Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Lodging:||18 nights aboard 120-passenger expedition vessel|
|Meals:||All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore|
|Activity:||Small Ship Cruising, Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History|
18-day expedition cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours, Zodiac cruises
- Marvel at spectacular natural landscapes, including pristine tundra and massive volcanoes
- Travel along the historic routes of explorers and traders
- Photograph a variety of wildlife including walrus, fur seal, otter, red fox, and the enormous Kamchatka brown bear
- Identify countless birds: puffins, guillemots, cormorants, Steller’s sea eagle, brown-headed thrush, Siberian ruby-throats, black legged kittiwakes, and crested or whiskered auklets
- Cruise and explore by Zodiac, watching for walrus haul-outs and sea otters at play in the surrounding waters
Choosing the Right Trip
We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.
We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.
Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.
Our expedition to the Russian Far East brings us from the Kuril Islands, a haven for huge colonies of seabirds, to the Kamchatka Peninsula, a “Land of Fire and Ice,” where the world's largest brown bear hunts along rivers churning with salmon. After exploring Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, where some 300 volcanoes form a breathtaking geological masterpiece, we cross the wild Bering Sea to Alaska. Around the Aleutian Islands and Katmai Peninsula, among the most inaccessible places in North America, nutrient-rich waters support vast populations of fish, birds from every continent on earth, and countless numbers of whales, dolphins, sea lions, walrus, and fur seals. Throughout our journey we explore by Zodiac and enjoy shore excursions in the company of expert guides who share their knowledge of this amazing corner of the world.
Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan / Embark Silver Discoverer / Korsakov and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Sakhalin Island, Russia
Arrive in Otaru, Japan, embark on the Silver Discoverer, and cruise toward Sakhalin Island, Russia, arriving in Korsakov on Day 2. Once the formalities are concluded and time permitting, we will explore part of this city, founded in 1853 as Sakhalin's first Russian military post. From here we drive to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of the island with a population of just over 160,000. Founded as a small Russian settlement in the 1880s, the city became a Japanese prefect capital when the southern half of Sakhalin was declared a Japanese colony in 1905; after WWII it was returned to Russia. Highlights include a visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Regional Museum housed in an impressive former Japanese mansion, and the bustling market. Enjoy a performance of traditional Cossack song and dance.
Tyuleniy Island, Russia
Tyuleniy means “seal” in Russian, and during the summer months the island is home to literally tens of thousands of northern fur seals and Steller sea lions. Our visit is timed for the height of the breeding season, and we’ll see not only the seals and sea lions, but also the black-footed kittiwake, tufted puffin, common murre, and pelagic cormorant that summer on the island.
Kuril Islands, Russia
Stretching more than 800 miles from the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula to Hokkaido in Japan, this chain of over 30 volcanic islands is an important breeding ground for Stellar sea lions and one of the richest areas in the world for seabirds; up to 14 species of auks, as well as spectacled and pigeon guillemots can be found here. As we travel southward, we hope to visit some of the following places:
By Zodiac we search along the coast for the profusion of resident wildlife including Steller sea lions fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins, and auklets.
Yankitcha is impressive. It’s actually a sinking volcanic caldera accessible only by Zodiac during high tide. Inside the magnificent lagoon with its fumaroles and hot springs, we can still see traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago and a visit here is invariably one of the highlights of the entire voyage. The number of auklets, which breed here, is truly incredible. If we are lucky we may also catch a glimpse of an Arctic fox or even the rare and elusive whiskered auklet.
Matua is home to one of the Kuril’s most active volcanoes, with more than 14 documented eruptions in the past 250 years. We learn about the Japanese military base that was formed here during WWII and how the Japanese used to capture geothermal heat from the volcano to keep the runway open during winter. Hikers are rewarded with good views of the abandoned military positions and hopefully get a glimpse of the island’s population of brown-headed thrush and Siberian ruby-throats.
We search for northern fur seals and Steller sea lions around this cluster of small islands and rocky outcrops. Here we have our best views of auklets by far! Aboard our Zodiacs, we drift among them—whiskered, crested, and parakeet auklets. Tufted puffins with their ridiculous bills and flowing yellow head plumes are also here, as well as many fulmars.
Explore coastal waters that are home to sea lions and revel in the view of the dramatic Makanrushi volcano.
Watch sea otters at play in the waters surrounding our Zodiacs, and observe the activities of the many cormorants that reside in the harborside bird cliffs.
At 6,500 feet, Alaid is the highest volcano in the Kurils, and praised by the Japanese for its almost perfect volcanic cone. We land by Zodiac on the black lava beach for a walk to see the remains of the Taketomi tufa cone and the women's prison, or gulag. Women, many of them political prisoners during the Soviet rule, were sent here to raise foxes for fur.
