Alaska Small Ship Cruise Reviews
Custom Alaska Cruises and the M/V Sikumi, is a locally owned Alaska Small Ship Cruise company. The reviews below are just a few from our guests aboard the MV Sikumi for the past 10 years as we’ve cruises throughout Alaska’s inside passage.
Russ and Barb Everts
Dear Custom Alaska Cruises,
Barb and I wanted to send a note to thank you for such a fantastic cruise last week. That is the best cruise or vacation of any type we have been on! Please pass along our thanks and huge kudos to Kurt, Lauren, Valerie and David, as well as yourself Keegan. You all went the extra mile to make sure we had a great time and saw just about everything there was to see. Too bad the bears didn’t cooperate more!
I still remember, and always will, that day of Halibut catching. Not only were there a lot of them, but they were huge! Same goes for the Salmon. The trip up Tracey Arm and pictures of the same were absolutely superb. Lauren, the energizer bunny deck hand, was awesome. Valerie was likewise awesome and we can’t say enough about the gourmet meals provided by David. Our few days with Kurt were also memorable and we’re sure he did just the same for the folks following us.
WOW, what a crew you have; simply FIRST CLASS! Please pass this on to all of them. A trip just can’t get any better than that one! We’ll have those memories forever. I know the Smith’s, Hanson’s and Dohrmann’s feel the same way. Thanks again for an unforgettable trip. We’ll be sure and tell all our friends (and have to some already!) and hope they start booking with you soon!
Russ and Barb Everts
Rick and Val Dohrmann
Val and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Sikumi and have recommended the trip to many people. Actually, I believe one group has already scheduled a trip for next summer and we have more couples asking about it. Nothing better than word of mouth. Our trip was fantastic from start to finish and we will remember it forever.
Rick and Val Dohrmann, 2015
Lauren Marshall just returned from her cruise onboard the MV Sikumi and wrote this fabulous review of her experience. Check out her review here.
“MV Sikumi – Custom Alaska Cruises – Trip of a lifetime!”
We have also converted her song of the MV Sikumi into a downloadable pdf here:
“Lauren and Valerie were like two angels always doing everything in their power to assure our comfort”
I’m not sure why I waited for Christmas to write a review of our amazing trip this past August on the Sikumi. I had made a sudden decision to take a two week vacation in Alaska, something that had always been on my bucket list.
I had followed the Sikumi for several years online so i knew a bit about it. When i received word that the specific week i needed was open, I was overjoyed. Miriam, my wife, was totally supportive of our trip, especially when i showed her the boat on line and informed her we would have our own bath room. That was a deal breaker if the answer was no.
How can I begin to capture the joy we had on our week traveling on the Sikumi. The crew was amazing. David the chef fed us like kings, Lauren and Valerie were like two angels always doing everything in their power to assure our comfort. Finally and perhaps the best of all was Captain Kurt. This man is amazing. He made sure we saw every special thing Alaska had to offer. He was constantly vigil and paid exquisite detail to not only our safety but the safety of all the crew, passengers and kids (there were four running about but a joy to be around).
I can’t really detail every single fabulous moment, like the time we hauled in our crab traps and that night feasted on the best crab i have ever eaten. Miriam and I will cherish the week on the Sikumi the rest of our lives. I must mention the fishing. Miriam caught a 30 plus pounder that was about as big as she is. I caught a 100 plus pounder that we let go. We caught plenty of fish, enough to satisfy all of us on board.
The boat is glorious and very comfortable and immaculately clean. Thanks again for the wonderful week
Bobby and Miriam Friedman
Chelsea and Keegan,
Awesome! Unforgettable! Definitely one of our top five trips ever! Of course the crew was the key to making it such a special trip. Valerie could not have been more attentive and always seemed to anticipate how to best serve each of the eight of us. David delighted us with his gourmet presentations and descriptions of his wonderful creations. The “eveready bunny”, Lauren made sure we caught lots of fish and was a great teacher. I am happy we got a chance to meet Capt. Kurt and spend a couple of days with him before he got some much deserved family time. Keegan, thanks for all the stories and sharing of your knowledge whether we were in the wheelhouse, at the dinner table, or on the fishing deck. Our official photographer, Rick, just returned from his extended Alaska interior trip with Val. We are all looking forward to seeing the pics that he took.
