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Guest Hosts on Theme Departures

Theme hosts include individuals such as storytellers, artists, bird experts, photographers, and authorities on ecology and geology. Depending on your theme, there’ll be dedicated presentations by the guest host (or hosts) and hands-on learning opportunities that bring a whole new dimension to your adventure.


Photo of storyteller Bethany Goodrich, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Bethany Goodrich

After growing up in the suburbs of Boston, Bethany has spent the last seven years learning to live with the lands of Southeast Alaska—hunting, fishing, harvesting, and foraging nearly 100 percent of the protein she eats. She also believes in the power of storytelling. Bethany is currently the Communications Director for the Sitka Conservation Society and also works with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, where she focuses on small indigenous villages in Southeast Alaska. Bethany has a Master of Science in biodiversity, conservation, and management from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Science in biology with minors in fine arts and neuroscience. 

Bethany’s passion for storytelling began when she was a marine biology research assistant and outreach specialist on a plankton project in Antarctica. She helped develop what would become an award-winning outreach project connecting science and polar research with middle school classrooms through multimedia storytelling. Since then she has used her range of skills to create multimedia projects that positively impact communities, ecosystems, and the world. Bethany has been published in the Alaska Dispatch News, Edible Alaska magazine, and the Juneau Empire. Her favorite place to explore is Kruzof Island near Sitka. 

Geologist/Glaciologist Cathy Connor, an UnCruise Adventures guest expert

Cathy Connor

Cathy earned both her bachelor’s and master's degrees in geology from Stanford University before continuing on to earn her Ph.D in geology with a focus on glaciology from the University of Montana. A professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, she teaches courses in geology, mineralogy and petrology, archaeology, environmental science, glaciation, and climate change as well as guiding field research. Cathy was honored with an Outstanding Faculty Award in 2008.

Beyond the university, Cathy has shared her knowledge with others in her guidebook, Roadside Geology of Alaska. During the summers, Cathy heads for Juneau’s icefields to conduct field studies, including research on an ancient forest that has recently reemerged from beneath the retreating Mendenhall Glacier. A long-time Juneau resident, Cathy and her husband raised their three kids in the capital city. They’ve found it to be the perfect launching point for getting out to explore Alaska’s landscapes or waterways by ski, boat, or simply their hiking boots.

Photo of subsistence fisher and retired restaurateur Deborah Marshall , a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Deborah Marshall

Guide, subsistence fisher, and retired restaurateur Deborah Marshall is passionate about the riches of Alaska and believes food is the most intimate form of art. She’s shared her passions and ideology as the owner and operator of Juneau’s Fiddlehead Restaurant for 21 years, nourishing diners around a convivial table by serving food close to the land. Deborah co-wrote The Fiddlehead Cookbook: Recipes from Alaska's Most Celebrated Restaurant and Bakery.

Deborah is equally driven to share Alaska's jubilant spirit of adventure found in its wildlife and people as a guide for Rainbow Glacier Adventures. She also started the Southeast Alaska Land Trust in 1995 and piloted her own Nordic Tug up the inside and down the outside of the Inside Passage. Deborah has a BA from Williams College and an MPA from Harvard University. She never travels without a journal and several pens.

Photo of naturalist Jackie Hedgpeth, a guest host on Insiders departures with UnCruise Adventures

Jackie Hedgpeth

Alaska: Alaska's Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise | September 5, 2020

A “Jane-of-all-trades” and master of many, Jackie is a naturalist, guide, and tenured biology professor with two masters degrees. She has studied marine biology, physiology of animals and plants, anatomy, botany, biology, microbiology, environmental studies, genetically engineered food products, and other “-ology” subjects extensively. Jackie has purposefully travelled to many of the world's extreme biomes aboard ships as a guest marine biology host and naturalist lecturer for almost 20 years.

