Nestled within the pristine wilderness of the Last Frontier, Alaska beckons adventurous souls with its untamed beauty and breathtaking landscapes. For those seeking a truly immersive and unparalleled exploration, an expedition cruise through Alaska unveils a realm of experiences that go beyond the ordinary. Picture yourself navigating through icy fjords, witnessing majestic wildlife in their natural habitat, and stepping ashore in remote, untouched wilderness.
In this article, we embark on a journey to discover Alaska like never before, delving into the unique and awe-inspiring encounters that await intrepid travellers on an expedition cruise.
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Let's go.
Witness Aleut life in St Paul
The windswept island of St Paul is home to the largest Aleut community in the US, numbering around 400. St Paul is also designated an Importat Bird Area, and around 300 species of migrating birds use it as a resting point. Scan for Horned and Tufted Puffins, the Pribilof Sandpiper and the rare Red-legged Kittiwake.
You can also visit the historical remains of barabaras here – traditional dwellings built half-underground to protect against the sea winds.
Learning and Leisure
Part of being on an expedition cruise is taking time to connect with the sights and sounds of the world around you. A day at sea lets you do just that. Sit back and take in the panoramic views. Want to learn more about the region's geography, climate, and birdlife? Some ships have Science centres onboard (pictured above) where you can help scientists track migration information.
Keep scanning the seas and skies for puffins, auklets, and murrelets, especially closer to the coast. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse the Red-legged Kittiwake, only found in this part of the world.
Discover Dutch Harbor
With a volcano as its backdrop, America's largest fishing port – Dutch Harbor – is a fascinating place to visit. Here, you’ll learn about the local Indigenous Unungan people at the Museum of the Aleutians. Visit the Russian Orthodox Cathedral or tour the WWII museum commemorating the battle that took place here in 1942.
Scout for Bald Eagles and puffins in the skies. Foxes, lemmings and wild horses thrive on land and whales, sea lions and porpoises in the waters. Dutch Harbor is where the reality television series The Deadliest Catch was filmed, following crab fishermen at work under extreme conditions.
The ghost town of Unga
Wild and deserted, Unga Village is an abandoned yet picturesque settlement on the southern end of Unga Island, a place the big cruise ships can't get to.
It was settled by Aleuts in 1833 but was abandoned in 1969 as subsistence fishing proved insufficient to support living here. Today, the few wooden buildings that remain are the only evidence that people once lived here.
A carpet of pink lousewort, fireweed and other wildflowers surround the abandoned shacks as nature has gradually taken over. Experience the eerie beauty of this place during a nature landing with small expedition boats.
Brown bears in Katmai
Your adventure continues in the four million–acre Katmai National Park, which has over a dozen active volcanoes. Katmai is home to more than 2,000 protected brown bears – the largest concentration in the world.
Accompanied by an experienced bear guard, we'll be safely scouting for bears from the deck or in our small expedition boats. They might be foraging for berries, digging for clams or catching fish in the stream.
Depending on conditions, we might visit either Geographic Harbor, Kinak Bay or Kukak Bay. Keep your eyes open for sea otters, seabirds and humpback whales.
No place like Nome
Step back to the time of Prospectors in Nome, who first came to here in 1898, and people are still hunt for gold here today. You'll see evidence of the Gold Rush all around, including abandoned dredges, turn-of-the-century steam engines and old railroad tracks, lending the town a unique atmosphere.
Nome was also the end point of three of Roald Amundsen's great polar expeditions, including an attempt by air to reach the North Pole in 1926.
Crossing the Bering Sea
Cross the line where tomorrow meets today As we cruise the Bering Sea, you'll have Russia to the east and the United States to the west. We'll cross the International Date Line, where ‘tomorrow’ is on your right, and ‘today’ is on your left.
Natural wonders abound here, so keep an eye out for humpback whales, and seabirds wheeling through the skies.
Unspoiled Misty Fjords
Discover a wilderness where wildlife thrives Part of the Tongass National Forest, Misty Fjords is a pristine wilderness of evergreens, waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. The revered naturalist writer John Muir described the area as one of the most beautiful places he’d ever seen.
Weather permitting, the Expedition Team will take you in small expediation boats or kayaks to explore.
The Misty Fjords are rich in wildlife. Scan for mountain goats, bears and moose as you explore. The waters are home to Pacific salmon, otters, sea ions, harbour seals, orcas and Dall’s porpoises. Skywards, you might spot herons and Bald Eagles.
Perched on the southern coast of the Unalaska Peninsula, Chignik is one of Alaska’s most beautiful small settlements. Venture ashore to explore the village, where the local fishing community will gladly receive you. Chignik’s rivers are home to spawning salmon throughout the summer months, and you may be lucky enough to see the leaping fish making their way upstream.
Keep your eyes on the skies, as Chignik’s sheltered conditions and plentiful fish support an abundant population of Bald Eagles. You should also watch for tracks from the local bear population, which can frequently be seen close to the settlement.
Alaska, in all its grandeur, reveals itself like never before when experienced from the unique vantage point of an expedition cruise. The untouched landscapes, the majestic wildlife encounters, and the cultural richness of remote communities create an indelible tapestry of memories that linger long after the voyage ends.
So, as you set sail into the horizon, may the echoes of glaciers, the spirit of adventure, and the stories of this vast wilderness stay with you, reminding you that Alaska, in its untamed beauty, is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered anew with every expedition.
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