Alaskan Dream Cruises: Small Ships, Big Whales, Huge ROE

“We’re not your everyday cruise line,” says Michael Wien, vp of sales/marketing for Alaskan Dream Cruises. “We’re Alaskan through and through, from our casual jeans-and-sweaters atmosphere to our warm frontier hospitality.”

Alaskan Dream Cruises doesn’t do big glamorous cruises. The company operates three small ships based in Sitka at the southernmost part of the state. Groups fly directly into the small community so you’re not losing a day each way sailing up from Seattle/Vancouver, like other cruise lines. And the ship’s shallow draft allows access into bays that the larger ships can’t squeeze into.

“You know that TV ad where the whale jumps out of the water beside the boat and the person misses it fiddling with the camera?” asks Wien. “That happens to us all the time.”

The family company was founded in 1967 in Sitka building small boats for whale watching tours. Eventually it grew into one of the world’s largest whale watching operations. Then the company expanded into the overnight cruise business in 2010.

The three ships are the 66-pax Admiralty Dream, 62-pax Baranof Dream and 42-pax Alaskan Dream, which can all sail together for larger groups. The parent company also operates the log cabin-style Orca Point Lodge. It’s always a favorite moment of the trip for passengers when the ship pulls in at sunset. Then everyone convenes for an extravagant king crab dinner and beach bonfire.

“With the marine life, wildlife, glaciers and fjords, southeast Alaska is hands down one of the most spectacular places in the world,” says Wien. “For corporate groups, the intimacy of the boats fosters strong bonds among the guests. This is their boat for the week and it’s an open bridge, so most people also get to know the crew.”

The star attractions are the killer whales and humpbacks, along with the many seals and sea lions in pristine Hobart Bay. When the ships anchor, everyone disembarks and heads out on the water aboard zodiacs, canoes and kayaks. This is the best way to authentically experience Alaska, says Michael Beale, founder of Beale Travel Group, which sources group cruise programs for Maritz.

“I used to work for Maritz, and I’ve been an incentive guy in the industry for a long time,” explains Beale. “My wife and I travel extensively, and our top three travel experiences by far are the Yangtze River cruises, African safari and Alaskan Dream Cruises.”

On a typical itinerary, all of the activities and meals are included in the price. With a charter, Wien says the door is wide open to customize programs because they’re a private company and the ships are highly maneuverable.

Beale says Maritz can craft any type of program for any length of time, but he says a week is about standard for incentives and retreats to fully experience the destination.

Wien adds, “We’re really the only cruise line in Alaska that operates year-round, and the majority of the people who work for the company were born or were raised most of their life in Alaska. Our goal is to create programs that offer experiences that we as Alaskans enjoy.”