Our Experience on Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage Sojourn

The small ship Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage sojourn from Sitka to Ketichan is an itinerary set to wow and educate guests about a wild and fantastic frontier. It starts and ends in two outstanding southeast Alaska cities, and various small port stops are in between, where you can learn about native cultures and see stunning landscapes. 

The destinations that were a part of this itinerary and the people we met — both on the ship and off — are ingrained in the everlasting memories that remain with us long after we disembarked from Baranof Dream.

We're sharing our complete Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage experience with you so you can decide if the itinerary is a fit for your Alaska vacation.

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Our Experience on the Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage Sojourn, with a photo of a glacier in Alaska.

Inside Passage Cruise Overview with Alaskan Dream Cruises: From Sitka to Ketchikan or the Reverse

We began our cruise in Sitka and ended in Ketchikan, extending with a land portion before and after in both cities. (We're glad we extended our vacation beyond the cruise because there's so much to see and do in Alaska, especially during summer when it's peak tourist season.)

Our Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage cruise itinerary was as follows:

  • Day 1: Sitka Embarkation
  • Day 2: Cruise with Wilderness Exploration
  • Day 3: Glacier Bay
  • Day 4: Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau
  • Day 6: Wrangell
  • Day 7: Kayaking Karta Bay and Kasaan
  • Day 8: Metlakatla and Misty Fjords National Monument
  • Day 9: Ketchikan Debarkation

We go into depth about each day below.

Small Ship Cruising in Alaska’s Inside Passage

With Alaskan Dream Cruises (ADC), you trust the captain to pick the best course for day-to-day sailing. While you have a general outline of the itinerary and they stick to the ports of call, there’s flexibility throughout the day with what path you take for the best chances to see wildlife, for the best weather, etc., according to the captain’s research. 

The flexibility is refreshing and drives the point home you’re on a small ship that can go where big ships cannot and have more freedom than perhaps big ship captains do. 

Double exposure photo with the silhouette of the profile of a man in a baseball cap with a landscape of evergreens and a harbor in Wrangell, Alaska.

The days are enjoyable and, thankfully, not exhausting. Each day, we went to bed just after sunset, which was between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm, when we visited in August. The early bedtime was because the goal was to wake up early to sightsee after 7:30 am breakfast. There was a wake-up call at 7:00 am with breakfast promptly at 7:30 am most days.

Visiting Alaska during June or July may mean that you go to bed before the sun sets because there are more hours of daylight and fewer dark hours during those months in the Arctic. Curtains on the windows in the staterooms help block daylight.

Learning about the Native Americans in Alaska’s Inside Passage during our Small Ship Cruise

The great thing about Alaskan Dream Cruises, particularly with our experience during the 9-day Inside Passage cruise, was its focus on native cultures.

We learned about three Native American tribes during the days of our Inside Passage small ship cruise: Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. This is another aspect of small ship cruising with Alaskan Dream Cruises that must be remembered. Although we haven't cruised many times in Alaska, we'd be shocked if any other cruise line did such a great job of focusing on the various native cultures of Alaska.

During three days spread out over the cruise itinerary and in three different locations, we learned about Tlingit, Haid, and Tsimshian Native Americans from the natives in their communities. It was truly special.

Flags with form line art leading to a Native American clan house in Wrangell, Alaska.

Day 1 of Cultural Learning: Tlingit Culture

Learning about Tlingit culture in Wrangell from a generation of young adults was inspiring. Our three guides for the day were leading the charge in keeping their culture alive with their Native American-owned tour group.

Small buses took us from the ship around the small city as they educated us about what it was like to grow up there, about several totem poles in their city, and a clan house. They also guided us through a local museum.

Day 2 of Cultural Learning: Haida People 

During our time in Kasaan, a Native American local named Joe led us through his village. He was a Haida native who moved back to Kasaan, his home, with his wife and two children after venturing to find excitement in Portland, Oregon, only to realize the safety and community of Kasaan was what called to him.

We learned about the culture through totem carvings and a walk through the wilderness with our guide, who was open and honest about his experience growing up there and what it's like to be a member of the small community today. He was happy to answer questions we had about his culture and what it is like to be a Native American in the United States today.

Day 3 of Cultural Learning: Tsimshian Natives

When we reached Metlakatla, we knew we were in for a treat. A totem pole at the end of the dock and Tsimshian natives welcomed us.

The crescendo of our time here was a performance by several natives in full regalia. They sang, danced, and played instruments for us in their clan house, or community center. It was a reminder of why it's vital to share cultures with others: for understanding and common ground and to keep it alive for generations to come.

Guides on Alaskan Dream Cruises

There is not a Cruise Director on ADC like on other cruise lines. Instead, three people keep things running in terms of management and decisions. They are the Captain, the Hotel Manager, and the Naturalist. Of course, the chef, chief engineers, officers, etc., are key players, but truthfully, all the crew is on such a small ship. There was a crew of approximately 16 people.

