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Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness

An Intimate Voyage Through the Wildlife-Rich Inside Passage
*Please note this itinerary describes the Juneau to Sitka voyage. Please reverse the itinerary for Sitka to Juneau.

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 artful introduction to this unique state. The Museum has a fascinating permanent collection with an emphasis on Alaska’s native peoples and natural history. Embark ship and have some time to settle into our cabins before dinner. After dinner onboard, a local entertainer engages you with a music and slide presentation. If you prefer, take a few hours to yourself and explore the port of Juneau. South Franklin Street parallels the harbor area and offers a wide array of shops, restaurants and bars. Stroll into the downtown area to find more shops, including those offering goods particular to Alaska. After an evening of exploring or entertainment, settle back into the ship for an 11 p.m. departure to the pristine wildness of Tracy Arm.

Day 2: Tracy Arm Fjord- Fjords Terror Wilderness
Early this morning we enter Tracy Arm, a spectacular fjord, with waterfalls cascading from its glacially carved walls. We’ll also pass the Sawyer Glacier, which has been described as bluer than any blue on earth. As you gather on deck to view this spectacular sight, view harbor seals and porpoises and the Arctic terns and Bonaparte gulls. Zodiac trips take you closer to the cracks and booms of falling ice as you get an even better look at the Sawyer Glacier. Keep a watch out for the sure-footed mountain goats scaling the steep, granite cliffs above. We may stop at a gravel beach where we can take out the kayaks and paddle, perhaps with the mournful sound of the loon as part of our “soundtrack.” If you prefer something less strenuous, take a peaceful walk through the woods, stopping to admire the tiny wildflowers and ripe berries

Day 3: Petersburg
Humpback whales are often spotted as we head toward Le Conte Bay. Weather permitting, you’ll have the opportunity to kayak amid the ice. Or take advantage of the opportunity for an optional flightseeing trip via floatplane or helicopter over nearby Le Conte Glacier. Or for hikes on forest trails, accompanied by our natural history staff. Later we head to the small town of Petersburg on Mitkof Island, a town of 3,500, it was founded more than 100 years ago by Norwegian fishermen. The waters here are rich in crab, shrimp and both pink salmon and humpy salmon. The evening includes a visit from a local fishing family with their interesting stories of 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 areas for both killer whales and humpback whales. It is also fertile ground for the majestic bald eagle which you may see keeping watch atop a tall spruce. As for whales, it’s not uncommon here to see schools of up to 30 humpbacks or orcas. We’ll then get to observe fascinating behavior — breaching, tail-slapping and variations on feeding — as we fill the deck, delighting in their activities and listening to the play-by-play from our expert naturalists, while our skilled Captain and crew keep us in perfect proximity. We may also see sea lions hauled out and dozing. Once ashore, we’ll have the opportunity to walk along a quiet forest trail, accompanied by our naturalists. The still waters are excellent for kayaking, offering another option for appreciating this area close up.

Day 5: Point Adolphus and Inian Pass
Our day begins on the waters off Point Adolphus, a favored feeding area for humpback whales. Keep watch on deck and you may find yourself rushing to the side as a pod of whales begins lunge-feeding right off our bow. As we watch with awe, our naturalist lowers the hydrophone and we’re not only watching the whales, we’re listening in on their communications. A sense of wonder pervades. When questions come up, as they surely will, our marine mammal expert can tell you everything you want to know and more. After some thrilling whale watching, you’ll cruise Inian Pass looking for playful sea otters.

Day 6: Glacier Bay National Park
We spend the entire day amidst the coves, fjords, tidewater glaciers, freshwater lakes and majestic mountains of Glacier Bay National Park. You’ll see glaciers that end abruptly at the water’s edge and observe them “calving” — tons of ice crashing into the sea — accompanied by an exhilaratingly thunderous sound. Mountain goats scaling the peaks as well as harbor seals and Steller's sea lions are some of the creatures we may observe in these icy waters. You may have the opportunity to see not only one, but two kinds of puffins: the tufted and the horned puffin. A visit to Tidal Inlet may bring the sight of brown bears lumbering up the hillside. If the timing is right, a bear and her cub may be playing in the water. We’ll watch their interactions, knowing the cub will be on its own next year.

Day 7: Southeast Alaska’s Islands, Bays and Fjords
Today, nature is our guide as we set forth without a specific plan. We may stop at an isolated beach, where the tide pooling and beachcombing are good and there are forest trails to walk. The landscape is often colored with swaths of wildflowers. We might do some small ship exploring along the shoreline of Admiralty Island, where the massive brown bear is found. Later, as you walk on one of the many islands in the area, keep an eye out for old bear tracks worn into the soil as you move from forest to meadow. This area is home to the highest density of nesting bald eagles in the world, so sightings are very common. If conditions permit, we can do some kayaking, always watching for marine and terrestrial life.

Day 8: Sitka/Disembark Ship/Seattle
After breakfast we disembark in Sitka, southeastern Alaska’s only oceanfront town. In the native Tlingit language, Sitka means the village behind the island and it has been home to various cultures for thousands of years. Sitka has a strong Russian heritage, which is readily apparent as you visit St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church with its onion domes right in the middle of town. 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. The visit will conclude as you embark the ship at Sitka’s oceanfront setting, framed by the volcanic peak of Mount Edgecumbe and a string of small islands. After lunch, our small ship Alaska adventure comes to a close, as we drive to the airport for our afternoon flight to Seattle.

Note: This itinerary should serve as a guideline only; the actual stops are determined by weather, wildlife activity, and a host of factors in order to provide the 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.

Want more of the Pacific Northwest?
Embark on a 15-day adventure between Sitka, Alaska and Seattle, Washington exploring three of the most appealing wild regions in the Pacific Northwest: Alaska’s Inside Passage, coastal British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii. Please call for details.

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