Thursday 2 February 2023

Getting Lost in Alaska with Lindblad Expeditions

#expeditioncruising .

Get aboard the most famous brand in expedition cruising for an expert and intimate examination of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Words and Pictures by Roderick Eime
Lars Eric Lindblad can be the first to claim the honours for opening up commercial expedition cruising back in the '60s with his groundbreaking (or perhaps, 'ice' breaking) trips to Antarctica. While Lindblad Expeditions may be a different company nowadays, the spirit of Lars Eric lives on with a fleet of six vessels bearing the National Geographic title, plus five locally chartered ships, offering a vast array of enriching expeditions in every ecological hotspot on the planet.

In a much-publicised announcement, MV Orion will join the Lindblad/National Geographic fleet as the seventh company vessel from 2014, becoming their highest Berlitz-rated vessel with 4.5 stars.

But here in SE Alaska, Lindblad is one of just a handful of small ship cruise lines with comprehensive, immersive itineraries in this region typified by towering, snow-capped mountains, enormous icefields with their glacial offspring and a menagerie of fascinating wildlife ranging from grizzly bears and humpback whales to giant slugs and jellyfish.

National Geographic Sea Bird is the perfect size vessel for accessing these secluded coves and bays that the big ships might only glimpse from afar. We nuzzle into little hidden backwaters like Elfin Cove, Petersburg and Bartlett Cove where we disembark and stroll around like locals. Likewise with our busy activity schedule, which includes a choice of hikes in varying length, kayaking on the mirror-like water or Zodiac cruising to explore wildlife and scenic splendours. 


One night we anchored off Point Adolphus and those who chose to go to bed were kept awake by humpback whales blowing just metres from the ship. I watched for an hour or more as a baby humpback cavorted with young sea lions, intermittently spy-hopping, fluke-waving and breaching just outside my cabin window. Such experiences are simply impossible from the massive 2000-passenger vessels that we see steam past in the distance while their guests jostle at the all-night buffet or gaze longingly at the glaciers from afar.

While weather here can be bleak and wet, we were blessed with consecutive days of bright sun and clear skies, making our shore excursions warm work indeed. Snow-frosted mountain ranges trailed off to infinity while it was a cinch to spot mountain goats high up on ledges and the occasional bear foraging along the shore, biding time before the much-anticipated salmon run.

As an aside from the often overwhelming majesty of the glaciers and fjords, we are visited by Bertha Franulovich, a native Tlingit elder who spends a full day aboard helping us fathom the complex family and tribal structures as well as the powerful connection her forebears held with this land.


“We are a people who exist not just in museums or books,” Bertha reminds me, “we are a living culture.”

Today the Tlingkit take great pride in playing host to visitors from all around the world and their rich, resilient culture is evident throughout the entire region now known as Alaska’s Inside Passage. Their tribes and those of the Haida, and Tsimshian nation also extend well in Canada’s neighbouring province of British Columbia.

While I am the only Australian aboard, the crew and fellow passengers make me feel welcome and comfortable and I am flattered by constant requests to join various tables for dinner. Two families with children under 10 clearly enjoy quality time together in an environment far removed from the dulling effects of iPhones and Xboxes. Meals are restaurant quality using plenty of locally-sourced produce with highlights of salmon, halibut, crab and shellfish, all complemented by excellent regional wines.

The itinerary, Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness, is a 7-night expedition-style cruise conducted continuously by Sea Bird and her twin, Sea Lion, from May through August between Juneau and Sitka in the waters of the famous Inside Passage. For details, see and for bookings, visit

This story was originally published in Ocean Magazine

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