Jackie’s deep interest in the natural world and marine biology has taken her to Alaska each summer since 1997. She has repeatedly travelled to all of the areas, islands, and towns in the Southeast—witnessing the changes, growth, and development of this unique area over the years. Throughout her research and travels in Alaska and around the globe (135 countries and counting!), she has followed population dynamics of humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, salmon, and seabirds. Her passion for studying marine mammals and ocean ecosystems has grown to include scuba diving and underwater photography. A PADI-certified rescue diver, Jackie’s most recent dives have been in Cuba, Thailand/Myanmar, Fiji, and Churchill, Manitoba, with belugas. She truly is always on the go. When not working in or on the water—or swimming or kayaking at play—you can find Jackie golfing, skiing, birding, remodeling houses, playing the piano, zip-lining, gardening, and tending her vineyard in Oregon.

Photo of forest ecologist Karen Dillman, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Karen Dillman

Not every ecologist can say they’ve had a fungus named after them, but Karen Dillman isn’t just any ecologist. Working and recreating for over 30 years in Southeast Alaska, Karen has been to all 19 wilderness areas managed by the US Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, gaining a rich knowledge of the diverse ecosystems and biodiversity each area possesses. Forelands of glaciers, alpine habitats, and small marine islands are Karen’s favorite places to explore in Alaska.

Although she started as a forestry technician working on the Tongass, Karen was interested in learning more about the temperate rainforest, so she went back to school to study botany and ecology. Since earning a Bachelor of Science in ecology and a Master of Science in plant biology, Karen has contributed three decades of scientific work to these programs for the USDA Forest Service. She thrives on being in the field witnessing the ecological processes and learning about all of the organisms. Ask Karen about lichens, fungi, glaciers, or forest ecology, and watch her eyes light up.

Photo of Kari Ames, a Tlingit weaver, singer, and drummer, who serves as a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Kari Ames

A member of the Tlingit Nation of Southeast Alaska, Kari was raised and lives in the village of Hoonah. Kari spends as much time as she can learning from elders and other clan members to feed her culture and keep it alive. She has a passion for weaving the past and future together, both figuratively and literally. Kari is a student of weaving spruce root cedar bark as her ancestors have done for many generations. She is also learning Ravenstail weaving—a wearable art gifted to maintain social balance, sometimes representing grief or joy.

Kari is a talented singer and is the lead drummer for a Tlingit dance troupe. She actively participates in singing and drumming in cultural performances and presentations in her home village and throughout the Southeast, including Celebration—the indigenous cultural gathering held every other year in Juneau. Kari loves the outdoors and finds as many opportunities as she can to fish, hunt, berry pick, and gather medicinal plants. She is honored to welcome you to Alaska: her home, her heart, and the land of her grandparents and ancestors.

Photo of Naomi Sture, the UnCruise Adventures loyalty manager and a guest expert on select Insider departures.

Naomi Sture

Alaska: Alaska’s Glacier Country | May 29, 2020

Starting with a summer job in Prince William Sound aboard a 49-passenger boat, Naomi has spent over 30 years in the small boat industry. She has worked with a variety of small cruise ships and expedition ships, and she spent three years as a social hostess with Princess Cruises. As loyalty manager with UnCruise Adventures, Naomi loves helping and really listening to what people have to say and being able to assist them with their needs.

Having spent eight summers working on small boats in Southeast Alaska, Naomi is a huge fan of The Great Land. She’s also a self-proclaimed glacier addict. It’s hard to pull her away when it's time to go! Before travelling to Alaska, Naomi recommends reading Alaska by James Michner and The Alaska Cruise Explorer by Joe Upton. Some of Naomi’s other favorite places to visit are our national parks, Easter Island, and Antarctica.

When she’s not travelling or helping to create adventures for others, Naomi is passionate about spirituality, maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit, and her connection with nature. Naomi has created a perennial garden over the past three summers in her home in the central Arizona desert. In addition to gardening, Naomi’s hobbies are singing with her church choir, fitness and health, and keeping in touch with family and friends—she has nine siblings!

