Prince William Sound Boat Tours
The state ferry pauses on its trip between Valdez and Whittier to view the Columbia Glacier, or you can join a private tour. Because of the glacier’s recent movement back up the bay, boats can only get to within about six miles of the face. This changes, but does not diminish, the experience, as the boats cruise through and over the fields of drifting ice towering above the deck to see the glacier as more huge chunks shear off and drop into the bay.
Beyond the glaciers, the main attraction of Prince William Sound is wildlife, including the chance to see humpback and killer (orca) whales, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters, Steller sea lions, and other marine mammals. These animals are most often seen on the southern end of the Sound, an all-day boat ride from Whittier or Valdez.
The Lu-Lu Belle (907/835-5141 or 800/411-0090, www.lulubelletours.com) is a comfortable 60-passenger boat with daily Columbia Glacier and wildlife tours ($100 for 5 hours or longer) in the summer. A snack bar is on board. This is a fun and personalized tour by owner-operator Fred Rodolf.
A larger company, Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises (907/835-4731 or 866/867-1297, www.stanstephenscruises.com, mid-May–mid-Sept.), has a seven-hour Columbia Glacier tour ($115 adults, $57 children) and a nine-hour trip ($150 adults, $75 children) that encompasses Columbia and Meares Glaciers, plus the sea lions of Glacier Island, and includes a big lunch.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition