Guest Hosts on Theme Departures

Theme hosts include individuals such as winery owners and winemakers, whale experts, photographers, and authorities in marine biology and ornithology. Depending on your theme, there’ll be dedicated presentations by the guest host—or hosts; hands-on learning opportunities; and wine or beer tastings that bring a whole new dimension to your adventure.


Photo of storyteller Amy Gulick, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Amy Gulick

A self-described storyteller, Amy’s tools of the trade include pictures and words. An acclaimed conservation photographer and writer, she focuses on stories that connect humanity to wild places. Amy’s award-winning book, Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest, shares the remarkable story of the Tongass National Forest and why this magnificent place matters to the world.

The recipient of many honors, she has received awards from the Alaska Conservation Foundation, Alaska Wilderness League, North American Nature Photography Association, and Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. She is a Fellow of both the International League of Conservation Photographers and International League of Conservation Writers.,

Photo of conservation scientist and marine ecologist Caroline Fox, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Caroline Fox

Conservation scientist and marine ecologist, Caroline Fox is as well-known for her talented storytelling as she is for her meticulous research. Caroline has a bachelor’s in biology and environmental studies from the University of Victoria (UV) and her masters in science, with a focus on kelp forest ecology and the effects of climate change from Case Western Reserve University.  She earned her PhD from the UV focusing on land-sea ecological interactions. Throughout her university years, she worked as a lighthouse keeper, creel observer, biologist for the Raincoast Conservation Fund, and aerial surveyor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

Caroline’s post-doc work has been focused on marine birds and she continues to work as a biologist for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.  Her book, At Sea with the Marine Birds of the Raincoast, was published in 2016. Learn more about Caroline’s work at


Geologist/Glaciologist Cathy Connor, an UnCruise Adventures guest expert

Cathy Connor

Alaska: Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise | April 18, 2020

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 photographer/nature writer David Shaw, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

David Shaw

David shares some of Alaska’s most wild places and creatures through his lens and words as professional photographer, writer, and wildlife biologist. He also guides birding, photography, and natural history trips throughout Alaska. He has his master's degree in wildlife biology from University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and while he studied avian migrations through Mexico in graduate school, his heart has long been in Alaska.

Living off-the-grid in a small cabin in the forest near Fairbanks, the natural world that most sparks David’s curiosity is right at his fingertips. A nearly two-decade resident in Alaska, David has a passion for conserving and exploring the world’s wildest places and creatures. He has served as a board member with Audubon Alaska for seven years.

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

Deborah Marshall

Alaska: Alaska's Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise | April 18, 2020

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 geologist Jim Baichtal, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Jim Baichtal

Ever since he was six years old, Jim has followed his curiosity in why we find rocks in the places we do. Jim has since worked as a geologist for the past 28 years focusing on the geology, glacial history, paleontology, and geoarchaeology of Southeast Alaska. He is currently a forest geologist with the US Forest Service for the Tongass National Forest. 

Jim’s passion for and expertise in geology and glacial history has earned him an honorary Doctorate of Science and taken him throughout Southeast Alaska as an instructor of geology courses at community colleges and universities. As an authority on the karst ecosystem and cave resources of the Tongass National Forest, Jim has also been published in numerous scientific journals. He even has a Silurian gastropod, Baichtalia tongassensis, named after him! Jim is fascinated by how much of Alaska’s geologic and natural history is unknown and can’t wait to share his fascination with you. Be sure to pack a good pair of waterproof boots and a sense of wonderment.

Photo of writer and storyteller Joe Upton, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Joe Upton

Joe made his way to Alaska for the first time in the mid-1960s when he landed a job as a crewman aboard a fishing boat. He was taken under the wing of an old-timer who not only showed him the ropes onboard, but filled days with stories about people and places throughout Southeast Alaska. On that first trip north, Joe fell in love with the Great Land. Throughout the 1970s, he lived in a tiny, roadless village fishing, making maps and photographing the area. In the 1990s, Joe started a publishing company and published his first book, Alaska Blues, based on his early years in Southeast. 

