Tour begins: 3:30 PM, Juneau. Arrive in Juneau by 2:30 PM. A transfer is included from Juneau International Airport to Centennial Hall in downtown Juneau. At 3:30 you will be transported from the hall to your handsome yacht, Le Soléal. Dinner is served onboard as you get to know your fellow guests.
Gold Rush Skagway, White Pass railway & sled dogs
Awaken in Skagway to a day steeped in Gold Rush lore, and a choice between six different sightseeing activities. First choice is an opportunity to explore the National Landmark District of Skagway and White Pass. Take an antique streetcar tour of the frontier city and a round-trip excursion by vintage train to White Pass Summit, an elevation of 2,885 feet; following the original White Pass trail, hear stories of brave fortune-seekers pursuing their dreams in the wildest of the Wild West as you travel through an arresting terrain of mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls so challenging that it's hard to imagine how anyone ever survived to reap a golden reward. Second choice is a rail journey to White Pass Summit, continuing on to Fraser, British Columbia, and the Yukon Suspension Bridge; catch the scenic South Klondike Highway for the return trip, with a stop for lunch at Jewell Gardens on the site of an historic pioneer farm. Third choice is an opportunity to board a vintage rail car to Fraser, British Columbia, disembarking at Bernard Lake for a kayak excursion. Fourth choice is Glacier Point Wilderness Safari aboard a vessel designed for viewing marine life (possibly whales and sea lions) to a remote beach at Glacier Point, then paddling a canoe across an iceberg-studded lake to the face of a glacier for a one-mile hike. Fifth choice is a drive to Canada's Yukon territory for lunch at Caribou Crossing Trading Post, with visits to the native village of Carcross, the Wildlife Museum, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Center in Saskatchewan, and the Dog Musher's Village, where mushers train their dogs for the Yukon Quest dogsled race. And your sixth choice is a drive from Skagway by way of a 4x4 truck and a customized summertime dog sled to a Dog Musher's Camp near Dyea flats to play with the puppies. All shore excursions return to Skagway; in the afternoon, experience the city as you please. As you sail for Haines tonight, join your captain for a welcome reception onboard ship.
Eagle refuge, ancient Klukwan & more in Haines
Anchor in Haines, dress warmly, and pack extra socks for a day that starts with a drive along Haines Highway - a National Scenic Byway lined with deep green rainforest and snow-topped mountains - past Fort Seward and up the Chilkat River to the Alaska Chilkat Eagle Preserve. Within the preserve is the Tlingit village of Klukwan where you'll take in a tribal performance and gain insights into local culture and customs. Tour a traditional longhouse; a salmon smokehouse and drying house; and a shed where artists deftly wield a Stone Age tool called an adze to carve totems and canoes. Then board a float* for a gentle ride through the preserve - the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world; the river is filled with salmon, one of their favorite snacks. Or take a narrated drive through Fort Seward and the Chilkoot Valley, home to brown bears, mountain goats, river otters, and bald eagles; the area is a birdwatcher's paradise, and the Chilkoot River is the best bear watching in Alaska. Or see downtown Haines and Fort Seward, then go kayaking on Chilkoot Lake (no experience necessary), or embark on a wildlife safari by canoe, exploring inlets, coves, salmon spawning streams, and waterfalls, followed by a picnic lunch at a private beach. Alternatively, hike with a naturalist guide along the Chilkat Inlet at Chilkat State Park, where you'll be treated to magnificent glacier views across the fjord. Or drive along the spectacular Chilkat Peninsula to visit the oldest seafood cannery in Alaska, and the American Bald Eagle Raptor Center, a non-profit education center featuring eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey. Spend an afternoon pursuing your own interests in Haines; you might want to poke around the shops, or check out the Hammer Museum, "the world's first museum dedicated to preserving man's first tool, the hammer."
Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord
Hit the decks with your camera ready for one of the highlights of your cruise in the Inside Passage: a day sailing in the Tracy Arm Fjord. The drama of its sheer cliffs and towering waterfalls is rivaled only by the massive chunks of ice scattered across the water, like so many ice sculptures. Calved from the glacier at the head of the fjord, they come in every shade of blue and white - some even seem fluorescent. Don't be surprised to find families of seals sunning themselves on the ice - and noting your arrival with interest. Also keep an eye open for orcas and, on the rugged cliffs that rise up from the water, mountain goats. You will take it all in while cruising aboard the yacht, and get an insider's view of this special corner of the wilderness from presentations by Tauck's onboard naturalist.
Sitka - Bears, raptors & native tales
In Sitka today, Russian, Tlingit and American cultures merge in a choice of shore excursions. Drive through the historic district to view the sights: Totem Square, Castle Hill, the Russian Bishop's Home, the Alaska Pioneer Home, and St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral; visit the Alaska Raptor Center where injured birds of prey are rescued and rehabilitated; at Sitka National Historic Park, wander at your own pace through the lush rainforest along paths where totems depict stories of the Tlingit people, or join your local guide on a short walk to learn about edible and medicinal plants; at the Visitor Center discover the work of local Native artists alongside ancient and modern displays, and see a presentation on Sitka's history; hear authentic Tlingit stories and songs at the Naa Kahidi Community House, a performance and meeting space modeled on a Tlingit clan house. Or you can visit the Raptor Center and the Russian Cathedral, and the Bishop's House, built in 1843, during the "Golden Age" of Russian North America. Alternatively, hike the subalpine Harbor Mountain Recreation Area, overlooking Sitka Sound and neighboring islands, for views of glacier-carved valleys, alpine rock fields, twisted trees, and wildflowers; watch for black-tailed deer, brown bears, mountain goats, and soaring bald eagles and ravens riding high on thermal uplifts. Return to ship, and sail this afternoon for Ketchikan.
Totem poles, rainforest & more in Ketchican
Welcome to Ketchikan, Alaska, nestled on the bluffs of the southwestern coast of Revillagigedo Island. Founded as a salmon cannery site and once known as the "Salmon Capital of the World," this lively port boasts historic Creek Street, lined with an engaging mix of galleries, restaurants, artisan shops, and bookstores. Drive to Saxman Native Village, home of what may be the world's largest collection of standing Native American totem poles - each a story unto itself. Get to know more about tribal traditions - and maybe learn a few dance steps - in the clan house. Alternatively, you can take a short drive up the coast to rustic Herring Cove for a tour by a local naturalist at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. Walking the trail through this dense forest of hemlock, spruce, and Alaska cedar, with its mossy floor, berries, and wild flowers, gives you a chance to spot the local residents, including flocks of singing birds. Then it's on to the historic Herring Bay Lumber Company sawmill to meet a master totem carver, and see eagles and other birds of prey up close at the Alaska Raptor Center. Or take a guided stroll through City Park, then view 19th-century totem poles as well as other Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian artifacts and art pieces at the Totem Heritage Center; visit Potlatch Totem Park to learn more about how poles are made and the legends behind them; you can also peruse the collection of antique cars, including a 1924 Stanley Steamer, and the display of vintage firearms. Or drive up the coast to George Inlet Lodge and take a catamaran cruise to crab pots in the fjord at Tongass National Forest; pull up the Dungeness crabs (with help from volunteers), then return to the lodge for a crab feast. Or choose instead a kayak excursion to the Eagle Islands in Tongass Park, keeping an eye out for bald eagles, seals, jumping salmon, and, when tide conditions are right, sea stars. Or sail the Inside Passage aboard a commercial fishing boat, the Aleutian Ballad (featured on the tv series Deadliest Catch), to witness the lives of Bering Sea fishermen firsthand; watch them set lines, barrel pots, and huge crab pots; keep an eye out for whales, porpoises, sea lions, wolf eels and sharks; sea creatures hauled up will be put in an aquarium on deck so everyone can get a close look. Lunch on ship, then spend free time in Ketchikan before sailing for Vancouver, BC.
Cruising the British Columbia coast
Spend a full day aboard your handsome yacht heading south in Canada's Inside Passage, en route to Vancouver, your final stop. As you wend your way along the serpentine line of glacier-forged fjords at the foot of the mountains edging British Columbia, you'll pass the Great Bear Rainforest; miles of untouched wilderness; the 1918 ghost town of Butedale (weather permitting); and, if you're lucky, whales, dolphins, and sea lions. Today is also the perfect opportunity to really enjoy the many comforts and amenities aboard Le Soléal, as your cruise comes to a close. Please join us tonight to celebrate an extraordinary trip with the captain's farewell reception and dinner aboard ship.
Tour ends: Vancouver. Disembark this morning in Vancouver. Tauck will provide transfers from Le Soléal to Vancouver International Airport or to your post-stay hotel. Flights should not be booked earlier than 1:00 PM. Allow at least two hours for flight check-in.