Board one of two unique small touring vessels — don’t call them cruise ships, because that’s not what they are — for a weeklong adventure through southeast Alaska’s storied Inside Passage, the route plied by European explorers as they searched for the unattainable Northwest Passage in the late 1700s. This isn’t your average “cruise” — it’s an experience like no other, and it’s the perfect way to see everything America’s largest national forest has to offer. The Tongass National Forest spans 17 million acres, 500 miles from north to south, and is the largest intact temperate rainforest on the planet. It is home to everything from towering peaks that stand like sentinels over the north Pacific, to stunning glaciers that literally glow under the summer sunshine before they calve into the sea, to lush rainforest streams bursting with salmon, trout and char. And, on an adventure with The Boat Company, a registered non-profit that promotes the protection of the Tongass, you and yours can actually experience all of it, not just float by and gaze at its wonder.
Through The Boat Company’s unique U.S. Forest Service permit that allows its passengers to enjoy more daily excursions than any other commercial touring company, you can kayak through hidden coves, pull giant halibut off the ocean floor, fly fish in rainforest streams or hike into the woods and summit a peak with a view of the sea, all at your pace and your level of comfort. You’ll float among the ice floes as you watch glaciers calve into the sea, witness humpback whales breaching from the placid waters of the Inside Passage and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a family of brown bears as they walk along the beach at low tide searching for clams and mussels. You’ll be part of an intimate experience that you’ll share with only a handful of other passengers. It’s the perfect family adventure, with something for everyone, regardless of age or skill level. You’ll be assisted at every turn by an attentive crew that handles everything from expertly prepared meals, daily guided excursions, and naturalist presentations on topics ranging from whales to bears to seals and sea lions. You’ll even get to visit the bridge and take in the captain’s perspective as he guides one of The Boat Company’s unique vessels through hidden passes that can’t be accessed by the giant cruise ships. It’s the ultimate all-inclusive experience — one where you won’t need to rush or fight crowds of cruisers to book an excursion (at added expense) during a brief stop, or hustle ashore with throngs of tourists in search of trinkets. Instead, you’ll find yourself experiencing the real Inside Passage at a pace that allows you to take it all in — there’s no other Alaska adventure like it.
Oh, and it gets better — a portion of your trip expenses aboard The Boat Company's vessels is tax deductible, thanks to the company's 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
The Boat Company employs two small touring vessels that operate concurrent trips between Juneau and Sitka. The M.V. Liseron was built in 1952 in Washington, and later sold to the French navy where it was employed as a minesweeper. Even today, after being acquired by The Boat Company and restored in the late 1980s, it still boasts bronze and brass hardware that made it diamagnetic for its former military uses. Today, it sports three forward observation decks, 10 staterooms, a full galley, a salon and a dining room, as well as quarters for the captain and crew. A trip aboard the Liseron is both a trip back in time, and a unique luxury excursion into the wilds of Alaska. The M.V. Mist Cove was built by The Boat Company and is a contemporary replica of the Liseron that’s slightly bigger throughout. It, too, has three forward observation decks, a galley, a salon for gathering and presentations and a rear dining area, as well as quarters for up to 13 crew members. The Mist Cove has 12 staterooms, and, like the Liseron, carries four skiffs on its top deck for daily shore excursions, glacier tours and saltwater fishing. Staterooms are small, but comfortable — most feature a lower queen-size bed with a twin bunk above, a full bathroom with a shower and a closet for storage.
The salon on each vessel is a great place to gather, featuring comfortable furniture, a table for board games and puzzles, a small library of books that will help you enjoy and understand the Inside Passage experience, as well as a full, well-stocked bar available at all times — you won’t be dinged for every cocktail like you would be on a massive, impersonal cruise ship. There’s also a TV in the salon that’s used for presentations, and, if you desire, you can take in a movie on a rainy Alaska afternoon.
Every day while on either the Liseron or the Mist Cove, you’ll likely board a skiff and venture into the wilds of southeast Alaska. Each skiff can carry up to seven passengers (but, usually, you’ll only have four or five on a boat) and they’re equipped with modern navigation equipment, including depth/fish finders that assist anglers when they’re pursuing saltwater fish like salmon and halibut. The skiffs have shallow drafts, which allows them to venture ashore, where guides, anglers and hikers can disembark and see the rainforest up close.
Guests are served three meals a day, starting with a hearty, full breakfast served family style in the dining room and featuring traditional fare. Sometimes, if longer excursions are planned, lunch is served off the boat, but most days, guests will gather for a robust, plated lunch in the dining room, too. Guests gather in the salon for cocktails and appetizers that range from ceviche, sushi and even crusty and delicious pizza. Dinner is an event that’s served after cocktails and prepared by the boat’s professional chef. Both red and white wines from the Pacific Northwest are featured at dinner. All meals feature locally caught seafood, perfectly prepared meats, homemade breads and pastries (with gluten-free options available) and fresh vegetables (vegetarian dishes are also available). Often, you’ll enjoy dinner as the captain guides the boat through the fjords of southeast Alaska en route to your next anchorage. Desserts are simply delectable and served after dinner in the salon.
