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1017
Alaska/Washington

The Best of Alaska’s Inside Passage

Discover magnificent scenery, unique wildlife, coastal villages and the story of the local Tlingit people as you sail north through Alaska’s awe-inspiring Inside Passage.
Rating (5)
Program No. 1017RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
3,099
Alaska/Washington

The Best of Alaska’s Inside Passage

Discover magnificent scenery, unique wildlife, coastal villages and the story of the local Tlingit people as you sail north through Alaska’s awe-inspiring Inside Passage.
Length
8 days
Starts at
3,099
Program No. 1017 RJ
climate
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At a Glance

Board the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry in Bellingham, Washington, to explore Alaska’s famed Inside Passage the up-close Alaskan way. The Alaska Marine Highway Ferry serves as public transportation in Southeast Alaska and therefore you'll have the opportunity to interact with the people and culture along your journey. Because this is how real Alaskans travel, the politics, industry and lifestyle of Alaskans come to light on this fascinating voyage. From Bellingham to Sitka, glide past mountains, deep fjords and verdant forests, and take advantage of opportunities for whale watching and eagle viewing.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Glide past mountains, forests, fjords and coastal islands, watching for bald eagles, whales, sea otters and more.
  • Study the culture of the Tlingit people and life in the fishing villages of Alaska’s panhandle.
  • The ports of call along your journey include Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Haines, Juneau and Skagway.

General Notes

Ferry schedule requires a flexible itinerary, and time available in port may be limited. Please see daily itinerary for anticipated port times.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Island Within
by Richard Nelson
The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians
by Brian Garfield
The Firecracker Boys: H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement
by Dan O'Neill
Best Tales of the Yukon
by Robert Service
Alaska
by James Michener
The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush
by Pierre Berton
Travels in Alaska
by John Muir
Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000- Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier
by Mark Adams
Roadside Geology of Alaska
by Cathy Conner and Daniel O'Haire
The Nature of Southeast Alaska
by Robert H. Armstrong, Rita M O'Clair & Richard Carstensen
Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast
by Hilary Stewart
Guide to the Birds of Alaska
by Robert H. Armstrong
Alaska Trees and Shrubs
by Leslie Viereck and Elbert Little
Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier
by David Ramseur
Alaska, the Harriman Expedition, 1899
by John Burroughs and John Muir
The Sea Runners
by Ivan Doig
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8 days
7 nights
20 meals
7 B 6 L 7 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Board Ferry, Orientation
Inside Passage, Alaska and Washington
D
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

Activity note: Ferry terminal check-in at 4:00 p.m. Ferry cabins require climbing up a ladder to a bunk bed.

Afternoon: We will check-in with your Group Leader at the Bellingham cruise terminal at 4:00 p.m. and meet upstairs. We'll embark the ferry as a group from this location. Please have your photo I.D. handy when boarding. We will board the ferry, locate our rooms, and orient ourselves to the vessel. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry is public transportation; therefore the cabins are small and basic in nature with limited storage space. Once onboard, remember to set your clocks to Alaska Daylight Time. Orientation: After settling in, we'll meet in the ferry's forward observation lounge for a short orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes. We will also discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Each person will receive a meal allowance for the duration of the program and a meal card will be given to you to keep track of your daily spending. You may want to bring your own tea bags or instant coffee as hot water is available. Meeting times for lectures and films may change due to ferry schedule, wildlife sightings, and to utilize good weather. Your Group Leader will keep you up to date with meeting times and any schedule changes. Thank you for your understanding. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, ferry schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: Dining is informal and located in the ferry cafeteria. Rather than dine as a group, we will take our meals with the general ridership so we may dine at our leisure. Food is ample and good and there are several choices daily, often including seafood.

Evening: After dinner and ferry departure, continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead as we begin our journey into the Inside Passage.

DAY
2
British Columbia, Inside Passage
Inside Passage, Alaska and Washington
B,L,D
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

Activity note: Day at sea.

Breakfast: At your leisure in the ferry cafeteria.

Morning: We will enjoy an overview of the State of Alaska and an introduction to Alaska terminology from our Group Leader. This will help orient us to Alaska's Inside Passage. Enjoying the scenery and watching for orca and humpback whales, as well as bald eagles, will be high on our agenda for today, with no port of call scheduled. We will negotiate two open water crossings today, Queen Charlotte Sound and Milbanke Sound. Several educational programs led by your Group Leader will be offered today.

Lunch: In the ferry cafeteria.

Afternoon: We will enjoy a lecture about the city of Ketchikan today from our Group Leader, in preparation for our docking there tomorrow.

Dinner: In the ferry cafeteria.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Ketchikan, Wrangell
Inside Passage, Alaska and Washington
B,L,D
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

Activity note: Getting on/off ferry. Walking up to 1/2 mile in each town. Getting on/off a motorcoach in Ketchikan.

Breakfast: In the ferry cafeteria.

Morning: We will arrive into our first port of call, Ketchikan, after crossing into Alaskan waters overnight. We will leave the ship to take a field trip to Potlatch Totem Park by motorcoach and learn about the history and lifestyle of the Tlingit Natives of Southeast Alaska from a local expert. We will return to the ship before lunch.

Lunch: In the ferry cafeteria.

Afternoon: Back aboard, we'll make our way through the Alaskan portion of the Inside Passage toward Wrangell. Our lecture will cover Wrangell's history, including its connection with John Muir. This afternoon, our ferry navigates Wrangell Narrows. Nicknamed “Christmas Tree Alley,” there are about 60 lights and buoys marking this 22-mile winding channel. Too shallow and narrow for the cruise ships, this passage is primarily used by fishing boats and of course, the Alaska Marine Highway ferries. We’ll join our Group Leader in the observation lounge or on deck as we navigate this interesting section of the Inside Passage. If time allows, we will land and take a brief walk through Wrangell, a logging community.

