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The humble beginnings of the City of Vancouver, in the settlement of Gastown on Burrard Inlet, rose out of the old growth forests and the sawdust of the old Hastings Mill. Its location between the Pacific Ocean and the snow-capped coastal mountains creates one of the most idyllic settings of any city in the world. As a world-class city it has the best of both worlds, intermingling urban sophistication with a sense of wilderness and outdoor adventure. Whether you are exploring Vancouver’s diverse downtown core, strolling through the giant trees of Stanley Park or taking in the 20 miles (30 km) of uninterrupted waterfront trails along the seawall, you are bound to fall in love with Canada’s third largest metropolitan center, which is consistently ranked as one of most livable cities on earth.
In 1886, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Vancouver, completing Canada’s ‘National Dream’ of a connection between east and west, and opening up new trade routes between Asia and Europe. The city was named for British captain and explorer George Vancouver.
The Seymour Narrows is a 3-mile/5 km stretch of the Discovery Channel north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia that is notorious for the strength of the tidal currents flowing through it. The average width of the narrows is just 750 meters. During extreme tides, the current through the narrows is subject to severe Venturi effect, resulting in an increased velocity that can reach 15 knots. For much of its modern history, there was an additional hazard in the narrows called Ripple Rock, a shallow obstruction that claimed no fewer than 119 ships and 114 lives. In 1958, after months of tunneling and preparation, Ripple Rock was blown up in the largest commercial, non-nuclear explosion ever recorded in North America. Still, the navigation of Seymour Narrows is dependent on tidal and other conditions, and requires skill and technical accomplishment.
The Queen Charlotte Sound lies between the Queen Charlotte Strait, which winds between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland in the south, and Hecate Strait, which is northward, adjacent to the Haida Gwaii Islands off the Pacific coast of British Columbia. It is a broad reach in the long shipping route called the Inside Passage threading the myriad islands stretching from Washington’s Puget Sound to Alaska.
Ketchikan is a picturesque coastal town with a colorful frontier history, standing at the southern entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage. It began as a salmon cannery in 1885, built by company employee Mike Martin at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek. Once dubbed the ‘Canned Salmon Capital of the World,’ today government, commercial fishing, and tourism are its main industries. The renowned Creek Street, perched on stilts along the mouth of the creek, would bring lasting infamy to the area for the red-light district that burgeoned there during the Gold Rush.
The town’s site first served as a camp for Tlingit people, and for thousands of years this has been their home. Their rich culture is being preserved to this day. A visit to Ketchikan is not complete without visiting one or all of Native American sites such as Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, Saxman Native Village and the Totem Heritage Center. Together, these locations comprise the world’s largest collection of standing Native American totem poles.
In the passage between Sumner Strait and Clarence Strait in Southeast Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago, midway between Price of Wales Island on the west and Zarembo Island on the east, is a small cluster of islands with a picturesque passageway between them called Snow Pass. It makes a scenic up-close route for your Seabourn ship during the transit.
Decision Passage is the western end of the Sumner Strait, which runs through the Alexander Archipelago into the Pacific Ocean in Southeastern Alaska, bounded on the north by Kuiu Island and Cape Decision, the location of a 1932 lighthouse. This is the route your ship takes when coming from or going to the colorful historic community of Sitka on the west coast of Baranof Island, which was originally the Russian fortress town of New Archangel.
A stroll through the streets and National Historic Park of Sitka is a glimpse into its unique and colorful past. A blend of Tlingit and Russian cultures defines this first capital of Alaska. Although fish canning and gold mining were the initial catalysts for growth in Sitka, the construction of an air base during World War II truly paved the way for Sitka to come into its own. One of Sitka’s most intriguing structures is the Cathedral of Saint Michael, built in 1848 to honor a Russian Orthodox bishop.
Sitka’s history begins thousands of years ago with the Tlingit people and their use of the land for sustenance and spirituality. Old Sitka, located just north of the present-day settlement, was founded by Russian-American Company trader Alexander Baranov in 1799. Originally named Novo-Arkhangelsk (New Archangel) under Russian rule, its name was changed to Sitka after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867. Sitka is a Tlingit word meaning ‘by the sea.’
Yakutat Bay is 18 miles wide at its entry, and cuts from the Gulf of Alaska into Disenchantment Bay, the entryway to the huge Hubbard Glacier, North America’s largest tidewater glacier. As the bay narrows and the shorelines draw closer, the 400-foot face of the glacier exerts a luminous, ghostly presence, often from as much as 30 miles away. More and more floating ice dimples the surface of the water, and seals bob up and disappear again. The chilled air from the glacier flows in a downdraft of cold that gives rise to mists and gray clouds, through which the vivid blue of the ice wall shimmers. It is an impressive sight of nature’s immense raw workplace, shaping the earth itself as part of an endless cycle of water from the sea evaporating to the sky, falling as snow on the heights and inching over centuries back again to the sea.
