Alaska Cruise Vacation Itinerary
Our Alaskan cruise excursions begin every Saturday and this is a typical schedule, but the daily activities are arranged to suit the weather and the interests of individual groups.
Fly fishers should note that this is not a dedicated fly-fishing trip unlike programs at Orvis-endorsed fishing lodges in Alaska. There are plenty of opportunities to fish, but the guides lead a variety of activities, not just fishing excursions, and you will generally be on your own regarding fly selection, knot tying, and spotting fish. The boats carry all the spin-casting and trolling gear for salmon and halibut-but limited fly-fishing gear; so serious anglers should bring their own.
Saturday - Arrive Sitka
Sitka is a remote fishing community located southwest of Juneau on Baranof Island, easily reached by scheduled commercial jet service. Arrive on one of several flights per day and check into the Sitka Westmark Hotel. Enjoy exploring the quaint town, and at dinnertime try a local seafood delicacy in the hotel dining room. Airport transfers and hotel accommodations are included in the Alaskan cruise vacation package.
Sunday – Board ship, cruise to Sukoi Inlet
After breakfast, spend the morning packing before being picked up at your hotel by crew members and transported to the dock for an mid-morning departure. The ship gets under way by 11:00 AM and heads to its first night's anchorage in scenic Sukoi Inlet on Kruzof Island. Bald eagles and Steller sea lions are a common sight when leaving Sitka Harbor. After a short cruise and an exquisite first-night's dinner on board, you visit with old and new friends in the ship's comfortable salon or maybe take a guided "underground tour" of the galley and engine room. If you haven't already done so, don't forget to take a few minutes this evening to buy an Alaskan fishing license from your Captain.
Monday - Salisbury Sound & Peril Strait
Not far from the night's anchorage is a popular saltwater sportfishing area, Salisbury Sound, where an all-morning salmon-trolling trip aboard one of the ship's sturdy skiffs may be of interest to the angling enthusiast. Halibut are common hereabouts, as well. Guests can take fish home at the end of the trip. Crew can custom-process your catch, vacuum pack and freeze it on board, and advise you on the best methods for shipment. Alternatively, the ship's Chef is happy to prepare your catch for dinner and share recipes. If fishing doesn't interest you, join in a skiff tour along the rocky shoreline to spot sea otters in company with an on-board Naturalist who will share insights into the natural history of this region. We are in the heart of a coastal Alaskan wilderness so we'll keep a lookout for brown bears, often seen grazing on lush beach grasses throughout summer - easy to spot from a skiff. By lunchtime, we return to the ship to haul anchor and head through Sergius Narrows into Peril Strait. We cruise until dinnertime, when we find ourselves anchored in Saook Bay, another scenic Southeast Alaskan harbor. After dinner, your crew can launch kayaks and you may paddle quietly around the anchorage savoring the wonder of the first full day of your adventure vacation in the wilds of Alaska.
Tuesday - Paradise Flats & Kelp Bay
The stream at the head of Saook Bay flows through a broad grassy beach estuary called, appropriately, Paradise Flats. This place is heaven for fly fishers. We spend the morning here casting for Dolly Varden char and Cutthroat trout (or, later in the season, pink salmon) and then haul anchor after lunch and head along the coast of Baranof Island into the broad sheltered waters of Chatham Strait. During this afternoon's cruise we will likely spot Humpback whales, Dalls porpoises, Stellar sea lions and maybe, if we're lucky, Orcas. Our shipboard Naturalist will be happy to give a presentation while under way on the marine mammals we typically encounter on a cruise. On the way to Kelp Bay we sometimes stop and jig for halibut off Morris Reef – a 247-pounder was landed here on one of our cruises – or take a quick detour to hike up to Lake Eva where you can visit a grove of Sitka Spruce trees that are among the tallest and largest-girthed in the Tongass National Forest. There are choices of activities every day, and the ship's crew to guest ratio is such that guests can go off in small groups with a knowledgeable staff member to explore according to their interests. Small groups also have less of an impact on the fragile, temperate rainforests environment of the Tongass National Forest.
Wednesday - Red Bluff Bay & Pybus Bay – Admiralty Island
Early risers can go kayaking before breakfast with a guide, where you may see harbor seals and harlequin ducks. Both have little fear of kayakers on the water. Photographers love these outings. Later, motoring south on the ship, we cruise along the "waterfall coast" of Baranof Island - one of the most scenic coastal wilderness areas in southeast Alaska. Glaciers form in high snowfields on the island, and in summer their melting waters gather to flow in noisy cascades, tumbling off cliffs and creating a spectacle of lofty cataracts everywhere you look. When we get to Red Bluff Bay, we'll divide the ship's company into several groups to go ashore. Some may choose to fly fish in the river at the head of the bay. But the highlight of this place is the short but steep hike up onto the brick red bluffs, which give this place its name. Here, wildflowers are dense in summer, and the natural rock gardens are resplendent with splashy displays of blue and yellow violets, columbine and fragrant meadow orchids. After our hike, we return to the ship again and haul anchor, bound for Pybus Bay on Admiralty Island where we'll spend the night. The local Tlingit tribe's name for Admiralty Island is Kootznoowoo, which means "fortress of the bears."
Thursday - Admiralty Island & Brothers Islands
Today is our final opportunity for hiking and fishing, and we've saved some of the best of both for last. We pack lunches and head out in the skiffs right after breakfast. Brothers Islands, lying just off the mouth of Pybus Bay, are notable for their unique mossy terrain. A gentle walk through the lush rainforest on one of these small islands leads us to a wild stretch of rocky beach. Great numbers of Stellar sea lions will sometimes haul out onto some of these beaches, and if we're careful we can approach these noisy "rookeries" by skiff without disturbing the sunbathing animals. Halibut fishing in Pybus Bay is often productive, as is fly-fishing or spin casting for Pink salmon or Dolly Varden char in nearby Donkey Creek. Bald eagles perch solemnly in the tree tops waiting for an opportunity to snatch an unwary fish from the water. Bears are common here, and your guides on shore will carry a tackle box under one arm and a shotgun, just in case, under the other.
Friday - Glacier Day
We are bound today for either Tracy Arm or Endicott Arm, two spectacular fjords carved deep into the Coast Range by rivers of ice. Both these inlets feature tidewater glaciers, so navigation can be made challenging at times by the presence of floating bergs. If the entrance to one fjord is blocked, we will enter the other. Our objective is to cruise to the head of a fjord and approach to within about a mile of the face of a glacier where we may watch great chunks of ice, some the size of our ship, crash into the ocean in a frenzy of foam and spray. Harbor seals find abundant food in the nutrient-rich waters of this inlet, and for a period of time in the summer female seals will haul-out onto floating bergs here to give birth to their young. Late in the day, we leave the fjords behind and anchor in Taku Harbor, not far from Juneau, where guests enjoy a particularly sumptuous cruise wrap-up dinner, followed by “an underground tour” of the ship’s engine room and a celebratory “roast & toast” with crew.
Saturday - Juneau, disembark ship
We arise early and take breakfast under way, with ancient and untouched spruce and hemlock forests marching past our ship's wake as we make way back to civilization. By 10:00 AM we are tied to the dock in downtown Juneau, where you disembark and are transported to your hotel or to the airport in time for flights home. We recommend booking your return flight no earlier than 12:00 PM. Mid-afternoon is better and leaves some time to walk around this very compact city.
For Juneau to Sitka, simply reverse the itinerary.