Enjoy a fabulous week cruising through Southeast Alaska, immersed in splendid scenery where wildlife abounds. This family nature cruise is an exciting and active adventure for the entire family, We invite you to join expert ship naturalists and our Naturalist Journeys cruise host as we take in this stunning Alaska cruise.
Make yourself at home on the Wilderness Discoverer, an inviting boat that delivers big adventure for your family with top-of-the-class style. She has Alaska in her soul - and she doesn't hold back when it comes to exploration. Built for just 76 passengers, this cruise ship offers an intimate exploration of one of America’s most revered landscapes—Alaska’s Inside Passage.
Unpack once, and then simply enjoy ample time with your family to explore, kayak, watch birds, spot whales, hike, skiff, or simply just relax on deck. This is a stunning cruise that can be as active (or not!) as you like. You and your family will not forget the precious memories made among the fjords and glaciers.
- Enjoy a peaceful stay aboard the Wilderness Discoverer, a premier 76-passenger ship with a bar, hot tub, exercise equipment, and more
- Experience Alaska’s rich abundance on long summer days, perfect for exploring
- Embark on a tour of Glacier Bay National Park guided by a National Park ranger; search for both Marbled and Kittlitz Murrelets, other wildlife and watch ice calving into the water
- Visit lush forests of Tongass National Forest as we cruise narrow passages through towering Hemlock and Spruce
- Spot Humpback, Orca, and Minke Whales on a whale-watching cruise on Icy Strait … marine mammals galore
Sun., July 16 : Arrivals in Juneau
Hello, historic Juneau! A mining town with a rich history, Juneau is a lovely place to start our cruise. We suggest you arrive early to explore ahead of the start of our voyage. Juneau has scenery, history, a quaint small downtown to scout out and shop for some local treasures, and delicious places to enjoy a meal or two, or simply a coffee overlooking the water. Walk to the governor’s mansion, and be sure to take the kids to see the life-sided Humpback Whale statue. Juneau is a small city and easy to stroll around.
Then, it’s all aboard! There is nothing like a hearty greeting from your crew, and some bon voyage bubbly as we start our adventures.
The Wilderness Discoverer’s sundeck, bar, and bridge areas allow us commanding views of lush forest and endless shorelines in the maze of islands we navigate. Whales may appear at any time, often close enough to the ship that we can hear them breathe. We watch the shorelines for our first possible bear sightings. Birding is varied and fun, including regular sightings of several species of loons, bright and comical Tufted Puffins and other seabirds, and ever present Bald Eagle. The scale of scenery in Alaska is profound. (D)
Mon., July 17 : Tracy Arm & Twin Sawyer Glaciers
Take an early peek outside. Fjord cliffs reach skyward. Floating ice slips past our hull. And deep u-shaped valleys reach down to the water. There’s no abracadabra here. Mother Nature’s magic is real. Cruise past Harbor Seals and their pups lounging on chunks of ice. Tracy Arm delivers with the cotton candy blue Twin Sawyer glaciers of its furthest reaches. Listen closely—the glaciers are quite active, creaking, squeaking, groaning, and calving. Tides permitting, your skiff driver knows the ropes and guides you along. It’s a mashup of towering walls, temperamental currents, and the Coastal Mountains. Waterfalls are fun to spot—keep a tally with your family. And while you’re looking, watch closely for Mountain Goats as they show off fancy foot work on the cliffs. Everyone is surprised at just how massive these mountains are with a goat on a ledge for perspective.
We explore via kayak, paddle board, or comfortable skiff all week. On the water we are on the level with curious sea lions and possibly whales. Ashore, rocky intertidal zones make good beach combing. Turn a stone or two to see what’s underneath as we listen to the “chirp” of Bald Eagles overhead. There are no groomed trails here, but we can explore with our ship naturalists on guided hikes that John Muir would approve of. Skiffs are always at the ready to take us out to explore.
With luck today we may spot Harlequin Duck, three species of scoters (White-winged, Black, and Surf), Common Merganser perhaps with chicks, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and while ashore, tiny and busy Golden-crowned Kinglet and with them, beautiful breeding plumage Townsend’s Warbler.
Back aboard ship there are always treats; you can watch our progress with charts from the bridge, spot wildlife, sip your favorite beverage, and celebrate that you are here in the long days of sunlight. In the evenings naturalist guides offer presentations. (B,L,D)
Tues., July 18 : Frederick Sound
Humpbacks beeline it here each season to feed on krill, zooplankton, and herring. Watch for whales feasting in these abundant glacial waters. Hang out and enjoy the show. Cruise past Five Fingers Lighthouse, Alaska’s oldest light station and The Brothers Islands, where Sea Lions nap on rocky nobs. Tonight, toast to a whale of day in Alaska.
Listen to calls of Swainson’s and Varied Thrushes as we cruise within the eerie, enigmatic feeling of these mature northwest woods. See if you can help the kids identify the birds by sounds alone—they get to know each call so quickly! Morning fog catches like cotton balls on trees.
The shorelines are close and it’s good territory to go ashore—to walk, play, or study the region’s intriguing natural history. The forest floor is an elfin realm of fascination with mosses, liverworts, lichen, and wildflowers. As we skiff ashore, we pass Sea Otters, floating on their backs as they crack snacks rested on their bellies. Marbled Murrelet feed close to shore, while Glaucous-winged Gull swirl overhead.
Watch for Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Red-necked Grebe. Watch the scenery change in the late fading light, perhaps from your perch in the hot tub!
And meal time each day is a special treat, with big windows so we can watch wildlife and scenery while sampling fresh local seafood, a variety of international dishes, homemade pastries, and other treats. This is an all-inclusive voyage so drinks are on us— enjoy! (B,L,D)
Wed., July 19 : Icy Strait
Nearly to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, Icy Strait is remote and wild. Welcome the morning with a hot cup of coffee or hot cocoa as your family takes in the grand views from the deck.
The plan today? Whales, seabirds, and marine mammals—Icy Strait, with its rich ocean upwelling, is a wildlife admirer’s dream. Alaska is known for whale viewing, and Icy Strait is the best of the best! Enjoy magnificent scenery as we watch for pods of Humpback that have swum back from Hawaii (and farther!) to feed in these nutrient-rich waters. Set the young ones to task, scanning the waters off the bow … who can be the first to spot a spout?
Spouts and fin slaps are certain giveaways and where whales feed there are often dense feeding flocks of kittiwakes, gulls, and alcids. We have excellent opportunity here, and in Glacier Bay tomorrow, to view Horned and Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murre, Ancient Murrelet, and Red-necked Phalarope in good numbers.
We look for Orca, Minke Whale, and Dall and Harbor Porpoises too, as well as Steller Sea Lion and Sea Otter. The chorus of barking sea lions is never ending, but oh-so perfect here in this amazing part of the country. As we see the whales, we interpret their behaviors. We have great hopes of seeing them bubble-feed?grouping up under a school of fish, diving down, and rising to surround them while making a “net” of bubbles. Our ship’s naturalists are versed in everything Alaska—marine biology, plants, and even geology—a perfect topic today with such grand views.
Perched above around the bend, watch for mountain goats, and lower along shore, foraging bears. Up bay, glacial silt turns the water a milky white. Lounging Harbor Seal laze on bits of bergs. And if time allows, we tuck up in Tidal Inlet. End this very full day with your feet up, cozy under a blanket in the lounge, taking in the enormity of it all. (B,L,D)
Thurs., July 20 & Fri., July 21: Glacier Bay National Park
We’re in for a real treat. What a privilege to enjoy two full days in Glacier Bay National Park. At 3.3 million acres, this UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve is massive. At Bartlett Cove, a national park ranger comes aboard to share expert insight as we explore Glacier Bay National Park. The park service describes Glacier Bay National Park as a “land reborn, a living lesson in resilience.” And who wouldn’t be inspired by this stunning park? From ground-hugging plants that began on land scraped bare by glaciers, to roaring blocks of ice calving from tidewater glaciers and crashing into the sea, a day on the water in Glacier Bay is a thrill. For birders it’s also a great chance to see Kittlitz Murrelet, rare to see but much at home in this glacial realm where they breed high up on mountain hillsides. We often find them where glacial streams meet the fjord and we get fantastic views.
Have your binoculars at the ready: Bald Eagle patrol the skies, and smaller seabirds like Pigeon Guillemot are ever watchful—have kids watch for those bright red feet. Throughout the day we may spy Orca, Minke, and even Humpback Whales. On land we look for Mountain Goat—one year we were incredibly lucky to spy a pack of wolves down on the distant beach stones. We cruise by South Marble Island, a birder’s slice of heaven. See Tufted and Horned Puffins, Common Murre, Pelagic Cormorant, and Black-legged Kittiwake. The sights and sounds (and smells) are amazing! Over 300 Steller Sea Lion use the island to haul out and pup—you can hear and smell them before you see them!
We cruise to the far end of John Hopkins or Tarr Inlet where glaciers calve into the water. Back at Bartlett Cove, if time and daylight allow, we may opt to take a forest hike around the park’s headquarters; and take a peek at some of the new cultural demonstrations. Be sure to get the t-shirt while you’re on shore … a great show and tell item for the littles in your family! (B,L,D)
Sat., July 22 : Chatham Strait
In this intricate part of the Inside Passage, long navigable passages stretch between island reaches of the Tongass National Forest. Chatham Strait offers adventure aplenty today. In deep, rugged fjords, we anchor on remote beaches to hike through moss-covered trees and rain-fed waterfalls. Or, some may stick to the water on a kayak excursion—don’t forget to look above and below the surface. A nosy seal could be watching your every stroke. The most nimble of our group may opt to take the bushwhack options today—make your own trail and let the kids take care of the bear calls … “Hey bear!”. And some may simply choose to birdwatch or beachcomb along the rocky shores—a final day to savor the splendor of Southeast Alaska. Black Oystercatcher may put on a show along the shoreline, in forests we look for Red-breasted Sapsucker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Steller’s Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Fox Sparrow, and possible White-winged Crossbill.