Petropavlovsk is named for the two sailing ships—St. Peter and St. Paul—used by Vitus Bering when the great explorer reached Avacha Bay in 1740. The major city on the peninsula and one of the oldest, Petropavlovsk is also the scientific and cultural center of the region. Local guides take us on a comprehensive tour including the museum of ethnography and natural history, the art school, the gold-domed orthodox cathedral, and the marketplace.
As an exciting alternative, guests can purchase a helicopter excursion to the Valley of the Geysers in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, one of the world’s most active geothermal regions and a region of savage beauty with smoking volcanoes, boiling geysers, bears, wolves, and taiga forests. It is easy to understand why the valley is considered an important sacred site by the indigenous people.
Cruising the Bering Sea
A leisurely day at sea is yours to enjoy. Join the daily lectures and hear fascinating tales of adventure and learn more about the region’s endemic wildlife and remarkable nature. Our knowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields.
Aleutian Islands, Alaska (cross the International Date Line and gain a day)
The Aleutians stretch 1,300 miles from Kamchatka to Alaska, onetime stepping stones for Russian trappers and traders, who established settlements on the islands. Today most of the islands form part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, renowned for its dramatic, sea-sculpted coastlines, abundant marine animals, and millions of migratory and nesting seabirds—a full 80% of all seabirds in North America use the refuge. For the next few days we will wind through the Aleutians with a fairly flexible itinerary, making the best of the weather and local reconnaissance. Here are some places we hope to visit:
Attu is the westernmost point of the United States and the site of the only WWII battle fought on North American soil—over 2,000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives at Massacre Bay. The island is an ornithologist’s paradise and we hope to see some of the Asian migrants that are occasionally spotted. Be on the lookout for peregrine falcons, Lapland longspur, and Aleutian Canada goose.
Kiska Island: Sirius Point, Kiska Harbor
A morning Zodiac tour along the cliffs of Sirius Point can only be described as magical. We search for least and crested auklets, peregrine falcons, and Laysan and black-footed albatrosses, all while keeping an eye open for the sperm whales that frequent the area.
Evidence of the Japanese occupation during WWII haunts Kiska Harbor. Once ashore we see the remains of a Shinto shrine left behind by the 6,000-strong occupying force. During our nature walks we hope to see ptarmigans, Lapland longspurs, and bald eagles.
The high winds of Adak are a blessing for birders; many migrants from Asia and elsewhere can be spotted. Indigenous (but often rare) shorebirds abound, and eagles are ubiquitous. Visitors not insistent upon scoring “First North America” sightings will find plenty of variety to enjoy. Hiking on the tundra may also be possible.
A leisurely day at sea to enjoy a lecture, exchange notes with fellow travelers, help spot some of the seabirds found far away from their nesting grounds, and take advantage of the luxurious amenities aboard the Silver Discoverer.
Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Together with the city of Unalaska, Dutch Harbor, once a trans-shipping point for the gold boomtown of Nome, is a bustling community with about 4,000 residents. It is connected by bridge to the rest of Unalaska on Amaknak Island, and its name is frequently applied to the entire town. During our city tour, we visit the World War II bunkers and the spectacular Russian Orthodox Church.
Unga Spit, Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Explore the islands by Zodiac, watching sea lions laze on the rocky shores and delightful sea otters playing in the extensive bull kelp beds that surround the islands. This island has a spectacular petrified ancient forest embedded in its sea cliffs.
Alaska Peninsula, Alaska / Seward / Depart
For the last leg of our expedition, we journey along the Alaska Peninsula, which extends 400 miles from mainland Alaska toward the Aleutian island chain. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, with active volcanoes, towering mountain peaks, rolling tundra, rugged, wave-battered coastlines, and the largest brown bear population in the state.
This stunning and nearly uninhabited archipelago is home to some of the largest populations of native and undisturbed wildlife in the United States. There are 2.5 million birds here, almost half the breeding seabirds of the Alaska Peninsula. You’ll find huge numbers of horned puffins, northern fulmars, and jaegers, and over a million murres. Ancient murrelets and parakeet auklets are among the other species found, while the surrounding sea is home to sea otters, sea lions, seals, porpoises, and whales.
Katmai National Park: Geographic Harbor, Amalik Bay, Kukak Bay, Chiswell Islands
Katmai National Park is on the top of many “Best of Alaska” lists because of its otherworldly landscape, including 15 active volcanoes. Here we have the opportunity to get up-close and personal to abundant wildlife and raw beauty. The scenery is magnificent at Geographic Harbor at the head of Amalik Bay, and the bears are ubiquitous.
