Photo: Two women on a glacier

A small-boat expedition allows visitors to explore Alaska's Glacier Bay up close.

Photograph by Brian McGilloway, Wilderness Travel

By Kim Brown Seely

Say goodbye to crowded Alaska cruises. Instead, imagine your family aboard your own floating base camp, nearly one on one with minke whales, barking sea lions, and humpbacks breaching right off the bow. A small-boat expedition with Wilderness Travel lets you explore Glacier Bay at your own pace. “On the big cruise ships you get a lot of shuffleboard, but not much Alaska,” says trip director Barbara Banks. “With our vessels you can sneak into hidden inlets and coves or position yourself near a calving glacier.” And that’s only the beginning. The 52-foot (16-meter) Whale Song is a multisport launchpad, so you can kayak or run skiffs to shore to track bears, pick wild strawberries, or walk out onto a frozen glacier.

At secluded Dundas Bay, towering mountains drop straight down into the glassy water. Your personal onboard naturalist will be your guide as you paddle past river otters and pods of orca to discover moss-draped old-growth forests and wildflower meadows before returning to a dinner of fresh Dungeness crab. Kids dig tide pooling, listening to underwater whale calls with the boat’s hydrophone, or playing with the live-aboard labradoodle, Bear. “Bear is nuts for kayaking,” says Banks. “For some kids, he makes the trip.”

Where to Play

Kids as young as three can tag along in the Whale Song’s double sea kayaks, so exploring is a family affair. Paddle along fjordlike inlets or to shore for a hike or a beach picnic of fresh fish grilled over an open fire. Back on board, learn to cast for Pacific halibut and king salmon or watch bears roam the coast.

At Day's End

After a full day on the water, kids conk out. Sip wine in the onboard hot tub or sneak out for a moonlight paddle after hours.

Details

7 days; $3,995 per person; www.wildernesstravel.com

Based on articles from National Geographic Adventure and updated by Greer Schott

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