Day 1 - Juneau/Ship Embarkation
Your Alaskan expedition commences as you arrive in Juneau. Make your way to the harbor to board your cruise ship, the Wilderness Adventurer. You are welcomed aboard by the thoughtful crew and led to your private cabin. It will not be too hard to find; this ship caters to only 60 travelers at a time, lending a cozy and intimate feel to each departure. Once you're settled, join the crew and your small group of fellow travelers for a toast to the grand adventures to come. The ship sets sail later today, passing small islands and traveling through winding waterways on its westerly route. Overnight ship.
Day 2 - Icy Strait
Soak in the sights during your leisurely start to the day. Perhaps enjoy breakfast in the dining room or watch the views pass from the lounge. Alternatively, head out to the deck for some morning yoga or to savor a cup of coffee while looking over the remote waters of the Icy Strait. The ship ventures into some of the most secluded bays and anchors, presenting you with a range of opportunities to explore your surroundings. Perhaps step aboard an inflatable skiff boat, and putter through the water in search of orcas, porpoises, sea otters and harbor seals. For a land adventure, grab a pair of boots, and embark on a forest hike headed by a naturalist. This guide is your key to all things Alaska - the flora and fauna, the geology, the history, and the obscure. Listen to fascinating snippets of information as you explore the backcountry on foot. Alternatively, hang out on board and soak in the views while enjoying the ship's amenities, such as the hot tub. Overnight ship.
3Glacier National Park
Day 3 - Glacier Bay National Park
Calving glaciers, sea birds and impossibly graceful marine life are hallmarks of today's expedition through Glacier Bay National Park. After breakfast, a park ranger steps aboard the ship to narrate the journey through this 3.3 million-acre slice of Last Frontier heaven. Dramatic mountainscapes frame the way, as do sights of glaciers and icebergs right at the water's edge. Look above, below and all around for the wildlife that is so common here, including orange-billed puffins, guillemots, seagulls, sea lions, otters, whales, bears, Dall sheep and more. Your cruise takes you past South Marble Island - a favorite haul-out point for male sea lions, some of which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, and a nesting location for seabirds. The island is like watching National Geographic in 4-D; all the smells accompanying the array of sounds and sights. Continue into John Hopkins Inlet or Tarr Inlet, past the shores of Tidal Inlet, and into Bartlett Cove, if time allows. On the chance the day's excursion finds you at Bartlett Cove, you have the opportunity to disembark the ship for a short hike through the dense woodlands around the park's headquarters. One showcase after the next lies ahead on this trip. Overnight ship.
Day 4 - Chatham Strait
Grand explorations beckon as the vessel arrives in the Chatham Strait this morning. This beautiful stretch of inky seawater stretches 150 miles into Tongass National Forest and is your playground for the day. The captain anchors in a remote inlet just off the coast of Chichagof Island, and that is your cue to gear up for a day of wondrous scenery and unimaginable adventures. Choose your preferred method of transit to begin your day: kayak, paddleboard or skiff. You may spend as much time as you want investigating the water and the surrounding islands. Keep your eyes peeled for bears exploring the rocky shores and sea otters and seals frolicking in the water. Upon the jagged mountainsides, fluffy white mountain goats climb from ledge to ledge. Bring your kayak up on the shore, and spend some time beachcombing or set out into the outback for a guided hike through the moss-draped trees. Your walk may take you to rain-fed waterfalls or beautiful lookout points. There is no wrong way to experience this idyllic region.
Back on board this evening, enjoy dinner and a nightcap on the deck as the ship proceeds down past Baranof Island and toward the next coastal point of interest. Overnight ship.
Day 5 - Kuiu Island
Set off Tebenkof Bay, Kuiu Island may be slim in its composition, but it is brimming with life and natural beauty. Rocky outcrops - arms and fingers - stretch off the island and range from six to 25 miles wide. Salmon streams add another layer of intrigue to the perimeters. Where there are salmon, there is wildlife, and on Kuiu, it is abundant. As you kayak, skiff or paddleboard around Saginaw Bay, keep a lookout for black bears; a large population of these mammals calls the island home. Bald eagles soar overhead and swoop down to the streams to fish out their dinner. Looking up into the trees may even present a nest. But the animals are not all you can see. Lush emerald green forests complement the hues of the water, and the nearby Keku Islands offer idyllic vistas. If your curiosity takes you ashore, there are tide pools to walk along and plenty of rocks to overturn in search of small creatures. It does not get more remote - or remarkable - than this. Overnight ship.
