who wish to take a boat tour in a new area are often confronted with a plethora
of opportunities. Typically, there are several
competing companies, and each company may have several offerings. That was the scenario that Tim and I faced
when we were trying to book a cruise from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park. How to choose, how to choose?
Fjords Tours came highly recommended by several people, and options ranged from
a dinner cruise to a nine-hour tour. We
read far fewer comments about Major Marine Tours, but we decided to look at the
offerings for both. Ultimately, we ended
up choosing one of the tours with Major Marine.
There were several factors that led us to that decision.
wanted a tour that was long enough to get all of the way into Kenai Fjords
National Park. We also preferred a
smaller boat. But for us, the deciding
factor was that National Park rangers accompany most of the Major Marine
cruises. Many cruises with Kenai Fjords
Tours include a stop at an island with a presentation by a National Park
ranger, but we weren’t too interested in spending time on an island. We also eliminated the longest tour offered by Major Marine on the smallest
boat because no ranger would be on board. So, after careful consideration, we selected the
seven and one-half hour tour on a relatively small boat. Decision made!
make the right decision? We will never
know. We do know that we thoroughly
enjoyed our tour and that the presentation by Ranger Chad added so much to our
experience. With that said, I’m guessing
that almost any cruise would have been an amazing experience.
selected Saturday for our cruise because the weather forecast was a bit more
promising than the steady rain that Seward had been experiencing. It was still cloudy when we headed out of the
harbor into Resurrection Bay on the Orca Song. Within ten minutes, we had our first wildlife
sighting of the day – sea otters swimming not too far from shore. Those little critters are always such a treat
rounded Aialik Cape and cruised into Aialik Bay, we were finally in Kenai
Fjords National Park. Kenai Fjords
National Park is a land of ice. The
Harding Icefield covers over half of the park, and nearly 40 glaciers flow from
this massive ice sheet expanse. Fjords
created by the receding ice provide access to many of the tidewater
glaciers. Aialik Bay is one of these
after crossing into the bay, we had our second significant wildlife sighting,
and one that I was most looking forward to – orca, or killer, whales. We joined several other boats, and it appeared
as if each one tried to reposition itself for the best views. Although I was thrilled to see orcas for the
first time since arriving in Alaska, the experience was a bit
disconcerting. The boats seemed to form
a circle around the whales, as if we were rounding them up. I have to trust that our behavior was not
harmful to the whales, but I’m not so sure.
I was almost relieved when we finally moved on.
waiting with little success for Holgate Glacier to provide us some calving
action, we moved on and back into Aialik Bay.
Our longer tour gave us the opportunity to also visit Aialik Glacier,
and it was a sight to behold. Although
its size cannot compare to the giant Columbia Glacier that we visited while we
were in Valdez, I was still impressed. I
must admit that we’ve been spoiled.
However, size isn’t everything! In
some ways Aialik Glacier was more impressive because it stood out so against
the deep blue sky. I was happy to stand
out on deck and just stare.
|Aialik Glacier Is a Magnificent Thing to See|
|One Side of Aialik Glacier|
|It Was Hard to Stop Taking Photos|
again, we saw very little calving, but I was happy with all that we did
see. A sailboat and several small
tour boats joined us in front of the glacier, but I didn’t mind because they
provided a sense of scale that was otherwise difficult to judge. These glaciers are much taller than they
first appear to be.
|A Sailboat Provides a Little Perspective on Size|
also in a perfect spot to watch harbor seals as they lounged on the chunks of
ice floating in the bay. This was our
best opportunity so far to study these lovable mammals, and they didn’t seem to
mind our presence.
|Is He Smiling?|
|Is It Time for a Swim?|
|I Hope This Ice Doesn't Melt|
|Sailing Away from Aialik Bay|
way back to Seward we stopped to visit nesting areas for several of the
seabirds that can be found in these waters.
We also were treated to another visit by a pod of orcas, and these
whales stayed with us for quite some time.
At one point, a few humpback whales joined in, which Ranger Chad thought
was somewhat unusual.
|A Perfect Spot for Nesting Seabirds|
|It's Always a Thrill to Spot Whales|
|Let's Stick Together|
Tim and I
really enjoyed our cruise with Major Marine Tours. Ranger Chad shared so much with us, and it
was clear that he really loves what he is doing. He is a retired schoolteacher who moved to
Seward about 30 years. He fell in love
with the region and now enjoys sharing this special place with others. His enthusiasm was contagious.
arriving in Alaska, Tim and I have taken three cruises in different parts of the
state to view glaciers and wildlife. I
cannot imagine visiting Alaska without getting out on the water. Although these cruises shared certain
similarities, I will remember each one for different reasons. For example, I will especially remember the cruise in Glacier Bay National Park for the wilderness experience that it offered, as
well as the unusually perfect weather that we experienced. Those are two things that we have encountered
The enormity of the glacier
itself was the highlight of the Columbia Glacier cruise in Prince William Sound. I’ve never been so close to a glacier that
large. Our first orca sightings and
Ranger Chad’s insights are what I will take with me from our day in Kenai
Fjords National Park. He is a great
ambassador for the National Park Service.
And, of course, it goes without saying that I will remember each glacier
and all of the wildlife that we were able to see.