Photo of Southeast Alaska artist, musician, and naturalist Ray Troll, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Ray Troll

Since he picked up a crayon at age four, Southeast Alaska artist, musician, and naturalist Ray Troll has blended art and science to create whimsical yet accurate depictions of the natural world. His art is found on a variety of medium from t-shirts to books and magazines. Ray has illustrated and collaborated on ten books and has exhibited his “fishy” artwork at the California Academy of Sciences, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska State Museum, and the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. Ray also served as the art director for the Miami Museum of Science’s “Amazon Voyage” traveling exhibit and exhibited a touring show based on his book Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline with Dr. Kirk Johnson.

Ray was awarded a gold medal for distinction in the natural history arts by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and received the Alaska Governor’s award for the arts. He has appeared on the Discovery Channel, lectured at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale, shown work at the Smithsonian and has been honored by the naming of a species of ratfish and a genus of extinct herring. Ray has a Bachelor of Arts from Bethany College, an MFA in studio arts from Washington State University, and a doctorate in fine arts from the University of Alaska Southeast. He never travels without his sketchbook.

Photo of author Susan Marie Conrad kayaking. Susan serves as an Insider guest host on UnCruise Adventures in Alaska's Inside Passage.

Susan Marie Conrad

Alaska: Alaska's Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise | September 13, 2020

Author, adventurer, and speaker Susan Marie Conrad connects people with nature and adventure through storytelling. She’s motivated by inspiring travelers to embrace the concept of “believe it and achieve it,” step outside their comfort zones, and appreciate and advocate for the remarkable ecosystems that comprise the Inside Passage. After years of storytelling aboard ships and “ocean-fulls” of sea kayaking between Skagway and the San Juan Islands (including a 1,200-mile through-paddle!), she is eager to explore more. For Susan, all adventure is in the name of bringing awareness to the Inside Passage’s history, inhabitants, and threats.

Susan has a degree in communications and journalism from Southern Oregon University and is a certified Level IV Coastal Kayak Instructor and Women Who Paddle Ambassador. She is also a member of the American Canoe Association. Susan has penned two books, Inside: One Woman’s Journey through the Inside Passage and Wildly Inside: A Visual Journey through the Inside Passage. She has also been published in Sea Kayaker, Canoe and Kayak, Adventures Northwest, Harbor, and Figure magazines. When not within reach of saltwater, Susan focuses on yoga, trail running, and devouring adventure books.

Photo of guide and photographer Yuri Choufour, a guest expert on Insider departures with UnCruise Adventures

Yuri Choufour

Alaska: Alaska's Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise | May 10, 2020

Yuri is an expedition guide, nature and travel photographer, and photo tour leader with a passion for exploring the natural world and photographing its unique creatures. After learning photography on his own, Yuri went to school and found a fantastic mentor. He has a diploma in professional photography, is a member of Nikon Professional Services, and has worked as an expedition photographer on many tours throughout British Columbia.

Proud of pursuing a difficult career he’s passionate about, Yuri is motivated by his ability to visit the far corners of the world and share the natural beauty of what we stand to lose. Although his favorite place to explore is his next unexplored destination, coastal British Columbia is one Yuri’s most loved on the planet. He’s even seeking a publisher for a photo book on British Columbia. Yuri recommends travelling with a camera with a few versatile lenses. And if you're unfamiliar with it, pack your manual!


Photo of ornithologist Cecilia Soldatini, a guest expert on birding theme cruises with UnCruise Adventures

Cecilia Soldatini

Cecilia has been drawn to the sea and its inhabitants ever since she was a child. Endlessly impressed by seabirds, Cecilia is motivated to understand the way they interpret the ocean, how they decide where to go, and all of their behavioral decisions. She is now a researcher and conservation scientist at the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education in La Paz. She is also currently working on a children’s book about Baja California marine wildlife.

Cecilia has a PhD from the University of Venice, Italy, and has been published in several journals. Her favorite birds are the Black-vented shearwater and the various species of storm petrels. She’s fascinated by the storm petrels’ complete lack of anti-predator behavior—so naive and sensitive. Cecilia’s favorite place to explore is Baja’s Isla Natividad.