Activities During our Inside Passage Small Ship Cruise

We had a lot of three things: moderate hikes, native cultural education, and sightseeing breathtaking landscapes and wildlife. 

When sailing through incredible areas like Glacier National Park and Misty Fjords, a combination of time on the ship was accompanied by docking in small areas where we were likely the only visitors for days. We dropped anchor in one of the areas and tendered ashore for optional kayaking in Karta Bay one morning. 

While onboard, some people would congregate on the top deck with binoculars to try to spot wildlife. If there was something interesting nearby, we were reminded of the joy and advantage of being in Alaska on a small cruise ship, like when the captain was able to get the bow of the ship incredibly close to a roaring waterfall.

When in ports, our excursions were always always led by locals, often Native American guides. We went into a few big ports, like Juneau, and started and ended in some of Alaska's bigger cities but in between we went to phenomenal small towns where we were the only non-local visitors.

Visits to the Cruise Ship Bridge

The bridge is nearly always open for visitors to see what the captain and first officers are up to. It’s a fun place to learn about navigation and talk to the crew about what led them to Alaska cruising.

Cruise Views and Highlights

Native American culture and art, picturesque mountain views, rainbows, and gorgeous sunsets are to be expected for a summer cruise in Alaska on a small ship adventure.

The glaciers are simply spectacular, and the wildlife is impressive. 

We saw sea lions, dozens of sea otters, puffins, bald eagles, cormorants, and whales. Our onboard naturalist was available to answer any wildlife and geological questions. He also did a few presentations during the cruise: One on the five types of salmon in southeast Alaska, another on the Tongass National Forest, and a third on Alaska during winter. 

Day-by-Day on Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage Sojourn

Day 1: Sitka Embarkation Day

Alaskan Dream Cruises has a hospitality suite in Sitka and Ketchikan. You meet at the hospitality suite and then embark on an excursion.

Alaskan Dream Cruises is unique because it includes a pre-cruise excursion before you even board the ship. We had a full afternoon of Sitka experiences before we went on board.

Cruise Day Excursion

We met at 12:45 pm, dropped our luggage at the hospitality suite, and joined the excursion.

First, we visited the Sitka Science Center, where, despite the rain, we gathered outside to learn about salmon in Alaska. This is a significant place to do so because they also have a Salmon Hatchery. It's a birth center for salmon, if you will!

Salmon is ingrained in Alaska's cuisine, industry, and wildlife. It was great to learn about salmon in-depth early on in our trip. Afterward, we went inside to look at a few small aquariums and participated in feeling creatures in a touch tank. It contained some of Alaska's Pacific Ocean anemones and starfish. (It ended up being a great preview of what we'd see in the water during our Snorkel Alaska tour in Ketchikan.)

Next, we were taken to the incredibly popular Fortress of the Bear. This is a site that thousands of visitors go to every year. The proceeds help fund the non-profit that rehabilitates and rescues orphaned bears.

Soon after, we were brought to the ship. Baranof Dream was docked next to a small asphalt lot with a beautiful sign welcoming us to the city. The crew was there to greet us, and Captain Neil said a brief safety talk before we walked onboard.

The great thing about small ship cruising is that you just walk onto the ship! No intense security line or waiting is involved. And because we had already dropped our bags off at the ADC hospitality suite in Sitka earlier in the day, we didn't have to worry about our luggage either.

Painted oval-shaped "Welcome to Sitka" sign with a small cruise ship in the background.

Day 2: Cruise with Wilderness Exploration

Everyone onboard, including us, was anxious to sail Alaska and spot wildlife. Day two of the cruise included scratched that itch for everyone. It was a relaxing, low-key day.

Day 3: Glacier Bay

One of the reasons that people dream bout a trip to Alaska is to see glaciers. We saw many during our Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage voyage.

Man in the foreground dressed in winter attire with a glacier in the background, during an Alaskan Dream Cruise in Glacier Bay.

Day three of the cruise included Glacier Bay. Though large ships can enter Glacier Bay, small ships get closer to the glaciers. Being on a small ship, as we were, brought us as close as possible to the majestic Johns Hopkins Glacier. We were able to see and hear the glacier calve nearby.

In a mother nature move that we sincerely appreciated, she stunned us all with a stunning rainbow as we sailed into the area. We were extra grateful for this colorful display after back-to-back cold, gloomy, gray days.

Rainbow over a snow-capped mountain in Glacier Bay, Alaska.

We had plenty of viewing time at Glacier Bay, utilizing the binoculars we brought to get even closer than the boat could bring us. We examined every last blue, gray, and white hue of the glaciers. Awe overcame us as we admired the ice forms and waved to the neighboring lounging sea lions as the boat floated past them.

