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

The question of “when to go” comes up often—but in Alaska, the action happens all the time and there is no “cookie cutter” answer. From snow-covered peaks in spring to the amplified spectacle of northern lights when daylight hours are shorter, Alaska delivers.

It’s likely you’ll experience liquid sunshine and cloud failure, and both misty, cool days and days with warm, clear skies—no two departures or two days are like another. You’ll be awed and rewarded no matter which month and week you choose to travel.

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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.

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 Famed Passages of Discovery Ultimate Adventure Ultimate Bays & Fjords Ultimate Coves & Passages Ultra Adventure
Duration 12 Nights 14 Nights 14 Nights 14 Nights 21 Nights
Begin/End Points Seattle to Juneau (or Reverse) Roundtrip Juneau Sitka to Ketchikan Ketchikan to Sitka Juneau to Sitka (or reverse)
Fares From $3,495 $6,095 $6,145 $7,195 $10,045
Dates April-May, August-September June-August April-August May-August April-August
Highlights

Cruise Alaska’s and Canada’s Inside Passages

Native culture, whales, and wildlife viewing

Kayak, paddle board, and hike

Explore Misty Fjords National Monument and Fords Terror

Dawes Glacier and the ice-rich waters of Endicott Arm

Watch for whales in Stephens Passage

Adventure activity in Thomas Bay and Tongass National Forest

Wrangell’s Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House

Transit Wrangell Narrows and wildlife-rich Behm Canal

Explore “wild and woolly” wilderness

Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm and twin Sawyer Glaciers in Tracy Arm

Kayak and paddle board in Stephens Passage, Thomas Bay, and Chatham Strait

Whales and wildlife in Frederick Sound and Behm Canal

Learn about Tlingit culture on a private Kake village visit and at Wrangell's Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House

Observe a Steller sea lion haulout at The Brothers Islands

Navigate winding Wrangell Narrows and Behm Canal

Explore El Capitan cave on Prince of Wales Island and hike the Tongass National Forest

Discover Misty Fjords National Monument

Park Ranger joins you for your day in Glacier Bay National Park

View glaciers: Glacier Bay National Park and Dawes

South Marble Island sea lion haulout and bird colonies

Explore the mainland—glacial landscapes, old growth and rainforest

Wildlife-rich Stephens Passage, Peril Strait, Behm Canal, and Icy Strait

Discover Misty Fjords National Monument by kayak, paddle board and skiff

Hikes on Chichagof and Baranof Islands

Discover the intertidal zones of Krestof and Nakwasina Sounds

Wrangell's Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House

Transit winding Wrangell Narrows

Park Ranger joins you in Glacier Bay National Park and El Capitan Cave hike

Glacier viewing in Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm

Birding and a sea lion haulout at South Marble Island and The Brothers Islands

Wildlife in Frederick Sound, Stephens Passage, Icy Strait, and Peril Strait

Hikes on Chichagof and Prince of Wales Islands

Cultural visit and private tour at Kake Tlingit village

Kayak, paddle board, and skiff Chatham Strait

Investigate intertidal zones of Krestof and Nakwasina Sounds

Explore “wild and woolly” wilderness

Captain’s Choice exploration of “not in the guidebook” places

Whale watching in Frederick Sound and Icy Strait

Glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park, Endicott Arm, and Tracy Arm Wilderness

Park ranger joins you in Glacier Bay National Park and El Capitan Cave hike

Birding and viewing sea lions at South Marble Island

Wilderness hikes on Chichagof and Baranof Islands

Kayak and paddle board in Chatham Strait, Stephens Passage, and Tongass National Forest

Private cultural visit at Kake Tlingit village

Wrangell's Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House

Skiff exploration in Misty Fjords National Monument

Discover the intertidal zones of Krestof and Nakwasina Sounds

Wildlife viewing at The Brothers Islands, in Behm Canal, and Peril Strait

Transit winding Wrangell Narrows

Itinerary Name Exploring Muir's Wilderness Discoverers' Glacier Country Yachter's Alaskan Frontier
Duration 7 Nights 7 Nights 7 Nights
Begin/End Points Roundtrip Juneau Roundtrip Juneau Roundtrip Juneau
Fares From $4,695 $2,995 $7,595
Dates May-September May-September June-August
Highlights

Glacier Bay National Park—UNESCO World Heritage Site

View glaciers—Dawes and, Grand Pacific, Margerie, or Johns Hopkins

Park ranger joins you on board in Glacier Bay

Whale watching in Icy Strait

Forest hike at Glacier Bay National Park headquarters in Bartlett Cove

Unmatched birding and wildlife viewing

Kayak, paddle board, and skiff exploration in Port Houghton and Chatham Strait

Intertidal shore walks and hikes at Port Houghton and Thomas Bay

Two days in Glacier Bay

Kayak, hike, and skiff in Glacier Bay

Park ranger joins you on board in Glacier Bay

Whale watching in Icy Strait, Frederick Sound, and Stephens Passage

Explore coves and fjords of Chichagof and Baranof Islands

View stunning glaciers and listen for the “white” thunder

Cathedral-walled Fords Terror Wilderness Area

Captain’s Choice—explore remote “not in the guidebook” places

Whale watch in Frederick Sound and Icy Strait

Dawes Glacier and iceberg-rich Endicott Arm

Experience cathedral-walled Fords Terror

Kayak and hike in the remote Port Houghton or Windham Bay

Explore rugged shores by skiff

Towering waterfalls and a day of play on Baranof Island

Hike through the immense Tongass National Forest with your Interpretive Guide

Watch for wildlife at Chichagof Island

Secluded exploration of tucked-away coves

Itinerary Name Northern Passages & Glacier Bay Inner Reaches Eastern Coves Inner Reaches Western Coves  
Duration 7 Nights 7 Nights 7 Nights  
Begin/End Points Juneau to Sitka (or reverse) Juneau to Ketchikan (or reverse) Ketchikan to Juneau  
Fares From $3,595 $2,895 $3,595  
Dates May-September May-September June-August  
Highlights

Glacier Bay National Park—UNESCO World Heritage Site

Whale watching in Icy Strait

Explorations along Peril Strait and Sergius Narrows

Park ranger joins you on board in Glacier Bay National Park

Observe a bird colony and sea lion haulout at South Marble Island

Hike the forested shores of Chichagof and Baranof Islands

Discover the intertidal zones of Krestof and Nakwasina Sounds

Kayak, paddle board, and skiff in glacial fjords

Captain’s Choice exploration of “not in the guidebook” places

Whale watching in Stephens Passage

Explore Misty Fjords National Monument

Dawes Glacier and the ice-rich waters of Endicott Arm

Kayak, paddle board, skiff and hike in glacial landscapes, old growth, and rainforest

Spot wildlife in Behm Canal and Tongass National Forest

Kayak and hike along remote coast of Stephens Passage

Navigate winding Wrangell Narrows and Behm Canal

Wrangell’s Kiksetti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Tribal House

Explore “wild and woolly” wilderness

Twin Sawyer Glaciers

Whale watching in Stephens Passage and Frederick Sound

El Capitan Cave ranger hike

Visit Kake Tlingit village

Wildlife viewing in Tracy Arm Wilderness

Captain’s Choice exploration at Kuiu Island

Observe a Steller sea lion haulout at The Brothers Islands

Kayak, paddle board, skiff, and hike in Chatham Strait and Tongass National Forest

 

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Follow a passion.