If you want to take a day cruise with both great glacier scenery and non-stop wildlife, you’ll want to start in Seward. This family-owned tour operator has distinguished themselves with their great Seward-based cruises into Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park: they were the first to get National Park Service Rangers on board, and they always make a day cruise feel luxurious.
One Boat, Many Views
Major Marine Tours has been operating in Alaska (and winning awards for their solid reputation) since 1990, and today they offer seven different tours out of Seward and two out of Whittier—from a 3.5 hour budget cruise to a full-day exploration. Your boat will have multiple viewing decks: one level for indoor seating, an outdoor top level, and an open-air bow.
The folks at Major Marine Tours also pride themselves on making you so comfortable that you can lose yourself in the scenery. It’s the only day cruise operator that offers guaranteed reserved seating inside the vessel’s heated cabin, so you can feel free to explore the vessel for every perspective on the views. At the same time, your captain will maneuver the vessel so that you can see, hear and sometimes even smell all of the wonders around you.
Park Rangers Plus Dinner
Cruises from 5 hours to 7.5 hours will have two great components: a uniformed Park Ranger, who will talk to you about the rich natural and cultural history of the area (they also do the “Junior Ranger” program for kids); and a delicious, Alaskan salmon-and-prime rib buffet made fresh on the vessel. Folks who take these trips rave about the great staff, but also the excellent value of tour-and-feast in one.
A few logistical notes: Since full-day tours out of Seward spend a fair amount of time in open water, take your usual precautions if you are prone to seasickness. The half-day cruise sticks mostly with calm, protected waters, except for a small bit of open water. Meanwhile, if you’re coming to Seward from Anchorage, Major Marine Tours can also help you set up train or motorcoach travel, to make the trip here even easier.
Here are the main tour options:
Full Day Kenai Fjords National Park Tours (6 or 7.5 hours)
There are two full-day options for KFNP: the 6-hour tour covers 100 miles and visits one tidewater glacier, while the 7.5-hour tour covers 130 miles and visits two tidewater glaciers, in the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Both cruises travel on very stable, high-speed catamarans and are hosted by uniformed National Park rangers.
You’ll see abundant wildlife throughout the park, and the tidewater glaciers are massive. You can also hear what sounds like the crack of a gunshot—then watch as a big chunk of ice falls hundreds of feet to the ocean below.
Half-Day Resurrection Bay Cruise (5 hours)
During this mid-day cruise, you’ll explore the world of wildlife up close in the calm waters of Resurrection Bay, drifting close to massive bird rookeries and sea lion colonies. The ship stops along the route for whale, sea otter, or Dall's porpoise sightings. You’ll also get great photo ops of alpine and piedmont glaciers including enormous Bear Glacier, the largest glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Gray Whale Watching Tour (4 hours)
During spring, you’ll head into Resurrection Bay to follow Gray Whales for a stretch of their annual migration north—they started in Baja California and are en route to their summer feeding waters in the Bering Sea. These whales tend to travel by “line of sight,” meaning they stay close to the coastline. That means you’ll also get a good look at alpine glaciers, Steller sea lions, Dall's porpoise, bald eagles, puffins and other marine birds. This tour is short enough that there’s no meal served, but you get free coffee, tea or hot chocolate; you can also pack your own lunch or pick up something at the snack bar.
Wildlife Cruise (3.5 hours)
For views of alpine glaciers and the Chugach and Kenai mountain ranges, take the shorter Wildlife Cruise, fully narrated by the captain and crew members. Make sure to look for Humpback whales, Orca (killer whales), harbor seals, bald eagles, puffins, and various types of marine birds.
Northwestern Fjord Cruise (8.5 hours)
Extend your Kenai Fjord adventure with this small-vessel cruise that takes you farther than any other tour. This tour takes you to the unvisited areas of Kenai Fjords National Park where you can see three active tidewater glaciers, thousands of nesting sea birds, and amazing views of the Park's islands and coves. Don't forget to take advantage of the one-on-one time you'll have with the Captain and crew on this extended tour!