The folks at Zegrahm & Eco Expeditions pride themselves on running a premier luxury-travel tour company, combining cultural exploration and opulent accommodations. Here's why cruising the Bering Sea aboard Clipper Odyssey is a life-changing travel experience.
Cruising aboard Zegrahm & Eco Expeditions' Clipper Odyssey is not about magic shows, pool deck parties or themed casino nights -- it's about adventure. This ship specializes in intimate adventurous getaways with only 110 passengers allowed per cruise. Onboard this ship, you'll experience luxurious lodgings and delicious dining, but the emphasis here is on the journey. Their Wild Alaska voyage retraces the steps of the Harriman Expedition, with stops in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands, for an extraordinary cultural and spiritual exploration of America's last frontier.
Edward H. Harriman was a wealthy railroad magnate from New York who set off to explore remote Alaska in the late 1890s. After coordinating a team of scientists, artists and conservation groundbreakers, he boarded a steamship in Seattle to explore Alaska's unspoiled coastal waterways. Though the journey was just 2 months long, the ship's guests, including John Muir and John Burroughs, analyzed their findings for years and made great leaps in the study of the region's botany, wildlife and geology. The Clipper Odyssey visits many of the spots first studied by the Harriman Expedition over 100 years ago.
The Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is the gateway to Russia, and the best way to experience its beauty is from the deck of a ship. Cruise ships are the only civilian vessels with permission to visit both sides of the "ice curtain." Crossing the Bering Sea also means crossing the International Date Line -- while technically you may be losing an entire day of your life, the vast aquatic wilderness makes up for this loss.
Providenya was once a Soviet military town; now it's Russia's gateway to the Arctic. Here you'll get a firsthand account of what a Russian Cold War frontier town was like and see a blend of Russian and Yupik cultures. Guests of the Clipper Odyssey enjoy an exclusive cultural performance; the dance symbolizes the merging of Russian and Yupik customs.
Life With Locals
In the community of St. Lawrence, the Siberian Yupik population lives off the land and depends on the local sea life and wildlife for nourishment. Hunting local walrus is essential to their way of life. During a walk through the village, visitors see dried walrus hides that will be used to make skin boats called umiaks. Even local rituals of song and dance incorporate walrus hunts as the drums are made from stretched walrus stomach skin.
Several off-ship excursions are unique to Zegrahm & Eco Expeditions. Passengers can board small motorized Zodiacs to explore coastlines and islands that are inaccessible to larger boats. On St. Matthew's Island, miles of Arctic tundra beg to be explored on foot. While the land is frozen for most of the year, a multitude of wildflowers pop in the late spring and summer. The natural beauty of St. Matthew's is pristine -- it's uninhabited by people, but the tiny island is home to more than 50,000 seabirds.
The Clipper Odyssey is staffed by naturalists and historians with extensive knowledge of the region. They can be found at the helm of the Zodiac navigating the seas while pointing out the wildlife. Back on the Clipper Odyssey, they lead discussions of the day's events and offer lectures to further visitors' knowledge of the region.
For the Birds
There are more than 50 different species of birds in the Bering Sea. The islands are covered with birds' nests, including those of kittywakes and puffins. The towering cliffs provide excellent real estate for these species, and you'll want to pack your binoculars over your evening dress -- remember, expedition cruising is more about what you'll see than what you'll wear.
Walruses, sea lions and whales populate the waters and islands of the Bering Sea. Arctic fox roam the tundra, while Katmai National Park is home to brown bears. Seeing the number of different species existing in an environment that is almost completely untouched by humans is a rare and overwhelming experience for any traveler. Bring your camera for action wildlife shots, and don't be afraid to ask for some advice from the experienced staff as you set up the perfect shot