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Setting sail from Otaru
The charming port town of Otaru, on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, is a common start and end point for cruises visiting both Japan and the Russian Far East. The town has a notable history, playing an important role in the herring trade during the 19th century, and this is reflected in the stone warehouses alongside the picturesque canal. It's only a small place, so if you run out of things to do then the city of Sapporo is just a half-hour train ride away, or you can explore the wild and beautiful landscapes of rural Hokkaido.
Here’s a weird thing – there is a thriving Venetian glass industry here, dating back to the need for glass fishing floats.
Tyuleniy is the Russian word for ‘seal’, and this tiny island, located off the south east coast of Sakhalin in the Sea of Okhotsk, is an important breeding ground for both northern fur seals and Steller sea lions.
Russia: Yankicha Island
Yankicha Island is one of two islets that make up Ushishir Island, and is formed from an extinct volcano. At its centre is a stunning caldera that floods at high tide, along with hot springs and fumaroles, and the island is home to wildlife including Arctic foxes, harbour seals and the rare whiskered auklet.
Russia: Atlasova Island
Atlasova Island is dominated by the Alaid volcano, the tallest in the Kuril Islands, and fringed by black lava beaches where you may spot birds including peregrine falcons, buzzards and tufted ducks. The island was a women’s gulag during the Soviet era, but these days it is uninhabited.
Russia: Ruskaya Bay
Petropavlovsk is the main city on Russia’s remote Kamchatka peninsula, a hardy place where bleak Soviet tower blocks stand in the shadow of giant volcanoes. It’s a spectacular setting, and the city serves as the main gateway for exploring Kamchatka’s otherworldly landscapes and incredible wildlife.
United States: Attu Island
Attu is the westernmost of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, and was the site of the only land battle fought on US soil during World War II. Today the island is uninhabited, and provides a refuge for birds including peregrine falcons, Lapland longspurs and Aleutian Canada geese.
United States: Alaid Island (Aleutian Islands), Kiska Island
United States: Adak Island
The windswept, treeless tundra of Adak Island has an interesting history, the site of a military airbase built during World War II to launch attacks against the Japanese. At the height of the Cold War the base supported some 5,000 people, but these days just 300 or so hardy souls still live on the island.
United States: Umak Island (Aleutian Islands), Seguam Island, Chagulak Island (Aleutian Islands)
United States: Dutch Harbor
Dutch Harbor is the port that serves the city of Unalaska, and is known for the hardy fishermen who brave the turbulent, icy seas off the Aleutian Islands. Points of interest include the remains of defensive fortifications built during the Second World War and the striking Russian Orthodox church.
United States: Baby Islands, Unga Spit, Unga Island
United States: Chignik
United States: Semidi
United States: Katmai National Park and Preserve
United States: Kodiak
Kodiak is known as Alaska’s ‘Emerald Isle’ thanks to the lush green countryside, a landscape crisscrossed by gushing salmon-filled streams that provides a home to around 3,000 Kodiak bears, the world’s largest. Ships dock in Kodiak city, an important fishing port with a fascinating Russian heritage.
United States: Homer
The little town of Homer is situated on the beautiful Kenai Peninsula, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. The town has something of a counter-cultural vibe, and is also known for the unusual geological feature known as the Spit, a sliver of land that stretches 4½ miles into Kachemak Bay.
United States: Kenai Fjords National Park
Arriving in Seward
The tiny city of Seward, home to just 3,000 people, enjoys a spectacular setting on the edge of Resurrection Bay, on Alaska's southern coast. Surrounded by the mountains and forests of the Kenai Fjords National Park, it's a great base for exploring the Harding Ice Field and the stunning scenery of the Kenai Peninsula. It's also a hub for activities including sea kayaking, birding and whale watching, and has a pleasant downtown area with plenty of shops and good quality restaurants. If you have time, the excellent Alaska Sealife Centre is also well worth a visit.
The train journey between Seward and Anchorage is a must.
Your home from home
Get set for the arrival of Crystal Endeavor in 2021, the world's largest and most luxurious expedition yacht.
What we love
This is the coolest expedition operation yet. On board is the ultimate in luxury at the Crystal level we know so well, but even more exciting is what is going to happen off the ship, as they navigate first year ice in the polar regions and follow the route of migrating whales.
A wealth of extraordinary toys including submarines, helicopters and remote operated vehicles will ensure that a Crystal Yacht Expedition creates the most extraordinary memories even for the most jaded of travellers.
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Tailor-make your trip
Where to stay in Otaru
If you’ve always wanted to stay at a ryokan, Ginrinso could be a great choice – expensive, but pretty special.
Take a tour of Otaru
A local tour by ebisuya (rickshaw) is easy paced with a great guide thrown in.
Where to stay in Seward
If you’re here, you’re probably not stopping long. You get a better choice of hotels in nearby Anchorage.
What to do around Seward
Go kayaking if you can – once you are away from the noise of engines and people, the peace is amazing.