Planning Your Trip
What will my overall Alaska experience be like?
We bring you where others can’t, with the experts who know Alaska best, to show you Alaska up close and in-depth. Our 35+ years of experience, nimble expedition ships, and special-use permits enable our passionate expedition team and experienced captains to bring you to hidden coves and narrow channels that only Alaska adventure travel experts know. You will experience wild Alaska at its finest.
When do you travel to Alaska? When is the best time to travel to Alaska?
The Alaska season is May through September. Departure dates vary among our various itineraries:
- 8-day Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness itinerary has twice-weekly departures on Saturdays and Sundays, May-September
- 15-day A Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia & Haida Gwaii itinerary has two departures in 2022: one in May and one in September
- 6-day Wild Alaska Escape: Sitka to Juneau and 6-day Wild Alaska Escape: Juneau to Ketchikan itineraries have departures in early May through August
- 13-day Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska & British Columbia itinerary has departures in May and September
- 8-Day Voyage to Great Bear Rainforest: Native Culture & Wildlife in the Land of the Spirit Bear itinerary has departures in September
For more information on Alaska travel by season, visit our blog.
What ships travel to Alaska?
Travel aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird or National Geographic Sea Lion, which each accommodate 62 guests in 31 cabins, or the National Geographic Quest or National Geographic Venture, which each accommodate 100 guests in 50 cabins. All cabins face outside with windows, private facilities, and climate controls. There are three cabin categories to choose from on National Geographic Sea Lion and National Geographic Sea Bird and five cabin categories on National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture.
What type of weather can I expect during an Alaska expedition?
Temperatures vary from early season (May) to late season (September). May is springtime in Southeast Alaska, so temperatures are cooler, with average daytime temperatures in the low 50s. June will have daytime temperatures in the 60s, and by July and August, daytime temperatures can get as high as the 70s, but can also be as low as the 50s. During any month, the temperatures can be as low as the mid-40s, especially when we are exploring in front of a glacier. You will be spending a lot of time on water, and with a breeze the temperature can feel quite cool. Layers are key, and planning for a variety of weather conditions is most important.
What are the water conditions in Alaska?
Our ships sail amongst the islands and inlets of Southeast Alaska, which offer protection from the Pacific Ocean swell. Alaska weather is unpredictable, and some strait and exposed crossings can generate movement on the ships, but most often we remain in calm protected waters.
Is there a time difference in Alaska?
Yes. (-9:00 GMT) When it’s 8:00 a.m. where we travel in Alaska, it’s 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 11:00 a.m. in Chicago, and noon in New York.
What is included in my trip cost?
We include just about everything you have the opportunity to do as part of your expedition aboard the ship and ashore. The only items not included are those of a personal nature—alcohol, internet usage, gratuities to the crew, wellness treatments, and specialized arrangements such as optional flightseeing in Petersburg.
- All ship accommodations
- All meals and nonalcoholic beverages aboard the ship
- Tips, taxes, port charges, and service charges (gratuities to ship’s crew at your own discretion)
- All shore excursions and sightseeing, entrance fees, special access permits
- Transfers to and from group flights
- Use of kayaks, Zodiacs, and stand-up paddleboards
- Morning stretch classes with our wellness specialist
- The expertise of our expedition team, including talks and presentations
- Hors d’oeuvres and snacks during nightly Recap in the lounge
- 24-hour coffee, tea, and soda on demand
- Complete pre-journey information, including what to bring and a reading list.
We don't want you to miss out on anything. With Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, all activities and sightseeing are included—from guided walks to museum entrance fees to water activities like kayaking and snorkeling—and you won't be locked in to a pre-booked excursion. You'll always have the freedom to pick and choose activities as your day unfolds. After all, these are not scheduled tours—these are expeditions. Everyone is different, every day is different.
Are airport transfers included?
Yes, as long as you arrive and depart within certain time frames, which will be provided to you.
Can I bring my children or grandchildren to Alaska?
We believe sharing an expedition with your kids or grandkids is a life-enhancing experience, and we offer $500 off the double occupancy rate for each person under 18 on all departures. Alaska is one of our most popular family destinations, and families and children of any age are welcome aboard. Kids thrive in the sociable confines of the ship, where they can exercise some autonomy while remaining in contact with adult supervision. Our naturalists are excellent role models who are trained to work with kids and embed education in every fun activity.