Tonight, we toast our final grand day together in Alaska. Then, we celebrate with a festive farewell dinner and “photo journal” from our expedition team. (B,L,D)
Sun., July 23 : Juneau | Disembarkation
We enjoy a final delicious breakfast before disembarking and saying a goodbye to the crew and friends, old and new. This morning, you transfer to the Juneau Airport, or alternately you may wish to stay on and explore a bit, take in local sites and Juneau’s excellent museum. Note that several flights back to “mainland” USA do not leave until midnight, giving you much of the day to explore. There is a nice waterfront area to stroll, and a tram that takes you up to tree line. (B)
Banana Slug Kiss, courtesy UnCruise Adventures
Iceberg! Courtesy UnCruise Adventures
Sea Star, courtesy UnCruise Adventures
Family Hike, courtesy UnCruise Adventures
Family cruise, courtesy UnCruise Adventures
Cost of the Journey
Costs are as follows: For this cruise, Naturalist Journeys has reserved an upscale smaller ship this year based on our experience with a small group in 2021. We feel it is well worth some added cost for a very personal experience, flexible to your interests, pace, and style. This is the trip of a lifetime and we want it to be the best possible for you. We have reserved We have reserved Admiral ($8400 DBL / $14,700 SGL), Trailblazer ($6400 DBL / $11,200 SGL) and Navigator ($5700 DBL / $10,000 SGL) cabins, based on double or single occupancy, plus a $375 port tax/fee per person. Children 17 and under receive a $500 discount. Early booking discount of $250 per person ($500 per cabin) is applicable until October 31, 2022.
The tour cost includes 7 nights aboard the Wilderness Discoverer, all meals onboard the voyage including alcoholic beverages, all excursions with professional guides, and miscellaneous program expenses, transfers and baggage handling between airport/vessel on embark/disembark days; entry fees to national parks/preserves; all from-the-ship adventure activities and equipment; wellness amenities: fitness equipment, and yoga mats. A photo slide show will be provided with images from your trip as a voyage keepsake.
Not included is the flight to and from Juneau. The tour cost also does not include items of a personal nature such as telephone charges or optional activities.
We highly recommend a gratuity for local guides and the ship crew, which is left to the discretion of each participant; guidelines will be provided.
For the cruise, plan to arrive July 16 into Juneau International (JNU) no later than 2:30 PM. You will be picked up at the airport by our operator. Please plan flights home after 11:30 AM on July 23 from Juneau. You will be transferred to the airport by our operator. We STRONGLY recommend you arrive the night before the cruise—you don’t want to miss the boat!
Items of Note
Children under 7 must have management and operator approval to travel on this cruise.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
- October 2022
- May 2011
- June 2012
- July 2012
- May 2013
- May 2014
- June 2015
- June 2016
- August 2016 (Southeast)
- August 2016 (Sampler)
- June 2017
- August 2017 (Southeast Alaska)
- August 2017 (Alaska Sampler)
- June 2018
- August 2018
- June 2019
- August 2019 (Alaska Sampler)
- June 2021
- June 2021
- August 2021
- July 2022
Photo credits: Banners: Breeching Orca by Peg Abbott; Shore Hike, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Glacier Bay by Peg Abbott; Glacier Hike, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Humpback Flukes by Peg Abbott; Common Murres by Peg Abbott; Harbor Seal by Greg Smith; Polar Plunge, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Kayaking Endicott Arm, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Whale Watching by Skiff, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Elfin Cove by Peg Abbott; Grizzly Bear by Peg Abbott; Steller Sea Lion by Peg Abbott; Red Fox by Greg Smith; Humpback Whale, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Gustavus Inn by Peg Abbott; Horned Puffins by Greg Smith; Sea Otter by Peg Abbott; Horned Puffins, Greg Smith; Sea Otter, Peg Abbott; Harbor Seal, Peg Abbott; Alaska Scenic, Peg Abbott; Grizzly Bear, Greg Smith; Alaska Scenic, Peg Abbott; Seal on Glacier Ice, Courtesy of Uncruise Adventures; Southeast Alaska Hiking Trail, Peg Abbott; Bunchberries, Peg Abbott; Shells, Peg Abbott; Elfin Cove, Peg Abbott; Swimming Bear, Courtesy Uncruise Adventures; Glacier Bay NP, courtesy of Matt Howard on Unsplash; Bald Eagle, Peg Abbott; Group in Kayaks, Peg Abbott; Glacier Bay, courtesy of Victoria Crocker on Unsplash; Humpback Whale by Steve Halama on Unsplash; Humpback Whale, Peg Abbott; Red-throated Loon, Greg Smith; Red-necked Phalarope by Greg Smith; Kayaks, Peg Abbott; Bear Watching, Peg Abbott; Moose, Dan Donaldson;