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Whales, Bears and Glaciers: Southeast Alaska by Small Ship

Program Number: 19991RJ
Start and End Dates:
7/23/2013 - 8/3/2013;
Duration: 11 nights
Location: Alaska
Price starting at: $6,595.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Small Ship Cruising
Meals: 29; 11 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners    

Delve into the natural history and ecology of Alaska on this adventure aboard the small motor vessel Snow Goose. Observe humpback whales in their spectacular natural environment and see bears feeding in a rushing stream. Journey up a spectacular mountain fjord to find icebergs and a majestic tidewater glacier. Go ashore for nature walks to the tumbling waterfalls, meadows and bogs of Tongass National Forest, America’s largest.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles per day over uneven terrain; various options of distances are often available. Climbing in and out of small boats is necessary to go ashore.
Please note all daily itineraries remain flexible to accommodate wildlife sightings and interests of the group, making no two trips the same.
There are no single occupancies available onboard the ship on this program.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Sitka, Ala., 1 night; aboard Snow Goose, 9 nights; Seattle, Wash., 1 night.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

Days 1-2:
Arrival Sitka, Alaska / embark Snow Goose

Sail north through Sitka Sound, keeping an eye out for killer whales and the soaring seabirds of the Saint Lazaria Wilderness. Enjoy expert-led excursions ashore or explore the shoreline in stable double sea kayaks.
Lodging: Sitka hotel

Day 3:
Peril Straits and Chatham Strait:

As you voyage between Baranof and Chichagof Islands and into Chatham Strait, look for sea otters at play and brown bears strolling along the shore.

Days 4-8:
Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage:

Follow a flexible itinerary based on weather patterns and wildlife movement as you explore this area where many humpback whales feed. Visit the tiny community of Baranof Warm Springs and bathe in the natural hot springs. Discover stunning Admiralty Island National Monument, home to abundant brown bears, eagles and mountain goats. Sail through the breathtaking fjords of Stephens Passage to see the stunning glaciers of Endicott Arm.

Day 9:
Wrangell Narrows:

Voyage through winding Wrangell Narrows, inaccessible to larger ships, and experience the beauty of its small bays and channels.

Day 10:
Anan Wildlife Observatory:

Venture into the Tongass National Forest to a series of viewing shelters and walkways built by the U.S. Forest Service. This area has a large population of black and brown bears that can often be spotted fishing for salmon in a rushing river.

Day 11-12:
Wrangell / disembark / group flight to Seattle, Wash. / departure

Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the Wrangell airport for a group flight to Seattle. Spend the night in Seattle before the program ends the following day.
Seattle hotel

Snow Goose

This 65-foot motor vessel was originally built as a private yacht and was renovated to become a U.S. Coast Guard-certified passenger vessel. The main deck features a spacious salon, natural history library, galley and dining area. Large windows provide views on all sides and the upper bridge deck provides a vantage point for spotting wildlife.

Meals and Lodgings
   Shee Atika Totem Square Inn
  Sitka, AK 1 night
   Snow Goose
  At Sea 9 nights
   Best Western Airport Executel
  Seattle 1 night
 Shee Atika Totem Square Inn
Type: Inn
  Description: The Shee Atiká Totem Square Inn puts you at the heart of Sitka, Alaska – only steps from world-class fishing and water sports, fascinating history and charming shops – all set against the striking backdrop of Mt. Edgecumbe, a 3,200-ft. dormant volcano. The hotel sits on the spot of the Sheet’ka Kiks.adi Tlingit’s sacred Herring Rock, a portion of which can be seen across Katlian Street adjacent to the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House. It also is the site of the original New Archangel Shipyard, where the first Pacific Coast steamship was built in 1806. Katlian street is one of the original pathways of the Native Sitkans, with an estimated age of more than 5,000 years. The hotel is across the street from the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa-Kahidi Community House, Alaska Pioneers Home and historic Pioneer Bar, one of the highlights of Sitka nightlife. A short walk away, you’ll find the cruise ship lightering dock and several historical sites, including St. Michael’s Cathedral and Sheet’ka Kiks.ádi Tlingit’s sacred Herring Rock.
  Contact info: 201 Katlian St
Sitka, AL 99835 USA
phone: 866-300-1353
  Room amenities: The Inn has 68 rooms, most of which offer water, mountain or town views. Each room has cable TV, a radio alarm clock, writing table, coffee maker, hair dryer, and voice mail. All of our guest rooms are no smoking, as is our entire building.
  Facility amenities: •Complimentary Airport Shuttle Service •Comfortable guest rooms with cable TV and voice mail •Complimentary High-Speed Internet Access in every guest room •Wireless Internet Access (WiFi) •Business Center with free internet access •Fully equipped exercise facility •Guest laundry & snack center with microwave •On-site restaurant & retail facilities
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: N/A 