What are the requirements of minors under age 18 traveling with one parent/or legal guardian?
A minor consent form must be signed by the parents or parent not traveling with the child. It is also suggested that the legal guardian of the child sign and have notarized a letter of consent to travel with their knowledge.
Do I need any vaccinations? Is a medical form necessary?
All guests 16 years of age and above must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination for voyages departing July 31, 2021, or earlier. All guests 12 years of age and above must present proof of vaccination for voyages departing August 1, 2021, or later.
At the present time, no other immunizations are required for this expedition, although the CDC recommends that the normal routine vaccines should be up to date: Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR Vaccine), Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP Vaccine) and Polio Vaccine.
Do I need a valid passport?
If you are traveling on our Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness itinerary and you are a U.S. citizen, no passport is required. If you are traveling on our Alaska, British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii; Treasures of the Inside Passage; or Voyage to Great Bear Rainforest itineraries, U.S. citizens will need a valid passport since we travel to Canada. Passports must be valid for up to six months after the return date to the United States.
Is a visa necessary?
Packing and Preparation
What footwear is a necessity in Alaska?
As you can imagine, the wrong footwear can ruin your travel plans. Knee-high waterproof rubber boots with a strong non-skid sole for wet landings in our Zodiacs, and for hiking in temperate forests, are a must. Lindblad Expeditions offers boot rentals for those that are interested. Good walking shoes such as sneakers or hiking boots are also essential.
What kind of clothes do I need?
Our style is always informal. The relaxed atmosphere of every journey, a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic hallmark, is something our guests tell us they particularly enjoy. There is never a need for fancy clothing, so our recommendations on your travel wardrobe are all about comfort, practicality, and likely weather conditions in the region you're exploring. A full packing list will be provided in your expedition documents. In the meantime, our suggested Alaska packing list includes:
- Knee-high waterproof rubber boots with a strong non-skid sole, for hiking and wet expedition craft landings—a must!
- Waterproof rain gear and pants
- Lightweight thermal underwear
- Pants: jeans, corduroys, etc.
- Short- and long-sleeved T-shirts/blouses
- Two or three different weight sweaters or fleece
- Three or four pairs of warm, sturdy, tall wool socks and an equal number of thin socks to wear underneath for extra insulation
- Warm jacket
- A woolen or fleece hat with ear protection for colder weather
- One or two pairs of waterproof ski mittens or gloves
Ship to Shore is our online store, which specializes in the kind of clothing, footwear, and accessory items suited to expedition travel.
Do I need to worry about mosquitoes?
In general, mosquitoes are not a major issue in Southeast Alaska. However, this is not to say they won’t be found in this area of Alaska or be considered a nuisance to mosquito-sensitive guests. Depending on the terrain and weather conditions, they can be encountered at times. We recommend insect repellent in our packing lists for this reason. On our Denali extension and the more inland areas of Alaska, one will most definitely encounter mosquitoes.
Will I get seasick? Will I need Dramamine or seasickness patches?
Alaska’s waters are generally calm and still. If you are prone to seasickness, you might want to discuss some medication options with your doctor.
How much cash should we bring per person?
That’s a personal choice. You can use a credit card for most purchases. Personal checks are accepted on the ships.
What are the ships’ amenities?
The ships feature a library; global market; lounge with full-service bar and facilities for films, slideshows, and presentations; observation deck; and partially covered sundeck with chairs and tables. And our open bridge policy offers the opportunity to learn about navigation and share the Captain’s view.
Heating and air-conditioning
The ships are air-conditioned and heated throughout.
There are large view windows in the dining room and lounge.
The ships feature a library with a selection of books pertaining to your destination.
For those interested in downloading digital photos aboard any of our ships, there is a digital photo kiosk where you can download your photos to various types of digital media and CD-ROMs/DVDs. Recordable CD-ROMs/DVDs and thumb drives may be purchased aboard.
Email and internet access are available on all ships. Your personal email and internet may be accessed from your own personal laptop or at the internet kiosk on board. Charges apply.
Laundry services are available on National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture for an additional charge.
Telephone and fax
Telephone calls and fax transmissions are available at an additional charge.
National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture are equipped with an elevator; National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion are not.
Open bridge policy
We have an open bridge policy that provides guests with an opportunity to learn about navigation and share the Captain’s view.
For the comfort of all our guests, smoking is permitted only in designated outdoor areas.
