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Whittier, AK 99693
519 W. 4th Ave.
Anchorage, AK 99501
Cruise the calm, protected waters of Prince William Sound and come face to face with tidewater glaciers plus an amazing array of wildlife on Phillips Cruises & Tours. This longtime operator offers up-close views of glaciers, wildlife, mountains and the rugged beauty of Prince William Sound in one afternoon—which plenty of people say was the highlight of their vacation.
Founder Brad Phillips pioneered glacier cruising in Prince William Sound back in the ‘50’s and his dream of sharing the beauty of Prince William Sound in a comfortable, informative manner has become a top attraction for both visitors and locals in Alaska. They prides themselves on their incredibly friendly crew, and the way that passengers can learn the history of the region from a US Forest Service Ranger as the Captain navigates through the fjords, looking for the best wildlife viewing opportunities while on the way to see the many glaciers found in Prince William Sound.
Their tours are a good fit for a variety of travelers: nature lovers, birders, young and old, couples or families. They also do corporate team-building charters, as well as weddings or family reunions.
Both company’s vessels are catamarans. The Klondike Express is the fastest, largest, and most luxurious high-speed catamaran in Alaska, and, the Glacier Quest was just updated in 2012. Even better, there's no seasickness—guaranteed—or the price of the cruise will be refunded.
Their signature tour is the 26 Glacier Cruise, which has been running since 1987. You’ll ride the Klondike Express catamaran, which zips you from Whittier deep into Prince William Sound. During the 5-hour tour—which includes a hot lunch—you'll travel over 145 miles, cruising to the face of Surprise Glacier at the end of Harriman Fjord, ice permitting, and then to Barry Arm and College Fjord where you'll see more tidewater glaciers.
No other cruise takes you so close to these icy giants. The boat comes as close as 400 to 500 feet, letting you hear the glaciers move as well as see the brilliant blues in the ice. Because the glaciers are so huge—some go 18 miles back and a mile across—it will seem like you're even closer.
While your captain can't turn off the engines, he does turn them down as low as possible. He'll also rotate the boat so everyone can see, offering a different angle each minute. When stopped, the Klondike's crew actually hangs over the side and brings up glacier ice for you to touch. It's a rare day when you don't see some kind of calving activity, anything from little snowballs to a big sheet of ice.
In early May and June, watch for "maternity wards" of otters and seals on the icebergs; the abrasive ice serves to ward off orcas. Watch for "rafts" of otters as well-maybe 300 all together; like synchronized swimmers, they'll flip from floating on their backs and dive into the water all at once. The most common whales in Prince William Sound are humpbacks and orcas, with sightings of minke whales as well. You may also spot wildlife on land, such as bears and mountain goats. Of the 200 species of bird life inhabiting this area, bald eagles are very prominent. Before returning to Whittier, you'll visit a bird rookery home to thousands of kittiwakes.
Each half-day cruise includes narration on the history of the Alaska Natives who ventured into the sound in centuries past. Listen as the crew explains how the fjords have been transformed over the past 15,000 years. Learn about the various types of glaciers along the route and the history of the Harriman Expedition of 100 years ago that named many of the glaciers.
In 2012, Phillips added the Glacier Quest Cruise, a new route that goes into Blackstone Bay. On this tour, you’ll see Blackstone and Beloit Glaciers, and do so in another catamaran with indoor seating, but which holds up to 149 passengers—about half the size of vessel used for the 26 Glaciers cruise. You’ll see seals, sea otters, whales, possibly bears and mountain goats. The tour also includes a hot lunch and narration provided by U.S. forest ranger. And, like the 26 Glaciers Cruise, there is a no-sea-sickness guarantee, so you can focus on all the wonders around you.
By Car: From Anchorage, drive south on the Seward Highway. A few miles miles south of Girdwood, at mile marker 79, you'll see a sign for "Portage Glacier & Whittier." Turn left on Portage Glacier Road and follow the signs for Whittier. Click here for information on the Whittier Tunnel schedule and fees. Please call for parking recommendations.
By Motorcoach: Phillips can assist you in booking a motorcoach from Anchorage or Girdwood.
By Train: Phillips can assist you in booking a rail transfer from Anchorage or Girdwood via the Glacier Discovery Train.