About WhaleCoast Alaska Tours

About WhaleCoast Alaska

WhaleCoast Alaska is a Unitarian Universalist eco-cultural and spiritual program for people who are looking for a more authentic Alaskan experience. WhaleCoast Alaska is operated in cooperation with four UU Alaska fellowships – Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Sitka – that provide home stays, dinner parties, activities, and transportation for the guests.

Significant funds raised through WhaleCoast Alaska helped finance the construction of the farthest north UU church in the world in Fairbanks. The Anchorage UU congregation are in the process of a major remodel of their church. In 2018, the participating Alaska UU congregations raised over $65,000 through WhaleCoast Alaska. Over the past 25 years, a total of over $619,000 has been raised. Over 1,400 guests have visited Alaska with our program.

Meet Your Tour Directors

Meet Your Tour Directors

Dave Frey

Dave Frey

Tour Director

The tour director of WhaleCoast Alaska is Dave Frey, a long time resident of Alaska. Dave came to Alaska in the summer of 1981 with a backpack and a free spirit. He has never left, and his free spirit remains alive. Dave was a tour bus driver/guide in Denali National Park for his first three years in the state. He also worked 7 years as a driver/guide for Tour Alaska and Princess Tours. He started a family and a career in counseling and youth development, while maintaining his connection to tourism as a step-on guide in Fairbanks. He was the Fairbanks coordinator for the WhaleCoast Alaska tour for 7 years. He has been the Tour Director since 2008. Dave enjoys cross country skiing, biking, backpacking, traveling, citizen activism, and reading the Sunday newspaper. He recently retired from the Fairbanks School District after 3 decades in the field of chemical dependence counseling and prevention.

“I strive for a unique, authentic, and richly rewarding experience for every WhaleCoast Alaska guest. You will experience Alaska in a way that would be impossible on a typical commercial tour or on your own. I know that you will be thrilled with your WhaleCoast Alaska experience!”

Cynthia Bethune

Cynthia Bethune

Assistant Tour Director

Assistant tour director Cynthia Rinear Bethune was born and raised in Fairbanks. As a seasoned and experienced sourdough, her favorite winter sports are reading and creative writing. Those are her favorite summer sports, too, but she also enjoys traveling and working on her family homestead just outside of Fairbanks. In 2012, Cynthia joined WhaleCoast Alaska as an assistant tour director. Though relatively new to tourism, she is not new to “assistance” as she worked as a secretary or administrative assistant for many years. She retired from the Fairbanks school district in 2017 to turn her attention to writing. She has self-published two novels and is busy researching and writing two more.

“Seeing my home state through new eyes, as well as meeting strangers one week and saying goodbye to friends the next, are very rewarding experiences for me each summer. While sharing our tour time together, I hope to be able to assist in any way that makes your visit more comfortable and enjoyable.”

General Tour Information and Fees

Alaska National Park Tour Fees and Options

The 2019 fee for the National Park Tour is $3,258. This fee covers transportation throughout the tour. Guests are responsible for paying for their own transportation from their home to Anchorage, and their return flight from Fairbanks to their home. The tour fee also covers double occupancy lodging (10 nights) during the tour, all entrance tickets except the options that have an added price, and a total of 19 meals – an average of 2 meals per full travel day. (On some days, all three meals are paid. Other days there is only one.)

There are several options for extending and/or enhancing your tour.

Tour Options:

See the Detailed Daily Schedule for more specific information about the tour options. Space for these optional activities is limited. Space for each option is assigned on a “first to sign up, first to go” basis.

All-Alaska Tour Fees and Options

The 2019 fee for the All-Alaska Tour is $3,887. This fee covers transportation throughout the tour. Guests are responsible for paying for their own transportation from their home to Fairbanks, and their return flight from Sitka to their home. The tour fee also covers double occupancy lodging (12 nights) during the tour, all entrance tickets except the options that have an added price, and a total of 23 meals – an average of 2 meals per full travel day. (On some days, there are 3 meals included. On other days there are fewer than 2.)

Options:There are several options for extending and/or enhancing your tour.

Tour Options:

See the Detailed Daily Schedule for more specific information about the tour options. Space for these optional activities is limited. Space for each option is assigned on a “first to sign up, first to go” basis.

