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Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

Appleton, Wisconsin
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Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

I wanted to write a report about our cruise with Innersea Discoveries since there wasn't much info out there about them when I was planning our trip.

The travelers included me and my husband (in our mid 40's) and two 14 year old boys. We chose Innersea because we wanted to see the Inside Passage but didn't want to go on a large cruise ship to do it. We wanted to trade formal night, casinos and shows for kayaking and hiking. We also wanted to spend more time in untouched wilderness rather than visiting a port every day.

Our trip started with a two day stay in Juneau. On the day we flew in, it was sunny and 77 degrees. After picking up a rental car at the AJ dock (Alamo) and lunch at the Hangar we headed out to the Mendenhall Glacier area. The people working the desk at our hotel recommended that we drive "out the road" but after our long flight we wanted to do something more active. The first stop was at the creek where the salmon had just started to run the day before. No bears were there, but it was neat to see all of the fish. We hiked out to Nugget Falls and then hiked the East Glacier Trail. It was later in the afternoon when we started and we saw very few people. It seemed that most people were hiking the trail in a clockwise direction while we were headed the other way, with the steps towards the end of the hike. It was a great walk through the rain forest with all of the green and moss. By the end of the hike everyone was hungry so we stopped at Bullwinkles Pizza on Mendenhall Mall Rd for dinner. It was fairly quick and inexpensive meal with decent pizza. An excellent choice for a family with teens and seafood allergies. Our home for the next two days was the Driftwood Lodge which was a simple, clean and economical hotel close to a lot of downtown attractions. We appreciated the kitchenette and two bedrooms of the room that we had reserved.

The next day was our planned trip to Pack Creek. I can truly say that this was the highlight of our whole trip! I had reserved permits on February 1 as soon as they were available on line and arranged a flight with Ward Air. When planning this trip, I wrestled with the decsion to go with a guide or not. The cost per person for a guided trip was $500-$600 per person. Without a guide, the whole trip for the four of us cost. $860 or $215 per person. I decided to go without the guide and after the trip was very happy with my decision. After some brief paperwork in the office at Ward Air, our pilot drove us out to the floatplane pond and we were on our way. A 20 minute trip over forested islands went quickly and before we knew it were landing at Pack Creek. We were met by a ranger who checked our permits, went over some safety rules and showed us where the bear proof containers for food were. A short walk along the beach took us to the first bear viewing area where there was already a bear stretched out taking a nap. We spent four hours watching bears catching salmon, cubs playing in the water, cubs playing on the beach and a sow chasing a teen male bear away from her cubs. A sow and her cub walked to within 15 feet of where we were standing before moving on to take a nap. We then spent an hour walking to the tower viewing area where we saw two bears catching salmon and eating them. Our time at Pack Creek went too fast and we had to rush back down to the beach to meet our floatplane. For most of the time we were there, it rained steadily and there is no shelter so be prepared for cold weather and rain. Also find ways to rain proof your camera, because you will want to have it out at all times. After arriving in Juneau, we drove "out the road" and hung out at Auke Recreation area and St Therese.

Appleton, Wisconsin
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1. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

trip report continued.....

On the day of our cruise we dropped our luggage off the Goldbelt Hotel, we decided to do some hiking on the Mendenhall River, Montana Creek trail near Brotherhood Bridge. We really enjoyed walking through the forest listening to the water rush by. For the kids, there were lots of fish and interesting trees and plants to be found. After a lunch at McDonalds( I know, not very adventurous) we decided to drive out to Douglas Island and hike the Rainforest trail. This was a short easy trail through beautiful rainforest. The kids enjoyed the giant skunk cabbage and hanging out on the beach. We had to turn in our rental car and had some time left before we had to meet our cruise so we spent some time shopping. We had some yummy gelato at one of the stores and bought some neat Ulus at Fairweather Gallery. Prices for souvenirs were very high in Juneau so we did not buy much!

We met our cruise group at the Goldbelt where they had a Tlingit woman give a presentation about her culture and family structure as well as shared some legends and songs. We then quickly boarded the boat and were shown our cabins. I had read reviews that the cabins were small but had no idea how small it really was! Our cabin had just enough room for a bed and just enough room to walk to the bed. A sink was in the corner of the room. The bathroom was about the size of a porta potty and had a toilet and shower. When you took a shower you pulled the curtain in front of the toilet, but pretty much everything in the bathroom got wet. Water for the showers was always hot and fairly strong. The size of the cabin did not matter much as we rarely spent any time there. We spent the evening cruising out of Juneau, eating a wonderful supper and getting a briefing about our activities for the next week.

Day Two of our cruise and everyone was up early for our trip down Tracy Arm to view South Sawyer Glacier. We had fabulous views of steep rock walls as we got nearer and nearer to the glacier. We stopped a safe distance away from the glacier. We waited for our turn for a skiff ride to get nearer the glacier by watching the glacier calve and watching the antic of the harbor seals floating on the bergie bits and swimming in the water. We had a fun skiff ride around the icebergs for a closer view of the glacier and to see the waterfall in the area. Back on the ship we cruised toward Thomas Bay looking for wildlife. On the way we stopped for a closer look at Ice Falls and a group of sea lions on Sunset Island. After supper a whale was spotted and our ship stopped to view it. Right before bed we saw a pod of three to four whales and we slowed down and mirrored their movements from a safe distance.