What are the cabin amenities?
Each cabin has its own thermostat, allowing you to control the temperature level in your cabin.
Portholes, windows, or balconies
Depending on the ship, some cabin windows can be opened, although most are secured for safety reasons. Some portholes may be covered during portions of voyages if the sea becomes rough. National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture offer balcony cabins.
We supply botanically inspired conditioning shampoo, body wash, and body lotion. If you choose to bring your own shampoo and/or conditioner, we recommend that you bring biodegradable products.
Hairdryers are available in each cabin.
Each cabin is equipped with at least one 110v (American) electrical outlet, which can be used for electric razors, laptop computers, and other small devices.
While our ship is not equipped with safety deposit boxes in the cabins, most have small locking drawers with a key where you can keep your valuables. As our vessel safes are quite small, our normal policy is that the ships cannot accept custody or responsibility for guests' valuables while on board.
Do any of the cabins connect to each other?
The cabins on National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion are not connecting cabins. There are six connecting cabins onboard the National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture.
Will I be able to access the internet while on board?
Yes, our ships are equipped with satellite communications for email and internet access, and telephone and fax, for which charges apply. You may access Wi-Fi on your laptop, tablet, or phone to check email, social media, or surf the web, but you may find that the internet connection is not strong or stable enough to support Skype or video chat. If you choose not to travel with a computer, there are internet kiosks available.
How will I pay my bill for personal items on board?
All services and products purchased on board the ship may be paid for by cash, check or charge (American Express, VISA, MasterCard, and Discover Card).
Are gratuities included in the cost of the expedition?
Gratuities to crew aboard ship are at your own discretion. Many guests choose to give $12-14 per person in their group per day. For example, a couple would leave $192-$224 for an 8-day voyage. All gratuities ashore are included in your expedition cost.
When does the ship travel from location to location?
The ship travels at various times depending on the day’s activities.
Are the ships wheelchair accessible?
National Geographic Sea Lion and National Geographic Sea Bird are not wheelchair accessible. National Geographic Venture and National Geographic Quest do have an elevator.
Can my family and friends contact me in case of emergency at home?
Prior to your departure date, we will provide you with a list of port contacts and phone numbers, indicating how you can be reached in case of emergency.
What is the food like on board?
Meals are served in one open seating, with an informal atmosphere and tables, unassigned to encourage meeting new guests. The meal hours will be posted in the Daily Program. Full breakfasts, casual lunches, and leisurely dinners with plenty of choices are served in our comfortable dining rooms, on deck, or even ashore on a remote beach. Every destination has a “flavor” and we believe our guests should have every opportunity to “taste” the destination. A great deal of thought goes into what we serve. We make an effort to bring regional flavors to your table with fresh, local fruits, vegetables, and spices. And we serve sustainable, locally caught or harvested fresh seafood whenever possible including king salmon, local halibut, and Dungeness crab.
If you have special dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance and we will accommodate you.
What types of special meal requests can be accommodated on board?
We can provide vegetarian and vegan meals, and we can accommodate many food allergies. If you have allergies, restrictions, or special dietary requirements, please let us know in advance. Unfortunately, we cannot provide kosher meals.
Do I need to dress up for dinner?
Throughout your expedition, there is no need for formal clothing unless you’re inspired to do so. The onboard atmosphere is casual and comfortable, and so is the dress code.
Are snacks available during the day and in between meals?
In addition to mealtimes, we offer snacks, which are included.
Is alcohol available on the boat and on shore?
Alcohol is available on the ship for purchase.
Is there a gym or fitness center on board?
National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion each carry exercise equipment on the covered portions of their sundecks, including two exercise bikes and an elliptical machine. The indoor gyms of the National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture include two treadmills, two stationary bikes, and an elliptical machine. All vessels have resistance bands, small hand weights, yoga mats, blocks, and foam rollers for your use at any time. In addition, and as part of our wellness program, our wellness specialist leads light exercise or stretching classes each morning on the sundeck before breakfast. Off-board fitness options include hiking, kayaking, and biking. Massage therapy is available aboard for an additional fee.
Is there a spa? What kind of treatments?
The vessels are staffed with a wellness specialist and feature services that will help you fully recharge. Choose from relaxing full-body, deep-tissue, and focused therapeutic massages; each session is tailored for your needs and preferences. National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture also offer body treatments. Spa services are available for an additional fee, and you will have the opportunity to sign up once on board.