 Snow Goose
Type: Cruise Ship
  Ship Information: This 65' steel motor-vessel was built in Alaska in 1973 as a private yacht. Ideal for research and education programs, she sleeps 12 passengers in 6 private cabins (double occupancy), with three heads and two showers. The main deck features a spacious, airy salon, natural history library, galley and dining area. Large windows provide great viewing on all sides with easy access to the deck. The upper bridge deck provides a good vantage point for spotting wildlife and comfortable seating for passengers who wish to get involved with the navigation of the ship. Snow Goose is a US Coast Guard certified passenger vessel. The Snow Goose runs Southeast Alaska departures along with the Island Odyssey
  Contact info: 252 East First Street
North Vancouver, BC  Canada
phone: 604-980-3800
  Room amenities: Cozy onboard cabins with shared bathroom facilities.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: Three shared bathrooms and two showers.

 Best Western Airport Executel
Type: Hotel
  Contact info: 20717 International Boulevard
Seattle, WA 98198 USA
phone: 206-878-3300
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
3:00 pm You will be staying at Shee Atika Totem Square Inn that night.
  End of Program:
10:00 am You will be staying at Best Western Airport Executel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Please note, although a passport is not required for US citizens it is advisable that you have one in case of rare unforeseen flight deviations into British Columbia. In addition to the Participant Information Form, you must also complete the Bluewater Liability Relase form included in this packet. This form can be mailed, faxed or emailed to: Road Scholar Adventures Afloat 11 Ave De Lafayette, Boston, MA 02111 FAX: 617-728-4933
  Parking availability:
No parking available.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Sitka, AK
  From End of Program
  Location:  Seattle
Travel Details



From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle




1.5 mi


The Shee Atika Totem Square Inn provides complimentary shuttle service from the airport. Please dial 31 at the courtesy phone outside baggage claim area to arrange pickup.