Photo of biologist and naturalist Esteban Biamonte, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures birding cruises in Costa Rica and Panama

Esteban Biamonte

A biologist and passionate naturalist, Esteban has spent most of his life outside in Costa Rica’s most diverse environments. Discovering an interest in birds at an early age, Esteban has carried his fascination with avian wildlife throughout his career. Writing for many publications, he contributes important observations and insight into the ecology and conservation of local avifauna. Preferring an office in-the-field, he has led countless birding trips and worked with local students sharing his knowledge of Costa Rica’s bird populations. He’s presented on birds of Central America at conservation conventions, and is actively engaged in conservation efforts to protect endemic and migrant species in Costa Rica. Esteban loves to share the little actions that can make a big difference for a better planet.

An avid traveler, Esteban never misses an opportunity to see new, exotic places even if getting into the wilderness means sleeping on the ground. Having travelled throughout three continents, with every new environment he explores, it feels like a lifetime achievement as it grows his understanding of the wild beauty and complexity of our living world. Despite the desire to seek out new destinations, Esteban never loses his interest in his own “backyard” and the many unexpected surprises the rainforest has in store.

Photo of birder and photographer Greg Smith, a guest expert on select UnCruise Adventures departures

Greg Smith

Alaska: Alaska’s Glacier Country | June 12, 2020

Birder, guide, and photographer Greg Smith has led over 130 tours to six continents. And that’s only since retiring! Greg started his career as an ornithology lecturer on expedition ship cruises to the Aleutian Islands, eastern Russia, Chile, and Antarctica. He’s since spent over 20 years managing sensitive bird species as the California State Park superintendent and ecologist, including working on projects that provided miles of access along the California coast to the public. Greg has a Master Bird Banding permit, and his photographs have been used in over 1,200 blogs, books, and interpretive panels. 

Greg is also passionate about marine mammals. He looks forward to watching seabirds react to whales in Alaska, where he’s already led more than 20 tours along the west coast. Greg’s favorite places to explore are Sonoran Desert and Patagonia—or anywhere with unlimited vistas and a sense of wilderness. His favorite bird is the Common Raven because it is crafty, inventive, and always full of surprises.

Photo of ornithologist and ecotourism guide-trainer Maria Elena Muriel, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures birding cruises

Maria Elena Muriel

Ornithologist, ecotourism guide-trainer, planner, and coach Maria Elena lives by Isaac Newton’s words: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." First inspired when a proposed project threatened the endemic yellowthroat in her hometown, Maria Elena is motivated to inspire youth to value their heritage and understand that we all are connected.

Maria Elena has a degree in tourism administration from Sinaloa Estate University and has made a career in ecotourism and public land administration. She is a Certified Interpretive Planner and Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) as well as certified by the Mexican Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR). Maria Elena writes for a local bilingual magazine and has been written about in the American Birding Association blog. She would never travel without binoculars and a head bandana. Maria Elena’s favorite bird is the coquettish white-winged dove.

Kids & Families

Photo of Anchorage writer and "Youth Adventurist" Erin Kirkland, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Kids & Families cruises

Erin Kirkland

Alaska: Alaska Fjords & Glaciers | July 4 & August 1, 2020
Alaska: Northern Passages & Glacier Bay | July 3 & 31, 2021

Erin is the author of the “Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th State with Children” guidebook series, publisher of—Alaska’s only family travel resource—and a member of the Family Travel Association's media membership committee. As a busy mom of a teenage son, Erin truly lives the “on the go” lifestyle. She also writes a regular column for the Anchorage Daily News. A resident of Anchorage, Erin is an expert on Alaska products, services, and destinations for children and families.