Margerie Glacier was another favorite we saw that day with its magnificent grand spikes and colors. Additionally, we saw the Grand Pacific and Lamplugh Glaciers and Glacier Bay's Barlett Cove.

We docked at Barlett Cove near the ranger station, where we had time to explore the area. Our naturalist told us what to do if we encountered a bear on land there, so when Dan and I hiked, we were sure to follow his instructions to avoid them. A bear thankfully never crossed our path, but we were prepared in case one did!

Day 4: Mendenhall Glacier and Exploring Juneau

A couple in front of Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska during an Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage itinerary.

Visiting Mendenhall Glacier

We sailed into Juneau, where a bus took us thirty minutes or so to the famed Mendenhall Glacier on the fourth day of our cruise. We had free time to explore the visitor center and take a short hike.

The visitor center is very educational and explains more about glaciers with interactive displays and models. It also has some information about wildlife and a great enclosed view overlooking the glacier.

Everyone who visits and is physically able goes to the quintessential photo spot on Photo Point Trail to get a picture taken with the glacier! After we got our photo, we went for a moderate, short hike around the Trail of Time, just the two of us. Then we finished our Mendenhall Glacier visit with a view of the salmon in the water on Steep Creek Trail before getting back on the bus to go to downtown Juneau with the group.

Exploring the City of Juneau

In the afternoon, we had a few hours to explore Juneau. Our ship was docked within walking distance of the Alaska State Museum, where we were given complimentary tickets thanks to Alaskan Dream Cruises.

Interior of Alaska State Museum in Juneau, with indigenous artifacts and art.

Juneau is a walkable city (as most cities that cruise ships visit in Alaska are) with a lot to do and see. We zipped through the Alaska State Museum for a quick overview of the city's history and to see Alaska animals on display (albeit taxidermied for educational purposes). You can spend hours in this state-of-the-art museum, but we had additional things we wanted to do and see with our short time in the city.

We walked around the downtown area to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land. The streets get very crowded when many cruise ships are in port, which is most days during peak season.

We divided and conquered to see what most interested us. Dan sat at a local brewery to taste the beer while I shopped next door at a locally owned apparel store. I also had a delicious halibut taco (can't get enough halibut while in Alaska!) and stopped at a gemstone store.

Downtown Juneau, Alaska with people walking in the streets, shops and planted flowers.

We can't wait to return to Juneau one day for further exploration! We were craving more time there after our all-aboard time when we had to be back on the ship to continue our Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage sojourn.

Day 5: Sawyer Glacier and Orca Point Lodge

Sawyer Glacier

The next day of the cruise brought us to Sawyer Glacier. A part of you starts to think that most glaciers look the same after you've seen five, but simultaneously, you acknowledge how different they are, too. It's a weird but fantastic Alaskan existence, and we were soaking it all in, knowing that our time on the 9-day cruise — and seeing glaciers for this visit —were finite.

Orca Point Lodge

Unfortunately, due to the wind and rain, we were unable to stop at Orca Point Lodge. Yet, we were able to snap a photo of it as we approached from a close distance.

Wooden building in the distance on an island in Alaska. It is Orca Point Lodge, a structure owned by Alaskan Dream Cruises.

As Dan and I watched the ship attempt to dock from our room, where we saw the crew throw the ropes to the person on land multiple times, everyone with authority agreed it was too dangerous. The crew immediately pivoted and set up the dining room for dinner instead of the cookout and beach bonfire we were going to have at the lodge.

We were bummed not to be able to go there because it's one of the unique things about cruising with Alaskan Dream Cruises. However, we were impressed by the crew's fast action, and we were grateful to be safe onboard.

Day 6: Wrangell

Our time in Wrangell was wonderful. Native Americans who operate a local tour group met us near the ship so we could hop on small buses and tour the town. We went to a clan house to admire its exterior and see totem poles on the property.

Afterward, they took us to the City and Borough of Wrangell Alaska Museum, where they gave our group a private tour through the exhibits. The exhibits explained the history of the area through displays and old photographs.

Museum entrance in Wrangell, Alaska during an Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage excursion.
A group of people on a rocky beach in Alaska.

We visited Petroglyph Beach after the museum. It was wild to see carved rocks on the beach with drawings that were likely thousands of years old.

We had free time after our morning tour. Dan and I opted to get lunch in town to support the community and grab a cup of coffee at a local cafe. We also ventured into the shops, which included an awesome gemstone/crystal store that wowed us. We decided to take a small hike up to the top of the Mt. Dewey Trail, which had an awesome bird's eye view of the harbor and town below from the top.

Bird's eye view of the town of Wrangell, Alaska, from the top of Mt. Dewey trail.