Ben and Lorraine Smith
Here is the best part of the Cruise that made it worthwhile: The Crew.
Kurt, Mike, Lauren, David & Valerie .
They were sincere, friendly, respectful, considerate and hard working.
Kurt is great with kids, a good captain, knows the vessel and cruise areas well;
Mike & Lauren made sure our children were safe during our outdoor activities, helped them with Fishing.
David & Valerie kept us well fed & hydrated 🙂 .
One other nice anecdote was the Friendship of the youngest two children of the two guest families.
I think our daughters may now be BFF(best friends forever) 🙂
Brent Ozdogan on behalf of Anita Miedziak & Family
Thanks for the opportunity to share our thoughts. This was a most enjoyable cruise which fully met our expectations. Our most overriding compliment goes to the team under Captain Kurts leadership. This group of 5 persons worked tremendously hard for us, always with a smile both for us and their fellow crew. I cannot recall observing a better example of a team at work.
The Sikumi was a good ship well suited to our needs. Enough space to not feel locked in but tight enough for the 8 passengers and crew to feel part of a big family. The ready access to the bridge, excellent binoculars and a helpful commentary made a good gathering point.
The meals were superb in both quantity and quality and a real tribute to both planning and skill. Cooking freshly caught fish well, is an art not achieved by everyone but David delighted us all.
The opportunity to kayak almost every day among varying scenic spots was one of the reasons we booked on the Sikumi. As a couple of 80 year olds we were a bit worried about getting in and out of the kayaks. The floating mattress and Mike’s steady hand made the task a breeze as did Mike’s skilled fauna and flora commentaries.
Finally to the two female crew Val and Lauren. It would be hard to imagine two more versatile, hard working, uncomplaining, constantly cheerful persons to serve our needs.
Thanks to all for a great experience.
Graham & Marion Tate, 2015
My husband and I were on the July 23-29 voyage from Petersburg to Juneau and had the time of our lives! We have been raving about the Sikumi, its wonderful staff and the entire trip to our friends and family ever since we got home, and yesterday, we received a big box with some of the salmon and halibut we caught, which we are so excited to start enjoying! Please relay our thanks again to the owners and the staff for creating such a magnificent experience, one which we continue to dream about and will remember forever!!!
Thanks again best wishes for your continued success!
“The trip was beyond our highest expectations. Each day generated its own special memories!”
Dave & Linda
“Fun for all, 8 to 80! Thank you for exceeding our wildest expectations for the best family vacation ever.”
Tania & Blake
May I take this opportunity to comment on the trip. It was fabulous! It was great to go up the narrow bay to the Tracy Arm Glacier accompanied by orcas. We saw a tremendous amount of calving from a short distance, a location to which no large boat could dare venture. Our stop at Baranof Hot Springs was another treat people on the “Big Boys” could not enjoy. But the other features of the trip were really made possible by your amazing crew.
My son-in-law Rob’s step father is a chef and he said it is very unusual for a really good cook to be able to bake. But Gabriel presented us with fresh bread, muffins, pastries and desserts to go with his marvelous meals. The seafood we caught, the berries we picked all were turned into great, beautifully presented meals.
I am 74 and have some significant balance problems. Mike, with Kurt’s assistance, managed to load this wounded whale into and out of a kayak seven times without him tipping it over. My wife, 75, was not comfortable kayaking by herself or in a double with me. And Mike showed great patience paddling every trip with Kathalyn.
Kathalyn enjoyed searching for different wild flowers and Bri was great helping her to identify them. The walks with her were always very informative. You provide a great service copying all our pictures on CDs so everyone has the benefit of shots taken by others. Bri had to cope with the hundreds of pictures each of the six of us had taken plus the 3,000 plus shot by Rob. I have no idea how late she had to stay up that night compiling the CDs but her efforts are greatly appreciated.
Lauren was attentive to our every need, always happy, always ready to pitch in where needed. She was a joy to be with and very helpful on our walks.
But I must say that it seems to me that what set the Sikumi trip apart from other small boat cruises was your captain, Kurt Blades. Kurt took us to a site where we caught our daily quota of halibut in one hour, a testimonial to the abundance of sea life and Kurt’s knowledge of the best locations to find it. This was repeated on another day when we went to another site and just about reached our limit of thirty-five black sea bass when we were close to maxing out on rock fish. At that point our daughter Evelyn hooked into something big. Kurt immediately recognized it as a 100 pound halibut and guided Evelyn, who has no fishing experience, in landing on light tackle what turned out to be a 92 pounder. Kurt helped provide Evelyn a thrill of a lifetime.
