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.

Alaska Insider


Amy Gulick

Alaska: Whales, Wildlife, & Glaciers | May 27, 2018

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.


Caroline Fox

Alaska: Alaska's Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise | April 12, 2019

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


Cathy Connor

Alaska: Alaska's Fjords & Glaciers | April 6, 2019
Alaska: Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise | April 13, 2019

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.


Joe Upton

Alaska: Northern Passages & Glacier Bay | May 26, 2018

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.


Kim Heacox

Alaska: Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise | May 26, 2018

Raised in the western states of Idaho and Washington, Kim got his first taste of Alaska as a naturalist ranger in Glacier Bay National Park. That first season offered plenty of adventure for test-your-mettle expedition kayaking. He also met his wife there, who was also a park ranger. Photographer, conservationist, and award-winning author of over a dozen books, Kim’s work ranges from literary fiction to Alaska’s natural history and history of exploration to memoir.

A resident Alaskan storyteller for more than two decades, Kim and his wife live in the small town of Gustavus, accessible only by boat or plane. Known for his passionate love of Alaska, his writing on his home state has appeared in many publications including National Geographic, Audubon, and Orion.

Birding / Ornithology


Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Pacific Northwest: Explore! Olympic Wilderness & San Juan Islands | April 21, 2018

Naturalist, author, and speaker, Lyanda is working to help connect people with nature in their everyday lives. Her belief is that no matter where we live, in a “forest cabin, suburban bungalow, or urban condo…connection to nature inspires our deepest imaginings, artfulness, intelligence, and activism.” Based in Seattle, she has written multiple books on how experiences with nature and wildlife can be found right outside your backdoor.

A master birder with a graduate degree in eco-philosophy, Lyanda has directed educational programs for Seattle Audubon, rehabilitated raptors, and conducted seabird research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her work has earned her honors including the Washington State Book Award and Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. Learn more at

Marine Biology


Jackie Hedgpeth

Alaska: Alaska's Glaciers & Whales | August 19, 2018

A “Jane-of-all-trades” and master of many, Jackie is a 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 sailed worldwide aboard ships as a guest marine biology host and naturalist lecturer for almost 20 years.

Jackie’s deep interest in Marine Biology has taken her to Alaska each summer since 1997, and around the globe from New Zealand to the Red Sea, Russia, Cambodia, and, extensively, to Central America. Throughout her research and travels, she has followed population dynamics of humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, salmon, and sea birds. Her passion for studying marine mammals and ocean ecosystems has grown to include scuba diving and underwater photography. A PADI certified rescue diver, her most recent dives have been in Cuba, Thailand/Myanmar, Fiji, and Churchill, Manitoba with Beluga whales. While her strongest desire it’s to always be in the water, Jackie spends her downtime cultivating the vineyard she and her husband own in the Umpqua Valley AVA, Oregon. With such a strong background in science, it’s no surprise that the pair is in the habit of conducting “faux science experiments” on the vines and soil to find out what work best in their terroir.


Dr. Wallace "J" Nicols

Mexico's Sea of Cortes: Baja's Bounty | January 12, 2019

Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols has been called the “Keeper of the Sea” by GQ Magazine and “a visionary” by Outside Magazine. An entrepreneurial scientist, water advocate, author, and well-known marine biologist, J. focuses on what he calls the Blue Mind—an mindset that values healthy oceans and waterways and our relationships with them. A prolific lecturer, J. has appeared in many media outlets including NPR, BBC, PBS, Animal Planet, Fast Company, Surfer, and Scientific American. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in biology and Spanish from DePauw University, a Master’s in natural resource economics and policy from Duke University, and a PhD in wildlife ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. He was the recipient of a Bradley Fellowship to study sea level rise at Duke, a University of Arizona Marshall Fellowship, and Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico marine station in Mazatlán.