Wildlife Photographer Jacqueline Deely, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures photography-themed cruises

Jacqueline Deely

Originally from the United Kingdom, Jacqueline has lived in the U.S. most of her adult life and calls coastal California home. Specializing in wildlife photography, she is a certified California naturalist and a member of the North American Nature Photography Association. Although her work has been published and awarded with accolades, including Female Nature Photographer of the Month with Wild Planet Photo Magazine, she is most proud of her contributions and involvement in conservation. Her images have supported numerous organizations including Audubon California, the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, The Marine Mammal Center, The Snow Leopard Conservancy, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, and the Wildlife Conservation Network. Combining her lifelong passion for wildlife and the outdoors with her love of exploring, Jacqueline is driven to roam the globe in pursuit of nature's wonders. Among her travels are annual trips to the polar regions teaching photography on expedition tours. A natural instructor, she also conducts classes in her local area. Learn more about Jacqueline and her work at:

Photo of conservation photographer, writer, and trained naturalist Jaymi Heimbuch, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures photography-themed cruises

Jaymi Heimbuch

An Oregon-based wildlife conservation photographer, writer, and trained naturalist, Jaymi is passionate about creating engaging storytelling through her words and images. Jaymi leads tours to the area’s most photogenic and wildlife-rich locations, and teaches clients everything from composition and camera settings to image editing techniques. She also has a passion for teaching conservation photography workshops and providing project consultation to photographers. 

Jaymi's work has been published by National Geographic, Audubon, Sierra Club, National Wildlife, and Outdoor Photographer among other outlets. She is the founder of Urban Coyote Initiative, which uses the power of photography to advance science-based awareness of urban coyotes.

Photo of photographers Lisa and John Merrill, guest experts on UnCruise Adventures photography-themed cruises

Lisa & John Merrill

After meeting in 1990 and taking weekend photography workshops, John and Lisa Merrill got married and left their jobs to travel in Africa, Asia, and Australia. They took 500 rolls of film. The Merrills have since traded their careers in tech marketing and real estate to evoke wonder, inspire action, and build businesses and strengthen communities as professional travel photographers. 

The Merrills have traveled extensively in Central and South America, feeding their curiosity in and connection with the natural and man-made world. They say photography helps them slow down and see deeply, pushing them to view the world in new ways. Lisa Merrill calls it “mindful” photography. The Merrills are members of the North American Nature Photography Association and the American Society of Picture Professionals. Their images have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, Outside, Smithsonian, Geo, and numerous airline magazines and newspapers.

Photo of conservation photographer Mac Stone, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures photography-themed cruises

Mac Stone

Latin America: Costa Rica & Panama—Canal, Culture, Adventure | January 7, 2021

Growing up in Gainesville, Florida, Mac Stone wanted to share the photographs he took in his backyard with his friends and family. He quickly realized that the more powerful the images, the more powerful the story. His backyard photographs have blossomed into a career. A conservation photographer for 15 years, Mac has led workshops around the world from Honduras to Wyoming. 

Mac’s imagery reveals the complex relationship between mankind and the natural world. His aim is to affect positive change in habitat and species protection, especially in America’s wetlands. He has published the book, Everglades: America's Wetland and developed a program to teach children photography in Honduras. He’s spent much of the past year 80 feet up in cypress trees photographing one of the world's oldest swamps. Mac’s favorite places to explore are the subtropical wetlands of the U.S., Central and South America. He even got engaged in a tree!

Photo of author and photographer Natalie Fobes, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Natalie Fobes

Alaska: Alaska's Glacier Country | May 22, 2020

With a passion for the environment and wildlife protection, photographer Natalie Fobes says Alaska is her favorite place to explore. She’s done stories on Glacier Bay, logging, and commercial fishing and led photography workshops and travelled throughout the most remote corners of the state.

Natalie has a degree in journalism from Ohio University and has shot assignments for National Geographic Magazine, Audubon, Smithsonian, and other magazines. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize for her series on Pacific salmon and the cultures of the salmon around the Pacific Rim. In addition to assignments, Natalie teaches online courses for LinkedIn Learning. She is also the author of four coffee table books. Natalie co-founded the non-profit Blue Earth Alliance in 1995 to help documentary photographers and filmmakers tackle stories about endangered environments. Natalie believes stunning photos can be made with any camera from smart phones to professional DSLRs. She will share tips on composition, color, landscape and wildlife photography. Learn more about Natalie’s work at