The morning we woke up to was unexpectedly gorgeous. Passing through Hecate Strait on our way to view waterfalls from the bow, we were greeted by a fin whale — and we knew it was going to be a great transit day. The guests (as well as crew and natural history staff) all enjoyed a much-needed morning to sleep in. Everyone aboard National Geographic Sea Bird loved the incredible brunch prepared by the galley team, led by head chef Neal Skannes.

After brunch we admired the cascades of Butedale and Canoona. The day was filled with presentations by kelp biologist and naturalist James Coyer, a photo critique session with our certified photo instructor Gemina Garland-Lewis, and watercolors led by naturalist Shannon Malone. Just as Jim reached the halfway point of his presentation on the Kelp Highway, a pod of northern resident killer whales were spotted off the bow. Everyone rushed outside and was treated to the sight of about seven individuals near the ship. They surfaced frequently, changed direction, and even spyhopped as we passed through. It was one of the many close and touching wildlife experiences of our trip.

The evening recap went a little differently than usual. “Freaky Friday” is a tradition, usually on two-week trips, during which the natural history staff swaps roles with the hotel staff. The stewards gave presentations during recap while the naturalists mixed cocktails, served dinners, and placed chocolates on guests’ pillows. The experience was enjoyed by all the passengers, crew, and staff. Then we turned in, eager for our morning arrival at Alert Bay, one of the true highlights of this journey.