Work, play, and passion are intertwined for J. He lives with his family on the California coast, in an area known as the Slowcoast for its residents’ approach of supporting local artisans and farmers, and the marine environment. An avid traveler, he has trekked the entire Pacific coastline from Oregon to Mexico. In 2010 he received an honorary doctorate in science from DePauw, was inducted as a Fellow National member of the Explorers Club in 2011, and in 2014 received the University of Arizona's Global Achievement Award. Learn more:

Music / Entertainment


Letters from Home

Alaska: Alaska's Glaciers & Whales | June 3, 2018 - book early! Last date sold out!

Bombshell singing sensations Letters From Home have been fondly referred to as "America's New Sweethearts." Across the country, audiences of all ages enjoy their beautiful harmonies, brilliantly choreographed tap dancing, side-splitting comedy, and audience interaction.

The group was created by Erinn Diaz, whose father served in the United States Coast Guard and suggested she produce an Andrews Sisters tribute show. Erin thought it would be a fun way to entertain and an opportunity to perform some great music and had no idea at the time that this "little show" would have such a significant impact on her life and on the lives of others. Together with Courtney Groves, Letters from Home tours the country to honor veterans, active military and their families through song. More on their website:



Jacqueline Deely

Costa Rica & Panama: Unveiled Wonders | November 16, 2018

Originally from the United Kingdom, Jacqueline has lived in the U.S. for most of her adult life and calls northern California home. Specializing in wildlife photography, she is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association. With a deep interest in conservation, she utilizes her photos to raise awareness and funds for the causes that align with her values. Jacqueline’s images have been published by and supported Audubon California, the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, and the Wildlife Conservation Network. She has won numerous awards from organizations including the North American Nature Photography Association and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

What began for Jacqueline as a hobby has become both an exciting way of life and a dream come true. 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. You can view Jacqueline's website here:


Jaymi Heimbuch

Alaska: Whales, Wildlife & Glaciers | August 26, 2018

A San Francisco-based photographer and writer, Jaymi is passionate about creating engaging storytelling through her words and images. Her special focus has been telling the stories of animal life across the world, from the wildest wildlife to furry companions who run wild in our backyards. She has leant her skills to building awareness about the endangered Ethiopian wolf, river otter recovery, and documenting the urban coyote and gray fox.

Jaymi’s work has been published in National Geographic Books, Sierra Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, Huffington Post, and BBC Wildlife Magazine. She is a board member with the North American Nature Photography Association, an International League of Conservation Photographers affiliate and member of shelter animal advocacy and art non-profit, HeARTs Speak. In 2014, a photo she took of a rescue dog was selected by the United Nations Postal Administration as one of only six images to be made into a stamp for International Day of Happiness.


Steve Essig

Mexico's Sea of Cortes: Baja's Bounty | March 23, 2019

Steve Essig has been a professional photographer and cinematographer for over 35 years. An experienced racing sailor and scuba diver, his love of the outdoors began when he climbed his first mountain with his father at age seven. Similarly, he has been passionate about photography since buying his first camera at the age eight. Steve’s quest for adventure and unique images has taken him across the globe including assignments to Tahiti, Alaska, the Sea of Cortés, Cape Horn, and Micronesia.

With over five hundred magazine covers to his credit, Steve has a wealth of photographic experience. In addition the natural world, he’s shot for sports, celebrities, automobiles, and travel, and filmed award- winning documentaries, concerts and commercials. He loves teaching, sharing insights and helping other photographers create stunning images of the world around us in his relaxed, personalized and approachable style.



Lee Stetson

Alaska: Whales, Wildlife & Glaciers | July 22, 2018

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.