Elevation Note: No

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrivals/Welcome Reception
(Tuesday, July 23)
 Afternoon: Independent arrivals to Sitka, AK. Meet your Sitka Group Leader, Mary Stevsvold for a welcome and dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel restaurant.
 Evening: Evening free to explore Sitka or chat with fellow participants.
Accommodations: Shee Atika Totem Square Inn
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Board Snow Goose/Sitka Sound/St Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge
(Wednesday, July 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer and board the Snow Goose. A transfer will arrive at the hotel at approximately 10:45am. Embarkation begins at 11:00am. In an emergency the Snow Goose can be contacted at 306-201-3799 or 360-393-6657.
 Lunch: Lunch served on board by the Snow Goose chef.
 Afternoon: After cabin assignment and a safety orientation, we depart Sitka heading north through Sitka Sound. Just offshore is the St Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge – a significant bird nesting island. Pelagic seabirds, such as colorful puffins, murres, and shearwaters are only found on the outer shores. We are always on the lookout for wildlife on the water or along the shore. Orcas (or killer whales) can be spotted at any time during the voyage. Each night we will anchor at a different beautiful, secluded bay. These protected locations are our best opportunities to explore the shoreline by kayak. We will introduce guests to the stable, double sea kayaks onboard, with a safety orientation before guests can experience the pleasure of silently moving along the shoreline and looking at sea creatures just a few inches beneath them.
 Dinner: Dinner will be served buffet style once we are anchored for the night.
 Evening: During the trip our crew and expert naturalist will help us learn about the local ecology and the native cultures through discussions, slide shows and the use of the onboard natural history library. The US Forest Service has developed a series of trails throughout the Tongass National Forest and we expect to walk several of them during the voyage. Each night, take part in the nightly Bluewater custom- The Chart Talk. The skipper will bring out a large map of the area and go over all the places traveled that day. At the end of the trip this is a great map, which guests usually copy onto their own maps, or write down all the places in their journal. The on-board Naturalist will highlight the species seen that day and hear from the group on what they want to learn tomorrow. After this, you are free to stay up and read (extensive book collection available onboard), play some card games, or retire for the evening.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Peril Straits/Chatham Strait
(Thursday, July 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served on board around 8am.
 Morning: Keep your eyes open for sea otters as we travel through narrow Peril Straits, between Baranof and Chichagof Islands, and into Chatham Strait. We will need to time our passage through Sergius Narrows because at full tide the current runs over 6 knots and with the turbulence even the Alaska State Ferries will not pass. This area is also a good place to see brown bears along the shore.
 Lunch: Return to the boat for a gourmet lunch prepared by the Snow Goose chef. The crew will be explaining all the places we are passing and all the species that you might see flying, swimming, or walking near the vessel.
 Afternoon: Relax after lunch while the crew puts up the sails, then board zodiacs or kayaks to explore. If something is of interest we will stop or slow down to enjoy. We travel to all of our destinations only when the weather and wildlife is consistently good.
 Dinner: Dinner will be served buffet style once we are anchored for the night.
 Evening: Enjoy the Chart Talk and hear the Naturalist's species list review. Relax with a book or discuss highlights of the day.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Chatham Strait/Frederick Sound
(Friday, July 26)
 Breakfast: Explore on your own in a kayak or relax before breakfast is served on board around 8am.
 Morning: Humpback whales will be spotted throughout Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound, and Stephens Passage. We just have to hope for some spectacular behavior and will stop the ship when we are lucky, to enjoy it. Humpbacks are some of the most exciting whales to watch as they often breach – leaping clear of the water – and slap their tails and huge pectoral fins. These giant leviathans weigh up to 40 tons and can be up to 50 feet in length. Dalls Porpoise are also common in the area, and sometimes come over to ride the ships bow wave.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: After the meal, a shore excursion will take place - Either to search for wildlife, look at intertidal zones, or go for a culture/nature hike. We will load into the zodiacs and take off to see what nature has in store for us.
 Dinner: Before dinner we might do a light hike to bear stands to view some grizzly or black bears feeding on the salmon, or enjoy an afternoon kayak. We might serve dinner and then go for a dip in some remote hotsprings along the coast, and then come back to the boat and enjoy some local wine.
 Evening: Chart Talk and Naturalist's review of species seen during the day. Read, relax, play cards, or retire for the night.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Baranof Warm Springs/Admirality Island National Monument
(Saturday, July 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served onboard around 8am.
 Morning: We expect to visit the tiny community of Baranof Warm Springs and walk up the boardwalk to bath in the natural hot pools, beside a rushing river. The trail also extends up to a lake, with a nice collection of bog plants.
 Lunch: Lunch served on board.
 Afternoon: Admiralty Island National Monument has the largest population of bald eagles and brown bears in North America. It is estimated there is one brown bear every square mile and we expect to observe bears feeding along the shore, or at the mouths of creeks searching for spawning salmon. Across Frederick Sound on Kupreanof Island there are only black bears, as the last ice age evidently limited brown bears to only Admiralty, Baranoff and Chichagof Islands.
 Dinner: Dinner will be served buffet style once we are anchored for the night.
 Evening: Chart Talk and Naturalist's species review. Star gaze with a glass of wine.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Brothers Island/East Brother and Steller sea lions
(Sunday, July 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served on board around 8am.