Arrive in either Juneau or Sitka, Alaska and board one of The Boat Company's two ships, the M.V. Liseron or M.V. Mist Cove, where you'll depart for an intimate, seven day tour of southeast Alaska's famed Inside Passage and the Tongass National Forest. Settle into your stateroom, take in sweeping Alaskan vistas from one of the ship's three observation decks, or get to know your fellow passengers. In the evening, before an expansive, chef-prepared dinner is served, convene in the boat's main salon where the ship's naturalist will offer a presentation on glaciers in order to prepare you for tomorrow's main event.
Thanks to your vessel's nimble size, you'll be able to travel through glacial passages where the big ships can't go, offering you and your shipmates exclusive access to some of the region's most stunning glaciers. Once the captain has the boat within viewing distance, the crew will launch its four skiffs (small, hardy boats you'll use for excursions and adventures throughout the week) for an even closer view of the glacier. Snap photos to preserve memories you'll never want to forget, view wildlife, wait with anticipation for the glacier to calve ice into the water below, and even harvest a block of ice for your evening cocktail back on the ship.
Saltwater fishing is one of main highlights of a Boat Company tour. Throughout the week, your vessel will travel through Alaskan waters rich with salmon, halibut, rockfish, lingcod and more. Most days, the Liseron or Mist Cove will launch its skiffs and send interested guests on a saltwater fishing adventure. Even novices and first-timers will haul in some of southeast Alaska's finest catch, thanks to the bounty of the waters of the Inside Passage. When you return to the boat, the crew will clean, fillet, vacuum pack, and freeze your catch to ready it for your trip home. Don't be surprised if you amass enough salmon, halibut, and other fish to fill your freezer by the end of the trip.
Alternate activities: stream fishing, hiking, shore walking, sea kayaking, sightseeing skiff tour.
After fueling up on a hearty breakfast of fruits, eggs, scones and breads, meats, yogurts, and cereals, which the ship's head chef and pastry chef prepare fresh each day, hop in the Boat Company's tandem kayaks for some exercise. Paddle your way through bays and inlets for an even more intimate view of the region's waters, the Tongass National Forest, and its wildlife before making your way back to the ship. After a hot shower, you might just stumble on some of the freshest ceviche you'll ever have waiting for you in the main salon, prepared using yesterday's catch.
Alternate activities: saltwater fishing, stream fishing, hiking, shore walking, sightseeing skiff tour.
Experienced fly anglers will be chomping at the bit to cut their teeth on one of the Tongass National Forest's countless salmon streams. Migrating salmon (all five species of Pacific Salmon) make their way up the region's small streams and creeks each year to spawn, where they're greeted by resident dolly varden, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout—all of which are targets for fly anglers. Never cast a fly rod before? Don't worry. The salmon and trout-stuffed waters of southeast Alaska are the perfect place to learn, and the Boat Company's guides are eager teachers. And, if fly fishing just isn't your thing, the ship is stocked full of spin gear, which is also very effective in the region's freshwater streams.
Alternate activities: saltwater fishing, sea kayaking, hiking, shore walking, sightseeing skiff tour.
Rise bright and early to hoist up the crab pots you and the crew dropped the night before, in hopes of finding them full of keeper-sized Dungeness crab. If the crab gods have smiled on you, you and the rest of the guests will dine on fresh Dungeness crab that night, a thought that will certainly be top of mind as you make your way to summit Red Bluff. Hike from seaweed-clad shores, through old-growth rainforest, until you emerge onto the bluff, where you'll scramble your way to the top for a distant view of the Liseron or Mist Cove far below.
Alternate activities: saltwater fishing, stream fishing, sea kayaking, shore walking, sightseeing skiff tour.
It's your last day on the boat, which means it's time to soak up every last bit that southeast Alaska has to offer. Want to catch a few more salmon or halibut for the freezer back home? Head out on the skiffs for some early morning saltwater fishing. Or head to a nearby creek for one more try with the fly rod. If you've been enjoying the ship's pastries a bit more than you normally would, perhaps another afternoon hike is in the cards. Or maybe you just want to spend your last day on one of the ship's observation decks, taking in the views and keeping your eyes peeled for another humpback whale? Whatever you do, make the most of your last day in one of the planet's wildest, most pristine places.
- Boat accommodations Transportation and accommodations on the Liseron or Mist Cove
- Fishing licenses Your Alaska fishing license is included
- Meals Three chef-prepared meals per day plus snacks and appetizers
- Beverages Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included
- Guided excursions Daily guided excursions, including saltwater fishing, river and stream fishing, sea kayaking, glacier viewing, whale watching, hiking, shore walking, and more
- Fish packaging and freezing Check your fresh Alaskan catch as luggage on your flight home
Guests traveling with The Boat Company fly to either Juneau or Sitka, Alaska. Both locations are served multiple times each day by flights on Alaska, Delta, and other airlines. Thanks to the diverse array of flight options, it's typically easy to get to both Sitka or Juneau in a single day from anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada.