Honest Alaskan Dream Cruises Review: Adventure on Small Ships

We ventured to Alaska’s Inside Passage on Baranof Dream, a 49-passenger ship in Alaskan Dream Cruises’ fleet. It was a terrific way to see the wildlife and scenery of the “Last Frontier” state. But who is an Alaskan Dream Cruises experience for, and what can you expect onboard? Dive in as we share our honest Alaskan Dream Cruises (ADC) review with important things to know before you book. 

Disclosure: We were hosted by Alaskan Dream Cruises. All opinions are our own. Additionally, this page has affiliate links, meaning we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase at no cost to you. We recommend cruises, experiences, products, and services we personally use. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Why Sail with Alaskan Dream Cruises?

When you invest in a cruise with Alaskan Dream Cruises, you’re investing in:

  1. Supporting local Alaskan businesses. Not only in the company — because ADC is locally owned and operated — but also in the businesses that ADC supports through its excursions and provisioning.
  2. A unique small ship experience where you’ll be able to get to know the other passengers rather well. With around 50 passengers per ship, it’s nice to be able to bond with the other guests in a shared setting that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people.
  3. Learning about the native people of Alaska is one of the reasons we were so excited to vacation with them. It’s a part of our Alaskan Dream Cruises review we want to highlight because it’s essential to recognize that, as travelers, it’s vital we support these cultures to keep them alive.

Alaskan Dream Cruises Overview

Who is Alaskan Dream Cruises For?

We’d be remiss if we didn’t address this right off the bat because this cruise isn’t for everyone.

If you need a cruise with a ton of things to do onboard, internet, television in your room, a fancy bar, and attractive restaurants with artful cuisine to go with it, it’s not for you. If you like to get lost in a crowd and be anonymous on a cruise ship, an ADC cruise isn’t for you.

If you are game for an adventure with no-frills accommodations but an elevated feel by way of a great crew-to-guest ratio of 1:2 and outstanding excursions, this is the cruise for you.

You are one of a few dozen passengers and get to know the crew and your fellow passengers rather well during the trip. You form bonds and make memories together. There’s no escaping interacting with other guests when there aren’t many of you. We like that aspect of small ship cruising.

We’ve stayed in cruise ship staterooms and been on excursions that run the gamut, from a Maine Windjammer cruise where 25 people shared one shower to staying in The Retreat with Celebrity Cruises with our own private lux suite with a lovely bathtub in the shower to tendering to shore with hundreds of other passengers in the Caribbean, to being one of five people on a barge cruise exploring town.

Cost

The price point of Alaskan Dream Cruises is more than your average ocean cruise, as it should be. It’s a small ship experience that brings you into remote areas of Alaska with an all-American staff because it’s an American-owned ship and a US-owned company. It’s also Alaskanative owned, which is one of the reasons the cruise line appealed to us. We love supporting native American cultures and US companies — a double-whammy of support.

Notwithstanding is the price tag that comes with a small ship American cruise line experience, whether a river cruise or a small ocean ship. Expect to spend a minimum of $3,495 per person for a cruise with Alaskan Dream Cruises. This excludes getting to and from Alaska for the cruise. Some cruises have a higher price point, depending on the itinerary and ship.

This investment is inclusive of excursions, an onboard naturalist, a glass of beer or wine with dinner, and not feeling like one guest in a sea of thousands as you do on a big ship.

For the investment, you’ll experience “true Alaska,” as the brand boasts, with Alaskan-led tours and excursions and discovery in the nooks and crannies of Alaska, where big ships cannot go. Many would argue this kind of vacation is priceless.

Food and Drinks

The food and drinks aren’t going to be the reason you cruise with Alaskan Dream Cruises. Though some meals stood out above others, overall, it wasn’t memorable cuisine. But we cared less about the protein on our plate and more about things like sailing past glaciers with otters practically waving hello, so close to the water because there were only four decks.

When you’re on a big ship with 12 or more decks and don’t have a windowfront seat at dinner, it’s harder to appreciate nature during all times of the day.

Accommodations

We want to set realistic expectations for you in this Alaskan Dream Cruises review. The ship feels more like an upscale glamping experience rather than a temporary cushy home on the seas with luxurious, beautiful amenities. You’ll be a step above a well-setup, modern, top-of-the-line campsite on an Alaskan Dream Cruises ship.

Cruisers go for the destinations and scenery, not the ship itself. Which is precisely why we were there.

Cabins are very modest, with just the necessities. This is not the cruise for those looking to luxuriate. It’s a cruise aimed at people wanting to see wild Alaska, who are interested in supporting an Alaska-owned company.  

Suites are about the size of a small cabin on a mega cruise ship. On Baranof Dream, Decks 3 and 4 have suites. Deck 2 is the level you walk into the ship, which has several small cabins.