The Hubbard Glacier is the largest, and one of the most spectacular tidewater glaciers in North America. Its ice cliffs, some 400’ (121 m) tall, calve icebergs into the fjord, which may frequently be larger than a five-story building. The glacier’s surface is creased and contorted, resembling the wrinkled skin of a giant elephant. Records show it has been growing in thickness and advancing since 1895. This stands in stark contrast to other glaciers around the world, most of which have been receding during the past century. In 2002, the glacier blocked Russell Fjord for two and a half months, raising water levels 61’ (18 m) and threatening local communities with flooding.
Nutrient-rich waters along the glacier face attract many species. Gulls and kittiwake colonies adorn smaller islands and harbor seals patrol the icy waters.
In 1890, Israel Russell explored the area of Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier, naming it after Gardiner G. Hubbard, a financier of his expedition and a founder and the first president of the National Geographic Society.
As the gatekeepers to the northern entrance of the fabled Inside Passage, the remote Inian Islands stand between Cross Sound and Icy Strait, exposed to the high energy seas of the Pacific Ocean. Tidal currents surging through the narrow channels separating the islands can be severe. Nicknames like ‘The Laundry Chute’ justify their notorious reputations.
For millennia, Tlingit people came here to hunt and fish in the rich bounty that these waters provided. Today, the Inian Islands Institute, located within the islands, provides access to the abundant and protected waters for scientific research. Sitka black-tailed deer and brown bears frequent their rugged and rocky shores, while sea lions fill their stomachs with salmon before hauling out to rest on the many rocky outcrops making up this island group. Sea otters, bald eagles, and humpback whales frequent the area in great numbers during the summer months.
The Inian Islands were named by William Healey Dall, one of Alaska’s earliest scientific explorers, in 1879.
Icy Strait Point is a unique community on Chichagof Island near the entry to Glacier Bay National Park. It was created and is owned by a corporation of over 1300 Native Americans of various local Tlingit tribes, for the purpose of offering visitors an enjoyable, educational experience of Alaska’s native cultures, as well as the human and natural history of the region. Your tender will dock at the historic 1912 salmon canning facility, which today is a museum. The surrounding grounds offer cultural performances, Native American-owned shops and galleries, restaurants and a variety of tours and excursions for every interest from sport fishing to whale watching, guided nature walks and excursions to view bears and other wildlife, ATV tours and even a zipline adventure that is said to be the longest (over a mile) and highest (over 1330 feet of drop) in North America. The small village of Hoonah is just over a mile away, and can be reached either by walking or on a shuttle. It also has shops and eateries, as well as a totem-carving enterprise run by the corporation. The Huna Totem Corporation maintains complete control of the content and access to the community, which has won a number of prestigious awards for its sustainable approach to exploiting the natural and historical heritage of Alaska and its native peoples for their benefit.
Tucked in along the shores of the longest fjord in North America and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Haines is an authentic Alaskan experience. It is an eclectic community and a truly hidden gem. Its rich culture shines brightly during the annual state fair that draws people from all over Alaska.
Haines is home to the largest concentration of bald eagles on earth, and grizzly bears gorge themselves on spawning salmon in its rivers. It was originally named Dteshuh, which means ‘end of the trail’ in the language of the Chilkat natives, who used to portage across the peninsula to Chilkat Inlet as a shortcut to their trade route to the interior.
The first Europeans arrived in 1879 to build a school and a Presbyterian mission. In time, the mission was renamed Haines in honor of Francina E. Haines, the chairwoman of the committee that raised funds for its construction. Haines grew dramatically during the 1899 Klondike gold rush in the Yukon, supplying prospectors with food and equipment.
Lynn Canal is a 90-mile long inlet into Alaska’s coast running from the Chilkat River in the north to the Chatham Strait and Stephens Passage in the south. Because it connects the towns of Skagway and Haines to Juneau and the rest of the Inside Passage, it is an important shipping lane for ferries, cargo and cruise ships, and was a crucial passageway to the Klondike gold fields during the Gold Rush. It was discovered by Joseph Whidbey in 1794 and named by George Vancouver after his birthplace, King’s Lynn in Norfolk, England. More than 2,000 feet in depth, it is one of the deepest and longest fjords in the world, and the deepest in North America outside Greenland.
Juneau, Alaska’s capital, is accessible only by air and sea, due to the rugged mountain terrain that surrounds the city. It has been a world-class travel destination since the early 1900’s. The city has plenty to offer the outdoor adventurer. You may choose to explore on foot along the Perseverance Trail or around Mendenhall Glacier, or board one of the many local whale-watching boats, or view the mountains and extensive glaciers of the Juneau Icefield from a helicopter.
Although founded by Alaskan pioneers, this area was in use for thousands of years by the Tlingit people and was originally settled by the Auke tribe, taking advantage of the abundant food and natural resources provided by the land and sea. Their descendants continue to gather clams, gumboot chitons, grass and sea urchins to this day.
Originally named Harrisburg in 1880, after the gold prospector Richard Harris, the name was later changed to honor his partner Joe Juneau.
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