Is there a doctor on board?
There is a doctor on board in Alaska, and our First Officer is a certified EMT. In addition, all staff members are CPR-certified and we have access to nearby ports if needed.
Will there be talks or presentations on board?
Your expedition team is key to your experience. They not only accompany all your explorations off the ship, they also give engaging talks and informal presentations on board. The state-of-the art lounge is equipped with facilities for films, slideshows, and presentations. Naturalists will share their knowledge and add insight to all you see and do. Our undersea specialist shoots undersea footage and then shows images on flat screens in the comfort of the ship’s lounge, giving you a rare view of the undersea world in Alaska.
What is Recap?
Each evening at cocktail hour the entire expedition community gathers in the lounge for an expedition ritual we call Recap. As you enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the house, various naturalists give talks, the undersea specialist may show video, and your expedition leader will outline the following day’s schedule.
Lindblad Expeditions often refers to the value of flexible schedules. What does this mean to me?
Often the most memorable events are those that are unplanned. That’s why every itinerary has flexibility built into the schedule. So if we happen to encounter humpback whales bubblenet feeding or a mother bear with cubs foraging along the shore, for example, we’ll be afforded the luxury of taking the time to stop and watch rather than having to rush off somewhere else. To get a sense of what these adventurous, open-ended days are like, spend some time reading our Daily Expedition Reports (DERs), which are reports from our staff on the highlights of each day. These are archived on our website for your reference.
How will I explore Alaska?
Key to our operation is our fleet of Zodiacs, which we use to land on remote islands that would otherwise be inaccessible. These sturdy inflatable rubber boats are widely recognized as the safest and most versatile small boats afloat. The Zodiacs we use are 19 feet long, powered by outboard engines, and are capable of carrying 12 to 14 people with ease.
Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards
Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards provide one of the best means for personal exploration in the areas we travel. They are very stable and easy to master for novices and experts alike. There is something special about being alone, or with a partner in our double kayaks, paddling along a remote coastline, or paddling aboard one of our specially designed boards. Lindblad pioneered kayaking from expedition ships in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic is the first company of its kind to be awarded unique permits for kayaking in the fragile Galápagos environment.
Undersea tools for exploring
Our vessels are outfitted with panoply of underwater exploration equipment. Bow cams (on National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion) and hydrophones bring to life the sights and sounds beneath the sea. And our undersea specialists dive in remote locations in Alaska for a look at marine life below the surface, capture their findings on video, and share them with guests on the TV screen in the lounge. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) can dive to depths of up to 1,000 feet—far out of the range of scuba divers—to shoot video of places few have seen. The video is shared at Recap in the ship’s lounge with voiceover and question-and-answer provided by the naturalist staff. These tools allow us to go further and get closer to nature’s wonders, enabling you to see what few visitors to Alaska ever see.
How many Zodiacs, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available on board for exploration in remote areas? And how often are they used on each voyage?
National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion are equipped with five Zodiacs, 20 kayaks (single and tandem), and six stand-up paddleboards. National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture are equipped with eight Zodiacs, 24 kayaks (single and tandem), and eight stand-up paddleboards. All ships are stocked with enough equipment for everyone to get out and explore with a naturalist, travel companion, or solo in search of more personal discoveries. Zodiacs, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards give our guests the opportunity for personal, “eye-level” encounters with beauty and wildness in all the pristine places we explore. Weather permitting, we hope to get you out and exploring nearly every day of the voyage.
Where will we go ashore? The usual cities and towns, or does the expedition have permits for the exploration of remote areas?
With our goal of immersing you in wild Alaska, we go ashore as often as possible and these excursions are included in your expedition fare. Nearly all of our destinations are off the beaten path, far away from the larger cruise ships. Our special-use permit in Tongass National Park will enable you to hike and kayak in pristine wilderness.
Can we go fishing?
We do not offer fishing from the ship as part of our expedition experience in Alaska. We do offer catch-and-release fly-fishing in Haines on our Wild Alaska Escape: Sitka to Juneau itinerary.
What whales and other wildlife will I see?
Our ships allow us to go deeper into the domain of humpback whales in Alaska. Researchers from the Alaska Whale Foundation (schedule permitting) come aboard to share their knowledge and the latest findings about humpback behavior in the region. Guests often observe pods of humpbacks, plus killer whales and Steller sea lions. Sea otters, brown bears, black bears, wolves, mountain goats, bald eagles, and puffins are among the animals you may see on an Alaska expedition.