Three suites on the top level, on Deck 4. All staterooms have windows. This was a nice advantage when we were cruising and wanted to be inside to take cover from the wind but still wanted to see the beautiful landscape surrounding us. 

Experiences and Excursions

The excursions during our Inside Passage Sojourn itinerary were wonderful. If our naturalist wasn’t giving us some information about Alaska and where we were at each location, the cruise line partnered with local businesses and guides, many of whom were Native Americans. This very much enriched our experience.

Additionally, because we were on a small ship we were able to access areas big ships cannot. And this proved to be incredibly beneficial, like when we could get closer to the glaciers in Glacier Bay than the big ships could. Or when we docked in Kasaan, a small native village, or when we ended the trip with a gorgeous evening in Misty Fjords.

Wifi or Internet on Alaskan Dream Cruises

Simply put: there is no wifi on ADC ships. The lack of internet makes you focus on the wilderness and your surroundings, being with others, and enjoying your vacation. 

Alaskan Dream Cruises Ships in the Fleet

There are four overnight cruise ships in the Alaskan Dream Cruises ‘ fleet. Three of the four are named after islands in Alaska. 

They are:

  • Baranof Dream (the ship we were on)
  • Chicagof Dream
  • Admiralty Dream
  • Alaskan Dream

The ships are made for expeditions, with a focus on nature, wildlife, and native cultures.

The Only Alaskan-Owned Overnight Cruise Company in Alaska

Alaskan Dream Cruises is Alaskan-owned and operated. In 1967, Bob and Betty Allen founded Allen Marine Company. Betty is a Tlingit native, and she and Bob grew up locally. Allen Marine Company still operates today as it did beginning in 1970, as a tour operator offering guests day trip wildlife experiences in Alaska. We enjoyed a day tour with Allen Marine Company in Ketchikan.

Over the decades, the market for overnight Alaskan cruises grew. So, in 2011, Alaska Dream Cruises was born. Though Bob and Betty have passed on, the company remains in the family in their children’s hands. 

The offices of Alaska Dream Cruises are in Sitka, overlooking the shipyard in Jamestown Harbor. The harbor is beautiful, and it’s where Bob and Betty started Alaska Dream Cruises (ADC). In fact, you can see their home in the distance overlooking the harbor. There is a Tlingit totem pole in front of the waterfront side of their home, across the bay from the ADC offices.

This state is the only area where Alaskan Dream Cruises sail. They are the Alaska cruise experts! They are also unique because their itineraries go to lesser-visited areas in southern Alaska.

Alaskan Dream Cruises Season

The cruise season with ADC is from May to September. This corresponds to peak season in Alaska when 95% of the cruises take place, and tourists visit by land or sea. This is also when there is more daylight, temperatures are warmest, and wildlife is active. Expect whales who migrate to Alaska for the season to be in residence and the annual wonder of salmon spawning to take place.

Life Aboard Alaskan Dream Cruises’ Ship, Baranof Dream

The ship’s public spaces are minimal. It’s a small cruise ship, after all.

Onboard, you’ll find modest cabins, an outdoor deck, an indoor bar and lounge area, and a restaurant. Coffee and tea are available all day, and kitchen-made snacks are put out twice in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, like dips and hot finger foods. If you’re noshy between those times, there are individual chip bags in the lounge for guests to eat.  

Tables with white linens on Baranof Dream cruise ship.

A naturalist is on board to answer any wildlife questions you may have and to guide excursions. Several maps and identification posters on display showcase the array of wildlife you may see. 

Board games and books are available for guest use in the lounge. If the weather is nice, the crew may put out some games, like cornhole. One afternoon, when we were lucky enough to enjoy some sunshine (our cruise was rather gray and gloomy the majority of the time, which is simply luck of the draw on any vacation), Captain Neil took out games for us to play. It was surreal to play cornhole in such stunning surroundings!

Man playing a game of cornhole on the upper outside deck of a small cruise ship in Alaska with mountains behind him.

Speaking of the ship’s captain, one of the fun things about cruising Alaska on a small ship is that you can go to the bridge and chat with the officers nearly any time of day. We even sat there chatting with them with binoculars in hand one afternoon, trying to spot whales together.

Cabins on Baranof Dream

While the rooms are not the main event on the ship, it is a significant part of any cruise. On an Alaskan Dream Cruise, they’re mostly to sleep, wash up, use the toilet, and get ready for the day. Otherwise, most people can be found on deck enjoying the scenery or bonding with fellow passengers and the crew in the lounge or restaurant.

Room Size

The rooms are rather small, so if you can swing the cost of a suite (which is the category called “Deluxe” and “Deluxe Suite” on ADC) we recommend doing so for a small yet significant amount of extra square footage. Deluxe Suites are 210 square feet compared to an A room, which is 109 square feet. Or an AA room, which is 116 square feet.

