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If you want to see the very best of Southeast Alaska, the wildlife, the scenery, the islands and inlets, the only way is by small ship. On our small vessels you have the chance to go ashore almost every day, explore by Zodiac or go kayaking. Small ships can go to where the wildlife and very best scenery is to be found, unlike larger cruise ships who, if they go anywhere near at all (most don't) will just cruise past a mile or so off-shore. We will expect to see large numbers of Humpbacks as well as several other species of whale or dolphin, sea-lions, seals, sea otters, bears and huge numbers of sea birds. We will go ashore to look for signs of wildlife, and the expert members of the crew will accompany us on most trips to explain and help us enjoy the environment. Cloud failure or liquid sunshine, our Alaska small ship adventure cruises are perfect for exploration—paddling, hiking, hot tub under the stars, “polar bear plunges,” even playing in the mud with your expert expedition team.
Arriving in Juneau and met with a warm welcome, that’s a good start. You have time to take in a bit of the city once you check in at the hospitality area. But after boarding, grab a glass of bubbly as you push off the dock. Set sail for the Endicott Arm wilderness.
Take an early peek out your window. Fjord cliffs reach skyward. Floating ice. And deep u-shaped valleys. There’s no abracadabra here. Mother Nature’s magic is real. Cruise past harbor seals and their pups lounging on chunks of ice. At the end of Endicott, the blue face of Dawes Glacier is stories high. Will it calve? Listen for a crack and unmistakable white thunder. The name Fords Terror originated from a trick of the tides on an early mariner. And tides permitting, your skiff driver knows its character and guides you along. It’s a mashup of towering walls, temperamental currents, and the Coastal Mountains. So many waterfalls. Mountain goats show off fancy foot work on the cliffs. Look for them.
Yoga stretches on-deck jump start the day. Humpback and orca are frequent visitors of this Southeast passage. A misty spout is a sure sign they’re in the neighborhood. Your captain navigates Stephens Passage to Port Houghton. And you’re in for a boot-sucking, paddle-smacking day of adventure with your guide team. The routes are all picked out. Make your choice and make your move. Slip off the kayak launch and take it slow spotting sea stars and shore birds. Hard chargers take a long wild paddle to the salt chuck at the back of the inlet. Or, hike into the Tongass. It’s a landscape of hanging waterfalls and shades green.
When you come this far, you might as well go all in. This is way back backcountry of Alaska's wilderness. Glacial landscapes marked by moraines, muskegs, and mud. In this playground, it’s all an option today. Kayak and skiff in water almost clear as glass. The mirror image of fjord walls plays on the surface. Hike through the outwash of Baird Glacier. Or keep it green tromping through a grassy meadow into the forest. Later, pass by the fishing town of Petersburg and wind into the Wrangell Narrows. Abundant bright red and green navigation lights guide the way. It’s “Christmas Tree Lane”, of course.
Native culture and wildlife have gotten along just fine for centuries. Wrangell is one of the oldest towns in Alaska. It’s also the only one ever governed by four nations. The Tlingit cultures have deep roots here. And local islanders come aboard this morning with a presentation that brings their stories and legends to life. Venture into town for a view of recently carved totem poles at Kiksetti Totem Park. See how many totems you can pick out on each pole. Step inside famed Chief Shakes Tribal House. Can you feel the history in this historic community house?
Wildlife abounds. Black bears, mink, eagles. In Behm Canal, it’s all remote waterways and the isolated Tongass National Forest. On Cleveland Peninsula, your expedition team leads a low-elevation hike with wide-stretching views. Good opportunities for panoramic shots of Southeast. In the water orca, porpoises, seals, and otters go about their business. Go about yours on a guided paddle along the canal. An intertidal shore walk circles a tall sea stack covered in green.
Its affectionate nickname, “The Yosemite of the North,” is deserved. There are places on the planet that completely overcome you. This is one of them. The beauty. The peace. The sense of place you feel. Misty Fjords National Monument represents nearly every ecosystem found in Southeast Alaska. And that alone is a lot to consider. Glacial valleys filled with sea water. Sheer 3,000 foot cliffs. Sea birds, brown and black bears, mountain goats, Sitka black-tailed deer, all find safe haven here. Kayak in Walker Cove or Rudyerd Bay and you find it’s just as easy to paddle and go, as it is to sit and float and take it all in. Or skiff to the base of a waterfall for fjord-released shower. It’s an amazing wrap to your week. Your captain joins you tonight for a Farewell Dinner. Celebrate and reminisce about your Alaskan journey with a “photo journal” by your crew.
After breakfast this morning, bid adieu to your new pals before you disembark and transfer to the Ketchikan airport.
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary and the order of days may occur to maximize your experience.
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 186 feet Passenger Capacity: 76 guests Built: 1976, renovated in 2012 To complement the wild, natural surroundings, the interior of the 74-guest Wilderness Explorer has intentionally been designed with a Pacific Northwest feel including the nautical-themed main lounge. The open-seating format of the dining room and ample space on deck encourage guest-to-guest interaction on this small ship. This expedition vessel has three accessible decks; enjoy over-the-top views from the bow, watch sparkling stars from the upper deck hot tub, and relax in the sun lounge. The Wilderness Explorer is equipped for active adventure and is outfitted with kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, hiking poles, and yoga mats, a hydrophone for listening below the water, and a bow-mounted underwater camera for viewing in-water action. An EZ Dock launch platform allows for easy access into the water. Onboard wellness amenities include fitness equipment and hot tub. There are three cabin categories aboard the Wilderness Explorer: Trailblazer; Pathfinder; and Explorer. Explorer accommodates single and double accommodations. Common to all cabins are: Flat-screen TV/DVD; iPod docking station; air conditioning; private bath with shower; view windows.
• Dawes Glacier and ice-rich Endicott Arm • Whale watching in Stephens Passage • Adventure exploration in Misty Fjords National Monument • Tlingit cultural presentation • Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House visit • Tongass backcountry by kayak, paddle board, skiff, and hike • Search for wildlife—bears, Sitka deer, sea lions, eagles, mink, porpoises, mountain goats • Navigate winding Wrangell Narrows and Behm Canal