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Quirky Cruise
October 23, 2015

Small Ship Cruise Line Review: Atlas Ocean Tours

MV Atlas at anchor. * Photo: Jason Shafto

MV Atlas at anchor. * Photo: Jason Shafto

Sail the Inside Passage on a biggie that carries more passengers and crew than the population of the ports themselves, OR … choose a maximum of a mini-ship carrying just six paying passengers — that’s six more than a ghost town!

Snapshot: Atlas Ocean Tours has a mighty powerful name for a company that is the smallest QuirkyCruise ship operator we have covered thus far. One-week trips explore the southern part of Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands) in a patch of Canadian wilderness about 100 miles off the mainland of British Columbia that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site known as Gwaii Haanas. The relatively recent wilderness site is now safe from logging and vandalism. Explore the beauty of an old-growth forest, ancient Haida Village culture and wildlife on land, sea and in the air. Cruises operate one-way, so there is no backtracking, between Queen Charlotte Village and Rose Harbour. A seaplane flight returns to your originating point.

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: ATLAS (built as a rugged pilothouse trawler for 6 passengers)

Passenger Decks: 3 decks and no elevator

Passenger Profile: Mostly Canadians. Agility helps to board the skiff and kayaks, expanding your horizons on trips off the MV ATLAS.

Price: $$ Expensive

Getting to the Atlas: Flights originate in Vancouver, B.C. and Prince Rupert B.C. to Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Island), and BC Ferries operates between Prince Rupert and the island carrying cars and passengers. Local island transport is by taxi, and the cruise company provides connections from where you are staying to and from the boat. An overnight pre- and post-cruise hotel stay on the island is required, in case of air delays. It may seem complicated if you do not know the local geography, but then you are booking a trip in a relatively remote island area of British Columbia. The home office can assist.

Deep forest on Gwai . * Photo: Jason Shafto

Deep forest on Gwai . * Photo: Jason Shafto

Itineraries: 7-day cruises operate on a one-way basis between mid-May and mid-September. A seaplane flight, included in the fare, operates in the opposite or return direction. The scenic overview from the air is an integral part of the cruise.

Included features: All activities, outings and soft drinks, wines and spirits. Alcohol provided when the anchor is down. You can also bring your own.

Why Go? The British Columbia island area explored on these cruises is virtually inaccessible without a boat and that adds to the sense of remoteness from the outside world, while you take in the natural surroundings and the local Haida culture from the cruise vessel, skiff, kayaks, on foot and in the air.

Sunset off Haida Gwaii. *Photo: Jason Shafto

Sunset off Haida Gwaii. *Photo: Jason Shafto

When to Go? Cruises operate between mid-May and mid-September, and the season usually sells out. First to go are the dates in the height of the summer, and the line’s website shows up-to-date availability. The early season dates will have cooler weather and lingering snow on the highest elevations.

Cabins: The two cabins have three bunks and they share a recently renovated head – washroom and stall shower.

Master stateroom on MV Atlas.

Master stateroom on MV Atlas.

Public Rooms: The interiors are paneled in mahogany with the big-window salon serving as a lounge and dining area. A selection of books includes guides to the birds, animals, plants and Haida culture, plus simply good reads.

Dining: Everybody aboard helps prepare the meals, and the passengers serve as sous chefs and do the washing up. Fresh vegetables, fruits and baked goods are brought aboard at the outset. The fish and prawns are freshly caught.

A haul of fresh prawns. *Photo:

A haul of fresh prawns. *Photo:

Activities & Entertainment: Kayaking (6) complete with safety gear. If you are planning to fish, a recreational saltwater license is required, and all the fishing gear is then provided. A skiff takes all passengers ashore, and on exploratory coastal trips and outings to seek wildlife on the shore and marine life at sea. Sightings on land and sea will likely include bears, eagles, humpback whales, orcas, dolphins and sea lions. A Portuguese bridge allows access to the covered side decks and the bow. The pilothouse is also open to passengers for a chat or to learn about navigation and local sights.

Kayaking off Haida Gwaii. *Photo: Jason Shafto

Kayaking off Haida Gwaii. *Photo: Jason Shafto

Special Notes: If unfamiliar with the geography, the company website and the booking agent will help you get there and back.

Along the Same Lines: At present, this firm with its small 6-passenger vessel is the only one of its size and type on our site. Adding additional lines is an ongoing process.

Contact: Atlas Ocean Tours, PO Box 34 Tlell, BC V0T 1Y0, Canada; 250-557-8514 or atlasoceantours.com

— TWS

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American and Canadian Waterways, Coastal Ship & Line Reviews, Cruise Regions, North America, Ship & Line reviews, Uncategorized


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