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Appleton, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

continued....

Day 3 found us in Scenery Cove of Thomas Bay. This was the first opportunity for open kayaking and paddleboarding. After donning skirts and life jackets, we descended to the kayak dock at the back of the ship. We were given a kayak and easily slid into the water from the dock. We paddled around the cove and down to a little creek cascading into the cove. After lunch activities included a skiff ride for a closer look at Baird Glacier or a hike to Baird Glacier with some time spent hiking on the glacier. I opted to take the skiff ride while my husband and kids did the hiking option. The skiff ride was interesting but I wish I had done the hike. The hike started with a skiff ride to an area near the glacier. They ended up hiking over a large area of seaweed covered rocks and then the adventure started. There was an interesting type of mud, that was sort of like gelatin and the hikers were warned that this was bootsucking mud and that you should not spend much time standing in it or you would get sucked in to it. In true teenage fashion one of my kids decided to stand on the mud and jump and twist on it. He started sinking quickly and the mud was up to to top of his boots before my husband and son managed to pull him out, only to have his boot get sucked in again when he took another step. Everyone got through the mud and made it to the glacier but they didn't spend much time there since it quite cold and was sleeting heavily. The group was met with hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps on their return to the ship. The two hot tubs on deck also got a lot of use!

We spent Day 4 in the Cascade Creek area of Thomas Bay. The activities on offer for the day were open kayaking/paddleboarding, a Level 5 all day hike (technically difficult), a kayak and Level 3 hike, or varying levels of easier hikes. I chose the kayak and hike for the morning and then a Level 2 hike for the afternoon. The husband and kids chose the Level 5 hike. It had been raining steadily for two days and didn't show signs of letting up. The kayak/hike group set off kayaking the cove and checking out the different geological features of the area as well the different types of trees and mosses. Then we started hiking up the Cascade Creek trail. We followed a narrow board trail up into the woods to a beautiful waterfall. We continued to follow the creek to a bridge over the creek. At this point the trial became less civilized and turned into a muddy scramble over rocks and tree roots all the while going uphill following the creek. After about an hour we turned around and returned to the ship. In the meantime, the Level 5 hikers took this same trail but continued to a lake higher up the trail. The recent rains had washed out portions of the trail and ended up being creeks that needed to be waded through to continue. Portions of the trail were knee deep mud and other parts had so much water running down them, they looked like mini waterfalls. At one point my son said he had to do a "spiderman" around a rock where there was not much room between the rock and the edge of the trail. Everyone on the hike fell at least once, if not multiple times. There were narrow board bridges over some creeks, but they were very slippery. The group ate their box lunch at the lake, put on dry clothes and hiked back down to the boat. My sons said this was the best hike they had ever been on! I spent the afternoon doing a level 2 hike. The hike was at a slower pace on a mostly level jeep road through the forest. We spent our time looking for wildlife and learning about the forest and geology around us.

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Bridgewater
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3. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

Keep going - I'm loving it.

Appleton, Wisconsin
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4. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

continued...

The morning of day 5 we spent going through the Wrangell Narrows. We got to see the little town of Petersburg and there were lots of eagle sightings as well as some Sitka deer. Innerseas had tried to set up different exccursions for the town but many were cancelled for a variety of reasons (poor fishing, mechanical failure of boats, lack of interest). Options for Wrangell were to visit the town, take a jet boat tour, visit Anan Bear Sanctuary,fishing, or golfing. There was a lot of disappointment that the Anan visit was cancelled. We did have a group that had planned this trip on their own prior to the cruise and they had an excellent experience and saw lots of bears. This might be something people would want to book on their own if their cruise stops in Wrangell. We opted for the jet boat tour with Breakaway Adventures. The owner Eric Yancey took us to his jet boat and we headed for the Stikine River. Eric was a really fun guy and since we had two teens on board did his signature Wrangell Wiggle which was sort of akin to doing a big donut and shooting the boat backwards and having a big wave come over the back of the boat. The kids loved it! We had fabulous views of the river and the forest,mountains and waterfalls surrounding it. We continued to Shake Lake where we were met with an upclose look at floating icebergs. On the way back into town, we stopped at the natural hot tub created by the forest service at a hot springs and stopped to check out one of the forest service cabins along the way. We had a few minutes to walk through Wrangell but it was after 5 pm and all the stores were closed.

