Meet the Discovery Crew

The camaraderie between guests and crew is on the Discovery is one of the unexpected joys of small ship cruising.

We have been cruising the waterways of Alaska’s Inside Passage since 1981. Many things have changed since then but our desire to do the best cruise possible remains unchanged as does the joy we get from sharing such a wonderful place with our guests.

Captain Ben Swanson

Licensed Master/ Naturalist
STCW/ First Aid & CPR

MV Discovery’s calm, competent and adventurous Captain Ben Swanson has a joy for life that is contagious. A passionate naturalist and guide his accumulated knowledge of wildlife habits and habitat comes from first hand experience. He has many colorful stories of classic yachts and the Alaska of old that make for lively conversation in the wheelhouse and at the dinner table.

Ben is a second generation Captain and lifetime lover of the water who grew up on boats in Washington and Alaska and has been cruising the coastal waterways of the Inside Passage for more than 30 years. A marine mechanic, electrician and jack of all trades Ben has been full-time Captain and partner in the Discovery since 1998 and in 2010 took over the boat.

‘Discovery’ is still very much a family affair as Ben continues the legacy of eco-responsible MV Discovery small ship cruising and sharing with guests an appreciation of the natural world and his love for a classic wooden boat.

“I hope to one day pass on the joy of boating and boat ownership to my kids so they can continue to share the beauty of Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest with future generations.”

Captain John Swanson

Licensed Master/ STCW/ First Aid & CPR

In 1975, shortly after receiving a degree from the University of Puget Sound in Economics and Accounting, John decided the world had much more to offer than ivory towers and three piece suits. He began working in the maritime industry and owned and operated charter and commercial fishing vessels off the Washington coast and then in Alaska.

After enduring the hardships of fishing for a few years he decided to make a change and in 1981 with wife Ellen and son Ben began conducting natural history and wildlife cruises in Southeast Alaska.

The Swansons owned and maintained three classic wooden boats before purchasing MV Discovery in 1998. John manages the business and the bookings and Captains ‘Discovery’ for a few cruises each season allowing Ben to spend time with his boys during summer break.

John feels a sense of responsibility for the stewardship of Alaska’s wilderness and is an advocate for sustainable eco tourism and small ship cruising.

“After all these years I still love to share my amazement at the grandeur of this vast wilderness region, my love for its great natural beauty, and my respect and affection for its abundant wildlife.”

Rolando Aquino


We are excited to welcome Chef Rolando Aquino aboard as the Chef this season. Chef Rolando moved to Seattle in 2004 and after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute he has worked his way up to Executive Chef at some of Seattle’s finest such as the Space Needle, Joeys, and The Mama Group Restaurants.  Looking for a change of scenery Rolando is looking forward to showcasing his culinary talents in a smaller setting while on a summer adventure. Fortunately, over the years, we have attracted great Chefs and Rolando is no exception and we are looking forward to his creations and great sense of humor.

Rolando Acquino

Craig Henry


We are fortunate that Discovery and her crew seem to attract great Chefs. Happy to show off their creative arts to small groups and add to the wonderful week aboard. Chef Craig Graduated from New England Culinary Institute in 2000 and has been able to travel the US and South America showing off his Culinary Talents since.

From working with Michelene Star Chef Michael Richard to Banquet Chef at Park City Olympics and Executive at Sundance Film Festival. A few years in South America as Chef De Cuisine and Executive Chef enjoying that culture and cuisine. Back stateside in 2008 where Craig continued his career as Executive Chef before landing aboard Discovery as the Chef for the 2012 Season.  Meeting a girl, getting married and having a son landed their new family in Colorado where they owned and operated Jo Jo’s Colorado BBQ. Craig filled in as Chef in 2023 and realized how cool it was so signed on for the 2024 season. We are looking forward to his return of wonderful cuisine and a great sense of humor.

Hunter Bryant


Hunter grew up in Wisconsin and with a keen sense of adventure has traveled the world as a Chef and an adventurer. Hunter has owned and operated several business and restaurants over the years and after realizing that business ownership kept him tied to one place he decided to get back to freelance Chef work. He joined our crew for a new adventure and has enjoyed the challenge. Hunter has been doing a wonderful job showing off his creative side and culinary talents. He is keen to cook over a campfire or smoke just about anything on the smoker.

Jamie Swanson

Jamie Swanson

Deckhand / Stewardess

After many years at home raising our boys and holding down the fort while Dad worked summers in Alaska Jamie has been able to join the crew for much more than the occasional trip here and there. Rather than hearing the stories of summer adventures from Ben and the boys Jamie is now aboard to experience the wonderful wilds of Alaska. Jamies specialty is keeping the boat ship shape and more importantly keeping Captain Ben in line 🙂

Brandon Swanson

First Mate/Deckhand

There is just something wonderful when boat life is just 2nd nature. It just comes naturally to Brandon after a lifetime on and around MV Discovery and Alaska.  Brandon is back aboard this season and continuing his journey to the wheelhouse following in Dad and Grandpa’s footsteps. Happy to share his knowledge of Fishing, Boating, Discovery and Alaska with his calm demeanor and warm smile. And of course occasionally to tell Mom and Dad how to do it we are excited to have him back joining the crew!!!

Brandon Swanson

Mates/Future Captains

Our other sons, Michael and Matthew, have spent much time aboard the MV Discovery over the years. Although they all have shoreside ties currently they are able to join us aboard to fill in and or jump in with that extra hand. It seems to be pretty standard when growing up on and around boats and the Sea that it comes calling. Once it is in your blood from such young age the beckon is hard to resist. Time will tell but passing on the Legacy to the boys would be a wonderful passing of the Captains hat.

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