Deadlines, Cancellation and Refund Policies

Deadlines
A nonrefundable deposit of $300 is due upon registration. The tour will sell out when the guest number for a tour reaches 40. Balance is due March 1st. Sorry, we cannot reserve space on the tour without the deposit.

Cancellation and Refund Policies

Cancellations must be made in writing. (Email is OK.) The $300 deposit is nonrefundable. We are sorry, no exceptions can be made to this policy. Other tour fees will be refunded according to the following schedule:

  • Cancel by March 31– 50% of tour fees will be refunded.
  • Cancel by April 30 (National Park Tour)– 25% of tour fees will be refunded.
  • Cancel by May 20 (All-Alaska Tour)– 25% of tour fees will be refunded.
  • Cancel after April 30/May 20– No refunds. Sorry, no exceptions. Travel insurance is highly recommended.

 

Travel Insurance

WhaleCoast Alaska highly recommends that you purchase travel insurance for the entire amount of your vacation expenses: tour fees, options, flight costs, and any pre or post tour travel you are planning. For maximum coverage, you are advised to purchase your travel insurance within two weeks after you pay your tour deposit, and to make sure to cover all of your travel expenses. Even if are not ready to book your flights within this 2 week time frame, it is still advisable to purchase your travel insurance shortly after paying your deposit. You can then amend your insurance plan by adding flight coverage (and any other expenses) within two weeks of booking your flight. WhaleCoast Alaska recommends Travel Guard Insurance because of their record of service and timely payment of claims made by previous tour guests. We have a longstanding relationship with Travel Guard. To purchase Travel Guard insurance, click the banner below.

Lodging

The lodging included with the tour is pre-paid for double occupancy. Much of the lodging is in private homes of Unitarian Universalists. Our UU hosts provide some local transportation and personal attention to their guests. We use guest and host questionnaires to avoid housing placements where guest’s allergies or mobility issues would be problematic. The UU homestay lodging ranges from modest to spacious. Some homes have steep entry walks and interior stairs. We try to house people with mobility issues with hosts who have few or no steps. Most Alaskans have pets. If this would be a problem for you, please let us know in advance. Some hotels and commercial guest houses are used where there is no UU congregation, or where not enough UU homes are available. We typically use moderately-priced hotels and commercial guest houses. The hotels that we use have a bathroom in each room, but the guest houses may have a shared bath. We try to schedule everyone with a similar balance of homestays and commercial lodging, but this is not always possible. If you have a strong preference for one or the other, we will try to accommodate it. However, with so many people and variables to consider, please be flexible. If you encounter any problems regarding your lodging, please let us know as soon as possible. We want you to be comfortable and satisfied with your lodging.

Single Travelers

Traveling with WhaleCoast Alaska is a great way for single travelers to meet interesting, like-minded people – even lifelong friends. WhaleCoast Alaska welcomes single travelers. Single guests pay the same price as guests traveling with a partner (unless they desire a private room). We assign single travelers to rooms with other single travelers. Each roommate will have her own bed. Usually there will be two guests per room. Generally, we rotate single travelers with different roommates unless otherwise requested. Although our guests are generally interesting and pleasant people, we cannot guarantee that you will be compatible with every roommate. Some guests are night owls; others are early risers. Some guests are quiet sleepers; others snore. We will honor your requests to the best of our ability, but adaptability on the part of single travelers is expected,

Private Room Supplement

Single guests who desire a guaranteed private room can pay a private room supplement. The amount differs for each tour and is listed on your registration form. If you choose this option, your private room would sometimes be in UU homes (with shared bathrooms), and other times it would be in commercial lodging. There are a maximum of two private room options available for each tour. Please ask about availability before registering.

Meals

An average of two meals each day is pre-paid and noted in the itineraries. The other meals are left to the choice and payment of the guests. Most breakfasts are in the homes of UU hosts. Some of the lunches and dinners are provided by the local UU congregations. Common alternative diets, such as vegan, vegetarian, dairy or gluten-free, etc., can generally be accommodated by the local UUs. WhaleCoast Alaska guests sometimes order from the menu in restaurants when the tour includes a group meal. If the restaurant has expensive items, we limit orders to the medium-range entrees. We pay 15-20% tips on group meals. Guests pay the waitpersons separately for all alcoholic beverages and desserts that they order, including tips on these items.