Day 6 - Frederick Sound
Look forward to a day of incredible sights as the vessel enters Frederick Sound between Kupreanof and Admiralty Islands this morning. Spectacular views of the snowy Coast Mountains surround the body of water and make the panorama even more impressive. Fed by glaciers and abundant in krill, zooplankton and herring, Frederick Sound is a favorite feeding ground for humpback whales. During migration season, there may be as many as 1,000 in these pristine waters. Look on as they breach, skim feed along the surface, blow water from their blowholes, slap the water and lobtail. It is truly an inspiring sight. The abundant waters of Frederick Sound are also home to orcas, Steller sea lions, harbor seals and Dall's porpoises. Sit back, and watch the amazing show unfold. As the ship proceeds through the region, enjoy glimpses of Five Fingers Lighthouse - the oldest in all of Alaska - and the Brothers Islands, a favorite hangout for sleepy sea lions and seals. If weather permits, the captain may anchor the ship and allow you to get out in the water on your own in a skiff, kayak or paddleboard through the bays. Both Port Houghton and Windham Bay are fantastic to explore this way, with their remote waters leading to even more remote landscapes. Step ashore and take a hike through the bush, or simply stay on the water to soak in the ambiance. Overnight ship.
7Endicott Arm/Dawes Glacier
Day 7 - Endicott Arm/Dawes Glacier
After venturing through Stephens Passage, the cruise liner arrives at the cusp of Endicott Arm, anchors and invites you to explore by skiff. Look around as the boat putters into the narrow stretch of water. Icebergs float past, often topped with lounging seals. The steep cliffs of the surrounding Coast Mountains climb abruptly from the waterline, giving you the feeling of being enclosed in this grandiose waterscape. Look upon valleys carved by glaciers millennia ago in the distance. Catch passing glimpses of bears or moose on the shores. If the tides cooperate, venture into Fords Terror, a steep, narrow fjord where glacial waterfalls flow down the mountainsides. At the end of Endicott Arm comes the sight you have been waiting for, Dawes Glacier. Layer upon layer of brilliant blue ice cascades down the landscape, beginning at the mountains and ending right in front of your eyes at the water's edge. The glacier amazes at over 600 feet tall and half a mile wide. If you are lucky, you may even see the calving process take place. Return to the ship this evening to celebrate with a delicious Farewell Dinner alongside your fellow travelers. Toast to newly formed friendships and a successful voyage. A photo journal display recounts all the fantastic adventures that took place over the last week throughout the evening. Overnight ship.
Day 8 - Juneau
The ship returns to Juneau this morning. After a final breakfast aboard, disembark the ship, and make your way to your conveniently located hotel, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. Juneau features an interesting juxtaposition of history, tradition and modern amenities. There are several buildings dating back to the 1800s, including Juneau's first bar. Seek out the Alaskan capitol buildings, or visit one of the many art galleries that present indigenous art. Of course, there is no shortage of places to sample incredible freshly caught seafood, including salmon and king crab. Alternatively, you can walk along the docks, watching fishing and cruise ships pull into the harbor, and marine life swimming in the distance. Overnight Juneau.
Day 9 - Flight from Juneau to Anchorage
Make your way to the airport for your flight from Juneau to Anchorage, where the land portion of your vacation begins. Arrive with the rest of the day to explore the offerings of Anchorage as you please. The city is the cultural and commercial center of the state and is brimming with museums, art, superb cuisine and, of course, nature. Perhaps visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center or the Anchorage Museum. Beautiful parks dot the city, and there are plenty of places to enjoy nature without leaving downtown, such as the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where moose wander freely and fantastic ocean views abound. If you want to relax over a pint instead, breweries are nearly as bountiful as nature here. Overnight Anchorage.
Day 10 - Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward
Your adventure continues aboard the Alaska Railroad as you depart Anchorage on the Coastal Classic and begin the trip toward Seward. The southerly journey takes you around the Turnagain Arm with the ocean on one side of the track and 3,000-foot mountain peaks on the other. Remote vistas of the Kenai Peninsula overtake the landscape - views that cannot be seen by any other mode of transportation. As the waters of Resurrection Bay come into view, the train stations in Seward. This city is known for its art scene and has unofficially become the mural capital of Alaska. Venture through Seward to seek out these works of art or head to one of the numerous galleries to get a better look. Of course, art is just one way to explore the city. There is also the Alaska SeaLife Center, the Seward Community Library and Museum, and great parks to explore. Seward is home to an ever-expanding culinary scene that highlights fresh, locally sourced ingredients and boasts great coffee houses and breweries, as well. If you want to get out in nature, there are glaciers, hiking trails, parks and adventures galore. Overnight Seward.
11Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 11 - Kenai Fjords National Park
This morning begins by presenting one of the crowning jewels of the region, Kenai Fjords National Park. Discover the fjords, mountains, wildlife and spectacular hidden scenery of this 670,000-acre protected land by boat during your 6-hour cruise excursion. Nearly 100 miles of coastal vistas are presented, with each step of the way narrated by an expert guide. Your guide offers information about the flora and fauna of the region, as well as the marine life. Look for eagles soaring through the skies overhead and seabirds and puffins floating atop the icy waters. You may even catch a glimpse of a sea otter playing or a humpback whale surfacing. As the tour concludes, you are returned to Seward in time to board the Coastal Classic for your return journey to Anchorage, again following the undulations of Turnagain Arm. Overnight Anchorage.