Dinner: In the ferry cafeteria.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Juneau, Haines, Skagway
Inside Passage, Alaska and Washington
B,L,D
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

Activity note: Depending on ferry schedule, field trip times on land may vary. Juneau: 1.5 – 2.5 hours; Haines: 1.5 hours; Skagway: 1/2 – 2.5 hours. Getting on/off ferry. Walk from bus to glacier viewing area 1/4-mile. Walking into Skagway from ferry 1-mile roundtrip. Walking through Skagway 1 mile. Getting on/off a motorcoach in Juneau and Haines.

Breakfast: In the ferry cafeteria.

Morning: The capital city of Juneau will be our first stop this morning. At the Mendenhall Glacier, we will view the blue ice and the peaceful lake at morning's early light. Some departures will stop in Juneau during the night so a field trip will not be possible. In these cases, we will have an extra field trip in Haines.

Lunch: In the ferry cafeteria.

Afternoon: Our next scheduled port stop is Haines, located on the shores of Lynn Canal between the Chilkoot and Chilkat Rivers in northern Southeast Alaska. In Haines, we'll have the opportunity to explore and learn about the community. Afterwards, we'll continue to Skagway, the northernmost point of our journey up the Inside Passage. We'll head up the Lynn Canal, one of the most stunning fjords in the world, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, glaciated and forested valleys, and streams descending to the saltwater. This is the route hopeful goldminers took into the Yukon seeking gold in the 1890s. Our Group Leader will offer commentary as we traverse the canal. Upon arrival in Skagway, we will leave the ship and walk through this gold rush-era town, led by our Group Leader.

Dinner: In the ferry cafeteria.

Evening: Back aboard the ferry, we’ll return to Haines, where we’ll have another opportunity the city if we choose. Afterwards, take some time to prepare for disembarkation in Sitka tomorrow.

DAY
5
Disembark Ferry, Sitka Sound Science Center, Totem Park
Sitka, AK
B,L,D
Westmark Sitka Hotel

Activity note: Disembark ferry. Walk to science center under 1 mile from the hotel. At Sitka National Historical Park, walking up to 1 mile.

Breakfast: In the ferry cafeteria.

Morning: After another stop in Juneau during the night, the ferry will head to Sitka, arriving midday. En route to Sitka, our Group Leader will give us some insight into the city's unique Russian history.

Lunch: In the ferry cafeteria.

Afternoon: We'll disembark the ferry and begin our exploration of Sitka with a visit to the Sitka Sound Science Center for a discussion of tidal sea life in the sound, along with a chance to enjoy the touch tanks with many different types of sea creatures. We'll also get a chance to learn about the salmon hatchery they operate. The center raises and produces 250,000 coho, 3 million pink, and 12 million chum each year! Afterwards, we'll head over to the Sitka National Historical Park, where we'll learn about the totems and the symbols within them. One of Alaska's most charming communities, Sitka has a complex history. Kiksadi Tlingit people have lived in the area for 8,000 years or more. The protected harbor and rich natural resources made it attractive to European explorers. Serious Russian interest began in 1725 when Tsar Peter the Great sent Vitus Bering to explore the Pacific coast of North America. A Russian trading enterprise called the Russian American Company was eventually formed. After much fighting between Russian forces and the native Tlingit people, Sitka became the administrative center and remained so until the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. The name “Alaska” is a Russified version of an Aleut word meaning “great land.” Afterwards, we'll walk to our hotel and check in.

Dinner: We'll have a buffet meal at the hotel, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In the hotel meeting space, our Group Leader will lead a presentation that will help to provide further insight into this fascinating region we're exploring.

DAY
6
Sitka Russian History, Russian Bishop's House, Raptor Center
Sitka, AK
B,L,D
Westmark Sitka Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on city sidewalks on morning historical walk. Standing for 1/2-hour at Bishop's House.

Breakfast: Our buffet breakfast at the hotel will include choices such as egg dishes, cereals, toast, yogurt, fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, ad water.

Morning: We'll get a chance to stretch our legs this morning with a historical field trip by foot, led by our Group Leader. We will walk through the history of this Russian colonial town that dates back to 1798 and learn why it was called the “Paris of the Pacific.” Sitka is characterized by the onion-domed spires of St Michael's Orthodox Cathedral in the center of town. We'll view the cathedral and enjoy an expert-led visit at the Russian Bishop's House. It is one of four original Russian colonial-era buildings in North America, and the best preserved.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we'll board our motorcoach for transfer to the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation center for a wide array of Southeast Alaskan raptors. While here, we'll enjoy a short lecture by Raptor Center staff before having the opportunity to explore independently to see the variety of raptors.

Dinner: We’ll enjoy a plated meal at a local restaurant. Coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Whale & Wildlife Study Cruise, Free Time
Sitka, AK
B,L,D
Westmark Sitka Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off boat; whale watching about 2 hours. Extent and duration of free time activities according to personal choice.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard a catamaran today for a whale watching and wildlife expedition in the Sitka Sound. Sitka Sound is home to the greatest variety of wildlife in Southeast Alaska – sea otters, whales, sea lions, porpoise, harbor seals, brown bears, puffins, bald eagles, and more! During our whale watching expedition, the onboard naturalist will explain the behavior and habitat of wildlife we may encounter.

Lunch: We'll enjoy a boxed lunch with choice of sandwich, chips, cookie, bottled water.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We'll enjoy a final presentation by our Group Leader to wrap up all the knowledge we've gained throughout our journey along the Inside Passage. Afterwards, use the remainder of the evening to prepare for departures tomorrow.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
Sitka, AK
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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