Deluxe suite with a seating area on an Alaskan Dream Cruises ship.
Deluxe suite bed on Baranof Dream

An “A” category room, like room 203 in the photo below, contained a small, soft bed next to some drawers against the wall, with one side of the two-person bed against the window.

“A” Room type on Baranof Dream

No matter the category of room, the ceilings in Baranof Dream cabins aren’t more than six and a half feet high. Dan is 6’2” tall, and his head nearly touched the ceiling. If you’re 6’6” or taller, you likely won’t comfortably fit in the cabin, which has low ceilings and queen-size beds. (Tall people problems!) 

There are 25 cabins onboard Baranof Dream. The classes are as follows: A, AA, AAA, Deluxe, and Deluxe Suite.

There are No Locks on the Doors

It’s important to note that there aren’t locks on the doors of any of the rooms. This didn’t bother us because we were used to it from previous cruises, like our yacht cruise in Ecuador on Kontiki Wayra. However, if you’re not used to such a thing, it can be shocking! So we want to be sure we frankly share that with you.

Yet it’s also important to note that there is a level of mutual trust that you have with people onboard. They all paid to be on the same trip and also potentially have valuable things onboard, like their own binoculars and expensive camera gear.

Chances are, however, that you’ll have those things nearby or on you for most of the trip. Spotting wildlife, or taking photos of it, is part of the memory-making of a cruise in Alaska.

Stateroom Bathrooms

Though things vary slightly from ship to ship, Baranof Dream’s bathrooms are very small. A “show-let,” as the Assistant Hotel Manager described it to us while she showed us our room, is what the bathroom consists of. That’s a combined toilet and shower in one room, along with a small sink. The door to the bathroom area was a metal-framed frosted piece of plexiglass likened to a vintage shower door.

Shampoo and soaps were from Alaskan vendors, a detail we sincerely appreciated. 

Getting Around the Ship

The ship is small. You could walk the entire ship from top to bottom, bow to stern, in a short amount of time. But a small ship adventure is likely why you’re interested in Alaskan Dream Cruises anyway!

If you have mobility issues, it’s important to know that the stairs are a little steep between decks. Also keep in mind that the showers and bathrooms are very small, with little to no room to maneuver.

Food on Alaskan Dream Cruises

Breakfast is served in the restaurant around 7:30 am every day, thirty minutes after a wake-up call announcement on the loudspeaker. An early riser’s breakfast is set up at the bar beginning around 6:00 am.

Lunch was around noon, and you ordered what you wanted from a menu that changed daily.

Cookie time was around 4:00 pm each day, which was always a hit. That was followed by a time for hors d’oeuvres, which were served between 5:00 and 5:30 pm in the bar area. Some hors d’oeuvres we had were dip with crackers, bruschetta on crostinis, crab cakes, and stuffed mushrooms. 

Dinner was served at 6:30 pm, and we chose our evening’s selections off a menu that changed every day. Our meal was served with an optional small glass of red or white wine or a glass of beer, which is included in the cruise fare.

The restaurant has open seating, with tables for four people or more. On a small Alaskan Dream Cruises ship, you’ll be sure to make friends quickly, especially because you sit together during meals. 

Lounge area on Baranof Dream

Local purveyors provide the seafood.

The menu for each meal is posted publicly by the bar hours in advance so you can get excited about your next dining experience. 

The food is good — there were some hits and misses, as we find with most cruises.

Drinks on Alaskan Dream Cruises

Aside from the included glass of beer or wine with your dinner each day, drinks can be purchased from the bar. The exception is that onboard alcohol is included for guests of the Deluxe and Deluxe Suite cabins.

You are not permitted to bring your own alcohol onboard. 

Cocktails were $10.50 each, and beer was $7.50 per glass when we sailed. One of the nice things about the beer onboard is it’s from an Alaskan brewery in Sitka called Harbor Mountain Brewing Company. We loved that we were supporting a local business and getting a taste of a local brew when we ordered the Alaskan beer.

There was also local gin onboard from Port Chilkoot Distillery called 50 Fathoms. Because the Alaskan Dream Cruises ships are provisioning in Alaskan ports, you have to imagine they’re bringing local products onboard. And we loved that it showed in the bar options.

Other alcohol included Jameson, Tito’s, Bombay Sapphire, Woodford Reserve, and the like. 

One of the most fun things that happened during the cruise was when the ADC crew brought Alaskan ice onboard that they retrieved from the ocean. We got to have a drink with a glacial ice cube!