It seems to me that any other captain would leave the filleting up to the deck hand or chef but Kurt personally filleted every fish removing the fat layer that is the source of a fishy taste. The result was the best halibut I have ever eaten.
But it was not just finned seafood. Kurt knew where to find ledges and we made three great hauls of shrimp. And in another location we pulled up enough Dungeness Crabs for a feast of a meal with plenty left over for appetizers.
And besides seafood Kurt knew a spot in the humpback whale feeding ground where we saw over fifty with lots of throwing of tail flukes, logging, slapping of pectoral fins, many partial breaches and at least two full breaches. There were no other boats in the area so I have to conclude that Kurt found a special spot for us.
No trip to Alaska is complete without seeing a brown or black bear. Kurt took us to two islands and sure enough we saw one brown and three black bears.
I believe you are extremely lucky to have a captain with such knowledge and expertise and to have found such an amazing crew. And we were the beneficiaries of your good fortune which resulted in the trip of a lifetime.
Jim N. 2010 Guest
Johnny, Andy, Lucy, and I went on to Juneau and took the helicopter to the top of Mendenhall to go dog sledding. It was something Andy wanted to do but in my opinion, it was almost blasphemous to do something so commercial after our time on the Sikumi!
We have been trying to get our feet back on the ground after a most amazing trip aboard the Sikumi — I am not sure that I have the words to adequately express the extent to which we enjoyed our cruise, and I wish that I were handwriting this message on exquisite paper worthy of the sentiment. Certainly, Alaska and all it offers in the way of natural features, beauty, and wildlife provided the backdrop, but experiencing it aboard the Sikumi provided an extraordinary adventure for all of us. The boat is wonderful and comfortable and welcoming and your attention to all the little details — pre-cruise infomation and packing list, comfy beds with soft sheets and warm comforters, lots of hooks for hanging stuff, rubber boots, personalized water bottles, cloth napkins, great music, photographs downloaded onto discs, picture-framed activity boards, a map showing our daily progress, and beautiful handmade journals — added immeasurably.
The real heart of the trip, however, is Kurt and the rest of the crew. They worked together so well — their tasks overlapped in such a way as to make the whole process seamless. We never heard any grumbling or complaining among them and they seemed to enjoy making sure that we were having a good time. Being Southerners, we know what gracious hospitality is all about and this group offered it in every sense of the word. And they kept finding beer for us in all the recessses of the boat!! I hesitate to begin the next part of this note for I surely will leave something out — just please know that although I might have the wrong “doer” and I may not mention something, nothing went unnoticed nor unappreciated!
Lauren was on only her second cruise but she seemed to have adapted so well and went about her many tasks with confidence and a smile and sunny disposition. She tidied our rooms and set beautiful tables with creatively folded napkins and washed our dishes and brought us drinks and made sure our boots were lined up and “dressed” us for our kayaking trips (and she picked me up everytime I slid down on the hikes) and directed our comings and goings and she made sure we had whatever we needed at any time and she pitched in to help all the other crew members. A great sport for all her ribbing as the newbie onboard! And she was a most excellent salesperson for your Sikumi Store! We wish her well when she returns to school.
Bri was amazing as she directed us in all our off-boat trips — our fearless leader among the fauna and flora of Alaska. Her knowledge of the plants and trees was impressive and she knew just where to take us on the hikes — beginning with the intro-first-day-easy hike on a man-made trail and ending with the now famous f. mucking trip (ask her about it!) that was well worth the climb. Most of us had never kayaked before and she was patient in teaching us how and then guiding us in the astonishing waters that surrounded us. And on the boat she was like Mighty Mouse helping with the crab and shrimp pots, unafraid of hard or messy work. In the end, she used her expertise and sacrificed her sleep to combine our photographs on the DVD’s that will ensure we never forget what we saw and did. She shared much about herself and we will keep her and her family in our prayers.
