NYT and Sunset Magazine Love the San Juan Islands and Bellingham

Cypress Island Forest Walk
Cypress Island Forest Walk

We like to think that the San Juan Islands and Bellingham are two of the best kept travel secrets. But is seems that recently the cat’s been let out of the bag and the northwestern corner of Washington State is finally getting its fifteen minutes of fame. Last week the New York Times listed the San Juan Islands as #2 on its list of Places to See in 2011, and Sunset Magazine’s February Issue named Bellingham (Our homeport) as one the Best Towns to Make You Happy. What makes the San Juan Islands and Bellingham such great places? It’s a combination of amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery, great trails and unique active friendly communities.

If you come cruising with us we’ll show you why the Islands and Bellingham are on the tips of everybody’s tongue. On a typical cruise in the San Juans aboard the M/V David B we visit stunning places like Iceberg Point on Lopez Island with its vast views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Here seabirds gather to feed on dense schools of fish only to be interrupted by the lunge of a Minke whale. On many of our cruises we’re able to spend time watching the local orca whales put on acrobatic displays to the delight of our passengers. In the evenings we tuck into quiet coves where the setting suns inspires the artist in everyone to capture the perfect island sunset of golden barked of madrone trees that hang precariously on steep sandstone cliffs.

Croissants and Pan au Chocolat
Pastries Made From Scratch Aboard the David B

The New York Times also states the the San Juan Islands has some fantastic restaurants — they do, but what they don’t know is, that some of  best food in the San Juan Islands is made right aboard the David B. Every meal is hand prepared especially for our passengers on the boat’s wood-fired cookstove. We make most everything from scratch from our famous croissants and pan au chocolat, to the local veggies we buy from Joe’s Gardens, and fish from Vis Seafood. We make sure that everyone on the David B is well fed.

We start all of our San Juan Islands trips from Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor. We often encourage our out-of-town passengers to spend the night before and the night after their trip in Bellingham’s southside community of Fairhaven. It’s a great place to visit if you’re traveling without a car. For people interested shopping they can visit Whimsey for handcrafted jewelery (real jewelry – not mass produced), or our thriving independent bookstore, Village Books. In the summers, Fairhaven’s Village Green is a great space for people watching and it’s close to walking trails.

Orca Surface
Orca Surfacing in the San Juan Islands

Bellingham is our home. It’s where you can find us when we’re not on the David B — running the trails of Galbraith Mountain or drinking red wine at the Temple Bar . We choose to run the David B out of Bellingham because it’s not only a great place to live, but a great place to visit. It’s the prefect gateway to the San Juan Islands. We love this place and as Bellinghampsters we’re so happy that Sunset Magazine and the New York Times have taken the time to recognize this great town and our nearby islands. We hope you’ll find the time to come visit us this summer! For more information on our cruises…

When You Cruise – Are You Mainsteam or Are You Backstream?

M/V David B
The M/V David B Underway

I was thinking today, as I often do, about the trips we offer on the David B, and who is likely to book a cruise in Alaska on a cool old wooden boat that was built in 1929.  Hmmm, I thought to myself, I guess there are really just two kinds of people who go on a cruise. The Mainstream folks and the Backstream folks. “What do you mean by that?” you might ask. Well, we’re all familiar with Mainstream cruises. They’re the behemoth floating hotels with restaurants, bars, theater shows, and several thousand people hurrying from port to port, so that their passengers can buy more T-shirts at their company owned stores. But what about Backstream? What’s that? Simply put, the definition of backstream is: a current that runs against the main current of a stream.  And that’s how I like to think about the people who come cruising on the David B.

Iceburg on a Beach Walk
Iceburg on a Beach Walk

To me, the Backstream travelers are the kind of people who’s ideal cruise is something that few are willing to take the time to find. They like to buck the trends and go out-of-their-way for something that satisfies their curiosity. If you’re a Backstream traveler, we know you’ve already looked at all the glitzy mega-ship ads, and you were disappointed by how little time you got to spend in the wilderness, and how many other distractions the cruise ship companies offered. How do we know this? Well because, so many of our passengers have told us how much they appreciated that we anchor at night, and that we take them ashore so they can photograph flowers, track bears, touch sea lettuce and taste bull kelp. They love that I cook every meal for them on a wood-cook stove, and that I’ve worked with them long before they ever set foot on the David B so that when we do meet, we feel like old friends.

Mainstream Cruise Ship
Mainstream Cruise Ship in a Hurry

Our cruises, on the M/V David B are designed for the curious, the active, and the adventurous who share the desire to know more, do more, and see more in ways that can never be reproduced by the mainstream cruise ship companies. What we offer you, the Backstream traveler, is the hidden beauty of places like Tracy Arm/Fords Terror Wilderness and Admiralty National Monument. We flow against the mainstream by taking small groups of six, (not thousands) on a beautifully restored classic workboat, to some of the most beautiful places you can imagine. Instead of cruising from port to port while you sleep, we’ll bring you to the wild and scenic places where you’ll truly experience Alaska. On the David B, it’s what’s between the ports that’s important.  When you book an Alaskan adventure with us, you can immerse yourself in the solitude of nature while you wander along a beach that was built by a glacier, or explore endless shorelines by kayak in search of the famous Coastal Grizzlies.

Our cruises are not for everyone. They are active, adventurous, and for the curious. We don’t have a dance clubs, or a movie theaters, and the only shopping you’ll do is at the beginning or end of the trip. In fact the only thing we really have in common with the mainstream cruise lines, is that we hope you’ll by a T-shirt from us.  What we do offer to those who want to explore the backstreams, are unique experiences and amazing anchorages where you can enjoy the dramas of nature unfold as humpback whales spout, bald eagles soar, and brown bears forage; all this from the deck of the Motor Vessel David B.

Here’s a fun tongue-in-cheek video we did that highlights the difference between mainstream cruise lines and what we do on the David B. I hope you enjoy!