With over two decades of experience working, living, and raising a family among small communities and fellow fisherman, Joe has amassed many sea salty stories of the area, as well as an intimate knowledge of the Alaskan coast, and its people, history, and lore. He shares his stories through his books—he’s published several guidebooks for Southeast, several memoirs from his years in the Inside Passage and historical figures, even a young adult fiction. He has produced an extensive series of videos that tell the stories of locals and places throughout the passage. An award-winning author and gifted storyteller, Joe and his wife now live an island life near Seattle.'sstory.html

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

Karen Dillman

Alaska: Northern Passages & Glacier Bay | April 25, 2020

Not every ecologist can say they’ve had a fungus named after them, but Karen Dillman isn’t just any ecologist. In addition to living and recreating around Petersburg for 28 years, Karen has worked on the Ketchikan Ranger District for four years in her role with the United States Forest Service—gaining a rich knowledge of Misty Fjords and Tracy Arm. 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 studying the Tongass, Karen wanted to know more about the ecology of the area and went back to school to become a botanist and ecologist. Since earning a Bachelor of Science in ecology from Idaho State University and a Master’s of Science in plant biology from Arizona State University, Karen has worked as a botanist with the United States Forest Service for 20 years and an ecologist for 14. 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 writer, John Muir scholar, and actor Lee Stetson, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Lee Stetson

Lee Stetson is a writer, John Muir scholar, and actor with a 50-year background in theater. Since hiking the John Muir Trail, he has become an authority on the “father of our National Parks” and celebrated the naturalist by writing and performing in theatrical productions about Muir. While Lee portrays Muir primarily with Yosemite National Park and The Yosemite Conservancy, he has toured across the country and in Canada, Scotland, and Japan. You may also recognize him from early appearances in episodes of Hawaii 5-0.

Lee has a certificate in arts administration from Harvard University as well as a B.A. in history and an M.A. in American studies from University of Hawaii. He wrote the introduction to The Wild Muir: 22 of John Muir's Greatest Adventures and is most proud of his participation in Ken Burns' documentary, Our National Parks: America's Best Idea. Let Lee’s love of Alaska and passion for preserving the planet infuse your adventure.

Photo of Wildlife Biologist Marci Johnson, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Insider cruises

Marci Johnson

Growing up with 100 animals (horses, dogs, bison, deer, raccoons, goats, turkeys, etc.), a career in wildlife biology made sense to Marci. These days she’s passionate about conservation where wildlife meets industry and development in northern latitudes. Marci is always on the lookout for people who don't take wild places for granted and kids who care about protecting wildlife.

Paired with her Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin, Marci has 25 years of experience in 14 states and four other countries working with bears, wolverines, moose, sea turtles, Dolly Varden trout, muskoxen, Alpine chamois, elk, and more. She was also a Wilderness Ranger on Admiralty Island, covering coastline in a skiff called “The Tub,” and completed a boat operator certification in Glacier Bay. Her favorite spots in Alaska are where the mountains plunge into the ocean and vast, roadless expanses with rich ecosystems.

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

Ray Troll

Alaska: Alaska Fjords & Glaciers | April 18, 2020

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

Esteban Biamonte

Costa Rica & Panama: Costa Rica & Panama—Canal, Culture, Adventure | January 19, 2020

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 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; "we all are standing on the shoulders of the giants of the past." 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.

Matt Goff, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures birding theme cruises

Matt Goff

Although his academic training was in math and statistics, Matt has turned his intense curiosity and interest in photography and the natural history of Southeast Alaska into a career as a birder and naturalist. Born and raised in Sitka exploring the local mountains, valleys, and waters, Matt eagerly anticipates the arrival of migrants as well as documenting vagrants. Rather than name a favorite bird, Matt looks forward to the first sighting of returning birds.

Matt has conducted numerous bird surveys and a bird banding project, and has observed 221 and photographed 216 species in Southeast Alaska. He is also a contributor to the Southeast Alaska quarterly bird report. Matt never travels without his camera.

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

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.


Photo of photographer Cameron Zegers, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures photography-themed cruises

Cameron Zegers

With a background in science and environmental education, Cameron’s photography is influenced by her studies of the natural world. She has worked as a freelance photographer and as a teacher, taking her around the globe including two years in Australia and several trips to Alaska. Always exploring new places and striving to get the next shot, Cameron’s favorite place to visit is anywhere with lots of wildlife.

