SEATTLE -- "Anyone can find the birds, but I know the country,"
said Dan Wetzel, whose Fairbanks-based NatureAlaska Tours teamed
with Glacier Bay Cruiseline to create the small-ship line's first
land programs with bird-watching as the theme.
Birding enthusiasts can sign on for two new
ornithology-influenced cruises on June 1 and June 22. The
bird-watching land tours are optional.
Two NatureAlaska-escorted land tours are offered as an add-on to
the cruise: One four-night tour visits Kenai Fjords National Park;
a five-night trip takes passengers above the Arctic Circle to
Prudhoe Bay for bird-watching.
Wetzel, a birder himself, said the cruises and tours will be a
great opportunity not only for serious birders but also for
"When people go with me, they come away with the sense of
Alaska," he said.
Guests on the Kenai Peninsula trip will see ocean birds like
puffins; those on the Arctic Circle itinerary will see birds native
to Alaska's tundra and the Yukon River basin.
Wetzel said one of the most sought-after Arctic bird sightings
is the spectacled eider, a large diving bird (wingspan 36 inches)
that was listed as a threatened species in 1993. The male bird can
be identified by its pale green head and white patch, or spectacle,
around its eye; the female is dark brown with a pale brown
Megan McKinney-Rickey, Glacier Bay Cruiseline's marketing
manager, said the tours are offered during Alaska's prime birding
season and sail into "some of the world's best birding
The cruise itineraries will sail one way from Sitka to Juneau
(or vice versa), which takes passengers through southeast Alaska
waters. The cruises stop in Haines, Skagway and Petersburg, with
cruising through Glacier Bay National Park, Tracy Arm and Frederick
But passengers won't have to rely on binoculars alone to
Roger Lederer, a professor at California State University in
Chico and author of two field guides on birds, will join
enthusiasts on the June 1 cruise; John Kricher, a professor at
Wheaton College (Mass.) and another ornithology expert, will
lecture on the June 22 voyage.
"We structure the lectures so you don't have to have years and
years of [birding] experience," McKinney-Rickey said. "They put it
in layman's terms so everyone can learn from it."
Although the line has invited guest speakers on board before,
these two trips will be Glacier Bay's first bird-themed lecture
cruises, according to McKinney-Rickey.
The cruises will be on board the line's Wilderness Discoverer, a
94-passenger vessel that can edge close to glaciers and Alaska
Prices for the seven-night cruises start at $2,810 per person.
Prices for NatureAlaska's four-night Kenai Peninsula tour,
departing May 28, start at $1,595; the five-night Arctic Circle
tour departs June 17 and starts at $2,295.
The June 22 cruise is part of the line's Family Cruise Program,
which entitles families traveling with children under age 18 to a
For more information, call Glacier Bay Cruiseline at (800)