12Anchorage to Talkeetna
Day 12 - Anchorage to Talkeetna aboard the Denali Star
Another route on the storied rails of the Alaska Railroad, another day that presents scenery unlike any you have laid your eyes upon before: Today's journey is on the Denali Star. Running between Anchorage and Fairbanks, this line is one of the most notable in the Alaska Railroad repertoire. This morning, board the train for the first leg of this incredible journey into the interior, with your destination being Talkeetna. The train reaches this quaint town after traveling along the Knik Arm and then through Wasilla. From here, the tracks wind along the Susitna River, with deep evergreen woodlands and impressive mountain ranges forming the backdrop for the course. As the Denali Star stations in Talkeetna, head to the river to board a jet-boat for an insider's look at the area's waterways. An incredible array of wildlife calls these rivers home, from beavers and salmon to eagles, geese and ducks. On the shores, moose, caribou and bear can sometimes be spotted. This ride is as scenic as it is thrilling. The jet-boat returns you to the harbor following the excursion, and from here, you are free to make your way to your conveniently located hotel with the rest of the night at leisure. Overnight Talkeetna.
Day 13 - Talkeetna to Denali National Park
A land of extremes lies ahead as your journey continues toward Alaska's most notable piece of protected land, Denali National Park. Presenting extreme beauty and extreme heights, Denali is home to the Alaska Range, sweeping valleys, lush forests and a vast array of wildlife. Of course, what the park is perhaps best known for is Mount Denali, the highest peak in America. As you arrive, feel free to set out into the wilderness on your own. The hiking trails throughout the park present wondrous sights at every turn. Make sure your camera is handy! You may venture onto them independently or led by a park ranger who can select trails based on points of interest or difficulty level. Embark on a wildlife excursion to seek out moose, caribou, wolves, Dall sheep or the sizable population of grizzly bears within Denali National Park. Overnight Denali.
14Denali National Park
Day 14 - Denali National Park Touring/Denali to Fairbanks
Sometimes there is no better way to grasp on the full-scale grandeur of a location than a guided tour, and that is just what this morning brings. Venture deep into the heart of Denali National Park, where there is nothing but wide-open wilderness for miles and miles in every direction. Soak in panoramic mountain scenes and some of the most impressive glimpses of Mt. Denali available in the park. A guide offers striking facts and notes points of interest as the excursion unfolds, making sure not a single detail goes unseen.
It is back to the Alaska Railroad's Denali Star after your tour concludes, and today's route takes you even deeper into Alaska's interior to the fascinating city of Fairbanks. Watch as Mt. Denali and the Alaska Range fade to mere specks on the horizon as the train ventures north toward Healy and later Nenana. Typical remote Alaskan communities are visible from the tracks, and it is immediately apparent from their secluded nature just how vital the Alaska Railroad is to survival in these parts. The subarctic landscape flattens the further inland the train gets, and caribou can often be seen roaming in the distance. Before the journey concludes, keep a lookout for one last highlight: the Nenana River Canyon. Overnight Fairbanks
Day 15 - Fairbanks Sightseeing
Get acquainted with the largest city in Alaska's interior with a guided sightseeing tour. Fairbanks offers layer upon layer of history to uncover from its colorful Gold Rush past to its vast native heritage. Today's comprehensive voyage begins on land amidst centuries-old buildings and remnants of the region's mining past. As you venture through the city, enjoy sights that also hint at the modern side of Fairbanks, including perhaps the Museum of the North. Enjoy another perspective on the sights and the city afterward by boarding a Sternwheeler Riverboat for a cruise along the Chena River. The ride invokes a certain nostalgia on passengers, not only transporting them through the fantastic scenery but also through the times, back to a day when riverboats were the most efficient mode of transit in the interior.
Following the tours, you have ample time to sightsee on your own. Perhaps seek out a gallery in which to see Native artworks and jewelry, or enjoy a deeper introduction into the art scene by seeking out the city's murals and sculptures or perusing the museums. Fairbanks is home to a great restaurant scene with eateries that appeal to visitors of all tastes. After two full weeks of adventure, maybe you just want a cold beer with a view - and you are in luck, because there are plenty of places for that, too. Keep an eye on the skies as the sun goes down; if your visit takes place at the right time of year, you may be able to watch the world's most intriguing and colorful display: the Aurora Borealis. Overnight Fairbanks.
Day 16 - Fairbanks
Visions of snow-capped mountains and stunning waterways fill your camera roll and your heart as your vacation concludes this morning. You may proceed to Fairbanks International Airport at leisure to return home or press on for your next adventure.