Kukak Bay is well known for its concentration of bears and the salmon on which they feed, and this is one of the prime areas in this region for bear viewing. Enjoy guided excursions to see bears, sea mammals, and birds, or try your hand at catch-and-release fishing.
Almost 40 million birds representing 30 species congregate in colonies along the coast of the Chiswell Islands, including more than 20,000 horned and tufted puffins that return to make their nests here every summer. We visit rookeries teeming with birds, including parakeet auklets, black-legged kittiwakes, ancient murrelets, and red face cormorants.
On Day 19 we arrive in Seward. Disembark the Silver Discoverer and fly home. (Note: Due to crossing the International Date Line, we depart Seward on July 8).
Please Note: A number of similar itineraries are available in this region. Please call for more information.
What the Trip is Like
The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Zodiac landing crafts are used to explore the coastline and transport passengers ashore for walks to wildlife sanctuaries, scenic nature areas, and the remains of ancient settlements. Some agility is required for getting in and out of the Zodiac landing crafts.
Jun 21-Jul 8, 2015
*A number of similar itineraries are available in this region. Please call for more information.
Prices are for 2015
Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy
Trip Payment Schedule*
At time of reservation: 10%
of trip cost
130 days prior to departure: Balance
*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.
Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*
Minimum fee: 10% of trip cost
89-70 days prior to departure: 40% of trip cost
69-50 days prior to departure: 60% of trip cost
49-30 days prior to departure: 80% of trip cost
29-15 days prior to departure: 90% of trip cost
14 days or less: 100% of trip cost
*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.
All suites feature butler service, champagne on request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your preferences, European bath amenities, luxury Pratesi bed linen and down duvet covers, premium mattresses, iPod docking station, plush robe and slippers, umbrella, hairdryer, WiFi internet access (fees apply), flat-screen television with on-demand movies, music and satellite news programming and daily suite service with evening turndown.
Expertly designed and exquisitely appointed, the Medallion Suite is Silver Discoverer's most spacious, with overall size of 408 sq. ft. (including Veranda 27 sq. ft.). It's the ideal suite for entertaining friends or enjoying quiet time alone on your private veranda.
Stylish, sophisticated and welcoming, Veranda Suites are a favorite of returning guests. The private veranda surrounds you with panoramic views. Each suite has an overall size of 280 sq. ft. (including Veranda 35.5 sq. ft.), and several Veranda Suites can accommodate three guests.
A quiet sanctuary, with enough living space to roam and relax. Two large view windows provide ocean views (partially obstructed). Each suite has an overall size of 269 sq. ft.
The perfect backdrop for breakfast in bed. Even guests who plan to spend only sleeping hours in their suite will appreciate the distinctive touches of this cozy accommodation. Each suite has a view window and overall size of 181 sq. ft.
With preferred midship location and as spacious as a View Suite, enjoy the passing scenery through two porthole windows. Each suite has an overall size of 186 sq. ft.
Trip Cost Includes:
- Suite accommodations aboard the Silver Discoverer
- All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
- Complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, and spirits)
- Shore excursions as noted
- Services of the expedition staff
- Shipboard entertainment
- Gratuities aboard ship (except spa)
Trip Cost Does Not Include:Airfare, pre- and post-cruise hotel accommodations, luggage handling, arrival and departure transfers (unless purchasing airfare package), immigration fees, fuel surcharges, laundry or valet services, purchases from the ship boutiques or any item or service of a personal nature such as medical care, massages, spa treatments, hair styling, and manicures. Some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes, and cigars are not included in your fare and may not be available at all times.
A valid passport is required for this trip. Be sure to check the expiration date. Your passport must be valid for six months after the conclusion of your trip. It is a good idea to carry photocopies of your passport photo page in case your passport is lost or as an additional piece of identification, as well as two extra passport photos.
A visa is required for US Citizens traveling to Russia. Please call for details. No visa is required for Japan.
We recommend checking the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov should you have any international health concerns.
No inoculations are required for this trip.
The small size and shallow draft of the 120-guest Silver Discoverer grants close-up access to rugged coasts well beyond the reach of ordinary vessels. A fleet of Zodiacs allows exploration from the water or remote landings anywhere nature or curiosity dictate. While on board, every creature comfort awaits: an ocean-view suite, in-suite bar, and the head-to-toe pampering of a butler; panoramic lounges and open bar where fellow travelers gather to swap tales about their day’s adventures; and imaginative cuisine. Additional amenities include a sun-catching pool deck, an internet café, a fitness center, and a beauty and massage center—particularly inviting after an adventurous day ashore. Members of an outstanding Expedition Team, composed of experts in the culture, history, and wildlife of the destinations, present informal talks, guide Zodiac outings, and lead small-group explorations ashore.