Susan Shillinglaw

Mexico's Sea of Cortes: Baja's Bounty | February 2, 2019

There aren’t many things that get Dr. Susan Shillinglaw as pumped as John Steinbeck. She has been a Steinbeck scholar for 30 years, and whatever your personal stance on his writing, her enthusiasm for this American author is infectious. She is intimately familiar with Steinbeck’s work including The Log from the Sea of Cortez—and will pepper your journey with stories from his classic 1940s voyage. Since 2015, Dr. Shillinglaw has been the Director of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. Prior to that, she was a professor of American Literature at San Jose University where she also served as the Director of the University’s Center for Steinbeck Studies for 18 years and the President’s Scholar for 2012-2013.

With her husband, marine biologist William Gilly, Susan has co-directed five summer institutes for high school teachers, with a sixth institute coming in 2018. Dr. Susan has published extensively on Steinbeck, including two books and the introductions to several editions of Penguin New American Library books. She is currently working on a short biography of Steinbeck for Reaktion Books, London.



Anna Winton

Alaska: Glacier Bay Small Ship Cruise—Fitness & Yoga | September 2, 2018

Anna hails from Minneapolis where she grew up as a competitive gymnast. After college, her interests turned toward triathlons, and technique and strength-driven sports. A National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist, and certified peak pilates trainer, Anna is passionate about helping people from all walks of life find their way to healthier lifestyles. She brings awareness of fitness functionality to all endeavors, focusing on athleticism, muscle focus, and postural awareness in all endeavors whether it’s a hike, kettlebell class, or Life Time TEAM boot camp.

Instructing a wide spectrum of courses from barre to strength training and cardio dance, Anna has taught group fitness classes for over a decade. She specializes in utilizing pilates to overcome injuries, joint replacements, chronic pain, and imbalances due to sports, overuse, and everyday life. Outside of her classes at Life Time Fitness, Anna spends as much time in the great outdoors as possible, whether paddling on the lake or enjoying happy hour on a sunny patio with friends.


Mary Van Heukelom

Alaska: Alaska's Glacier Country—Fitness & Yoga | May 3, 2019

Mary places the focus of her practice on guiding and inspiring others to discover their optimal health of mind, body and spirit. She is a certified personal trainer, ACSM-certified cancer exercise trainer, and RRCA-certified running coach. Mary has also completed training seminars in kettlebell, TRX, Pilates, indoor cycling, HIIT, wellness coaching, and meditation. She brings on board unique expertise in corrective exercises to ease pain and improve balance, the positive impact of meditation on whole health, goal setting, nutrition, and key training for ideal health.

Mary takes a whole-health approach to helping her clients overcome barriers through small group training where she can provide focused attention to meet individual needs. She specializes in coaching cancer survivors on a holistic path toward eliminating relapse and boosting recovery. Throughout her programs, Mary has trained and led cancer survivors on treks to Mt. Everest Basecamp, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Race Across America, among other challenging objectives. An adventurer to the core, she finds a way to get outside—ski, kayak, bike, swim, no matter the weather and conditions in her Iowa home.


Tracy Jennings-Hill

Alaska: Glacier Bay Small Ship Cruise—Fitness & Yoga | September 2, 2018

Tracy discovered yoga after sustaining an injury on active duty with the US Air Force. She discovered the balance of a healthy lifestyle in vinyasa style yoga. Retiring from the military after serving 20 years, she pursued her dream of becoming a yoga and fitness professional. Tracy is a registered yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer specializing in vinyasa, yoga philosophy, and Ayurveda. She has taught in India, Taiwan, Germany, and Egypt. In addition to yoga, she has taught group fitness for twenty years and holds NASM and ACE personal trainer certifications.

Tracy believes in meeting her students where they are and helping them grow, and is continuously inspired when she sees the “lightbulb” come on in their eyes as they find new personal growth. Currently, she is the studio manager at Life Time Fitness in Georgia, where she instructs classes with a focus on functional training and daily meditation and yoga practices for longevity and to perpetuate total wellness. In addition to yoga, she teaches indoor cycling, dance, and strength and endurance training.



