Fantastic tour, professional staff, tons of wildlife and beautiful scenery.
Can't think of much. While it was a little pricey, it was worth every penny.
The Bottom Line
An extensive tour at a great price with professional staff and fantastic sights. You can't go wrong with this one.
My wife and I traveled to Alaska via the the company over the summer solstice so that he could run a marathon in Anchorage to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Since we made the trek all the way out to the fairly remote 49th state, we decided to add on an extra seven days to our trip and turn it into our summer vacation.
While planning the trip, we booked just one organized tour, with Kenai Fjords Tours, an Alaska Heritage Tours company.
Kenai Fjords Tours is based out of Seward and the ships depart from the small boat harbor in Seward. However, they also have a booking office in Anchorage, Alaska on 4th Avenue.
There are many tour options available through Kenai Fjords Tours, some of which include overnight stays at their private lodges on Alaska's Kenai peninsula. Also offered are "customizable" options to tours, including flightseeing, sea kayaking, guided hiking tours and other activities.
Kenai Fjords Tours also offers several day cruise options that travel through Kenai Fjords National Park to varying locations. These cruises range in length from 3 hours for the short Resurrection Bay cruise to the extensive 9.5 hour Northwestern Fjord Full Day cruise.
My husband and I opted for the 6 hour National Park cruise, leaving from Seward at 3PM and returning at 9PM, still in full daylight since the sun didn't set until around midnight during our vacation. Like all of the day cruises, this one promised views of several glaciers and whatever wildlife we could find out on the water. The late departure time gave us the full morning to explore other activities around Seward so we hiked at Exit Glacier and visited Mitch Seavey's kennels for the "Ididaride" sled dog ride before the tour.
Checking in for our cruise was simple. At 2:30PM we showed up at their offices at the Small Boat Harbor where we were given boarding passes for the the Kenai Fjords Coastal Explorer ship. There are several similar ships in the Kenai Fjords Tours fleet. The Coastal Explorer is actually the one pictured with this review. We walked down to the docks and got in line to board. Be sure to show up for the cruise about a half hour early. Boarding begins 10 minutes prior to departure and the lines form pretty quickly.
The ship was very comfortable and easily fit around 150 passengers. There were viewing areas on two decks and indoor areas with tables and booth seating on both decks as well. Multiple toilets (or "heads") were located on the ship and these areas were wheelchair-accessible. A full galley served complimentary coffee and other reasonably priced beverages and snacks. The six hour cruise also included a "salmon bake" dinner which was served from the galley.
The ship got underway right at 3PM and headed straight out Resurrection Bay toward the fjords. Our captain was an elderly man with a smooth radio announcer voice that came over the loudspeakers several times during the tour to point out wildlife, scenery, and historic facts about the areas we visited.
We made a very brief stop to Fox Island to drop off a couple of crew members and some supplies. Our captain pointed out some bald eagles soaring overhead and told us the history of fox island and how it was used to breed foxes, since they wouldn't swim off the island.
After leaving Fox Island we headed past Pilot Rock and Aialik Cape. Our captain took us to a relatively secluded cove where we saw hundreds of birds, including puffins, flying and flapping around. He also took us around to a rocky ledge where we saw more than thirty sea lions sunning themselves and swimming.
During our cruise we stumbled upon a diverse array of wildlife; first the sea lions and puffins (both horned and tufted), and then bald eagles, sea gulls and cormorants. We saw both humpack whales and orcas breaching the surface in several places. And at two points our ship was chased by playful dall porpoises jumping through the wake.
We saw several glaciers on our cruise including Bear Glacier and Holgate Glacier. All of the glaciers extended from the enormous Harding ice field. At Holgate, our captain stopped the engines so we could hear the thunderous cracking sounds in the glacier's interior. We spent about fifteen minutes at Holgate with the engines silent, listening to the glacier and watching it calve into the bay.
Just before we got to Holgate, the galley crew served up the salmon bake dinner. I had heard jokes about the "overcooked salmon dinners" on the various cruises, so I was surprised by how tender and fresh the salmon was. It was served with a small salad, rice, corn on the cob and rolls. We purchased a couple of Alaskan Ambers before dinner to drink with our meal (the galley has to close down drink service while they serve the meal). After leaving the Holgate Glacier dessert was served. I don't know what it was called exactly but it was a homemade caramel, chocolate, pecan praline style dessert. Delicious! Seconds were offered on both the main meal and the dessert for anyone who wanted them. I was full but my husband (who made the rather flimsy excuse that he was still in carb-loading mode after his run) headed up for a second dessert pretty quickly!
We cruised back to Seward stopping each time the Captain found more wildlife to point out. I went toward the front of the ship to take photos of a pair of whales and ended up hanging out on deck with the Captain and four or five other passengers on the way back into port. He talked to us as we all kept our eyes out for more animals. One of my fellow passengers was on the cruise from Anchorage with his parents who were visiting Alaska. He said that he had done this cruise about five times with visiting relatives and friends and that this was the best one by far for wildlife viewing.
We arrived awhile before full-on sunset in Seward, pulling into the harbor to see a few otters reclining in the waters near the pier. It was an excellent end to a wonderful cruise and a very long day in Seward.
I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone visiting Anchorage or Seward. It was an incredible experience. Be forewarned, you should wear warm clothes unless you want to spend the entire cruise inside.