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Whales and wildlife, kayaking and hiking. Thirteen days take you through the inside passages and Glacier Bay National Park plus remote wilderness, Native culture, and history. With over 20 years of exploring Alaska, nobody knows it better. Our captains and crew navigate its waterways and inlets as easily as walking the halls of their own vessel—and are always on the lookout. Spot a bear foraging for salmon on the shore and the captain swings back around so you can get a better look. There’s nowhere better to be than right here.
Ah, the Emerald City! Check-in at the hospitality center and later, board your ship and settle in. Depending on your vessel, depart from downtown Seattle, cruising along the city’s picturesque waterfront. Or from Fishermen’s Terminal and transit historic Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where it’s a 20 foot drop into the Salish Sea. Adieu, Seattle. (D)
Each island in the San Juan archipelago is different. Orcas and harbor seals haven’t picked favorites. You could spot them in any passage. Give your arms a stretch. Kayak or paddle board along a tucked away cove. Sea stars dot rocky outcroppings orange and purple. Curious harbor seals watch your moves. Get in more mileage on a skiff ride to further inlets. There will be time to hike too. Look low and nose around pools for creatures left behind by the outgoing tide. (BLD)
Mountains rise higher. Fjords get deeper. It’s a day of intricate waterways and cruising for critters, keeping watch for black bears on shore, including the elusive spirit bear. Civilization slips away as you enter remote waters leading north through British Columbia. Surf-happy dolphins and porpoise like to catch a ride on the bow wave. Your captain and crew are on the lookout and give the call of a sighting. And a waterfall and old abandoned cannery come into view. That’s Butedale. Slow down and take it all in as forested fjords roll by. Aiming to entertain and educate over the next days, your expedition team is at the ready. Natural history, Native influences, and their favorite trivia games, too. (BLD)
Take your cup of joe to the bow. The world wakes up with you. Bald eagles watch the ship along its course from tree tops. Islands to the west, inlet-etched mainland to the east. Your captain and mates navigate twisting passages. Harbor seals spend their days on rocky islets. Breathe in the fresh air and take in miles of forested wilderness. In the lounge, your bartender mixes up the daily special. Take the challenge and play a few friendly hands of cards with your shipmate. (BLD)
In Ketchikan, connect with the Tlingit Culture. Tribal leader and local legend Joe Williams, known as Ka Xesh X’e in his native language, guides you on a walking tour. With a rich oral tradition, the Tlingit passed stories from generation to generation— and Joe’s storytelling is captivating! Amble through the surrounding forest on a moderate to easy trail or challenge yourself to a hard-charger hike along trails and boardwalks past, cedar, spruce, streams, and waterfalls. Next up, Misty Fjords is the largest Wilderness Area in the Tongass National Forest and a haven for wildlife—grizzly and black bears, salmon, and deer. Calm settles over these parts and all you can hear is nature. Deep glacial fjords filled with seawater. Wetlands, estuaries, dense forests, and sweeping granite cliffs. Paddle through a bay, silty from the outwash of a mountain river. (BLD)
Just what you need, morning stretches on deck with your guide. Warm those hard-at-play muscles. You know firsthand— conditions in Southeast change one inlet to the next. Your captain is at the helm and your expedition team picks just the right spot. Wherever you head, the adventures are as big as the water is deep! So many hidden pockets in the Tongass National Forest. Give your paddle board skills a glide. Watch for big-eyed harbor seals from a kayak. Bushwhack into the forest of giants. Your guides know the area’s history and keep it lively. (BLD)
If it’s high tide, a skiff ride brings you up-close to LeConte Glacier’s iceberg gardens. Sculpted by the warm summer air, these glacial works of art are a testament to the mastery of Mother Nature. If tides are low, take a boot-sucking walk to check out icebergs resting on the mudflats. Surrounded by national forest, Ideal Cove’s boardwalk trails wind through habitat known as “muskegs,” boggy meadows of ferns and grasses. Or test your balance paddle boarding in this quiet cove. It’s just you and the vast wilderness. (BLD)
Humpbacks beeline it to this region each season to feed on zooplankton and herring. Watch for whales feasting in these abundant glacial waters. Hang out and enjoy the show. Based on wind and weather, your expedition team has the lineup of adventures all mapped out. Cruise past Five Fingers Lighthouse, Alaska’s oldest light station and The Brothers Islands, where sea lions nap on rocky nobs. From kayak or skiff, scope the intertidal zones of un-named bays and coves. Eagles fish here too, their white noggins give away their perches. Kayak into a seascape of wild, forested islets, or take the pace down a notch with an easy stroll amidst the tide pools. It’s remote, and remarkable. (BLD)
Alaska’s wild natural history surrounds the historic community of Sitka. It’s a quick ride to Fortress of the Bear. Tour this home for orphaned bears and observe their unique personalities. With access to the Tongass National Forest all around you, take the hint and take a hike—your guides know the way into the mountains to a clear lake and along boardwalk trails through a temperate rainforest to a waterfall. Later, set sail into Peril Strait and join your expedition guides who share the tragic tales of how this passage earned its foreboding name. (BLD)
Remote passages offer more opportunities for you to search for the mighty humpback whale. Keep your binoculars at hand and watch for the misty spout of these gentle giants as they feed in the waters around you. Anchor in a remote Chichagof Island inlet. Backpacks loaded and adventure toys lowered (skiffs, paddle boards, kayaks), it’s time to go play. Stick to the water in a kayak excursion, and don’t forget to look above and below the surface. A nosy seal could be watching your every stroke. Beachcomb rocky shores. Tiny creatures cling to rocks. Tonight, take a nightcap to the sun deck and watch the sky. (BLD)
There’s a cool factor, and it’s not just coming off the face of the glaciers! This 3.3 million-acre park was covered by ice as recently as 1795. Since then, the park’s receding glacier activity has made it easier to access those inner reaches. Glacial history, retreats, advances, moraines. They come with expert insight from a park ranger and your onboard naturalists, so bring on the questions. Pigeon guillemots, puffins, common murres, and cormorants colonize and nest at South Marble Island. One good whiff and a few loud barks give away one of its mammalian residents—Steller’s sea lions. It’s a full day in the bay exploring Muir’s legacy—all the way to Grand Pacific and Margerie Glaciers. Celebrate with a toast to nature’s handiwork. (BLD)
Bull whip kelp threads through nearby channels like deep, twisted mangroves. And you know better, but orange and purple starfish and jellyfish make it hard to believe you’re not in the tropics. Follow the currents out to where the sea lions flock to remote rock formations. Your captain is on the bridge, the expedition team on deck, and all eyes are on the water and the shore. Everyone is on-watch for the telltale blow of humpbacks. Come closer to the shoreline by skiff, kayak, or on foot. Sometimes the smallest things are the biggest wonders. Take in the evening solitude from the bow, or the hot tub. Or both— why choose just one? Tonight, join your captain for the Farewell Dinner. As a special treat, your expedition team shares a slideshow of your journey. (BLD)
Disembark after breakfast. Transfer to the Juneau airport or begin your UnCruise overnight stay or extended land tour. (B)
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.
• Cruise Alaska’s and Canada’s Inside Passages • Visit UNESCO World Heritage Site—Glacier Bay National Park, and time with a park ranger • Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers and Le Conte Bay iceberg gardens • Adventure activities San Juan Islands, Tongass National Forest, and Misty Fjords National Monument • Native culture and Pacific Northwest natural history • Watch for whales and wildlife in Frederick Sound, and Icy Strait • Wilderness kayaking, paddle boarding, skiffing, and hiking • Educational presentations by onboard expedition team