Please note: This itinerary describes the Juneau to Sitka voyage. For Sitka to Juneau, the itinerary operates in reverse.
Day 1: Juneau, Alaska / Embark Ship
Our small-ship Alaska adventure begins with an early afternoon flight from Seattle to Juneau. Before embarking the ship, we stop by the Alaska State Museum for an introduction to this fascinating state. The museum's permanent collection focuses on Alaska’s native peoples and natural history. Transfer to the pier this afternoon to board ship, with time to settle in to our cabins before dinner aboard. Later this evening, a local entertainer treats us to a music and slideshow presentation. Or, if you prefer, enjoy a few hours on your own to explore the lively port city of Juneau. South Franklin Street parallels the harbor and offers a wide array of shops, restaurants and bars. Stroll into downtown to find more shops. including many selling arts, crafts and food products unique to Alaska. Be sure you're back on board in plenty of time for our 11 p.m. departure as we set sail for the pristine wildness of Tracy Arm.
Day 2: Tracy Arm–Fords Terror Wilderness
Early this morning we enter Tracy Arm, a narrow fjord with waterfalls cascading from glacially carved walls that soar 3,000 feet high. Gathering on deck to survey the magnificent scenery, look for harbor seals, porpoises, Arctic terns and Bonaparte gulls. At the head of the inlet we reach Sawyer Glacier, noted for its deep blue color. Expedition Landing Craft excursions take us closer to the glacier's face, where we listen to the loud cracks and booms of falling ice. Keep an eye out for sure-footed mountain goats scaling the steep granite cliffs above. We may stop at a gravel beach where we can do some kayaking, or, for those who prefer, take a peaceful walk through the woods, stopping to admire the tiny wildflowers and ripening berries.
Day 3: Petersburg
As we cruise toward Le Conte Bay, we often spot humpback whales, which frequently entertain us by breaching and spy-hopping. Weather permitting, we'll have the opportunity to kayak among the ice that has calved off LeConte Glacier. Or, choose an optional flightseeing trip via floatplane or helicopter over the glacier for a thrilling aerial perspective. We also have a chance to hike on forest trails, accompanied by the ship's natural history staff. Later, we visit Petersburg on Mitkof Island, a town of 3,500 that was founded over a century ago by Norwegian fishermen. The waters here are rich in crab, shrimp and pink, or humpback, salmon. This evening we'll have a visit from a local fishing family who will share stories of their life in Petersburg. The ship remains at the dock until we’re called to dinner, featuring the catch of the day.
Day 4: Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait
These waters are prime habitat for both orcas and humpback whales, and it's not uncommon to see groups of up to 30 at a time. We’ll have plenty of time to observe fascinating behavior—breaching, tail-slapping and feeding modes—as we fill the deck while listening to the play-by-play interpretation from our expert naturalists as the ship's skilled captain and crew keep us in perfect proximity. We may also see sea lions hauled out on the rocks, dozing by the dozens. Keep an eye out, too, for bald eagles atop tall spruce trees, surveying the water for fish to prey upon. Once ashore, we’ll walk along a quiet forest trail with our naturalist guides, learning about the temperate rain forest ecosystem distinctive to Southeast Alaska. The still waters are excellent for kayaking, offering another option for appreciating our environs up close.
Day 5: Icy Strait and the Inian Islands
Icy Strait separates Chichagof Island from Alaska’s mainland. The small, scattered Inian Islands rise from the strait's westernmost waters as an uninhabited wilderness breaking the Pacific Ocean’s strong tides as they careen toward Glacier Bay. Icy Strait’s rich waters draw in a plethora of marine life, including orca and humpback whales, seals, otters and porpoise—and an abundance of Steller sea lions that call the Inian islands home. Conditions permitting, we watch in wonder while whales surface, and the ship's naturalist staff lowers the hydrophone so that we can also listen in on their underwater communications. While cruising, hiking and kayaking, we explore Inian shorelines thick with bird life, including murrelets, gulls, terns and bald eagles, and forests that harbor brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, marten, mink and land otter.
Day 6: Glacier Bay National Park
We spend the entire day among the inlets, coves, tidewater glaciers, freshwater lakes and ice-capped mountains of Glacier Bay National Park. Here in one of Alaska's most iconic landscapes, we'll cruise to the face of tidewater glaciers that end abruptly at the water’s edge, waiting patiently to observe them “calving,” when a giant slab of ice falls from the face and crashes into the sea with a thunderous boom. Wildlife abounds here, and we may see harbor seals, Steller sea lions and mountain goats scaling the rock walls. We also have a chance to see both horned and tufted puffins. A visit to Tidal Inlet may bring a view of brown bears lumbering up the hillside. If the timing is right, we could even see a mama bear and her cubs playing by the water. We delight in their interactions, knowing the cub will be on its own next year. Southeast Alaska is the land of the Tlingit people, and a native interpreter joins us onboard to share some of their local legends.
Day 7: Islands, Bays and Fjords on the Inside Passage
Today, nature is our guide as we set sail with no specific itinerary, choosing to follow the captain's whim as conditions guide us. We may stop at an isolated beach to look into tide pools, do some beachcombing and wander forest trails. At high summer, the forest floor is often carpeted with wildflowers. Later, as we walk on one of area’s many islands, keep an eye out for old bear tracks worn into the soil in the open meadows. This is home turf for the massive brown bears Alaska is famous for—the world's largest coastal grizzly. It is also home to the world’s highest density of nesting bald eagles. If conditions permit, we can do some kayaking, for an eye-level view of the rich marine life.
Day 8: Sitka /Disembark Ship / Seattle
After breakfast, we disembark in Sitka, Southeast Alaska’s only town that sits directly on the ocean among a scenic scattering of small islands. In the native Tlingit language, Sitka means "the village behind the island." It has been home to various cultures for thousands of years, but its Russian heritage endures, a legacy from the fur trading enterprise that dominated the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. Russian influence is readily apparent as we visit St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church, with its distinctive onion domes, in the center of town. Sitka's Native heritage is equally vivid as we gaze up at the grand totem poles that line the wooded trails through Sitka National Historic Park. At the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, we have close views of species normally seen at a distance in the wild—bald eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. After lunch, our Southeast Alaska cruise concludes as we disembark the ship in Sitka’s harbor, backdropped by the volcanic peak of Mount Edgecumbe. A transfer to the airport is included for our afternoon flight to Seattle, where we meet onward flights.
Please Note: This itinerary should serve as a guideline only; actual stops are determined by weather, wildlife activity, and a host of other factors in order to provide the safest and best possible experience. This flexibility is what makes traveling on our nimble expedition ships so much more rewarding than on a large vessel with a locked voyage plan. Some itineraries travel in reverse.