by Jonathan Hermann

Alaska cruising: Expedition Style

Some travelers shy away from expedition cruises because they assume them to be on tiny vessels lacking in style, comfort and haute cuisine. Well, we’re here to set the record straight. Yes, these vessels do tend to be smaller in order to reach remote destinations, but they are still filled with relaxing staterooms, chic designs and elevated dining that deliciously showcases regional flavors. In fact, that’s just the tip of the iceberg (an iceberg you can safely sail closer to thanks to being on a specially designed expedition ship).

During these cruises, you get off the ship more frequently, taking up to two or three landings or shore excursions per day, depending on the itinerary. Each shore excursion is under the guidance of expert expedition guides who share their knowledge and passion in daily sessions during which you can ask questions and learn about the area you’re exploring. Expedition cruise ships also carry sturdy, inflatable boats called Zodiacs, which can whisk you to the shore for land-based excursions or to remote spots in the water for deep-sea diving or animal encounters.

While expedition cruises are amazing ways to experience far-flung favorites like Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands, let’s take a glance at a destination closer to home that will surely whet your appetite for adventure: Alaska.

Totem Bight State Historical Park
Totem Bight State Historical Park

Unique History and Captivating Cultures

There’s no place more synonymous with the natural world than Alaska. The Last Frontier has more coastline than the rest of the United States combined, more than half the world’s glaciers and the nation’s two largest forests — all of which is highlighted by a unique history and captivating indigenous cultures.

While numerous cruise lines ply these whale-packed waters, the best way to get up close and experience this amazing land firsthand is by expedition ship. Expedition ships are small enough to position themselves in remote coves, getting you close enough to land that you can see wildlife and remote wilderness unfolding from your ship’s deck or your own cabin. And since these itineraries often leave extra time, the captain can deviate off course to follow a pod of humpbacks for a few nautical miles.

Alaska's Inside Passage
Alaska's Inside Passage

Your Path to Adventure

Expedition cruises typically sail along the Inside Passage, a narrow waterway that stretches for 500 miles along the coast of Southeast Alaska, stopping in port cities such as Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. Along the way, you’ll have ample opportunity to explore majestic fjords, bays and glaciers, all while accompanied by an Expedition Team sharing their knowledge about the history and wildlife of the places you visit.

While in Ketchikan, you can delight in the briny taste of oysters caught fresh in local fishery farms, bear witness to the haunting beauty of Misty Fjords National Monument or visit the Saxman Totem Park and Native Village to learn about this Native Alaskan Nation’ s traditions, art and history.

Glaciers take center stage in and around Juneau, whether at Tracy Arm Fjord, the Juneau Icefields or Glacier Bay National Park. These crystalline forces of nature grind through mountains and smash against the ocean, creating sights that no picture will ever do justice.

Following the passage further, you’ll soon find yourself at Icy Strait Point, home to the Native Tlingit Nation. Here, you can’t miss spotting whales and other marine mammals at nearby Point Adolphus — a premier humpback whale-watching destination. And if you aren’t fortunate to catch a whale blast out of the ocean for a breath of fresh air, the orcas, seals, Steller sea lions and Dall’s porpoises in the area will surely make up for it.

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