Mike seemed to be everywhere doing everything — on the roof lowering the kayaks or on the bow putting the crab and shrimp pots in the water or taking them out or on the aqua float loading us into the kayaks (at great personal risk, I might add) and would then suddenly appear beside us in his own kayak. (I am deeply indebted to him for lagging behind with me and for doing so without making me feel like that is what he was doing!). He baited our hooks and fixed our broken lines and helped Kurt clean our fish. He kept the decks cleaned and manned the helm (is that correct terminolgy?). With an easygoing demeanor and quick wit he encouraged us in every endeavor. We hope the email queen will see the error of her ways and recognize what she is missing! And hope that he stops by on his way to Florida!
Gabriel was tireless in his efforts to provide us with food that was not only delicious but beautifully presented. He obviously takes great pride in what he does and goes to great lengths to make every dish special — I mean, who has ever had homemade hot dog or hamburger buns before, and espeically on a boat?? We all are going around in too-tight clothes as a result of his culinary gifts! He shopped carefully for us and even had the Mother Bragg’s apple cider vinegar that we requested. Gabe had happy balloons and streamers adorning the salon to make it festive for Johnny’s birthday celebration and then offered the most amazing birthday cake! Wow! May all that he has gone through in the last few years be worth his efforts and produce a happy ending.
And then there is Kurt. What to say???? We can’t imagine that there is anyone more competent at what he does. He takes his responsibilities seriously and leaves no stone unturned. He doesn’t ask his crew to do anything he wouldn’t and doesn’t do himself — nothing escapes his watchful eye. He made sure that we always had what we needed. He expects the most and offers his best. He responded with great patience to our many questions and the breadth of his knowledge is extraordinary — we finally accused him of making stuff up! While I’m sure he would have enjoyed a little time alone, he was always graciously accepting and welcoming of our presence in the wheel house. He is pleasant and fun and accommodating, but never once forgot that everyone on board was in his care. That the crew respond as they do is a testament to his abilities as a leader. I am sure that you and Wes must recognize the treasure that he is. Our prayers are with him and Jenny and Kale as they await the arrival of that sweet baby. And he knows he is welcome anytime for sportfishing or just relaxing on another coast!
Meg, you were so great to work with and it just was the best trip possible and we are grateful for the memories we carry with us. I hope that we will stay in touch and eventually meet!
And just so you know, Melanie and Kerry were fabulous ship mates!
Take care. Thank you.
Fondly, English, 2010 Guest
First of all, I just want to say what an awesome, awesome trip we had on the Sikumi recently (6/28-7/4). Our expectations were far exceeded. Kurt and his crew were top notch phenomenal!!!! And, by the way, you should be extremely proud of Katie. She worked her butt off!!! And seemed to love it. We were not ready to get off the boat and come home! All of the rest of the guests were awesome. All from Australia but not knowing each other. We all just meshed together.
Carol F. 2010 Guest
From Australian Guest
Liz and I enjoyed our time on Sikumi immensely. All aspects of it went as well as we could expect or would like and we will certainly be spreading the word amongst our friends that Sikumi is a great way to spend time in Alaska. Obviously a small boat cruise is not for eveyone – in our case it is perfect – we have cruised on small boats in Croatia,and off the Kimberley coast in NW Australia (even more remote than Alaska!),as well as doing several bare boat yacht charters in Queensland on the Great Barrier reef,so we are sold on the option.
A special word of thanks to Capt Kurt – we were all impressed with his knowledge, experience, willingness to answer questions,care and attention to safety,as well as his ability to put up with a 75% Aussie client base.I suspect our sense of humour is a bit different to what he and other crew members were used to and I have to report that they all seemed to be able to work out when we were serious and when we were not!
All crew members were terrific in carrying out there roles.The fact that all were fresh on the boat for 2010 (apart from a previous stint from Gabe) must have made Kurt nervous – no need as it all worked perfectly.
My personal highlight was kayaking down the fiord from the glacier – to padlle amongst the small “icebergs” in total silence surrounded by cloud etc was surreal.We also enjoyed the whale watching,visit and hike with Bri at Baranhof,fishing,visit to the lighthouse and all the other things we did to keep busy.A breadth of activity and plenty of it is important and this was delivered.
Jim S. Victoria Australia, 2010 Guest
I just got home yesterday from what was by far and away the most extraordinary experience I have ever had on your boat, Sikumi!