Gratuities

We pay gratuities for WhaleCoast group meals in restaurants, local group transportation, and group activities. Tips for individual service by porters and for housekeeping in hotels are not included. On occasions when service has been outstanding a tour leader will pay a generous gratuity from WhaleCoast Alaska funds and may suggest to participants that they can add tips if they so desire.

Early Arrival and Extended Stay

WhaleCoast Alaska allows you to extend your Alaskan experience by staying additional night(s) with your UU host, either before your tour begins or after it ends. The additional fees for this lodging are listed in the descriptions for each tour. We encourage you to do this if your time and finances allow, and if are comfortable being on your own. 100% of your early arrival fee goes directly to the UU congregations. There are many interesting activities that are not included in the tour. We will email a list of our favorite Fairbanks and Anchorage activities to everyone who opts for an early arrival or extended stay. During these days, your host will advise you and provide transportation to/from town in coordination with his/her schedule. From there, you can explore on your own, using a taxi, rental car, or municipal bus to meet the rest of your transportation needs.

Walking

Every day on the tour involves at least some walking of low to moderate exertion, up to 1.5 miles in length. Guests can sometimes utilize taxis, at their own expense, to reduce the amount of walking that is needed. There will be opportunities for longer walks or hikes for guests who are interested. These will be optional, and alternate activities will always be available. If you are not sure whether or not you could handle the physical activity, please contact us to discuss your concerns.

Health

All clients must have their own medical insurance or have a comprehensive travel insurance plan. If you are at serious risk for a health problem you must have a doctor’s written approval. You are responsible for 100% of any medical and evacuation costs required during and after the tour. Our groups go into wilderness and use public carriers away from medical care. It is very important that we know about health conditions that may require additional care or consideration during the tour.

Luggage

We do not provide luggage handling for guests, except in Denali National Park. You or your companion must be able to carry your bags into the homes and hotels where you will be staying and onto any trains, boats or buses and stow it in luggage compartments. Porter service will not usually be available. We ask guests to limit luggage to one piece – the size (approx. 24” x 17” x 10”) that is typically allowed to be carried on a plane – plus one daypack each. This is because luggage space in host cars and group storage areas is sometimes very limited. Please do not bring larger bags. Guests are responsible for airline baggage fees during the tour (if applicable). These fees can usually be avoided by limiting your baggage to one piece that is small enough to be carried onto the plane, plus a small day pack.

Laundry

You will often be able to do laundry in some of your UU hosts’ homes or at hotels so that clothing requirements may be reduced. You may want to include at least a few articles of clothing that can easily be hand washed and hung to dry overnight if needed. “Convertible” pants, which eliminate the need to bring shorts, are highly recommended. Casual, practical clothing is all that is needed. You will never have to “dress up” for anything during the tour!

Registration

Each piece of registration information is very important. It helps us match roommates and arrange home stays. We want to avoid putting guests in homes where they might have allergic reactions, difficulty with stairs, etc. We need to know your name exactly as it appears on your official ID so that we can avoid problems with Homeland Security. Please double-check your ID to make sure the name on your registration form MATCHES YOUR ID EXACTLY.

Travel Arrangements

We encourage you to make travel arrangements as early as possible. You will need to purchase a ticket from your home to Alaska to begin the tour, and a return ticket from Alaska to your home after the tour ends. There are numerous flights to/from Anchorage and Fairbanks. If you are on the All-Alaska Tour that ends in Sitka, keep in mind that there are several flights out of Sitka. Some of these departures involve a layover in Juneau, while others fly more directly to Seattle. Generally, the earlier you book your flights, the lower the cost will be. In any case, it is very important that you provide accurate information about your travel arrangements to WhaleCoast Alaska and to update us if your travel information changes.

One way to reduce your travel costs is to apply for an Alaska Airlines VISA card. They offer 30,000 free airline miles after you spend $1,000 on the card. This will save you hundreds of dollars. For best results apply before December 15, because it takes some time for your benefits to be credited to your account. If you contact WhaleCoast Alaska, we can arrange for Alaska Airlines to send you an email invitation for this card.

Replacement of Program Segments

All tours are subject to revision. If a tour segment is canceled, we will first try to replace it with an appropriate substitute experience. If this is not possible, refunds will be made after the tour is over and WhaleCoast Alaska obtains the refund from the vendor. In the case of a guest choosing not to participate or being unable to participate in a tour activity, no refunds will be given.