Alaska by Season

Windstar Cruises’ Expedition Leader Simon Hook will be joining Star Legend cruise ship for the second year. Simon grew up near the ocean and its wildlife in northern California. His love nature led him to Alaska, specifically Sitka, over 10 years ago. Along the way, Simon gained vast knowledge of the natural world and wildlife of Alaska. He also picked up a camera and has won several awards for photos of Alaska’s wildlife and landscapes. Simon enjoys hiking and backcountry skiing and just plain being outside and enjoys sharing his love of nature with others. In the story below you will find out what Simon is looking forward to throughout the Windstar Cruises’ 2019 Alaska cruise Season.

“Hello, my name is Simon Hook, leader of Windstar’s Signature Expedition team, and I am excited to get the 2019 Alaska cruise season into full swing. The team I am working with consists of experts, scientists, naturalists, and enthusiasts who will give onboard enrichment and be available for questions about the natural world. Formal lectures and informal meetings are already on the schedule to make sure our guests are well informed and if you would like to invite us to dinner all it takes is to ask. Many of the team are photographers as well and love to share the knowledge we have acquired over years of award-winning photography.


There is no place like Alaska, specifically Southeast Alaska, it is so is alive with life. Spring in Alaska is a cause for celebration for animals and people alike. The long darkness has ended and slowly we gain light, minute by minute. The budding of trees and the transit of animals in migration is a spectacle for those who keep a close watch on the shoreline and in the water for life to appear. I often relish spring for the simple fact of more daylight. As I write there are whales in Sitka Sound right now relishing the herring and krill in their abundance.

As the days grow in length the ocean’s phytoplankton reaches to catch the rays. Using the sun as an energy source for photosynthesis, this tiny phytoplankton begins to increase in abundance to eventually turn the water murky and green. This event is a large part of the abundance that Alaska experiences, up to the food chain, wait for humpback whales, krill, salmon, seals, and all the sea birds. Many birds are timing their arrival so that the laying of eggs and hatching of young coincides with the swell in food abundance in the ocean.

When traveling on Star Legend some Signature Expeditions will feature glaciers and I very much enjoy the dynamic and powerful setting that they present. Glaciers are one of the things that don’t run away and can be visited time and again, but every trip is unique. In order to gain the best perspective, I highly suggest signing up for Signature Expedition trips to get in amongst the ice of these beautiful wonders of nature.


It takes a little while for the humpback whales to migrate to their summer feeding grounds from Hawaii, but by mid-summer, there should be a couple thousand humpbacks in Southeast Alaska. Food abundance dictates the strength of populations and whales are known to move around quite a bit but we will have multiple opportunities to whale watch. There is nothing like watching a 35-ton animal slide gracefully through the water, lifting its tail to dive down to the deep. Aboard Star Legend we will make sure you are well informed, just make sure you attend the onboard lecture series, times will be posted in the daily schedule, and whales are always a crowd favorite.

Late season

As the days grow shorter on the Alaska season something to look forward to is the sunset itself. The angle of light falling on the earth later in the Alaskan summer is breathtaking, and because of our high latitude, our sunsets last a long time. Later in the season the opportunity to see salmon spawning in the streams and rivers of the area increases and where there are salmon there are bears.

There are a few specific bear viewing tours offered and although there are no guarantees (they are wild animals) there is a pretty good chance to see one, even in the pouring rain. Speaking of which the Tongass National Forest is a rainforest, so don’t forget your raincoat!

We are blessed with the returning migrations from the far north of birds heading south; flocks of sandhill cranes and Canada geese honk high above to encourage one another. Some birds will nest quickly and as soon as their chicks can fly, they are off to warmer waters. One of my favorite birds that lives life fast is the Arctic Tern. They seem to float on the air as they fly but they are not slouches, their migration from pole to the pole will have them traveling some 24 million miles in their lifetime. Look for them around glacier areas.
I look forward to meeting you all on board Star Legend for the 2019 Alaskan season. Safe travels and smooth sailing.”

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