A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor
Click any photo to enlarge and view a slideshow from the 2006 cruise.More >>

A Peek at What's Ahead

July is here and we're pretty excited about what we've got planned for you. As promised, there will be sing-a-longs, a talent show, time to shop and autographs to seek. Along with main stage performances and shows in smaller venues throughout the ship, you'll have opportunities to attend workshops and seminars led by naturalists and writers, informal audience participation sessions, "bar gigs," and much more, and yes-things like poetry readings and jam sessions will pop up here and there. Though we still have work to do and can't fill you in on the full schedule until the ship leaves Seattle, here are a few activities you might consider:

Where I Come From with Holly Harden
This class will focus on writing about landscape and place, and how writers attempt to describe, explore, question and honor their relationship to the sometimes ambiguous attributes of a place. Participants will read and discuss a chapter from Heather Lende's book, If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-town Alaska. We'll do some short writing exercises/sketches, share some of our work, and talk about ways to write about where it is we come from.

MouthSounds with Fred Newman
Want to do a loon call or a tire stuck in the mud? Bring your ears and requests (and a little mirror, if possible, as a learning aid) and personally learn from the man who wrote the book on sound making. A very personal look at the folk art of sound making, from Southern storytelling roots (and behind the backs of fine teachers) to the scam of being paid to create sounds for television, radio, stage and screen. Fred will show you how to how to honk, whistle and bark. For all ages.

The Actors Workshop with Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman
Back by popular demand, the actors from A Prairie Home Companion will once again give folks the chance to get up on stage and perform one of our scripts from the radio show. We had a blast last year casting workshop attendees in all of the roles (including sound effects) in one of our delightful Guy Noir scripts. We've changed the script for this cruise but the fun and the silliness will be the same.

Gordon Wright's Alaska
Gordon will share with you his 37 years in Alaska with a slide show featuring photographs from his adventures as an environmentalist, touring musician and wilderness traveler through the diverse landscapes of Alaska.

Overture on Ice with Gordon Wright
Gordon will introduce and present a 1982 film of his Arctic Chamber Orchestra on tour to the Eskimo village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. The movie includes an introduction by Gordon, rehearsal scenes in Fairbanks, travel to Savoonga, the concert and footage of Eskimo drummers and dancers responding with their own songs and dances, and interviews with the villagers, including their reaction to symphonic music.

Scotch Tasting with John Saucke
Just back from his annual Scotland trip, John Saucke is pleased to present two Scotch-tasting classes on the PHC cruise. Whether you're new to or well-versed in the complexities of single malt scotches, John's tutorial will delight you with an exploration of flavors. Come prepared to experience the landscape of Scotland as you sample fine Scotches ranging from the lovely and sweet to the wild (additional fee required).

Tai Chi with Michael Trask
Tai Chi Chuan classes with Michael Trask on board ms. Zaandam are structured so that a "Tai Curious" person may attend any hour-long session and learn something about Tai Chi movement, history, and culture. These are participation classes of gentle movement requiring nothing but attention and stocking feet or comfortable shoes. The focus will be on the meditative aspects of Tai Chi, and those who drop in will enjoy easy to learn, repetitive practice while folks who show up for every class will build skills and have a bit of Tai Chi to "play" when they go home.

Naturalist Events

Q: What do you get when you invite five "expert naturalists" on a Prairie Home Companion cruise along the Inside Passage and Southeast Alaska?

A: Probably more than you ever wanted to know about natural history.

Here is just a sample...

Alaskan public lands: conservation, wilderness, and politics with Rich MacDonald
In a state with 68% of its lands in some form of public ownership, there are going to be a wide as wide a range of management strategies as there are opinions on what should be done. Come explore the history of land conservation and wilderness protection in the 49th state.

Birds of the Inside Passage and Southeast Alaska with Rich MacDonald
Whether you are an avowed nature-lover, an armchair naturalist, or know nothing at all about the mysteries of the wilds, chances are you can name a dozen species of birds if you put your mind to it: eagles, gulls, ducks, chickadees, crows. This slideshow will examine the characteristics and ecology of many of the birds we might encounter during the cruise, including the Kittlitz's Murrelet, the Tufted Puffin, and many others.

