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Surprise Glacier Exploration Catamaran Cruise
Whittier, Alaska, USA
- Prince William Sound: Cruise into the calm, protected waters outside of Whittier, providing the best opportunity for glacier and wildlife viewing in Prince William Sound. Cruise through Port Wells and into Herriman Fjord, where you will be surrounded by breathtaking alpine and tidewater glaciers.
- Surprise Glacier: Travel to the end of the fjord and stop in front of the towering Surprise Glacier. Watch for spectacular calving, where chunks of ice break off and crash into the water.
- Esther Passage: Cruise this increasingly narrow waterway, where the fjord walls seem to surround your boat and you might think you can touch the emerald cliff walls.
- Wildlife: Be on the lookout for sea otters, Dall's porpoises, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, seabirds, eagles, and occasionally whales.
- Salmon hatchery: Learn about the life cycle and harvesting of Alaska's most famous wildlife as your captain guides the catamaran to the edge of a working hatchery.
- Kittiwake rookery: Stop at the second largest Kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound, where thousands of black-legged kittiwakes nest on the rocky cliffs. Observe and hear the distinctive shrill call of this small species of gulls.
- Catamaran: You’ll be onboard a comfortable catamaran with heated cabins. Fog-free windows and multiple outside observation decks allow for great viewing opportunities. Don’t forget your camera and binoculars!
- Expert guide: Your cruise is narrated by an onboard National Forest Ranger who can provide details on the region’s history, ecology, geology, and wildlife.
About this Whittier tour
No visit to Alaska is complete without viewing a glacier or two or more, especially ones where large chunks of ice crack and drop into the water below. Called calving, some portions can be large as 200 feet long and can cause breathtaking waves. But when you take this catamaran tour of Prince William Sound's protected fjords, you will witness what are arguably the most photo and video-worthy instances of glacier calving in the state.
Start your cruise in Whittier in a two-level watercraft, where a Chugach National Forest Ranger will serve as your tour guide. You'll travel in comfort with a reserved table seat in a heated cabin. Travel into scenic Prince William Sound and enter Harriman Fjord, the gateway to Surprise Glacier. Here you'll watch the spectacle of calving.
Leaving the glacier, which is in the Chugach National Forest, you'll head through the Esther Passage, a slim, isolated channel that almost seems to enclose your ship on both sides (don't worry, you'll sail through just fine). The catamaran will next stop at a salmon hatchery, where you'll learn about these fish that are synonymous with Alaska.
Finally, you'll head out to the second largest kittiwake rookery in the area. A seabird that closely resembles a common seagull, the kittiwake is the only gull species to nest on rocky cliffs. Listen to their shrill cries of "kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake" and you'll understand why these birds are so named.
Glaciers aren't forever blue
When you see Surprise Glacier or many other popular glaciers in Alaska, you'll notice a distinctive blue tint in the ice, especially on a cloudy day. That's because of light absorption and scattering. The longer wavelengths on the light spectrum reflect blue light. But if you should get close to a glacier and want to break off a piece to take with you, know that the beautiful color will disappear instantly. So you might as well just leave it to Mother Nature's calving instead.
Please make your way to the Major Marine Tours Boarding Area by the Cruise Ship Dock. Boarding begins 30 minutes prior to departure.
Check-in begins 60 minutes prior to departure and boarding begins 30 minutes prior to departure.
After check-in it's a short walk down a ramp to board the boat. The boat includes one set of stairs to reach the upper deck. Travelers with limited mobility can request seating on the main deck. Restrooms are on the main deck.
Boat Tour, Family Friendly, Wilderness/Wildlife
124-seat 78-foot catamaran
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated mild. To participate fully, you may be required to walk over primarily even surfaces at a leisurely pace. You may encounter a limited number of steps, cobblestones, or uneven surfaces, and you may have to stand for extended periods of time.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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