This past summer my family from Maine was up visiting so naturally we took them on a day cruise into the Kenai Fjords National Park. There are many cruises to choose from but based on my experience, I recommend the 3:00pm departure. Since many visitors to Seward are only passing through for the day, or are busy taking one of the many fishing charters, they take one of the earlier departures which covers the same route but offer a more basic meal on board. Combined with an overnight in a Seward hotel the evening prior, the afternoon tour give’s you the opportunity to explore Seward in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day enjoying Kenai Fjords National Park while dining on prime rib and salmon. There are also fewer vessels touring the fjords in the afternoon which makes it a nicer experience as well.
What makes the mid-afternoon departure at 3:00pm unique is that they stop at Fox Island enroute to pick up freshly cooked barbeque salmon. For 2009, we hear they are adding prime rib to the menu. This is the same menu that is served for the 10:00am National Park Cruise which stops for a visit to Fox Island. The difference is that having the dinner on-board adds an elegant touch to a fine evening in Seward on a cruise.
When we arrived for check in the staff was friendly, expedient and showed us which boat we needed to board. We had about a half hour before our departure so we spent that time walking around the small boat harbor admiring all of the boats and even saw some sea lions and eagles in the harbor. When we boarded the boat there was plenty of seating with tables for everyone. We were able to take their new catamaran out which was a comfortable watercraft and updated with the latest in technologies onboard. Impressive! There are multiple deck levels to choose from for seating so no matter where the wildlife was we were able to get a good view. Since there was plenty of indoor and outdoor viewing areas, you can easily enjoy everything if the elements are not quite so perfect.
We had a nice night ahead of us with clear and sunny skies. As we headed out into Resurrection Bay we were reminded on all the safety features of the catamaran, introduced to all of the staff on board and they provided an outline of the schedule and what to expect for the evening. This tour traveled about 120 miles roundtrip in and around the Kenai Fjords National Park. The captain narrated for us as the other staff was on the look out for wildlife. We were taken to several bays where we saw a humpback whale breaching in the distance, killer whales, a sea lion rookery, and a major nesting area for sea birds. Wildlife was abundant everywhere. If you are a bird watcher these trips are a must since you see so many species. The boat provides guides on board to help in identifying wildlife or you can just ask any of the staff members as they were all very generous in their knowledge of wildlife and Alaska. They even had extra binoculars to share. These tours focus on the abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. We saw many glaciers along the Aialik Fjord with a longer visit to Aialik Glacier at the head of the fjord. But the majority of time was spent viewing wildlife. The tour took about 6 hours and we got back into the Seward boat harbor about 9:00pm. Being summer the sun was still shining and it felt like it was early in the day. I would recommend this trip for all ages. My parents, nephew (age 12), sons (ages 12 and 20) and husband all enjoyed this trip.