April Reddout

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine | October 27, 2018

Motivated by her curious nature, April Reddout dove headfirst into a career in wine in 2008. Over the years, she’s come to realize the more she learns, the more she realizes there’s even more still to discover. One of her biggest drives in her work is finding ways to debunk wine myths and help people feel confident while they learn about wine. As the wine program director for the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, WA, she designs and oversees the wine education programs provided by the center. Programs provided by the center include topics from Washington vs. German tastings to the region’s history of wine.

Thoroughly involved in the industry, April judges 10 wine competitions per year and has served as a panelist for Great Northwest Wine. In 2017 she will serve as a judge for the SavorNW Wine Awards, one of the largest competitions highlighting Pacific Northwest wines.


Don Corson

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine | November 3, 2018

Don Corson is the winemaker and co-owner of Camaraderie Cellars with his wife Vickie. Located on the Olympic Peninsula, it’s one of Washington’s oldest wineries. Founded in 1992 when Washington’s wine industry was just beginning to blossom, Camaraderie Cellars wines have earned more than 400 medals and awards. Don started out making only Cabernet Sauvignon and has expanded to over nine varieties from five recognized viticultural areas.

Don’s PhD in Geography also gives him a unique perspective on the wine regions of Washington and Oregon, in particular on how the unprecedented Missoula Floods helped shape the Pacific Northwest into an ideal wine region. Passionate about wine and teaching, Don has held positions with the Washington Wine Institute and Washington Wine Commission. Don can’t wait to bring his energy and wine expertise to the Columbia and Snake Rivers.


Jade Helm

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine | November 10, 2018

Jade Helm is a wine writer and educator. Born and raised in Georgia, she now calls the Pacific Northwest home and has travelled throughout Washington and Oregon teaching about wine. After a career in sales and public relations, Jade took a year to explore dance and wine and got hooked on the grape. Now she’s most passionate about helping people explore wine through travel and the Northwest Wine Studies program at Chemeketa Community College.

Jade has a Bachelor of Science from Georgia College and State University and a diploma in wine and spirits from Wine and Spirits Education Trust. She is a certified sommelier from Court of Master Sommeliers and a certified specialist in wine from Society of Wine Educators. Jade is a frequent contributor to a number of wine and travel publications including Oregon Wine Press and Northwest Travel & Life Magazine. She is a fearless cook and primary author of Tasting Pour, a blog about wine, cocktails, and food.


Mimi Martin

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine | November 24, 2018

Mimi Martin is the director and wine educator at The Wine & Spirit Archive. She holds a WSET diploma in wine & spirits and a master of arts in food studies from New York University where she was also the director of the undergraduate food studies program. She has trained restaurant and winery staff in Oregon and Washington and regularly teaches and travels to the Columbia Gorge, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla Valley, and Yakima Valley.

Mimi enjoys sharing the world of wine with students and the complicated and delicious ways food and wine interact with one another. She says no one is ever unhappy when they're tasting and learning about wine. She raves about the Pacific Northwest's broad range of amazing wine styles and the fact that within such a short distance we have the opportunity to learn about and taste a broad range of wine styles.


Sarah Wolcott

Columbia & Snake Rivers: Rivers of Wine | October 20, 2018

Growing up on farm near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers and attending college in Walla Walla, Washington, Sarah is intimately familiar with the rich, wine-growing regions of Washington and Oregon. After leading tours in the Walla Walla wine country during her college years, she continued on to earn her wine-specific master’s degree from Kedge Business School in Bordeaux, France. Her “hands-on” education includes travels and tastings in wine regions throughout the U.S. and the world including Latin America and Europe.

Sarah is an instructor of wine marketing and tourism at Washington State University and is a wine-business strategy consultant. She is passionate about telling the story of wine and has written about wine for over fifteen years, including for Bend Lifestyle Magazine and spoke about busting the myths of wine at TEDxSpokane. Residing in Bend, Oregon with her fly-fishing guide husband, she spends her downtime rafting the rivers near home whenever she can.