Alaska was more than I could have imagined – at every turn I was stunned by the natural beauty that abounds everywhere. From the Sawyer glacier to the majesty of the mountains and the waterfalls tumbling down 800′ of rock, it was breathtaking!!!!!!! The diversity of the adventures that we were led on was perfect and afforded us all with just the right mix of activity and time to spend relaxing and just soaking it all in. I can tell that you all have invested a lot of time and energy in putting together all of those stunning and fun activities, one flowing into the next seamlessly.
The boat itself is such a cozy womb from which to embark on all the adventures. I found myself looking forward to the times when we were running and I could just sit and look out or visit with the crew. The appointments in the staterooms are far more luxurious that I ever anticipated and I loved all the linens, amenities and little touches (like the journal!). I have only one suggestion that I actually came up with on our last day there – you might get Bri to collect some shells and rocks and small pieces of drift wood and bark from the beaches, then put them into a small basket or bowl with cedar or pine essential oil on them – it would add a nice touch to the rooms and help mask the inevitable musty smell that all boats have. I used to work on a guest ranch in Jackson Hole and we had 100 year old log cabins as guest rooms – I did the same in those with local ingredients as the base and guests loved it. Just a tiny thought.
As exceptional as all of the adventures, the wilderness, the bears and whales and seals were……. the most special ingredient in our whole trip was your crew! I am sure that you know this and have heard it before, but you really do have AMAZING people working for you. I have been in the hospitality industry for nearly 30 years and have worked in and around the service industry all that time. I have NEVER met a staff that is so coherently and seamlessly focused on providing the highest level of care for guests as a team, while at the same time be willing to go out of their way as individuals to make everyone feel so welcome and so special.
Kurt is masterful at what he does, but it is his deep sensitivity, insight and integrity that carry the day. He applies all of himself to ALL that he does – be that crab pots, navigating, or sitting at the dinner table listening to our own stories of fishing and adventures that he is probably not all that interested in hearing. He was the consummate host, the most reliable guardian and guide, and constantly sensitive to not only our needs but those of his crew as well.
Bri was a gem and I just kept hoping that I could hang out more with her and learn about all that she knows. She is extraordinary and adds so much to the experiences with her love of nature and joy in sharing what she knows with others.
Gabriel was above and beyond!!!!!!! I have worked with some of the most famous chefs around and managed a large catering company that was selected to do all the important events for Presidents, and Fortune 500 companies……. and let me say that Gabriel outshines most of them. His attention to detail in preparation and presentation blew us all away. I thought that I would lose weight on the trip (I usually get sea sick but I did not once feel badly!), but the reality is that we were all feeling a little squished in our clothing by the last day! I also loved Gabriel’s passion for his craft. He is a one in a million as I am sure that you know. To do what he does on land in a big kitchen with ample resources and stores around would be one thing, but to do it on a boat for 7 days running is unbelievable. We all ran out of adjectives to praise him!!!!
Mike and Lauren were also so thoughtful and helpful and amazing. Mike was patient with the kids as well as with my parents when they needed his help. He also got me closer to a bear than I ever thought possible – a moment that I will never forget. Lauren was on her first trip with us but she was so kind and eager to help in any way that she could. Again, having worked on a high end guest ranch I know how hard it is to find people like your crew!
So – thank you Meg! You have afforded our family a time together that none of us will ever forget. All the planning and effort and attention to every single detail of what you offer truly did translate into the most amazing time any of us have ever had. We will actively spread the word about the Sikumi, but only to worthy friends who would appreciate the rare gift of spending time with you all.
Thank you with all my heart!
Carolyn V. 2010 Guest
Capt. Kurt is an extraordinary, terrific young man! He’s mature way beyond his years and has some wonderful leadership qualities. As I am sure you know, you are very lucky to have him.
Steve 2010 Guest
We had a wonderful time on our cruise. Kurt and the whole crew were fantastic – ever ready to help, thoughtful, fun, knowledgeable – perfect in every way. Kurt is a real star. Hard to believe he has done as much as he has in his 26 years. He was the perfect captain, attentive to every nuance of the trip. Gabriel made me very fat after six days of his fine cooking. Again, really good at what he does and fun to be with. We asked him for many recipes because everything was so good. Katy you can be proud of. She worked very hard doing all sorts of things and was charming and polite throughout. Mike and Brie also great. Just such a fun trip that will be long remembered. Many thanks.
