Seven of the best small ship companies cruising to Alaska

Cruise Advice
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What is small when it comes to cruise ships? It means different things to different people, but for us, small comes down to an attitude, a state of mind, and a way of behaving. Our chosen 'small' ships range from the tiny 22 guest Safari Quest of Un-Cruise to the spacious indulgence of Regent's Seven Seas Mariner carrying 700. Whichever you choose, it's still a far cry from the giant vessels with passenger capacities higher than the number of residents in some of their ports of call.

On board, you can expect charming and attentive service, great food, fellow passengers of a similar mindset, and comfortable accommodations. Ashore, what you experience will definitely depend on the ship you choose.

Visiting Southeast Alaska by ship is an extraordinary experience, and whilst certain ports might be very busy indeed - Juneau for example - it is comparatively easy to find yourself in a remote wilderness which feels as if it has never been visited before. So if you are choosing a classic cruise ship, it's all about the shore excursions (although of course food, service and levels of comfort are going to be important to you too). But if you want to feel like an intrepid explorer, go instead for one of the expedition ships, and you will meet wildlife on deserted beaches, watch glaciers calve in a timeless and ancient landscape, and hike through untouched rainforest in the footsteps of the Tlingit people.

Mendenhall Glacier, Jeneau

UnCruise

Adventure specialist UnCruise operates small ship expeditions in Alaska with a focus on local culture, active participation, and wildlife viewing. Every day you will be out and about, exploring by kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard, or hiking ashore with an expert naturalist guide. UnCruise's fleet of small ships range from tiny (22 passenger Safari Quest) to very small (84 passenger Safari Endeavour). Itineraries are completely different to those of conventional cruise ships in the area. Excursions are included in the fare.

UnCruise - Safari Quest

Lindblad Expeditions: National Geographic

Founded by the father of ecotourism, Lars-Eric Lindblad, this thoughtful company has been in alliance with National Geographic since 2004, and offers an unparalleled opportunity to travel with the finest expedition teams in travel. Their extensive and innovative programme of Alaska cruises give you plenty of choice, so ask us for advice on the best one for you, from the 62 guest Sea Bird or Sea Lion, to the newly introduced 100 guest National Geographic Quest. Excursions are included in the fare

Linblad National Geographic - Quest

Silversea

For an intimate but stylish Alaska trip you can't go far wrong with the new Silver Muse, with 596 guests accommodated in suites with butler service. With magical scenery and adventurous experiences ashore, and superb comforts and service on board, you have an appealing combination. Itineraries range between 7, 10 and 11 days, with the opportunity to explore extensively, whilst a choice of at least eight dining venues on board guarantee a great experience. Excursions are at an additional cost.

Silversea, Silver Muse

Seabourn

Seabourn Sojourn accommodates 450 guests in spacious suites, with excellent dining choices and service. Overlaid on Seabourn's classic cruise foundation is an expedition style enhancement focussed on the area's nature, history, forestry and wildlife. On sailings featuring Ventures by Seabourn™ excursions, you share your voyage with a knowledgeable, experienced expedition team of scientists, scholars, naturalists and more who aim to give you an in-depth understanding of the history, ecology and culture of the places you visit. Excursions are at an additional cost.

Seabourn Sojourn at Sea

Windstar

The little Star Legend, with just over 200 passengers, operates a bit of a hybrid classic/expedition cruise. She carries several Zodiacs and kayaks for up-close exploration, with a five-person expedition team running the Windstar Signature Expeditions programme with lectures and guided tours, sometimes directly from the ship, to some of the most remote areas of the Alaskan frontier. The Windstar style is relaxed, easy going and laid back whatever destination you choose, and fellow guests are interested, engaged and active travellers. Excursions are at an additional cost.

Windstar, Star Legend at Sea

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Seven Seas Mariner returns to Alaska each summer, providing an excellent combination of comfortable spacious suite living with excellent dining choices and a whole selection of included excursions, unusual for a classic cruise ship. This is one destination where you're going to want to take loads of organised trips, so with up to 43 excursions on offer on a 7 day itinerary, you can really get your money's worth. There will also be guest lecturers, and a great family programme. Excursions are included in the fare.

Regent Seven Seas Mariner, Alaska

Ponant

Ponant's super-chic 260 guest yachts Le Soleal and L'Austral are a Francophile adventurer's dream - all that is best of French style and elegance, with an English-speaking environment and a stunning destination. You will travel in comfortable sea-view accommodation, and enjoy gourmet cuisine. Pick from expedition style itineraries in remote territories with extraordinary landscapes and varied wildlife, or cruise style operations on the captivating Inside Passage route between Juneau and Vancouver. Excursions are included in the fare on those itineraries designated 'Expedition'.

Ponant, Le Soleal
Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina

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