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Southeast Alaska Cruise: Whales, Orcas, and Bears

An intimate and in-depth exploration of one of America's wildest places aboard a 12-passenger cruise ship. See whales and other marine mammals, look for bears, wolves, and moose, and enjoy breathtaking forest landscapes, glaciers, and icebergs.

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  • Six days spent cruising, kayaking, and hiking in wildlife rich Glacier Bay National Park
  • Get up close with glaciers and icebergs, and enjoy breathtaking forest landscapes throughout the trip
  • See humpback whales on their summer feeding grounds. Killer whales (orcas) may also be spotted.
  • Enjoy one-on-one photography instruction from environmental writer and conservation photographer, Jaymi Heimbuch

Read our 2016 trip report and photo journal from trip leader Jaymi Heimbuch.

This is not your average Alaska cruise! Traveling aboard the 12-passenger Snow Goose, we will explore the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska including Glacier Bay and Chatham Strait with a goal to maximize wildlife sightings and examine our natural surroundings in depth.

Over our 10-day/9-night cruise we will have opportunities for wondrous encounters with humpback whales, bears, moose, mountain goats, sea otters, seals, sea lions, eagles and horned puffins to name just a few. Armed with onboard water sampling capabilities, hydrophones, microscopes, and other tools, we will go beyond basic wildlife observation to truly explore and appreciate the details of this magnificent ecosystem. Six double sea kayaks and a large skiff allow us to fully explore the coastline and make excursions on the shore.

A highlight of our experience will be the opportunity to explore Glacier Bay, a pristine and protected wilderness area that few vessels are granted permission to access. Old growth forests give way to bare rock as we venture into the upper reaches of the bay, where retreating tidewater glaciers rumble and roar as they drop huge icebergs into the sea. Dwarfed by towering granite cliffs, we will wind our way up to the fjord to visit the faces of these massive glaciers and to learn about plant succession, glaciation, geology, and the amazing biodiversity of this wild area.

Leaving Glacier Bay we head toward the town of Sitka, traveling either around the outer coast of Chichagof Island or south through the protected inside waterways of Chatham and Peril Straits. Either route offers excellent sights and spectacular humpback whale viewing; there is even the possibility of a stop at hot springs along the way.

Learn more about life on board the Snow Goose below and get to know our naturalist and photography instructor for this expedition, renowned environmental writer and conservation photographer Jaymi Heimbuch, who will provided one-on-one photography instruction throughout the trip.

Wildlife Highlights

During the summer months, the Inside Passage of Alaska is home to a large concentration of feeding humpback whales, and we should have many opportunities to observe these gentle giants and their unique behaviors, including breaching and bubble net feeding. We may also have the chance to see resident and transient killer whales (orcas) towards the end of the trip, and other marine mammals including Dall's porpoise, Steller sea lions, and more.

Bald eagles are abundant in this region and will be seen throughout the trip, and we may also see golden eagles and puffins, in addition to many other bird species. With luck, we may also encounter brown (grizzly) and black bears along the shore.

Trip Dates & Cost

2017: Dates and rate to be announced. Contact us to be notified.

*Trip price does not include airfare to/from the start and end points of the trip. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.


Jaymi Heimbuch is an environmental news writer for Mother Nature Network and a conservation photojournalist. Her work has appeared in print and online publications worldwide. Jaymi is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and is an Affiliate with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). She is also the author of the award-winning book The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction. Jaymi has always had a profound interest in wildlife and the natural world. Learn more about Jaymi at jaymiheimbuch.com.


Our itinerary and daily plans will be flexible to accommodate the tides and weather and to take advantage of the surprises and opportunities that occur on each trip.

Day 1: Embark - Gustavus, Alaska
Board the Snow Goose at the Park Service Dock in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay (a short taxi ride from Gustavus) in the late morning. Enjoy lunch on board the Snow Goose and a safety and crew orientiation before we embark on our journey through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Days 2-6: Exploring Glacier Bay National Park
Guided by our naturalist and crew, we will follow flexible routing intended to maximize our opportunities to view marine and terrestrial wildlife and to explore the shoreline. The waters here are icy cold and the air is crisp and clear. Glacier Bay is a National Park and affords all the protections that come with such status. Wildlife abounds within the bay, which makes this gem an exceptional place to explore via kayak from the 'mothership' without the disturbance of motorized vessels

Days 7-8: Icy Strait, Chichagof Island / Chatham Strait / Peril Strait
Guided by our naturalist and crew, we will follow flexible routing intended to maximize our opportunities to view marine and terrestrial wildlife.

Leaving Glacier Bay, we have two options for our remaining days in transit toward the town of Sitka. Weather permitting, we will head west around the outer coast of Chichagof Island and make our way through the tiny islets and passages of the wind and wave swept outer coast. If the weather looks like it's going to be challenging, we will transit south through the protected inside waterways of Chatham and Peril Straits. Either route offers excellent sights and spectacular humpback whale viewing; there is even the possibility of a stop at hot springs along the way.

Each day there will be time for kayaking or walks ashore. We will spot and identify fascinating wildlife, explore the shoreline for intertidal creatures, and keep a daily record of the various species of plants and animals we observe.

Day 9: Disembark – Sitka, Alaska
On our final morning we arrive in Sitka, AK, a small fishing town situated on Sitka Sound, which is on the western edge of Baranof Island. We plan to arrive in port at 11AM, in time to catch an afternoon flight to Seattle or Vancouver or to stay in Sitka and enjoy the many sights in town and the surrounding areas.


Our cruise takes place aboard the power vessel Snow Goose. 65 feet in length, she is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed passenger vessel that has a steel hull, six private cabins (double occupancy), and three shared bathrooms with two hot showers. The spacious salon has large windows looking out to the water, and the upper wheelhouse provides an excellent place to spot wildlife. There are six double sea kayaks for use in protected waters and a large skiff for shore excursions.

The Snow Goose is outfitted with the curious student of nature in mind, and on board equipment includes a hydrophone for listening to whales, microscopes for examining plants and small organisms, and an excellent reference library. Food on board is largely sourced from local, sustainable, and organic sources, and the Snow Goose chefs bring their creativity and love of food into each dish, from freshly baked scones and frittatas in the mornings to truffle potato cakes, roasted romanesco, and seared local steak topped with smoked salt.

The Snow Goose naturalists and crew are deeply committed to research and conservation, and are focused on taking travelers with curious minds, a sense of adventure, and an appreciation for our awesome planet on cruises through Alaska's Inside Passage.

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