Resurrection Bay Tours
The most exciting thing to do in Seward is to get on a tour boat out into Resurrection Bay or into some nearby fjords. This is the cruise for seeing marine wildlife. On a good day, you could see three kinds of whales—including humpbacks and orcas—plus porpoises, seals, sea otters, sea lions, hundreds of puffins, kittiwakes, auklets, and the occasional bald eagle and oystercatcher.
Two companies offer cruises with knowledgeable guides and onboard Park Service naturalists. Half-day trips take you around nearby Resurrection Bay and out as far as Rugged Island, while longer voyages include Aialik Bay, Holgate Glacier (with calving icebergs), and the Chiswell Islands (with a Steller sea lion rookery and nesting seabirds—most notably puffins). The latter is a far more interesting trip and actually goes inside Kenai Fjords National Park rather than to its edge, but the waters are often rough, so take your seasickness pills.
Hot tip: Some Seward B&Bs and hostels offer 10 percent discounts on Resurrection Bay tours; ask your lodging place if these are available before booking a tour.
Tour boats operate mid-May–mid-September only. If you get here early or late in the season, you’re likely to find lower prices and fewer people on board. Tour companies have booths on the dock behind the harbormaster’s office on 4th Avenue. Binoculars and telephoto lenses are handy, and a light jacket is wise.
This trip is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of your Alaskan visit, but if you get seasick easily, take along medication, especially on the all-day voyages that go into more exposed waters. You may want to wait if the marine weather report predicts rough seas.
Seward’s largest tour company, Kenai Fjords Tours (907/224-8068 or 800/478-8068, www.kenaifjords.com) primarily operates big boats that hold up to 150 people. They offer a wide variety of cruises, starting with a too-quick three-hour dinner trip to Fox Island ($59). Better options are a 4.5-hour Resurrection Bay tour ($89) that includes a lunch stop on Fox Island, a six-hour trip with time in Kenai Fjords National Park and lunch ($139–149), all the way up to a nine-hour sailing to Northwestern Fjord ($169) that includes breakfast and lunch.
Their most popular voyage—and my favorite—is an 8.5-hour trip ($159) to Aialik Bay that includes an hour-long stop on Fox Island for a big salmon dinner at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge. Rates for children are half the adult prices.
For a more intimate sailing, book a trip aboard a small 16-passenger boat of Mariah Tours (owned by Kenai Fjords Tours). These “Captain’s choice” nine-hour tours ($189) focus on birds and wildlife, and include a light breakfast and lunch. On all Kenai Fjords Tours, rates for children under 12 are half the adult rate. The company is owned by CIRI, an Anchorage-based Native Alaskan corporation.
Major Marine Tours (907/224-8030 or 800/764-7300, www.majormarine.com) offers half-day cruises to Resurrection Bay ($69 adults, $34 children) and all-day trips to Holgate Glacier in Aialik Bay ($136 adults, $68 children). Guests are treated to an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet for an extra $19 adults, $9 children. The boat is large and stable, which is helpful when seas are rough.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition