Alaska Experience Guide

Purchased from Russia in 1867—much to the chagrin of the disapproving United States public—Alaska was an incredible unknown treasure. But shortly after, gold was discovered and the rush was on.

John Muir, Edward S. Curtis, William Dall, Jack London, Eliza Scidmore, and many other intrepid men and women have all been wooed by its glaciers, rainforests, and wildlife-rich fjords. Shaped by massive glaciers over millions of years, Alaska presents one of the most wildly rugged, diverse, and spectacular landscapes.

Ideal for those with an explorer’s spirit and a love for nature, Alaska delivers. Aboard our small ships, access to off-the-beaten path places, wildlife up-close, and opportunities to experience it by hike, kayak, and skiff show a side of Alaska few visitors know.

Wildlife Guide

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Wildlife

Like the landscape, the wildlife in Southeast Alaska is big. You may spot mountain goats patrolling shoreline cliffs, black bears catching their lunch, and, moose foraging in marshy tidelands. The mainland and islands of Southeast are ripe for sightings.

  • Mountain goats
  • Coastal brown bear
  • Black bears
  • Moose
  • Sitka black-tailed deer
  • River otter
  • Beaver
  • Snowshoe hares


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Whales & Marine Life

Alaska is known for its rich marine life: salmon, halibut, crab—and magnificent whales. The most commonly spotted cetaceans are orca and humpacks that migrate to these waters annually, but surprisingly, there are species under the water's surface you might never suspect.

  • Whales: humpback, gray, fin, minke
  • Orca
  • Dall’s porpoise and dolphins
  • Harbor seals
  • Steller sea lions
  • Sea otters
  • Salmon: Chinook, Coho, Pink
  • Sea stars, sponges, and anemones
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Birds

Whether you're a birder, or not, Alaska offers phenomenal for birding. Giant eagles perched in the towering firs and buoyant flocks bobbing among rocky shores. With binoculars in hand, your expedition guides will help identify the species you encounter.

  • Bald eagles
  • Black oystercatchers
  • Marbled murrelets and Cormorants
  • Common and Pacific loons
  • Harlequin ducks
  • Red-breasted merganser
  • Surf scoters and pigeon guillemots
  • Tufted and horned puffin

Seasonal Variations

April and May—a favorite time of year for many—is Alaska Awakening! Bears, baby animals, spring flowers, budding forests, snow-covered peaks, gushing waterfalls, and shorter days makes Aurora Borealis sightings possible. Plus, the weather is good and it's crowd-free.

Long days are a signature for Alaska summers—meaning extra playtime. Daytime temps are warmer, so there's more melting. Better access to higher elevations on hikes. And Humpbacks are back en masse. Come summer's end, wildlife gets busy—mating, migrating, and feeding up for winter.

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Alaska Slideshow

Rambling bears, leaping whales, playful otters, and dramatic, huge wilderness…take a look at what you’re likely to experience while sailing with us in Southeast Alaska by clicking on the image at left to view.

What to See & Do on an Alaska Adventure Cruise

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On Board

  • From the bow, keep watch for whales, Dall’s porpoises, and the antics of Steller sea lions at a local haulout
  • Return from a wilderness excursion and be greeted by your crew with a mug of hot chocolate or a hot toddy
  • Count the red and green lights as your vessel navigates “Christmas Tree Lane” in Wrangell Narrows
  • Cruise—where the big ships can’t go—through narrow channels, in fjords, and at the terminus of ice rivers, witness calving glaciers
  • At your request, the crew awakens you in the wee hours when the Northern Lights put on their show
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In the Water

  • Skiff among the bergy bits (some with lounging critters) floating near the face of a mighty glacier
  • Kayak and skiff along the towering walls of a steep fjord or into hidden inlets of a tucked-away cove
  • Depending on your boat, snorkel with orange waving sea anemone, silvery fish, and slow-moving sea stars
  • Test your mettle with a “polar bear plunge” jumping from the aft deck into the cool Alaska saltwater
  • Paddle board along the reaches of an isolated and remote, forest-covered island

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On Land

  • Hike through temperate rainforest listening for sounds and watching for bird and wildlife sightings
  • Hike on boot-sucking sandbars at the foot of a glacier, or explore an intertidal zone in search of microscopic life
  • A Forest Ranger guides you on an exploration of El Capitan Cave, or hike a trail at Glacier Bay National Park headquarters in Bartlett Cove
  • Along a coastal river trail, watch for birds soaring high above and in the lush vegetation around you
  • Mingle with locals, view totems, and uncover Tlingit and Haida culture

Alaska Travel FAQs

ARRIVAL / DEPARTURE

Q. Do you have specific arrival and departure guidelines I should follow when making my travel plans?

Yes! View our recommended arrival & departure times by clicking here.

FOOTWEAR

Q. Do I need rubber boots and hiking boots?

In Southeast Alaska, the wilderness areas we explore on foot can get pretty muddy, plus we have a fair amount of wet landings by skiff where there's no dock at all. So having proper footwear with good ankle support is absolutely essential. Both hiking and rubber boots are good, but if we had to choose, we'd lean towards the rubber boots (aka the "Alaska tennis shoe", also known as Xtra Tuffs, Wellingtons, gum boots). Many of our guests add insoles for support and hike all week in their rubber "mud" boots! For a complete list of what to bring, please refer to our Alaska packing list.

