Alaska cruise visitors, such as those on board Holland America’s MS Statendam, are often treated to appearances by humpback whales. Guests interested in learning more about Alaska’s marine environment can experience Cruise With Purpose, a program that builds traditional tour content around volunteer ‘citizen science’ opportunities.

In Juneau, local tour operator Gastineau Guiding has created the first Cruise With PurposeSM shore excursion in partnership with the Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program and the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance.

Designed especially for Holland America Line, the Marine Wildlife Research Exploration takes guests on an exploration vessel out of Auke Bay to look for and help document individual humpback and orca whales. Guests identify individual whales by their tail "fingerprints" and record their songs using an underwater microphone called a hydrophone.

Participants also collect water samples, trawl for plankton and record ocean temperature readings. Since plankton is a significant indicator in predicting the success of Alaska’s salmon runs, this data will help manage this precious wild resource. All collected data and water samples are contributed to the body of research maintained by Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program.

The beach landing vessel then makes a one-hour stop at a secluded cove or shoreline where guests then turn into volunteer beachcombers. A naturalist-guide provides interpretation on the flora and fauna of the area as guests help pick up any non-native debris in support of the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance’s efforts.

Cruise With PurposeSM enables cruise guests to participate in meaningful community volunteer work and scientific data collection on specially designed tours. Select tour operators, partnered with local non-profit organizations, offer guests the chance to contribute some of their time to assisting with projects.

"By combining a tour experience with a volunteer opportunity, guests are experiencing the destination in a different, rewarding way," said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America.

Gastineau Guides is Juneau’s award winning eco-tour company that offers wildlife expeditions, day cruises, photography tours and nature hikes/walks.

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