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


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.


David Shaw

Alaska: Alaska's Glacier Country | April 26, 2019

David shares some of Alaska’s most wild places and creatures through his lens and words a 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.


Kate Troll & Bill Hanson

Alaska: Alaska's Glacier Country | May 10, 2019
Alaska: Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise | May 18, 2019

Wife-husband duo, Kate Troll and Bill Hanson share a love of words and of Alaska. They moved north to The Great Land in the 1970s to pursue careers in natural resources and land management. In their retirement, both have focused on sharing their experiences and passion for Alaska through written word.

An author, adventurer, and activist, Kate was the executive director for Alaska’s largest fishing organization and pioneered a program to implement salmon stream protections in rural Alaska. In addition to her bi-monthly column in the Alaska Dispatch News, she has written a memoir and screenplays for several films. Bill spent his career as a supervisory biologist, forester, and fire effects specialists for agencies in Alaska including US Dept. of Fish & Game and Bureau of Land Management. Long nurturing his interest in fiction and creative non-fiction, Bill is an Alaskan blogger and social media storyteller, and is currently writing an adventure novel about a fictional Alaskan fisherman set in the 1890s.

Birding / Ornithology


Esteban Biamonte

Costa Rica & Panama:
Pure Panama & Costa Rica Cruise | August 26; September 7, 2019
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.


Maria Elena Muriel

Mexico's Sea of Cortes: Baja's Bounty | February 9, 2019

Ornithologist, ecotourism guide-trainer, planner, and coach Maria Elena lives by Isaac Newton’s words; ""we all are standing in 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.

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:



Cameron Zegers

Alaska: Whales, Wildlife & Glaciers | August 11, 2019

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 rain jacket and recommends rain cover for cameras.


Christopher Baker

Costa Rica & Panama: Pure Panama & Costa Rica Cruise | June 27, 2019

Travel photographer, writer, and journalist, Christopher Baker has been capturing images of his travels and for his stories throughout his entire career. A contributing photographer for Getty Images and National Geographic, his work has been printed in more than 200 publications throughout the world and has earned him acclaim. His awards include the 2015 North American Travel Journalist Association Awards Gold Prize in Best Photography: Portrait/People and the 2008 Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalist of the Year. Christopher has authored and co-authored a number of photographic coffee table books, as well as guidebooks and travel books.

Based in California, Christopher has travelled extensively for his career—with a special focus on Cuba, and also to fuel his passion for adventure motorcycling. He has led many photo tours, provided workshops on adventure and travel photography, and has appeared as a guest speaker in forums from National Geographic Society Live to the World Affairs Council and aboard cruise ships.


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, The Marine Mammal Center, The Snow Leopard Conservancy, Cheetah Conservation Botswana 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.


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.


JD Andrews

Alaska: Alaska's Glacier Country | May 24, 2019

JD has circled the globe for over twenty years as a photographer and videographer. His passion for capturing and sharing the world’s beauty has taken him to all seven continents and 102 countries, and counting. JD’s favorite thing about photographing in Alaska? The way the light changes everything from moment to moment.

A graduate of the University of Miami in film, JD has been featured in numerous publications including National Geographic Traveler, BBC Travel, and the New York Times as well as received seven Emmys for his video work. He recommends rain covering for gear and the smart phone app – Snapseed though he personally never travels without patience. JD’s favorite place to explore is the arctic. Learn more about JD’s work at


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.



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.


Hunt Parr

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

Originally from Petersburg, Alaska, Hunt is currently based in New York City. A highly-sought yoga teacher and modern dance artist, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. A registered yoga teacher, he completed some of his 1,000 teacher training hours under renowned instructors Cyndi Lee and Adrienne Burke. He has provided yoga instruction and consultation for Buzzfeed, A&E Networks, Animal Planet, Lifetime and the History Channel and has been featured on the Huffington Post and in Yoga Journal publications. He currently teaches private sessions and also maintains a busy group class schedule at several studios in the city. Hunt is also a Reiki Master teacher and a devoted student of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

While his classes are vigorous, Hunt always adds a bit of fun and play to the practice. The sequences he presents are unique and his style of instruction had been described by students as lyrical. Calling himself a “student of anatomy, meditation, movement, music, and happiness” you can be sure your body, heart, and spirit will be charged up and inspired after a practice with him.


Liz Galloway

Mexico's Sea of Cortes: Baja's Bounty—Fitness & Yoga | January 26, 2019

With over 17 years in spa therapy and training, health and wellness are both a career and a lifestyle for Liz. And there’s no stopping her. As a fitness instructor, yoga teacher, wellness instructor and retreat host, massage therapist, and spa trainer and director, she has pushed her personal boundaries and learning while helping guests achieve their goals. Liz has a BA in business and hospitality management, is certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and the Professional Association of Wilderness Guide and Instructors, and has contributed to numerous publications. From teaching and running luxury spa brands to sky diving and bungee jumping, Liz loves a challenge.

She also believes being active in the outdoors is key to balanced living—which might be why her favorite place to explore is anywhere by the ocean. Liz has also spent six months in Morocco studying Arabic, surfing, and learning about the spas, wellness, and culture of the area. Her goal is to join the century travel club by traveling to over 100 countries. Wherever she goes, Liz packs her headphones, music, and audio books, along with her mint/eucalyptus face spritz.


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.


Melanie Psaltakis

Alaska: Alaska's Glacier Country—Fitness & Yoga | September 1, 2019

Melanie started practicing yoga to complement running, biking, and hiking and quickly realized yoga integrated her body, mind, and heart—giving her a happier and more balanced life. She now teaches yoga in fitness centers, studios, corporate settings, and at a Yoga in the Park series as well as provides private instruction and leads yoga retreats.

Melanie is certified in Yoga Alliance E-RYT 500, YACEP, YogaFit for Warriors Trauma-Sensitive Certified Yoga Teacher, Anusara Immersion Program, and AFAA-CGFI. Melanie has travelled the world both to teach yoga and experience new places from photographing Sweden’s Northern Lights to scuba diving with sharks to returning to her favorite spots, New Zealand and Greece. She also combines her love of fitness with volunteering by being a part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Bike Patrol, offering assistance with bike problems and information about the park. She is excited to practice yoga with you in Alaska and inspire you to be your personal best.


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 | October 27, 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.


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.