Early Naturalists and Explorers of the North Pacific with Natalie Springuel
The Russians, Spanish, English and French all dispatched sailors with orders to chart, explore and sometimes conquer the shores of Alaska. They discovered a vast bounty of wildlife, towering frozen mountains, and species diversity unlike any other. Fortunately, some of them took along naturalists and artists. We'll hear from Bering and Steller, Cook and Vancouver, Perez and La Perousse, the fur traders, and members of the Harriman expedition including Dall and John Muir.

The Ecology and Biology of the Pacific Walrus with Rob MacDonald
The Pacific walrus is a marine mammal species highly specialized to life in the Arctic. They are easily identified by their ivory tusks and rely on Arctic ice and certain terrestrial locations for feeding on clams and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates, and for cycles of rest. The Pacific walrus has evolved, adapted, and survived in a harsh environment and lives to 40 years of age or more.

King, Coho, Sockeye, Chum, Pink: Alaska's Five Species of Pacific Salmon with Rob MacDonald
These five species of Pacific salmon are the "lifeblood" of Alaska's ecosystem, providing nutrients for a vast array of fish, wildlife, plants, and other organisms. Each species has a different life history enabling them to coexist and thrive, and are important for Native Alaskan subsistence lifestyles, commercial fishing, sport fishing, and numerous environmental processes.

The Life and Times of Coastal Brown Bears with Steve Lewis
Nothing else incites fear like the myths that surround the highly sought after, enigmatic brown bear. Learn the truths behind the myths as we go through a typical year in the bear's life - from its den to the grass flats to the salmon streams to the berry patches - and study the ecology, natural history, and behavior of the brown bear.

Marine Mammals of Southeast Alaska with Natalie Springuel
Humpback Whale, Killer Whale, Dall Porpoise, Steller's Sea Lion, Harbor Seal, Sea Otter… these are the marine mammals we'll likely see along our cruise route. What do they look like? How are they doing? How do they act? With slides to highlight species characteristics, this will be an introduction to the common and not-so-common marine mammals of the North Pacific.

Native People's of Southeast Alaska and the Environment: A Tlingit Year with Michelle Kissling
Long before western explorers, the native people of Southeast Alaska (Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian) depended on the land and ocean for food, clothing, transportation, and shelter. We'll take a walk through a Tlingit year, discuss traditional and contemporary methods for food gathering and preserving, and learn a bit about the other native cultures of Southeast Alaska.

Rulers of the Sky - the Raptors of the Alexander Archipelago with Steve Lewis
Though the Bald Eagle, our nation's symbol, will be one of the most common birds we see during the cruise, they are not the only raptors that live in these forests. We'll talk about the ecology and history of northern goshawks, sharp-shinned hawks, merlins, peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers. And Bald Eagles, too.

Southeast Alaska's Dynamic Glacial Landscape with Michelle Kissling
For the last 12.5 million years, the climate and topography of Southeast Alaska have created a glacial heaven. The last 'Little Ice Age' ended nearly 10,000 years ago, resulting in a warming climate and a changing landscape. What is a glacier? We'll discuss the ecology of glaciers, including the terrestrial and marine wildlife that depend on them, their status, and their future.

Other Naturalist Features

Naturalist Q & As
So you're going on the cruise. Great. But you've got some time to kill, and—along with finding a dogsitter and registering the kids for Camp Grandma—why not read up on the natural beauty waiting for you on your upcoming Alaskan adventure? Natalie, Rich and Steve, your cruise naturalists, took some time to respond to your questions illuminating the marine life of the Inside Passage.

Read the archived discussions here:

Wildlife Brochure
Seems having something to look forward to makes life pretty dang sweet. So what's on your list of "Things To Which I Look Forward On the Prairie Home Cruise"? Scenery? A nap on the deck? Buffet lines? Mingling? How 'bout the wildlife? According to Rich, the elder of the MacDonald family naturalists, there's a long list of possible wild encounters waiting on any one of the many activities the naturalists have planned for you. Eagles and auklets and puffins, and perhaps a black-footed albatross. Up to seven species of baleen whale, six species of toothed whale, otters, seals and sea lions and... What's that? You don't have a list? Well, by gum, we happen to have one right here. This tri-fold brochure (8.5" x 11") includes the common wildlife we may encounter (sea birds, marine mammals and a few extras) as well as a tide table and sunrise/set times for each port of call.

Download the brochure* >>

*You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this brochure. Don't have it? Download it here. Having trouble? Not to worry. We'll have brochures available on board as well.

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by Prairie Home Productions, presented by American Public Media Group. Ship's registry: the Netherlands.

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