Sherwood W. 2010 Guest
Dear Meg, Captain Kurt and Crew
OmWe are now back at home in Chiangmai after our idyllic voyage on the Sikumi followed by the rest of a relaxful summer spent at our Minnesota lake cabin, where whatever wildlife we didn’t happen to see in Alaska favored us with a parade on the cabin lawn or a cavort in the lake. After our experience with you Alaska, we were inspired to buy two kayaks of our own and have had great fun paddling around to explore our lake.
The CD-rom photo archive Dan put together serves as a wonderful way to relive our time on the Sikumi – although I am not sure if Om’s grandmother has really appreciated as much as she says she has the countless hours she has spent listening to Om’s detailed narration of each and every photo!
As of last Monday, Om is back in school (2nd grade) and has lost no time regaling his teachers and classmates with his Alaskan adventures. He tells everyone that he has found his personal totem (the eagle); he demonstrates to whomever will listen that he can speak the language of humpback whales; and he insists he is now an expert fisherman, able to tie his own flies to catch the largest ocean creatures. His favorite reminiscence, however, is of the morning he and Jon shouted down the calving glacier. We have blown up that photo and it hangs above his desk.
Nipon and I have been obliged to master the whole of Jenny’s scrumptious cookbook, as this has become Om’s preferred culinary reference. So much for mac and cheese!
Om’s illustrated journal serves beautifully as the focal point for his story-telling and I am sure it will continue to serve as he grows to help him remember his Alaskan adventures as a seven year old. As souvenirs for you, we have attached one of the drawings from his journal as well as a photo him with the first fish he caught while at our Minnesota cabin using a homemade fly Om created himself out of gull feathers, a snail shell, and a rock with a natural hole in it – following the instructions and examples of Kurt and John. My brother, who is a quite adept fisherman himself, is amazed at Om’s ability to tie flies; and the man at the local bait shop just won’t believe us that Om has done them all himself.
We want to thank you for making it possible for us to have such a memorable and enjoyable Alaska wilderness experience. Especially we want to thank you for going out of your way to make the trip accessible, fun and educational for Om. Everyone of you on the crew were brilliant with Om, inspiring and motivating him at every moment – whether it was teaching him how to navigate the boat; encouraging him to test himself kayaking; or stimulating him to try new foods. The educational aspects are key in making a trip such as the Sikumi voyage memorable. You all have contributed importantly to a significant experience in his young life and for that we cannot thank you enough. In fact, Om says that when he grows up he is going to live in Alaska, captain a boat “just like Capt Kurt,” and help to save the whales and bears from the effects of global warming.
Rick also wants to thank you for putting up with and taking care of someone with arthritis bad enough that he should have stayed ashore and spared everyone the trouble. The trip has, however, convinced Rick of the need to overcome his fear of surgery and have the knee and hip replacements that will enable him to once again run along a beach at dawn, rather than hobble among the rocks at sunset.
The small scale of the boat and intimate family atmosphere onboard the Sikumi, with a passenger/crew ration of almost 1:1, was surely one of the most important factors contributing to the success of the trip. We knew this to be true, when we saw that even the National Geographic ship was many tens of times larger and that much more impersonal that ours.
We also appreciated the fact that the Sikumi is built, organized and operated to the highest safety standards. We never worried that Om could b in any danger while on deck; and we appreciated the close attention and supervision everyone on the crew gave to his safety.
We also appreciated the creature comforts onboard: cozy cabins; spacious showers; yummy food; elegant wines; a well-stocked library; excellent equipment for fishing and whale-watching.
And, of course, your brilliant handling of the Alaskan weather to ensure that we had calm waters with full sunshine for the entire trip, was unparalleled and will, we are sure, become legendary.
Once again, thank you for an experience of a lifetime.
Rick E., Nipon A. and Om, Thailand
Aboard the Sikumi, July 2-9 2009
I wanted to touch base with you following our trip to let you know how much we enjoyed ourselves. It was beyond our wildest hopes. You’ve done yourselves a big favor with the crew you have chosen this year…they made the trip very special. They are all terrific young men and women mature beyond their years. We appreciate all the extra time and efforts they put forth to make our mother able to access all the wonder around her.
Steve B. 2009 Guest