Longtime Juneau resident and professional photographer Mark Kelley has been on a cruise once in his life. But that cruise was enough to convince him that locals make the best guides on cruise ships.
"In the Galapagos, all the guides were Ecuadorians," Kelley said. "It just felt better to me to have a local, and I would think the cruise ships here would want to promote local guides, too."
When Kelley approached Glacier Bay Cruiseline with the idea of having him be a guide on the ship, the cruise line agreed.
Kelley will host a photography cruise in Southeast Alaska this summer. He'll sail with the company on its Juneau-to-Ketchikan cruise that leaves Juneau on July 24.
On the cruise he will sell and sign his books, give slide shows of photos taken throughout Alaska and make one presentation on taking photos in Southeast Alaska.
"And then you're just supposed to be pleasant to the guests and hang out with them," Kelley said.
Glacier Bay Cruise Lines, which Bob Brennan purchased from Goldbelt Inc. in January, plans to have similar resident-expert cruises in the future, said company spokesperson Brandie Ahlgren.
"I think it kind of can go hand in hand with the traveling with a purpose idea," said Ahlgren. "Instead of just taking a cruise, you're taking a cruise with a local expert on board, who takes your trip a little bit further and makes it a learning experience more than just a travel experience."
Princess Cruise Lines tries to use local experts when it can, said Kirby Day, director of shore excursions for Princess Tours.
Libby Riddles, the first woman ever to win the Iditarod sled dog race, boards every Princess ship that visits Juneau in the summer, Day said. In Skagway, Buckwheat Donahue, a longtime resident and the town's director of tourism, boards Princess ships and speaks about Robert Service and Skagway history.
The experts provide a "tremendous" value to visitors, Day said.
"I think people come to Alaska for a lot of different reasons and I think part of it is they want to learn about the destination," he said. "It's a vast area of course that a lot of people don't know a lot about."
The experts sometimes benefit from boarding the ships, too. Kelley, who doesn't travel often in Southern Southeast Alaska, plans to take stock photos while on his cruise.
"I picked a cruise that gets me to areas I haven't been around much," he said. "It seemed like a nice way to visit those areas, take pictures, sell books and have a nice time."
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.