Though Haida Gwaii, a spectacular archipelago off British Columbia, is known as the “islands at the edge of the world,” it is well within reach aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird and Sea Lion—the only U.S. vessels permitted to visit these hallowed islands in over twenty years. In large part, we were initially permitted to visit Haida lands because of our commitment to artisans, evidenced by our Artisan Fund and its varied projects, currently financed by a percentage of sales from onboard Global Galleries. The Haida are legendary Pacific coast artists and artisans. And to see their works, most strikingly the totems created by master carvers, and to hear the stories woven into the very fibers of Haida regalia, is indeed a privilege. We will visit the Haida Heritage Center at Kay Llnagaay, see a panoply of Haida art and crafts, even see artists
at work. But we will also experience the rare, spiritually satisfying adventure of exploring the coasts and landing on remote beaches to share the silence with silvered
sentinels—the weathered totems, carved lifetimes ago, that have kept watch on Haida lands since the first days.
When Lindblad Expedtions returns in May, the islands will be awakening from their winter slumber. Humpback whales will gorge on krill and the lush forests will warm, while still snow-clad mountains set the perfect context for this entrée into the life of the Haida.
Need another reason to visit Alaska by small ship? Here’s a single day report from a naturalist aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion in Thomas Bay, Spurt Lake, Petersburg.
From midnight to sunset on this day, glorious light enchanted us. After a night of bubble-net-feeding humpback whales and a spectacular display of the northern lights we were greeted with another day of sunshine! Yes… this is only day two of our trip! Today’s hike to Spurt Lake took place in Thomas Bay, just north of Petersburg, our afternoon destination. Our two options were a hike in the forest or to go on a scenic small boat cruise around Thomas Bay. The small boat cruisers headed up the bay towards the Baird Glacier. On the way, three animals were abundant—seals, marbled murrelets and Arctic terns, all looking for some kind of lunch. Before the water got too shallow we got close enough to see some spectacular terminal and recessional moraines formed as the glacier recently retreated.
Alaska’s 40th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is scheduled to begin Saturday, March 3 at 12 noon in Anchorage, AK. The dog sled race (or mushing as referred to by locals) covers 1,049 miles through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills, mountain passes, and across rivers. The race is viewed as a symbol of Alaska’s early history and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the industry. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Alaska by cruise ship every year. Travelers on the mega-cruise ships get to see a lot of Alaska. However, unless you spend lots of extra dollars on shore excursions, you really won’t experience Alaska’s bounty (with the exception of the jewelry shops which are owned by the cruise lines). With an Alaska small ship cruise, you’ll see, do, and experience more, much of which the large ships simply can’t.
To summarize, here’s our top ten list with reasons why to explore Alaska via a small ship cruise in 2012.
There are several questions that often come up when planning to explore Alaska’s coastal waterways via a small ship cruise. What month to sail, what style of cruise (soft adventure, high-adventure, expedition, luxury yacht, etc.), what ship, etc. There are also lots of questions around which itinerary would be best. We at Sunstone Tours & Cruises see and receive lots of questions about two Alaska cruise itineraries in particular; InnerSea Discoveries Alaska Eastern Coves and Alaska Western Coves. So what is the difference between these two Alaska cruise itineraries?
An incident which many of the crew of Orion’s Orion II will not forget happened on her inaugural voyage on July 24, 2011. With a full load of invited guests – all previous Orion travellers – the ship had left Seattle, cruised up the Canadian coast via the Inside Passage, stopped off at Alaska, and was on its way across the Bering Sea when something odd happened.
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“One of the most comfortable and accommodating ships in Alaska”
One of my favorite small ship cruise operators, American Cruise Line, who I myself have sailed numerous times on their east coast itineraries, are bringing their 100-passenger American Spirit to Alaska, debuting in June of 2012.
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We just posted a new Alaska cruise review for a cruise aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion.
A highlights from the review…
“We were educated as we watched by the most patient, sweet, passionate members of the crew. It was like they were seeing everything through our eyes for the first time. Meagan, has decided to major in marine biology when she goes to college so she can come back and work on a National Geographic ship.”
We just published a new Alaska cruise review for the Seven Seas Navigator. It was a from couple with mobility problems. Goes to show you that when there’s a will, there’s a way.