Alaska small ship cruises

The Amazing Whales & Wildlife of Frederick Sound

There is whale activity in Southeast Alaska throughout the summer months but in mid August an amazing spectacle takes place in Frederick Sound and an adjoining inlet of Admiralty Island. Humpback Whales gather and socialize in large numbers before migrating to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the Hawaiian Islands. It is not uncommon to see 30-40 individuals in close proximity and the symphony of their blows is a feast for the senses as well as the camera lens. Add to that calving glaciers, bear viewing in the tributaries of Admiralty Island, hiking in the rainforest, fishing, kayaking and a good chance of spotting Orca, Dalls Porpoise, Stellar Sea Lions and Bald Eagles and you have the makings of an incredible adventure.


  • Full day exploring spectacular Fjords & tidewater Glaciers
  • Brown bears on Admiralty Island
  • Humpback whales, Orca, Dalls Porpoise, Sea Otter, Sea Lion & more
  • Hike in a temperate rain forest
  • Fish for Salmon & Halibut
  • Anchor in secluded bays and visit a small Alaskan frontier town (if desired)
  • Trip begins and ends in Petersburg, AK

Alaska Cruise Activities
See how we spend our days!

Route Map

Watch for marine life!

“Discovery’s cruises are highly opportunistic and can be interrupted at any moment by Humpback Whales, Orca (Killers Whales), Dalls Porpoise and other marine wildlife.

Things to do in Petersburg

Petersburg is a great place to explore on foot and don’t forget to take your camera:

  • Norwegian heritage downtown & colorful Alaskan homes.
  • Local galleries, outfitter stores, murals and sidewalk art.
  • Sons of Norway Hall & the Valhalla (a Viking ship memorial to a lost seaman)
  • Walk the docks: Boat harbor, Fishing fleet and cannery.
  • Parks, viewpoints & Bald Eagles in the trees and on tidal flats.

Sample Itinerary: Whales and Wildlife of Frederick Sound 

Day 1 – Into the Wild

Our trip begins in the fishing community of Petersburg, AK. Situated on the tip of beautiful Mitkof Island, with a proud Norwegian heritage, this frontier town is unaffected by large scale tourism and cruise ships. We’ll cruise north along the rugged mountains of Alaska’s Coastal Range (look for ‘Devil’s Thumb’ a shear rock feature that juts 9000 ft into the air) to a protected anchorage. There is time to kayak or beachcomb in the afternoon.

Day 2 – Looking for whales

After breakfast this morning we’ll get our first glimpse into Frederick Sound. Watch for the tell tale spouts of Humpback Whales, Orca and Dalls Porpoise as we cruise past the islands surrounding Five Finger Lighthouse. We will spend time watching and photographing marine life that we encounter along the way. Our destination for the evening is a small cove nestled beneath a hanging glacier at the edge of the Tracy Arm Fords Terror Wilderness.

Day 3 – Deep fjords, Blue icebergs and calving glaciers

Wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, take a stroll on deck to take in sweeping views of mountain ranges across channel. We’ll get underway early and cruise the length of spectacular Tracy Arm or Endicott Arm Fjord. Nature is still raw here and you will be awed by the scale and grandeur of Alaska’s rugged beauty as we cruise beneath sheer granite walls with cascading waterfalls. We’ll navigate between glittering blue icebergs in the hope of reaching the massive tidewater glacier, South Sawyer (or Dawes), that calves regularly into the sea.

Watch for Bear, Mountain Goats, Bald Eagle, Harbor Seals with pups on icebergs and their nemesis the Orca (Killer) whale.

Day 4 – Salmon streams of Admiralty Island (Fortress of the Bears)

The journey continues south towards Admiralty Island. A National Monument and pristine wilderness area this island has the densest population of Brown Bear in the world and is a popular nesting site for Bald Eagle. Admiralty Island has a number of beautiful inlets from which your Captain will select an anchorage for the evening.

There is a great chance of seeing Brown Bear here wandering on shore or fishing for salmon in multiple streams. Depending on the bear activity we will determine our best viewing options; a hike, by kayak and/or a skiff tour by the mouth of a creek. It is also a good spot to drop a fishing line over the side and set our pots for Dungeness Crab.

Day 5 – Marine life, Halibut fishing & the Brothers

Today begins at a leisurely pace. There is the opportunity to kayak before breakfast, pull crab pots with the crew or jump in the skiff if we see a bear on shore. We’ll cruise back down Seymour Canal, into Frederick Sound and south towards the Brothers Islands. These forested islands offer an unexpected fern and lichen rainforest ecosystem or beach and tidal pools to photograph and explore. In the afternoon we’ll pass a Sea Lion haul out and fish for Halibut enroute to another beautiful bay.

Watch for wildlife: Humpback Whales, Orca, Dalls Porpoise

Day 6 – Up close with Humpback Whales

We expect some spectacular whale activity crossing Frederick sound today. In August and September Humpback Whales are seen gathering in this area and Orca sightings are more frequent. We will stop to fish for salmon and look for Sea Otter whose numbers continue to increase in the inner waterways, much to the dismay of locals as they love to eat Dungeness Crab. We have the choice of visiting the small community of Kake in the afternoon if time allows.

Day 7 – Cruise to Scenery Cove

We have a scenic days cruise today along the northern shore of Kupreanof Island, detouring for wildlife in between, to our final anchorage and one last dinner to celebrate adventures shared and new friends made.

Day 8 – Return to Petersburg and disembark

Its the final morning and a cruise back to Petersburg where we aim to be docked (after breakfast) by 11am.

Please keep in mind: While cruises follow the general route described no two trips are ever the same …….. wildlife encounters, weather and tides often determine how our time is spent on any given day. This spontaneity is one of the joys of small ship cruising and offers a wonderful variety for our return guests.