 Morning: We will explore by ships tender and kayaks, and plan to visit East Brother and the Steller sea lion haul out. These sea lions have been designated as an endangered species in Western Alaska, so we need to be especially careful not to disturb them.
 Lunch: Lunch served on board.
 Afternoon: We plan to anchor for the night at the Brothers Islands, with a chance to explore the outer islands or walk with the naturalist and learn about forest plants.
 Dinner: Dinner will be served buffet style once we are anchored for the night.
 Evening: Daily Chart Talk and wildlife review. Plan for next day's activities.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Five Fingers Lighthouse/Sumdum Glacier
(Monday, July 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served on board around 8am.
 Morning: Watch for more humpback whales, talk with the naturalist about sea species. Explore on your own in a kayak or stay on board and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: If the weather looks good for clear skies, we will then proceed north up Stephens Passage to see the stunning glaciers of Endicott Arm. Passing remote Five Fingers Lighthouse, and we may stop to explore one of the outer islands. We will anchor that night in Holkam Bay, where Tracy Arm and Endicott Arms converge, and in sight of the Sumdum glacier.
 Dinner: Dinner will be served buffet style once we are anchored for the night.
 Evening: Hear from the naturalist and hear the daily Chart Talk, then relax while anchored.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Dawes Glacier/Fords Terror
(Tuesday, July 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served on board around 8am.
 Morning: Up early and underway because today we travel up the 20 mile long fiord, deep into the coastal mountains. The fiord is often a thousand feet deep, and on each side mountains rise straight up to four and five thousand feet. There are some spectacular rock faces and waterfalls. Along the way we pass icebergs which have “calved” off the face of the glacier into the sea. As we approach the end, the ice can get thicker and we never know how close we can approach the face of the Dawes glacier. We expect to be able to float within half a mile, watching for icebergs to calve and listening for the thunderous roar that announces the event. We may also get into the ship’s tender to listen up close to the ice crackling as air escapes.
 Lunch: Lunch on board ship.
 Afternoon: The afternoon we return down the fiord and often stop in beautiful, Fords Terror. Departing Stephens Passage we head back south into Frederick Sound again (with more chances for whale watching).
 Dinner: Dinner will be served buffet style once we are anchored for the night.
 Evening: Hear from local researchers and naturalists. Day's Chart Talk followed by relaxing while anchored. Spot brown bears along the shore.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Wrangell Narrows/Sumner Strait
(Wednesday, July 31)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served on board around 8am.
 Morning: Take a dip in a local hotspring, kayak around the shore.
 Lunch: Lunch served onboard.
 Afternoon: Our voyage now continue south through Wrangell Narrows to reach Sumner Strait, before traveling the narrow Eastern Passage. One of the joys of traveling on this size of vessel is the ability to get “off the beaten path” and into some lovely, intimate bays and channels.
 Dinner: Dinner served on board when we anchor for the night.
 Evening: Enjoy the Chart Talk and discuss the species the naturalist is adding to the trip list.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Anan Wildlife Observatory
(Thursday, August 1)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board ship.
 Morning: The Anan Wildlife Observatory is a “classic” Alaska highlight. With the largest run of pink salmon in Southeast Alaska, this is one of the best known bear viewing locations in the state. There is an excellent trail extending half a mile around the lower lagoon before we reach the US Forest Service viewing stand and a wildlife blind, perched above a rushing river and waterfall. In order to limit our impact on the wildlife we plan to divide into two smaller groups.
 Lunch: Lunch served back on board ship.
 Afternoon: There will be plenty of time to observe the salmon leaping up the falls, usually both black and brown bears fishing, and bald eagles and harbor seals.
 Evening: Evening Chart Talk and star gazing.
Accommodations: Snow Goose
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 11: Wrangell/ Flight to Seattle
(Friday, August 2)
 Breakfast: Breakfast served on board around 8am.
 Morning: We arrive in Wrangell, AK mid-day. Right beside the Harbor is a Chief Shakes long house and a collection of totem poles – certainly worthy of a visit. If you have extra time in Wrangell take the opportunity to visit Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park on the north side of town. Or take a tour of the mighty Stikine River by jet boat experiencing the same incredible scenery, glaciers, wildlife and adventures as those of the gold miners.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own. The Bluewater Crew can recommend local eateries in Wrangell.
 Afternoon: Group flight to Seattle. Flight departs at 5:55PM and gets into Seattle at 9:56PM. A transfer will pick the group up at the dock at approximately 4:30PM. The airport is also walking distance from many areas of Wrangell if you wish to go to the airport on your own.
 Evening: A light spread of cheeses and fruit will be waiting for you when you arrive at the hotel. You may want to purchase additional food while travelling today.
Accommodations: Best Western Airport Executel
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 12: Independent flights home from Seattle
(Saturday, August 3)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at your leisure in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: Independent departures from Seattle. The hotel offers complimentary shuttles to the airport. You can arrange a shuttle for your flight with the front desk staff.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Moon Spotlight Southeast Alaska

Author: Don Pitcher

Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals, and Habitats

Author: Robert H. Armstrong

Geology of Southeast Alaska: Rock and Ice in Motion

Author: Harold Stowell

Frommer's Alaska

Author: Kris Capps

What’s included in this Road Scholar program?

Except for the occasional meal on some programs, Road Scholar programs are all-inclusive. That means there are no extra “options,” no passing the hat for tips and no surprises. From lectures and field trips to gratuities and accommodations – the price you pay up front is the price you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

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