Trailblaze Alaska’s ‘Last Frontier’ with Oceania Cruises’ latest offering

For those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and with a spirt of adventure, the glacial and gold-rush frontier of Alaska may not spring to mind, but Norwegian cruise company Oceania Cruises is offering just that this year, with what it claims is an authentic, locally curated summer offering led by community members.

Sailing from Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver, travellers looking for the unique will be drawn into local cultures and cuisines on any of the 14 announced departures between May and September this summer aboard the 656-guest Regatta.

With more than 250 tours and excursions offered in Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Wrangell and beyond, the 49th state offers opportunities to explore glaciers, take culinary classes, visit native tribal sites, taste craft beer, and explore national parks, all within a beguiling region of natural remote beauty.

Through Oceania Cruises’ Go Local tour series, guests can participate in exclusive small group excursions, including visiting local homes and businesses and discovering generations-old traditions.

‘We’re delighted to offer our guests a fresh perspective of Alaska, one filled with touching personal moments connecting with nature, people and cuisine,’ stated Frank A. Del Rio, President of Oceania Cruises. ‘The innate beauty of our small ships, especially in a destination like Alaska aboard our intimate Regatta, allows guests access to small ports and remote harbours not offered by others.’

Highlights include wildlife-rich Klawock, a native Tlingit village for thousands of years with one of the most extensive collections of totems in the world; Wrangell with its rich Native American, Russian and American history, and fishing opportunities; Juneau, boasting glacier-trekking on Mendenhall Glacier or sea-kayaking through the coastal waterways travelled for centuries by the Aleut Native Americans, along with Alaskan Brewing Company and Chez Alaska Cooking School; and Skagway, to take in local beers after rock climbing and rappelling down steep granite cliffs or an afternoon soaring the skies in a helicopter, or taking it easier on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad trail that the gold rushers etched into the high mountain pass.

Wildlife spotting for bears, deer and bald eagles at the remote Spasski River Valley, song and storytelling, the world’s largest zip line, and crab boating are amongst the opportunities off-ship, while onboard the cruise line sells Regatta on its intimate size, culture and cuisine, and its ability to visit destinations – including Wrangell, Prince Rupert and Klawock, that other ships do not.

Go Eco: Eco Tourism Choices Just Keep Growing

When the phrase, ‘eco tourism’ first emerged back in the 1980’s, it was considered to be a curiosity for the minority, but 30 years on the phenomena has grown to be a multi-million pound, worldwide industry that currently offers more choices than even the most ardent eco-phile could work their way through in a lifetime.

Eco tourism can mean different things to different people, but the most widely accepted meaning of the term is for low-impact, small-scale tourism, to environments that are fragile, pristine and generally in need of conservation. If the traveller is educated by the experience, provides funds through his/her visit for ecological conservation, or directly benefits local communities, then they are an eco tourist.

The eco tourism choices on offer tend to fall into two broad categories, those trips where the tourist simply goes to look and learn without having any direct impact on the local environment or culture, and the more proactive trips that involve the tourist actively contributing to a project or programme that directly benefits the local environment, its human inhabitants or wildlife. The latter could be anything from helping to count the bat population in Borneo, to working on an agricultural irrigation project in Central Africa.

Such is the range of specific tours currently on offer that it would be impossible to provide a definitive list in this article, but websites like responsibletravel.com and iexplore.co.uk, along with many others, have listings for all types of experiences.

Offerings currently available in the eco market include the well publicised and popular, like visiting the mountain gorillas in Central Africa or seeing giant pandas in their natural habitat in China, while iexplore have tours that include helping to build a school in a remote village in Laos, or experiencing a wilderness adventure in Finland, including dog-sledding and snowmobile trips.

It would be wrong to assume that trips involving work on humanitarian projects are inexpensive as a consequence. Earning the feel-good factor can be expensive, and as an example the aforementioned Laos school trip costs GBP1,049 per person for 11 days, exclusive of flights, but bed and breakfast accommodation is included.

Opinions will continue to differ on the positive or negative impact of eco tourism, and there is no doubt that the justification varies dramatically from trip to trip and project to project. The argument that opening up endangered animal species or remote human communities to gawping outsiders can exert undue influences on normal life is a valid one. But just as valid is the premise that in these profit-driven times, communities or animal environments that are not seen to be self-sustaining and relevant will always be in danger of being swept aside by the outside-world’s relentless appetite for land and resources.

Eco tourism undoubtedly brings much-needed funds and publicity to these otherwise vulnerable existences, and to that end, most environmentalists will consider it the lesser of two evils and hope that it sustains its present burgeoning levels of popularity.