Day 7: Kayaking Karta Bay and Kasaan 

Karta Bay Kayaking

The morning of day seven of our Alaskan Dream Cruises Inside Passage vacation was a special time when we were brought into Karta Bay. The crew brought kayaks into the water for our enjoyment. A tender boat transferred anyone who wanted to kayak or explore from the ship to the shore.

Two orange kayaks in the water of a bay in Alaska, with green evergreen trees on the shore.

We rowed around the bay for forty minutes in a tandem kayak. The weather was perfect, and Dan and I loved spotting wildlife under the water's surface. We mostly saw tiny jellyfish and a few pops of color from underwater plant life.

Nature's tiny sounds that broke through the golden silence were entertaining in a setting as picturesque as Karta Bay. Once or twice in the distance, we stopped to focus on spouts of water blasting up from the water's surface. It turned out to be the blow from a humpback whale.

Visiting the Small Village of Kaasan

Visiting Kasaan was incredibly memorable because of the personalized tour we received. A man in his early thirties named Joe led us through the wilderness on a captivating, moderate hike. Kasaan means “pretty town” in the native language, and it certainly was.

Man next to a short totem pole with a whale, and onlooker in an Alaskan forest in Kasaan.

Joe was a Haida Native American who explained more about the community, what it's like to live there, and what the carvings on several totem poles throughout the hike symbolized. He led us through a beautiful forest with spectacular, towering evergreens. We all picked wild berries along the way, eating some and saving others for the ADC bartender to craft cocktails with that evening.

Tall evergreens in a towering forest in Alaska with people walking during an Alaskan Dream Cruises excursion in Kasaan.

We visited a beautiful clan house, seeing the gorgeous carvings inside. Totems and their carvings were the main attraction in Kasaan, a village of approximately 90 people.

The grand finale of our time in Kasaan before walking back to the ship was the honor of visiting Stormie Hamar, a master carver. He showed us an incredible wood canoe he was creating, and we were also able to see a totem pole he had in the works.

Day 8: Metlakatla and Misty Fjords National Monument

The last full day of our cruise presented us with the best of what the previous days gave us: culture and nature. First, we headed to Metlakatla to learn about the Tsimshian tribe. Afterward, we sailed into Misty Fjords National Monument within Tongass National Forest for a truly stunning cruise conclusion.

Trees and rock formations in Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska during an Alaskan Dream Cruise Inside Passage itinerary.


A totem pole and local Tsimshian people were awaiting our arrival in Metlakatla. We saw colorful Maple trees turning vibrant colors, indicating that autumn weather was beginning to arrive in August in Alaska. Despite the chill in the air, the people were warm and welcoming.

We were directed to the inside of their community's clan house after an explanation of the totem poles near the Metlakatla waterfront. Inside, we were treated to an inspirational performance that involved several Tsimshian people of various ages, dancing and singing for us. They invited everyone to join them on the floor for one dance; we had a fun time uniting with their community circle.

A community center with native Tsimshian people wearing regalia, engaging in song and dance.

Misty Fjords National Monument

We were so incredibly grateful to be on a small ship that could sail into Misty Fjords National Monument. What a remarkable experience.

If you are cruising Alaska on a big ship, you simply cannot sail into the area. You can, however, take a boat excursion from Ketchikan to see the area. But we were grateful it was already arranged for us on our Baranof Dream. We sailed right into this awe-inspiring area, spending a few hours there from golden hour through sunset to darkness.

The landscapes in Misty Fjords are resplendent, with rock formations and gorgeous evergreens covering the mountains. If you're lucky, cotton candy clouds dot the blue skies between peaks.

Colorful sunset above the mountains at Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska.

We would have given the pink, peach, and purple sunset a standing ovation if we could have. We were certainly filled with gratitude witnessing each vignette nature treated us to as the ship sailed by.

Dinner fell during these hours. But we gave kudos to the crew who offered to bring our meals and dessert up to the top deck so we could enjoy the scenery, free of walls and windows, in the open air.

Top deck of a small cruise ship sailing through Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska.

Day 9: Ketchikan Disembarkation

We docked in Ketchikan very early the next morning. Happily, we were there before any other cruise ships, which was a special, quiet way to be introduced to the city. It's loaded with tourists when several mega-ships dock during the day. But with only 49 passengers from our ADC ship, the city was quiet and all ours for a while that morning.

Dan and I extended our time in Ketchikan, which has an international airport and is easy to fly out or into. We were so glad we did because it allowed us time to get to know the city better. We were sure to explore Ketchikan during early mornings and evenings after the crowds went back to their cruise ships, as well as every moment in between.

There are plenty of things to do in Ketchikan; we recommend staying there for at least two to three extra evenings to treat yourself. You're already in Alaska — why not?

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