The coastline of southeast Alaska and British Columbia is a rare and special place, blending spectacular natural beauty with distinctive cultural influences. It is an incredible maze of fjords, channels, rivers and glaciers that glide towards the sea. Speckled here and there are small hamlets inhabited by proud, independent people, blending a myriad of traditions from Native American to Russian and Scandinavian. This majestic region of narrow-protected waterways is ideally suited for your nimble 70-guest expedition ship. Enjoy an in-depth exploration of the coastal wilderness between Sitka, Alaska and Seattle, Washington. All departures will have a certified photo instructor onboard.
Day 1: Sitka, Alaska / Embark
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. MichaelÂ’s Russian Orthodox Church with its onion domes right in the middle of town. Gaze up at the grand totem poles throughout Sitka National Historic Park. At the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, you have views of species normally seen in the wild Â— bald eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. SitkaÂ’s oceanfront setting is framed by the volcanic peak of Mount Edgecumbe and a string of small islands. The crystalline waters of Sitka Bay abound with sea stars and translucent moon jellyfish.
Day 2: Southeast Alaska's Islands, Bays and Fjords
Today is a day with the luxury of no specific plan. There are many options for landings on islands such as Baranof and Chichagof, where bald eagles nest and brown bears make themselves at home. If youÂ’re a beachcomber, the shoreline is rich with treasures. The forest trails are dense and beautiful, whether you choose the long walk option or a short stroll, accompanied by one of your Naturalists familiar with the local terrain. Hemlock and spruce abound in the old-growth forest. When kayaking, there are always choices. If youÂ’re looking for exercise and excitement, choose a more strenuous course. If you want scenery and relaxation, youÂ’ll have the option to paddle slowly Â— exploring, poking into little inlets and relishing the quiet and up-close, personal view.
Day 3: Point Adolphus & Chichagof Island
The day begins on the waters off Point Adolphus, a favored area for marine mammals. 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 you watch with awe, your Naturalist lowers the hydrophone and youÂ’re not only watching the whales, youÂ’re listening in on their communications. A sense of wonder pervades. When questions come up, as they surely will, your marine mammal expert can tell you everything you want to know and more.
Day 4: Glacier Bay National Park
Spend the entire day amidst the coves, fjords, tidewater glaciers, freshwater lakes and majestic mountains of Glacier Bay National Park. YouÂ’ll see glaciers that end abruptly at the waterÂ’s edge and observe them Â“calvingÂ” Â— tons of ice crashing into the sea Â— 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 you 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. Watch their interactions, knowing the cub will be on its own next year.
Day 5: Juneau, Alaska
After breakfast, youÂ’ll visit Juneau, Alaska's state capital. Here you'll visit the Alaska State Museum, viewing its fascinating permanent collection with an emphasis on Alaska's native peoples and natural history.
Day 6: Petersburg 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. Also, you may see Steller's sea lions hauled out on the rocky islands and dozing. Once ashore, youÂ’ll have the opportunity to walk along a quiet forest trail, accompanied by your Naturalists.
Day 7: Misty Fiords
Misty Fiords National Monument, often referred to as "Yosemite of the sea" for its sheer majesty, is 2.3 million acres of pristine wilderness that will leave you with exquisite memories of your stay in Alaska. Head out on a personal kayak reconnaissance or take a Zodiac cruise beneath glacier-carved cliffs with saw-tooth tops. Float past sheer cliffs and icy waterfalls, easily navigating in and out of areas the Â“big white boatsÂ” that ply AlaskaÂ’s waters can't get near.
Days 8-9: Inside Passage of British Columbia
You'll feel like a true explorer as you continue northward looking for whales, dolphins, bears, deer and other wildlife. This is an area where vast sections of untouched coastal rain forest still exist Â— and where an expedition ship proves to be the perfect vessel. Without a specific plan, open to spontaneity and adventure, youÂ’ll freely rove within the near-limitless expanse of pristine wildness Â— to explore any intriguing bay or inlet you happen upon, or reverse course to follow a sighted whale pod. Your small ship gives you this freedom. Your onboard kayaks and Zodiacs can be lowered swiftly to bring it all closer. Wherever you stop and explore, youÂ’re certain to be the only human life, accompanied by spectacular birds and animals. In such a populated and busy world, these opportunities are tonic for the mind, body and soul.
Day 10: Johnstone Strait and Alert Bay
Johnstone Strait is one of the foremost viewing areas for orca whales in the entire Northern Hemisphere and since nineteen whale pods are known to spend part of the year here, there is a chance of exciting whale watching. Arrive in Queen Charlotte Sound on course for Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. Once the ship is secured, make your way to the U'Mista Cultural Center, home to a stunning collection of potlatch masks created by the Kwakwaka'wakw peoples. At the Center, anyone related to any member of this tribe is able to trace their ancestry. You then walk or ride to the Big House, just a short distance away where the Tsasala Cultural Group puts on a dance and the performers explain the story of the dance movements.
Day 11: San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands are the gems of northern Washington State and today you explore them with the freedom of no specific plan. You explore this archipelago of some 170 idyllic forested islands with varied coastlines offering wonderful opportunities to observe seals, sea lions, river otters, bald eagles and orcas as sea birds form patterns in the sky overhead.
Day 12: Seattle, Washington / Disembark Ship
Disembark the ship in the heart of Seattle, with the Olympic Mountains, majestic Mount Rainier and the Seattle skyline as the backdrop.