We highly recommend that you bring your own rubber boots for best fit, availability, and quality. Our vessels have a very limited supply for shared use only so availability is not a guarantee.

Youth size boots are not available aboard any of our vessels. You must bring your own.

Get more packing suggestions on our packing list.

FISHING

Q. Can I fish from the boat?

Fishing is not allowed aboard our vessels. If you are interested in fishing in Alaska, we recommend you make arrangements for a pre- or post-cruise excursion and that you ship your catch home. Please note that due to FDA and CDC regulation, any fish caught on your pre-cruise excursion cannot be stored or cooked on board our vessels.

MOSQUITOES

Q. Do I have to worry about mosquitoes and other bugs?

Not in most of the areas where we cruise in Southeast Alaska, but there are bugs in some places. If we do encounter them, your vessel crew can provide you with insect repellent. Mosquitoes are present in the Interior of Alaska and are most numerous in June and July. Guests who are concerned about mosquitoes while on their pre- or post-cruise land package should carry insect repellent with them.

DENALI

Q. Will I see Denali?

You may see Denali if you book a pre- or post-cruise Denali National Park & Knik River land package. Denali is often shrouded in clouds; however there is "cloud failure" in Alaska that does allow for glimpses of this majestic peak.

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Q. Will I see the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) are more prevalent at the end of the summer and require a combination of dark, clear nights and specific solar activity. Crew are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and should this phenomenon be seen, we will be sure to awaken any interested guests.

ALASKA YACHT—BEARS, BURGS & BUSHWHACKING: PETERSBURG ACTIVITIES

Q. On the Petersburg day of my Alaska Yacht cruise, is my requested activity a "for-sure" guarantee? And will I get to fish or fly with all my shipmates?

Petersburg activities on Day 2/Friday of the Alaska Yacht itinerary are subject to change due to weather/conditions. While UnCruise will do our best to keep groups together on flightseeing or fishing charter departures, due to weight limits (flights) and other requirements and restrictions, groups may be split up and should not expect to fly / fish together. Here are additional details on each activity:

Fishing charter: Fishing charter vessels are regulated by the Coast Guard and are limited to 4 or 6 passengers each. Weather permitting, fishing charters depart at 8:30am and return at 12:30pm. Any fish caught can be held for the guest by the charter company and shipped to their home based on expected return date from the cruise; guests are responsible for shipping costs. Due to CDC regulations, fish cannot be taken on board Safari Quest.

Flightseeing: Float planes are limited to 3 or 6 passengers each. Guests opting on the flightseeing excursion MUST provide accurate weight for safety and total plane weight limit calculations. Flightseeing departures will be staggered throughout the day depending on the total number of people flying. Departure times will be announced on Thursday night at dinner.

Petersburg cultural tour: After morning adventures, you’re off on a pre-embarkation guided walking tour of town. The tour departs the Tides Inn hospitality room at 3pm and concludes at the Safari Quest in time for boarding at 5pm.

ROUGH SEAS

Q. Should we expect to encounter rough seas on our explorations?

One of the nice things about our Alaska adventures is that we operate primarily within the waters of the Inside Passage and the boats are rarely exposed to the open ocean. In the event that we do cross an open passageway or expect unfavorable weather, the captain will give you plenty of notice so that you can take seasickness medication.

SNORKELING

Q. Can I snorkel in Alaska during my cruise?

The Wilderness Adventurer, Wilderness Discoverer, and Wilderness Explorer are our only boats equipped for snorkeling in Alaska. There may be opportunities on our Discoverers' Glacier Country, Inner Reaches Eastern Coves, Western Coves, and Northern Passages & Glacier Bay itineraries aboard these boats. Opportunities to snorkel are based on interest and it being possible within the itinerary. Generally, our goal is provide every guest that wishes to go snorkeling the opportunity to do so. Snorkeling varies greatly based on rainfall and tide, which both affect visibility. There is a nominal daily fee to snorkel.

Itinerary Comparison

Itinerary Name Whales, Wildlife & Glaciers Northern Passages & Glacier Bay Glacier Bay Small Ship Cruise Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise
Duration 7 Nights 7 Nights 7 Nights 7 Nights
Begin/End Points Sitka to Juneau Juneau to Sitka (or reverse) Roundtrip Juneau Roundtrip Juneau
Fares From $4,695 $3,595 $3,995 $2,995
Dates May-August April-September April-September April-September
Highlights

  • Full day in Glacier Bay National Park, joined by a park ranger
  • Haines history and adventure—hike, bike, or river float trip
  • Learn about Chilkat Tlingit Native culture
  • Wilderness wildlife—whales, Dalls porpoise, sea lions, and black bears
  • Birdwatching—eagles, puffins, black oystercatchers, and other seabirds
  • Kayak, paddle board, and skiff in rugged wildlife-rich coves
  • Hike and beachcomb in Tongass National Forest
  • Captain’s choice wilderness exploration

