Dear travel diary, my confession follows: I am not a huge cruising fan. However, I finished my kayaking and now sit here up close and personal with the jaw-dropping, breathtaking, bluest-of-imaginable blues at South Sawyer Glacier, Alaska, with my first-ever espresso martini in hand.
Some destinations, such as the Galapagos islands, as well as reasons, like multi-generational families with exponential needs and opinions, absolutely warrant several days aboard a vessel of choice by water. This I’ve learned after multiple river and ocean sojourns in my lifelong quest to immerse, observe and embrace the farthest hidden gems of planet Earth.
And at this moment aboard Windstar’s small expedition yacht, the Star Legend, surrounded by other nature lovers, encyclopedic expert guides, and the friendliest service crew in the industry? I’m thinking Alaska is assuredly a prime example of water-warranted escapes and making room after my delectable breakfast and latte to now own and eat my non-cruise loving words with aforementioned martini.
An expedition ship is smaller and more nimble, like a river cruise or smaller in terms of headcount and amenities, so it can reach those really remote places like Misty Fjords and Icy Strait Point where wildlife is still wild and Mother Nature finished, walked away and left no directions. I have engaged with interesting travelers from several continents and last night enjoyed the same delightful dinner menu from the main restaurant all inclusively in the comfort of my surprisingly spacious suite (all the cabins are suites here).
During my 12 days of moderate-effort adventure via zodiacs, kayaks, seaplanes and a historic train among whales, harbor seals, raptors, bears and dogsled puppies, my other favorite moments have included spectacular spa treatments (perfect after I got a little overzealous line dancing with the crew), enriching presentations daily, a visit to the open bridge, and feasts featuring James Beard award-winning chefs’ signature recipes nightly in cruise-casual wear.
It is undeniably clear that time is of the essence for experiencing Alaska. The state’s temperatures are record-breakingly hot, I’m surrounded by ice while wearing a comfortable sweater, and pictures show how the glaciers are receding with speed. The landscapes are literally changing in front of our eyes as ice calves and plummets chunks into the ocean, and then ricochets upward in dramatic, wave-inducing fashion.
My conclusion is that variety is the spice of life indeed, and my return to Alaska will include another expedition ship combined with a land-based extension for more train and trekking to observe Denali, the northern lights, and a polar bear safari. And my next espresso martini. Cheers!