and moving gracefully.

Day 5: Scenery Cove & Baird Glacier 

My husband and I started our morning with an excursion – a skiff ride in Scenery Cove, just in front of Baird Glacier. We had to navigate our way through large, oddly shaped, grounded icebergs of many colours. This excursion was an experience made possible on a skiff with a very experienced operator familiar with the changing tides and water levels. 

In the afternoon, we did a guided hike to Cascade Creek to see a winding waterfall that was flowing from the top of the mountain down through rocks and forests. Due to the slippery and steep rocky stairs, ropes were available along the sides for stability. 

Hiking at Cascade Creek Alaska

Day 6: Robert & Crow Islands, Plus Woodspit 

Lawrence and Earl on a skiff

Our morning started off with another skiff excursion where we happily watched a dozen playful sea lions, Arctic terns, puffins, cormorants, murrelets and other birds. 

In the afternoon we made our way to Woodspit in search of whales and Captain Voss stopped the ship so we could enjoy a pod of Humpback whales.

Humpback Whale fluke

The breaching whales put on a show for the next couple of hours. Throughout this time, Captain Voss made sure to turn the ship several times for us to get the best view of this spectacular sight!

Day 7: Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier

On the Bridge with Captain Voss heading towards Dawes Glacier

On Day 7 we sailed through the near-frozen sapphire-coloured water in Endicott Arm, surrounded by majestic icebergs. I stood on the bridge as we sailed through the beautiful sapphire-coloured water surrounded by a tranquilizing paradise of waterfalls, forests and ice. 

During our skiff to Dawes Glacier – a 600 feet tall and mile wide glacier, we heard the icebergs crackling in the water as we headed towards the glacier. We heard the thundering sound of the calving glacier, where huge chunks of the glacier ice broke off and crashed into the water, and without a warning our skiff was rocked by waves.  We were kept a safe distance from the glacier face in our skiffs.

Day 8: Disembarkation in Juneau

Lawrence Cohen enjoying our last Alaskan Fish and Chips on the dock in Juneau

Our unforgettable expedition came to an end with disembarkation in Juneau. The owner of Uncruise, Dan, met us and took us on a fascinating walking tour of Juneau, sharing stories about the rich history of prospecting and gold mining.

We had a delicious Alaskan halibut and chips on the pier as we took in our last views of the beautiful sights of the cloud-shrouded mountains before heading to the airport

Alaska cruise aboard UnCruise's Legacy

Overall Opinion on This Alaskan Expedition

This 8-Day Alaskan expedition with UnCruise, made me grateful for the opportunity to disconnect from my wired life and simply enjoy the smells, sights and sounds of nature. If you are prepared to give up the entertainment, multiple restaurants and bars, and luxurious cabins and facilities you might find on the larger cruise ships, to slow down and immerse in the destination, Uncruise is a fabulous option. The wildlife experiences, expedition team members, freshly prepared (and sourced) meals including hot delicious pastries all made by the chefs on board created a comfortable platform to learn and engage in adventurous activities.

I hope to have the opportunity to return for another adventure with UnCruise. I am looking forward to seeing more untouched wilderness again soon,