Is Alaska physically challenging? Will I be able to walk unassisted, or is the terrain difficult?
A trip to Alaska is an active holiday that calls for good health. Some of the shore excursions involve a good deal of walking on rocky trails and sometimes on uneven and slippery terrain. However, several sightseeing options will be offered, such as a choice of walks ranging from easy to more strenuous. If you are in any doubt that you will be able to enjoy the trip to the fullest, please check with us and we will be happy to discuss it further. We recommend that you consult your personal physician for medical advice, showing him or her the places you will be visiting. Your physician is most familiar with your personal medical history and is best qualified to determine your particular needs.
Are there short hikes and long hikes?
Yes. We will always have a few varieties of hikes, from leisurely paced to medium to fast. Options will be outlined and described by the expedition leader before your excursions begin. We will also offer Zodiac cruises if none of the hiking options appeal to you.
Would hiking sticks be helpful or just get in the way? Are they even permitted?
Hiking sticks are permitted and could be helpful. There are some provided onboard; however, you may bring a walking stick.
What is a wet landing?
A wet landing is when you disembark the Zodiac into shallow water and walk to shore (while wearing waterproof boots).
Are there activities that can be done on our own while on the voyage, and will we have free time?
You can enjoy personal discoveries on a solo kayak excursion. There may also be some time to explore on your own in the remote Alaskan fishing villages and towns we visit.
What activities are available for children?
Developed in conjunction with National Geographic Education, our National Geographic Global Explorer program is for kids and teens. Our kids’ program is learning disguised as fun. You’ll see kids discover hidden talents and gain confidence while having the time of their lives.
- Photo workshops with a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor using smartphones or point-and-shoots.
- Hands-on science using the video microscope and learning about conservation projects, plus hands-on nature lessons with our naturalists, who are trained to work with kids and are excellent role models.
- Zodiac driving lessons
- Journals and journaling time.
- Scavenger hunts.
- “Certificates of achievement” for various accomplishments.
- A representative from the Parks Service gives kids a Jr. Ranger Badge and a coloring book in Glacier Bay National Park
- Kid-friendly menus and movie night with pizza are always a hit, too
What can you tell me about the expedition staff on board?
Each 62-guest ship in Alaska hosts five naturalists plus an expedition leader, and each 100-guest ship hosts nine naturalists plus an expedition leader—one expert per 10 guests. One of the most important aspects of every expedition is the knowledge of our terrific staff of naturalists, undersea specialists, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructors, and other specialists who provide talks, guidance ashore, and daily camaraderie. The staff will greatly enhance your experience, sharing special insights into areas of the world they know intimately. Each one is a not only an expert in their field but passionate about sharing their knowledge and dedicated to seeing that you get the most out of your experience.
What is the role of the video chronicler?
A video chronicler accompanies every expedition. We send our video chroniclers “on assignment” to remote corners of the globe 365 days a year. With cameras at the ready 24 hours a day and seven days a week, these talented professionals have just one goal: to capture the essence of each expedition for you. A documentary of your voyage will be available for purchase at the end of your expedition—proof of your intrepid spirit!
What is a certified photo instructor?
Every expedition aboard a ship in our fleet offers an exclusive service—a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor. This naturalist is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings and the basics of composition and to help you become a better, more confident photographer. You'll go home with the best photos ever.
What is the difference between photo expeditions and other expeditions?
Designed to accommodate all levels of photographers from beginners to pros, our photo expeditions offer 360° photo ops, the instruction of a robust photo team giving you the tips you need when you need them, and all the time you need to get your shots right. They feature outings timed to take advantage of the best light—aboard Zodiacs for up-close encounters with marine mammals or on trail hikes. Plus, there are unique “share and learn” opportunities like onboard photo clinics, one-to-one critiques, and inclusive “laptop gallery” events to see each other’s best images. You’ll have the opportunity to shoot with and learn from the best in the world—a National Geographic photographer joins every photo expedition, in addition to two Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructors. They're engaging presenters and interesting travel companions, too—with good stories to share about their assignments, from the podium and over drinks or dinner. Beginning in 2022, our photo expeditions in Alaska will have the opportunity to join an optional pre-voyage photo extension in Sitka.