Day 6 found us getting closer to Ketchikan with a stop in Spacious Bay. The men of the family had opted for a snorkelling excursion and were suited up with 12mm wet suits, gloves, hoods and snorkelling gear. They got to see some interesting fish and seastars. Other people on the ship had a chance to go ashore and have a beach party. Our guides went ashore and set up a tent with hot beverages and built a little fire by the beach. People had the choice of doing an intertidal walk along the shore or going into the woods with a guide and doing a bushwacking ramble through the moss covered trees. I opted for the ramble and enjoyed wandering wherever our whim took us. Once everyone was on board for lunch we lifted anchor and headed for Traders Cove and Margaret Creek bear viewing area. Because many people were disappointed that the Anan Creek outing had to be cancelled , the captain and our expedition leader arranged at the last minute for us to visit Margaret Creek instead. We were allowed to go ashore in groups of 12 so we decided to kayak around the area to pass the time until it was our turn to go ashore. We paddled around the area looking for wildlife and watching the floatplanes take off and land in front of us. Once ashore we had an easy hike up a gravel road to the trail leading to the viewing area. Once at the viewing area we stood behind a blind and watched black bears come down from the forest and catch salmon rushing by in the stream. We watched bears fishing, two bears fighting for fish and a mom bear with two cubs. Another great bear viewing session!

Appleton, Wisconsin
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5. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

continued....

Day 7 was Misty Fjords day and the fjords lived up to its name. We had one nice day at Sawyer Glacier and one half day in Wrangell with sun. The rest of the trip it rained steadily (no little drizzle) and it was raining hard in Misty fjord! The morning activities on offer were open kayaking/paddleboarding and skiff rides around the area. Our skiff ride was scheduled for later in the morning so we kayaked around the area gliding quietly past eagles and laughing as harbor seals poked their heads up around us. One benefit of the rain and fog for us was that the normal flightseeing planes could not come in so the quiet was not disturbed by plane noise. Also there were waterfalls cascading down all around us. The skiff ride took us to some quiet coves looking for wildlife and past more waterfalls. We went up a small stream where the salmon were running. By this time it had gotten colder and was raining heavily so we headed back to the boat. After lunch we continued to cruise through Misty Fjords exploring Rudyerd Cove and Punchbowl Cove. Once through Misty Fjords we anchored overnight and cruised into Ketchikan about 7 am . We disembarked at 8am and checked out the shops in Creek Street before our 12:30 flight to Seattle.

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Appleton, Wisconsin
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6. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

continued....

Here are some notes about life on the cruise:

Most of the people on the cruise were retired people in their 60's. Besides my two kids there was one other sixteen year old on the boat and a few twenty somethings that were there with their families. This was not a problem for my kids as they just enjoyed being active. However, if you want a cruise with more kids, Innersea does offer a more kid focused itinerary for some sailings. Also the age of the passengers did not seem to affect the activities offered and there seemed to be something for every activity level.

Our guides for activities were excellent and made sure everyone was able to participate in activities safely and were good about helping people to try activities that were new to them or a little bit outside of their comfort zone. We were also constantly amazed at the knowledge they displayed from geology, flora, fauna, salmon and larger predators. It seemed they were very passionate about what they did.

Of course everyone wants to know about the food on board! Breakfast always consisted of fresh fruit, juice, pastry (scones, muffins, coffeecake) some kind of scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage. Other offerings included Red Velvet pancakes, granola pancakes or French Toast.

Lunch always included a salad with some kind of homemade vinaigrette(plain, strawberry, cranberry, mango). Some of the entrees were hamburgers, fish tacos, or italian subs on fresh Ciabatta bread or grilled chicken. We also had a soup offered daily. It was always followed up with a different kind of cookie prepared by Lee, the pastry chef.

Supper always also had salad, and alternated between some kind of fresh fish and a meat. One night might have fresh rockfish while the next night we had an interesting corned beef and served with a different type of bread every night. The final nights dinner was a beet salad, followed by Steak topped with crab meat with asparagus and potatoes as a side. Lee's final dessert was a caramal chocolate salt tart. Other desserts for the week were a raspberry/strawberry shortcake, blueberry creme brulee, and butterscotch pots de creme. Cocktail hour arrived and kept the bartender Sean very busy. They would also serve some appetizers such as chicken wings, brie in puff pastry and one night fresh oysters from a local oyster farmer.

The bridge was almost always open to the passengers and it was fun to go up and talk to the crew that had been on ships around the world .

This was a small ship where crew members had multiple jobs and it seemed that no matter what a person's job was, they were a valuable member of the team. When they introduced the crew members at the end of the week , we knew every single person on the crew and they felt like family. Crew members were constantly on the look out for ways to make the cruise more enjoyable for individuals based on their needs and really went out of their way to accomdate any request.

I know this trip report is long but I wanted to do a thorough report since there was so little information out there when I was planning my trip. If anyone has any questions please feel free to private message me.

Herts England
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7. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

Wonderful report, on my wish list for sometime in the future!!

USA
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8. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

Wow! This is my kind of cruise! Love to see all the hiking you did. Thanks so much. It was a great read.

fti
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9. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

Great report. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

London, United...
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10. Re: Trip Report-Innersea Discoveries July 28-August 4 LONG

Hi. Thank you ever so much for your detailed report. We are cruising from Sitka to juneau next June. Ou mention your independent trip to pack creek to see the bears and permits. What are the permits required, as we'd love to book independently too.

lok forward to hearing back from you and thai you again for your detailed post. Next June seems like forever away lol

Kind regards,

Kim