A Report from Unlock the Past’s Genealogy Cruise to Alaska

I returned home early Saturday morning after a 7-day genealogy cruise to Alaska, sponsored by Unlock the Past. I have to say that it was a very successful cruise.

About 160 genealogists from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia (I hope I didn’t overlook anyone!) converged on Seattle, Washington, to board the Explorer of the Seas on Friday, September 7. It was the most international genealogy cruise I have ever attended.

Unlock the Past CEO Alan Phillips extended the cruise with a day of pre-cruise seminars conducted at the Seattle Public Library. Covered topics included DNA testing as well as Irish and general genealogy research. These ten seminars were also offered to non-cruising genealogists in the Seattle area and online. They were also livestreamed and recorded; I will write about this offering in a separate article, but you can see the day’s program at https://www.utpinseattle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/UTP-in-Seattle-brochure-v2.pdf.

Unlock the Past CEO Alan Phillips addresses the genealogists on board the genealogy cruise. This photo only shows some of the attendees. I couldn’t squeeze in everyone with My camera lens.

Once underway, we made our way to Juneau, Skagway, and the Tracy Arm Fjord, all in Alaska. On the return trip back to Seattle, we stopped for a day in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Genealogy presentations covering a wide variety of topics were held during our times “at sea” but never when we were in ports, allowing everyone ample time for sightseeing. You can see the highlights of the cruise at https://www.unlockthepastcruises.com/2018cruisealaska/.

To say there were a lot of presentations would be an understatement. At times, there were 43 presentations (!) in two (and occasionally 3) streams. I was especially impressed with the number of presentations about DNA, covering everything from talks aimed at DNA newcomers to some very advanced topics. Many other topics were also covered, ranging from Commemorating the missing – using DNA to identify WWI soldiers to England’s Poor Law and her misfortunate outcasts to Using Evidentia to organise your research and analyse your sources to Flip-Pal mobile scanner presentation to Use Evernote for genealogy and nearly everything else to Using triangulation to break thru brick walls.

Possibly the most entertaining presentation was How I cloned myself over a couple of Martinis by Maurice Gleeson. No, I won’t reveal the story here, but if you ever have an opportunity to hear Maurice speak, I suggest you do so.

You can find a list of all the presentations at http://bit.ly/2xl02cx.

Of course, the stops along the way are always important on any cruise, and this one was no exception. In Juneau, I managed to eat the largest serving of Alaska king crabs that I have ever seen. If you like seafood and if you ever get to Juneau, make sure you stop in at Tracy’s King Crab Shack! See https://www.kingcrabshack.com for the details.

Check out the size of the king crab legs being steamed!

After a trip on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in Skagway (that went into the mountains and eventually crossed into British Columbia, Canada, and then turned around), many of us from the cruise ship wandered around what still looks like a town out of the Old West gold rush days. How many towns can you think of that still have board sidewalks?

It was a short walk from the cruise ship to the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in Skagway. Notice the glaciers in the mountains!

The trip up the Tracy Arm Fjord was interesting although we never got to see the glacier at the end of the fjord. Our trip in September was rather late in the season, and the fjord itself was already clogged with floating icebergs. Of course, all icebergs have about 10% of the ice visible while 90% of the ice is underwater. We went several miles into the fjord when the captain decided that further travel in iceberg-filled waters was not advisable. (Remember the Titanic?) We turned around and headed for safety. I must admit that I support his decision! In any case, it still was a spectacular trip up the fjord, and we all saw plenty of glaciers in other places that week.

Those are icebergs floating in the Tracy Arm Fjord

The final stop in Victoria offered many options for sightseeing. I spent several hours at the Royal BC Museum, learning about the indigenous people of the area and the later history of white settlers in British Columbia. If you ever get to Victoria, I can strongly recommend you plan on spending several hours at the Royal BC Museum. See https://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/ for more information.

All in all, I have to say this was a successful genealogy cruise. Judging by the smiles of fellow genealogists as we left the ship, I have to believe that all the others agreed with me. We had fun!

Would you like to take a genealogy cruise? If so, I can strongly recommend that you consider the cruises from Unlock the Past. Unlike most other genealogy cruise organizers, Unlock the Past does not limit itself to cruises around North America. Past cruises sponsored by the company have included cruises to the Baltic, around England, and around Australia/New Zealand.

The next Unlock the Past genealogy cruise will be a 15-night, one-way repositioning cruise from Sydney, Australia to Singapore with several stops long the way. It will be held from 29 Mar to 13 Apr 2019. Speakers will include David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch, along with Dr Richard Reid, an Irish and military historian. See https://www.unlockthepastcruises.com/15th-cruise-singapore/ for details.

A two-week Italian Mediterranean genealogy cruise will be held from 21 Sep to 5 Oct 2019. See https://www.unlockthepastcruises.com/16th-cruise-mediterranean/ for the details.

Finally, a genealogy cruise around Australia is planned for early 2020 with details to be announced in the future.

You can learn more at: http://www.unlockthepast.com.au.

Have fun! Take a genealogy cruise! Take the family along as the non-genealogists in your family can always find plenty of things to do on a cruise. I am sure that all of you will enjoy it.


Thank you Dick for an excellent summary of the cruise. By the way we had 160 in all in our conference group, not 85. And it truly was an international genealogy conference – 67 from the US, 56 Australia, 14 NZ, 12 UK & 11 Canada.
On top of a great conference and a fabulous itinerary, we had perfect weather and for those in the right place at the right time a superb show of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) one night – and whales galore. Dear MYRTLE says she saw about 40 whales one morning, and more were seen at other times.


Although not strictly genealogy, you may find the article about the “ton of goods” that the Gold Rush prospectors had to take with them over White Pass interesting.
I ran a similar list of food through a recipe database program that I have and it can calculate the total calories. It works out to about 6000 cal/day.


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