Wi-Fi and Cell Phone Service on Alaskan Dream Cruises

There is no wifi on the ship. Though Alaska is in the United States, cell service on the water is non-existent. Dan has AT&T, and I have Verizon, and we almost didn’t have cell service the entire time while cruising, except for two times while leaving the shore in some areas when Dan had a tiny bit of service until the boat sailed further out on the water.

You don’t need an international cell phone plan if you’re US-based if, perchance, you do get cell service. Because, remember, though Alaska feels like another world it’s an American State. Major cities, including Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka, have cell service, but smaller towns, like Wrangell and Kasaan, are harder to get strong signals in.

Plan to be unplugged and enjoy your surroundings, not being glued to a device. Consider it a bonus if you get service in a port and want to briefly connect with anyone back home during the trip.

Activities

In addition to day-to-day excursions in ports or cruising the area, there are noteworthy activities.

The crew will put kayaks and paddleboards in the water when the conditions — weather and geographic area — are right. We loved kayaking in a quiet bay one afternoon and seeing the small jellyfish in the water beneath us. We even spotted whales in the distance!

As we previously mentioned, there were games onboard, too: board games in the lounge, and if the weather was nice, a crew member put out cornhole and a huge Connect 4 game.

Man playing a game of  cornhole on the upper outside deck of a small cruise ship in Alaska with mountains behind him.

We really valued the presentations that Ken, our onboard naturalist, offered a few times throughout the cruise. One was about what winter is like in Alaska, and another was about the salmon in the state. Both were fascinating topics!

What to Pack for an Alaskan Dream Cruise

Water in the rooms is potable/drinkable, so we recommend bringing a reusable water bottle.

Though they provide binoculars per stateroom, we brought our own. If you don’t want to bring your own, use theirs. If you want a premium quality pair of binoculars, bring your own. The binoculars in the room were less magnification than ours and not high quality. 

Leave any formalwear at home; it’s unnecessary and a waste to take up space in your luggage with fancy attire for Alaska. You’ll want to pack layers, comfy socks, and waterproof or water-resistant gear in case it rains. Pack cozy shirts, both long sleeves and short. In hindsight, slippers to wear in the room would have been a great addition. Pack a scarf, gloves, and a hat as well. Sunscreen and sunglasses are necessary, too.

Though you’ll be cruising in Alaska during summer, the high temperatures are usually in the 60s. Sure, there are exceptions when they may have a heatwave. However, remember it’s also always colder and windier on the water than on land.

Lastly, as long as you included the request in your pre-cruise “order” with Alaskan Dream Cruises, they provide some rain gear, which I am gleefully modeling in the photo below! The rain pants and hooded raincoat were a welcomed addition to my outfit on rainy days.

Pre and Post Cruise Excursions

Alaskan Dream Cruises is unique in that it includes pre and post-cruise tours the day you embark on the cruise.

The day the cruise started, we checked into Alaskan Dream Cruises’ hospitality suite in Sitka around 12:30 pm. Then, about thirty minutes later, we were on our way to the waterfront Salmon Hatchery at the Sitka Sound Science Center for a tour with fellow passengers.

Afterward, we enjoyed the small aquarium at the science center before heading to the Alaska Raptor Center. (They even had a touch tank! Who doesn’t love a touch tank at an aquarium?)

Finally, we went to the Fortress of the Bear — an incredibly popular tourist spot in Sitka — as our last stop before we were driven to the cruise ship. We boarded Baranof Dream in Sitka around 4:30 pm. 

Additionally, ADC helped with transportation assistance in Ketchikan the day we disembarked. We were each given a ferry ticket to use to get from the shore to the airport, which is a 5-minute ferry ride across the water. Otherwise, you have to buy a ferry ticket, so this was a nice thing that the cruise line covered.

Alaskan Dream Cruises Review, All in All

Would we cruise with ADC again? Absolutely.

It helps to know what to expect, having been once, however, which we hope helps you as well. Knowing that the cruise ship isn’t luxurious in aesthetics despite the price point but in hindsight, discovering the luxury is in the crew-to-guest ratio of 1:2 and the incredible experiences ADC works hard to curate to give guests “true Alaska” sets the right expectation.

We’re so lucky to have learned about Alaska on our first trip there from Native Americans and native Alaskans, to have supported several locally-owned businesses along the way, and to have made fantastic memories with the crew and fellow inspiring guests.

Of any cruise we have ever been on, we still keep in touch with the most fellow passengers from that cruise than any other cruise. We truly cherish those friendships and the genuine connections we made thanks to Alaskan Dream Cruises bringing us all together.

Animated map on a blue background.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m glad to read your review. We are doing a cruise on the same ship in August. It’s good to see that we made the right choice. We have an AAA room. Can’t hardly wait to see Alaska. Thank you for the review. I’m sure we’ll have a fantastic time.

    Steve

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