Cameron studied science at the University of Oregon and went on to teach National Geographic Student Expeditions Photography in Tanzania, Iceland, and Australia. She has also led photography workshops in Southeast Asia and worked as a photography guide in Australia. Her photography has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Photo of the Day, National Geographic Student Expeditions, Wall Street Journal, Outside magazine, Tiny Atlas Quarterly, Budget Travel magazine, and Conde Nast Traveler. Cameron never travels without a rain jacket and recommends rain covers for cameras.

Wildlife Photographer Marci Johnson, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures photography-themed cruises

Jacqueline Deely

Mexico's Sea of Cortes: Baja's Bounty | January 11, 2020

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

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Adventure | October 12, 2019
Costa Rica & Panama: Costa Rica & Panama—Canal, Culture, Adventure | January 9, 2020

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

Costa Rica & Panama: Costa Rica & Panama—Canal, Culture, Adventure | November 30, 2019

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 Linked-In Learning. She is also the author of three 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. Learn more about Natalie’s work at

Wine & Culinary

Photo of food & drink, travel, and outdoors writer Adam Sawyer, a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures wine & culinary cruises

Adam Sawyer

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine & Culinary | November 16, 2019

Meet Adam—a fan of Pinot Noir Rosé and fresh Oregon strawberries pairing. As a food & drink, travel, and outdoors writer, photographer, and guide, Adam is well-versed in leading culinary tours. He’s also a big fan of the Columbia River Gorge. Adam is passionate about sharing his favorite flavors and places of the Columbia and Snake rivers with others who share his fascination.

Adam has authored or co-authored six books and written stories for the Oregonian, Willamette Week, and the Portland Mercury. His work has also appeared in Northwest Travel & Life, 1859, 1889, Portland Monthly, Columbia River Gorge, Cascade Journal, OnTrak, and Backpacker magazine. His online publications include Journey AAA, Travel Oregon, Eater, Canoe & Kayak, Red Tricycle, and Tillamook Coast. Adam is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and has lived in 21 different cities. What’s Adam most excited about? The quality of ingredients in the rivers and the fact that there are almost no rules about how to use them. So are we!

Photo of Jennifer Burns Bright, a travel writer, educator, and certified Master Food Preserver who is a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures Rivers of Wine & Culinary cruises.

Jennifer Burns Bright

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine & Culinary | October 31, 2020

Travel writer and educator Jennifer Burns Bright prides herself on being able to go into the ocean and pick a salad for breakfast. When she’s not teaching seafood culinary classes or giving talks on the seafood industry and Pacific Northwest traditions, she’s writing to empower people to better understand their food systems and regional traditions.

Jennifer is a certified Master Food Preserver with a Ph.D. from University of California, Irvine. She has been published in Eugene magazine, Eugene Weekly, AAA’s Via and Journey magazines, and, among others. She’s also written an award-winning food blog, Culinaria Eugenius, taught food studies at the University of Oregon, and co-hosted a food radio show on Eugene's NPR affiliate. Some of her favorite food and wine pairings are raw oysters and Muscadet, halibut curry with an off-dry riesling, and albacore tuna grilled in fig leaves with a full-bodied rosé. Yum! Jennifer can’t wait to show off the wild-caught fish—and many other local tastes—of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Visit her website at

Photo of Shannon Borg, a wine writer, educator, and buyer who is a guest expert on UnCruise Adventures wine & culinary cruises

Shannon Borg

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine & Culinary | November 2 & 9, 2019

Originally from Spokane, Shannon has written about and traveled through Eastern Washington her whole life. She’s passionate about sustainably produced wines and eager to tell the stories of the people who produce amazing food and beverages in her career as a wine writer and educator. Along the Columbia & Snake Rivers, she’s looking forward to spending time with the artisans who push the envelope with their innovative products. Her favorite pairings are, believe it or not, pinot noir and roast duck and cheddar cheese and cabernet sauvignon.

In addition to sipping and storytelling, Shannon has been a wine director and wine buyer. She also has a Wine Fundamentals I & II certificate from the International Sommelier Guild and has been published in Seattle magazine, NW Palate, Wine Press NW, and Washington Tasting Room magazine. Shannon has published two books: The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines and Chefs on the Farm: Inspired Recipes and Lessons from the Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts. She also has a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and a BA in English from Brigham Young University. Plus, Shannon’s an artist! She makes oil paintings, focusing on oyster shells and seaweed—her favorite things to forage in the San Juan Islands.