We had a great two+ week trip to Southeast Alaska in August of 2022.  Technically this was mostly a cruise, from Ketchikan to Sitka!  9 nights aboard the MV Swell, a converted wooden tugboat built in 1912 and 88 feet long!  Room for 12 passengers, though only 8 on this voyage.  One would definitely call this a small boat adventure cruise, with wildlife, shore excursions and scenery at the top of the agenda.  We also spent 2 pre-cruise nights in Ketchikan and 3 post-cruise nights in a Sitka VRBO (very nice, large and right downtown).

Ketchikan was a busy little town, especially with several huge cruise ships in port during the day times.  Getting from the airport to town was a bit tricky as we didn't know we had to take a ferry to the mainland.  Fun town to walk around.  Creek Street is very picturesque and the salmon ladder in the creek was great.  We had a nice town walking tour led by a Tlingit tribal elder and a second tour by boat out to the Hump Island Oyster Farm, which included raw and smoked oyster tasting.

We saw LOTS of Humpback whales!  Breaching, fin slapping, tail flukes in the air when diving, spouts.  And of course great scenery in the background.  The video includes a couple of photo sequences as I was sometimes shooting continuous frames at 10 to 20 frames per second, along with some normal video clips.

Humpback Whale Antics

Grizzly Bears (aka Alaskan Brown Bears) were the wildlife highlight of the trip!  We had never seen Grizzlies before.  Pack Creek on the East side of Admiralty Island is a strictly managed bear viewing area requiring limited viewing permits.  We took the zodiac to the island and walked to two different viewing sites.  One inland through the rain forest to a high platform overlooking the salmon stream.  The second along the shore to the estuary of Pack Creek.  It was a bit unnerving walking in the forest and out in the open with bear sign everywhere and pretty much nothing between us and the bears.

We saw no bears from the high platform but hit the jackpot at the estuary since the tide was out (makes salmon fishing easier in the shallower water).  Lots of bears fishing and catching salmon.  A cute couple of three year old sisters!  The ranger filled us in on all the bears as they are well known.  Also quite a few birds partaking of the salmon, with eagles fishing and raven and seagulls trying to steal tidbits.

Alaska Brown Bears (Grizzlies)

We saw several glaciers from afar as cruising by, but one special day we will call "Glacier Day".  This was a day long cruise up Tracy Arm with waterfalls, gorgeous fjord scenery, small icebergs, harbor seals and two large tidewater glaciers:  South and North Sawyer Glaciers.  We got pretty close to South Sawyer in the zodiac, but not too close as it was actively calving (along with loud cracking and rumbling sounds).  I was lucky enough to catch one fairly large calving on video.

The crew snagged a bergie bit to take back to the Swell for the Glacier Ice Cocktail Hour!  It was a fun gathering on the back deck with your choice of liquor and mixers, over glacier ice cubes of course.

Tracy Arm Fjord and South Sawyer Glacier

We saw a lot of smaller wildlife during the entire trip.  Birds were everywhere.  Bald Eagles are very regal, many other waterbirds, herons, ,Stellar sea lions, cute sea otters, Sitka Black-tailed deer.

Other Wildlife

The MV Swell has a lot of character!  Rooms are small and comfortable, but oddly shaped in some instances. We spent most of our outside time on the top deck covered lounge looking and waiting for wildlife sightings.

The food was outstanding!  We didn't have a cook, we had a chef!  Gourmet quality and presentation.  Wine and beer included of course.  And always morning and afternoon snacks.

Passengers included three Americans, three Germans, and two Swiss.  The five Europeans all spoke German but also English.  The crew of five were all Canadian.  They were all fun to be around.

Not much you could say about the scenery other than it was Awesome!  Snow capped mountains, ocean waters, forested islands and beautiful high clouds on most days.  The moon rising over islands.  We had several nice shore excursions to estuaries, waterfalls and a warm springs soaking area (very slippery path down to the pools).

Sitka is a cute little town with a very nice seaside walk.  Crowded at times due to the cruise ship hordes but at least the huge ships did not dock in town.  Sitka has some Russian heritage and architecture dating back to the 1800's when the area was a Russian colony.  And there are a lot of totem poles around town!

We took the local bus out to the end of the road and did a full day of hiking.  Rain forest, moss, estuaries, salmon streams, muskeg (swampy bogs, thank goodness for boardwalks!), remote Mosquito Cove and one large very friendly Raven.  Very nice sunny day for walking.

An outstanding trip from beginning to end!  Great boat, great people, great food, fantastic scenery and loads of wildlife.  And we definitely got to see the Grizzly Bears!

The End

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