What do you get when you cross a river cruise brand with an expedition ship? A new breed of adventure cruising in Alaska was introduced by American Queen voyages.

The 186-passenger newbuild sailed its inaugural Alaska cruise last week, following a three-day dress rehearsal with travel advisors who had nothing but praise for the ship's amenities and crew.

"It's a combination of expedition and the ultrahigh-end," said advisor Patty Crichton, a small-ship and river cruise specialist with Alaska and Beyond.

This is the best of both worlds.

The ship is state-of-the-art. The Albatros brand polar vessel has X-Bow stabilization technology for smooth rides in rough seas. There are over-the-water observation decks on port and starboard. There is a large mudroom for kayak and Zodiac expeditions in Deck 4.

It is pure comfort inside. The cabins and public space on the ship are decorated in blue, white and gray with photos and paintings of polar wildlife and expeditions. The interior of the American Countess is similar to a boutique hotel. There are two outdoor hot tub, two dining areas and three bars.

Spotting scopes and binoculars are situated around the Ocean Victory.

The Ocean Victory has spotting scope and binoculars. The photo was taken by Jeri Clausing.

Expedition experience

The adventure offerings, science programs and expedition staff are the real game-changers for the brand. Although this is a new market for the line, the expedition team has sailed hundreds of Alaska and polar cruises.

Students and recent graduates from California Polytechnic State University were brought aboard by the company. It has partnerships with whale and wildlife experts from the Sound Science Research Collective and the Sitka Sound Science Center to give daily lectures, hands-on science lessons and evening chats. There are presentations about the region's indigenous cultures.

A stateroom on the Ocean Victory.

The Ocean Victory has a stateroom. The photo was taken by Jeri Clausing.

Where big ships can't go

The Ocean Victory sails from May to September. Every other day is an expedition day, when guests can explore the wilds of Alaska via kayak or Zodiac and watch for whales and other wildlife from the Observation Lounge or outer decks.

There are some larger ships that stop in Ketchikan. The focus is on places where the larger ships can't go, such as Kake Tlingit Village, where residents showcase indigenous traditions, and Petersburg, where the ship docks right beside the largest halibut fishing fleet.

Dispatch: Travel advisors say the Ocean Victory is a winner

The photo was taken by Jeri Clausing.

Dispatch: Travel advisors say the Ocean Victory is a winner

A new expedition ship is set to sail on its first Alaska cruise. Guests and advisors seem to think it will be a big hit.

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Guests can take a jet boat into the Alaskan wilderness to see one of the largest salmon runs in the state at the Anan Creek Bear and Wildlife Observatory. Large numbers of killer whales, harbor seals, sea otter, harbor porpoise, and bald eagles can be found in that area.

The ghost town of Butedale in British Columbia is located in a region where about 10% of the black bears are so-called spirit bears that have a gene that makes their fur white.

The Ocean Victory is sold out. Both advisors and Waggoner think that cabins will fill up as word gets out about this first-of-its-kind ship and adventure itinerary.

I think it is going to be wildly popular.