  • View Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers
  • Park ranger joins you on board in Glacier Bay National Park
  • Whale watching in Icy Strait and Lynn Canal or Chatham Strait
  • Wildlife searches—bears, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, Dall’s porpoises
  • Birds and wildlife at South Marble Island—birding and sea lion haulout
  • Beachcomb intertidal zones, hike, and bushwhack in the Tongass National Forest
  • Kayak, paddle board, and skiff in glacial fjords

  • TWO days in Glacier Bay National Park
  • Wilderness exploration in the Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay outback
  • Margerie and Grand Pacific Glacier visits with a park ranger aboard
  • Dawes Glacier and Fords Terror by skiff
  • Orca and Humpback whales in Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait
  • Wildlife searches: black and brown bears, eagles, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, sea birds
  • Kayak, paddle board and skiff remote inlets
  • Beachcombing and tide pool discoveries

  • THREE full days in Glacier Bay National Park—active exploration in the outback
  • Maximum adventure ashore and afloat
  • Tidewater glaciers: Margerie and Grand Pacific
  • Haines—hiking, biking, rafting, and history
  • Bushwhack and hike in old-growth forest and glacial outwash fields
  • Whales and wildlife—bears, sea lions, seals, porpoises, eagles
  • Birding at South Marble Island—puffins, oystercatchers, cormorants, kittiwakes
Itinerary Name Alaska's Glaciers & Whales Alaska Fjords & Glaciers Alaska Yacht—Bears, Bergs, & Bushwacking
Duration 7 Nights 7 Nights 8 Nights
Begin/End Points Juneau to Sitka (or reverse) Juneau to Ketchikan (or reverse) Roundtrip Petersburg
Fares From $3,995 $3,345 $7,495
Dates May-August May-September May-August
Highlights

  • THE glacier adventure: LeConte, Baird, and Dawes or Sawyer and South Sawyer
  • Tlingit native culture on a private village tour of Kake
  • Whale watching in Frederick Sound
  • Look for wildlife—eagles, arctic terns, black and brown bears, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions
  • Skiff through iceberg waters of Tracy or Endicott Arm
  • Hike on the terminal moraine of Baird Glacier
  • Boardwalk and trail hikes in Tongass National Forest
  • Kayak, paddle board and skiff in hidden coves and narrow fjords

  • 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

  • Four designated Wilderness Areas or National Monuments
  • One-night pre-cruise hotel stay and excursion
  • LeConte Glacier—ice gardens or glacial icefield
  • Tlingit culture and private tour of Kake native village
  • Admiralty Island bear tour—hike and bear viewing with local guide
  • Whale watching in Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait
  • Wildlife and birding by kayak, paddle board, and skiff
  • Back country wilderness exploration
Itinerary Name Alaska's Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise Alaska Glacier Cruise—Ultimate Expedition Fjords of Alaska Cruise—Ultimate Expedition
Duration 14 Nights 14 Nights 14 Nights
Begin/End Points Seattle to Juneau (or reverse) Roundtrip Juneau Sitka to Ketchikan (or reverse)
Fares From $3,995 $8,295 6,545
Dates April-May, August-September May-August April-September
Highlights

  • Cruise Alaska’s and Canada’s Inside Passages
  • Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Glacier Bay National Park and Olympic National Park
  • Adventure activity Tongass National Forest and Misty Fjords National Monument
  • Native culture and Gold Rush history
  • Tlingit culture in Ketchikan and Haines
  • Watch for whales and wildlife in Frederick Sound
  • Wilderness kayaking, paddle boarding, skiffing, and hiking
  • Hiking, biking, and rafting in Haines, Alaska
  • Educational presentations by onboard expedition team

  • Ultimate glaciers: Margerie, Grand Pacific, LeConte, Baird, and Dawes or Sawyer and South Sawyer
  • Full day in Glacier Bay National Park, joined by a park ranger
  • Haines history and adventure—hike, bike, or river float trip
  • Tlingit native culture in Haines and on a private village tour of Kake
  • Whale watch in Frederick Sound
  • Marine life searches—Dall’s porpoise, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters
  • Look for wildlife—black and brown bears, mountain goats, and moose
  • Birdwatching—eagles, arctic terns, puffins, black oystercatchers, and other seabirds
  • Skiff through iceberg waters of Tracy or Endicott Arm
  • Hike on the terminal moraine of Baird Glacier
  • Boardwalk and trail hikes in Tongass National Forest
  • Kayak, paddle board and skiff in hidden coves and narrow fjords
  • Captain’s choice exploration

  • Glaciers: Margerie, Grand Pacific, and Dawes
  • Glacier Bay National Park; a park ranger joins you on board
  • Whale watching and wildlife searches
  • Paddle Mendenhall Lake and hike on the glacier
  • Tlingit culture—Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House visit
  • Birds and wildlife at South Marble Island—birding and sea lion haulout
  • Beachcomb, hike, and bushwhack in muskeg and the Tongass National Forest
  • Kayak, paddle board, and skiff in glacial fjords
  • Captain’s choice adventure exploration

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