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Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness (Sitka to Juneau)

8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

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Day 1: Sitka/Embark
In the native Tlingit language, Sitka means the village behind the island and it has been home to various cultures for thousands of years. Sitka has a strong Russian heritage, which is readily apparent as you visit St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church with its onion domes right in the middle of town. Gaze up at the grand totem poles that line the wooded trails through Sitka National Historic Park. At the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, we have close views of species normally seen at a distance in the wild — bald eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. Embark the ship at Sitka’s oceanfront setting, framed by the volcanic peak of Mount Edgecumbe and a string of small islands.
Day 2: Southeast Alaska’s Islands, Bays and Fjords 
Today, nature is our guide as we set forth without a specific plan. We may stop at an isolated beach, where the tide pooling and beachcombing are good and there are forest trails to walk. The landscape is often colored with swaths of wildflowers. We might do some small ship exploring along the shoreline of Admiralty Island, where the massive brown bear is found. Later, as you walk on one of the many islands in the area, keep an eye out for old bear tracks worn into the soil as you move from forest to meadow. This area is home to the highest density of nesting bald eagles in the world, so sightings are very common. If conditions permit, we can do some kayaking, always watching for marine and terrestrial life. 
Day 3: Glacier Bay National Park
We spend the entire day amidst the coves, fjords, tidewater glaciers, freshwater lakes and majestic mountains of Glacier Bay National Park. You’ll see glaciers that end abruptly at the water’s edge and observe them “calving” — tons of ice crashing into the sea — accompanied by an exhilaratingly thunderous sound. Mountain goats scaling the peaks as well as harbor seals and Steller's sea lions are some of the creatures we may observe in these icy waters. You may have the opportunity to see not only one, but two kinds of puffins: the tufted and the horned puffin. A visit to Tidal Inlet may bring the sight of brown bears lumbering up the hillside. If the timing is right, a bear and her cub may be playing in the water. We’ll watch their interactions, knowing the cub will be on its own next year.
Day 4: Icy Strait and the Inian Islands
Icy Strait separates Chichagof Island from the Alaskan mainland. The small, scattered Inian Islands rise from the strait's westernmost waters, comprising an uninhabited wilderness that breaks the Pacific Ocean’s strong tides careening toward Glacier Bay. Icy Strait’s rich waters draw a plethora of marine life, including orca and humpback whales, seals, otters and Dall's porpoise, plus an abundance of Steller sea lions that call the Inian islands home. Watch in wonder as whales surface, while the ship's naturalists lower the hydrophone so you can also listen in on their underwater communications. Cruising, hiking and kayaking offer a chance to explore Inian shorelines thick with bird life, including murrelets, gulls, terns and bald eagles, and forests that harbor brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, marten, mink and land otter.
Day 5: Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait 
These waters are prime areas for both killer whales and humpback whales. It is also fertile ground for the majestic bald eagle which you may see keeping watch atop a tall spruce. As for whales, it’s not uncommon here to see schools of up to 30 humpbacks or orcas. We’ll then get to observe fascinating behavior — breaching, tail-slapping and variations on feeding — as we fill the deck, delighting in their activities and listening to the play-by-play from our expert naturalists, while our skilled Captain and crew keep us in perfect proximity. We may also see sea lions hauled out and dozing. Once ashore, we’ll have the opportunity to walk along a quiet forest trail, accompanied by our naturalists. The still waters are excellent for kayaking, offering another option for appreciating this area close up.
Day 6: Petersburg 
Humpback whales are often spotted as we head toward Le Conte Bay. Weather permitting, you’ll have the opportunity to kayak amid the ice. Or take advantage of the opportunity for an optional flightseeing trip via floatplane or helicopter over nearby Le Conte Glacier. Or for hikes on forest trails, accompanied by our natural history staff. Later we head to the small town of Petersburg on Mitkof Island, a town of 3,500, it was founded more than 100 years ago by Norwegian fishermen. The waters here are rich in crab, shrimp and both pink salmon and humpy salmon. The evening includes a visit from a local fishing family with their interesting stories of life in Petersburg. The ship remains at the dock until we’re called to dinner, featuring the catch of the day.
Day 7: Tracy Arm Fjord- Fjords Terror Wilderness
Early this morning we enter Tracy Arm, a spectacular fjord, with waterfalls cascading from its glacially carved walls. We’ll also pass the Sawyer Glacier, which has been described as bluer than any blue on earth. As you gather on deck to view this spectacular sight, view harbor seals and porpoises and the Arctic terns and Bonaparte gulls. Zodiac trips take you closer to the cracks and booms of falling ice as you get an even better look at the Sawyer Glacier. Keep a watch out for the sure-footed mountain goats scaling the steep, granite cliffs above. We may stop at a gravel beach where we can take out the kayaks and paddle, perhaps with the mournful sound of the loon as part of our “soundtrack.” If you prefer something less strenuous, take a peaceful walk through the woods, stopping to admire the tiny wildflowers and ripe berries.
Day 8: Juneau, Alaska/Embark Ship 
Before embarking the ship, we stop by the Alaska State Museum for an artful introduction to this unique state. The Museum has a fascinating permanent collection with an emphasis on Alaska’s native peoples and natural history. Embark ship and have some time to settle into our cabins before dinner. After dinner onboard, a local entertainer engages you with a music and slide presentation. If you prefer, take a few hours to yourself and explore the port of Juneau. South Franklin Street parallels the harbor area and offers a wide array of shops, restaurants and bars. Stroll into the downtown area to find more shops, including those offering goods particular to Alaska. After an evening of exploring or entertainment, settle back into the ship for an 11 p.m. departure to the pristine wildness of Tracy Arm.
All This Included
Where can you wake to the cry of a soaring bald eagle, watch tons of ice thunder from the face of a glacier, walk in an old-growth spruce forest, and observe lunge-feeding whales, all while cruising in complete comfort aboard a small ship far from crowds? It's all here in Southeast Alaska, a verdant wilderness of icy fjords and forested islands teeming with wildlife. Our Alaska small ship cruise will take you on an unforgettable journey through this vast coastal wilderness in a setting far from big cruise ships — yet our voyages aboard the M/V Sea Lion and M/V Sea Bird include the waters of the famous Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park. Join our expert on-board naturalists as we hike forest trails to cascading waterfalls, watch sea birds and identify wildflowers. Enjoy Zodiac and kayaking forays into protected waters and learn about Alaska’s rich Native American heritage. A full day is spent in Glacier Bay National Park.
  • All accommodations aboard ships or in hotels per itinerary or similar
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on final day
  • Shore excursions
  • Sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Some gratuities
  • Special access permits
  • Transfers to and from group flights
  • Use of kayaks
  • Taxes and service charges
  • Services of our expedition staff
  • Weave through secluded channels in Alaska's sheltered Inside Passage, a wilderness realm of ice-choked fjords, emerald mountains and abundant wildlife
  • From the deck of your small ship, scout for humpback whales, Dall porpoise, sea lions and mountain goats as you explore the geological time capsule that is Glacier Bay
  • Paddle placid waters among remote islands on guided kayaking excursions, looking for bears on shore and bald eagles in the tops of towering Sitka spruce and cedars
Cruising: Cabin onboard M/V Quest
  • Cabin upgrades are available.
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 100 Travelers.
  • This trip requires light hiking but can include long hikes or kayaking for those who desire.
  • This itinerary should serve as a guideline only; the actual stops are determined by weather, wildlife activity, and a host of factors in order to provide the best possible experience. This flexibility is what makes traveling on our nimble expedition ships so much more rewarding than on a large vessel with a locked voyage plan.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.