Gradually, Alaska is beginning to reopen, and just in time for the arrival of Southcentral’s day cruise season. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, because gray whale season was back in March, but like everywhere else, the “day boats” weren’t going anywhere thanks to COVID-19. Now, though, we see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel (for now, anyway), and it’s time to think about how, when, and where we can begin to explore this beautiful region of Alaska.
Day cruises have to twofold mission: Head out into the protected waters of Prince William Sound or Resurrection Bay toward the Gulf of Alaska, and, over the course of several hours, look for wildlife and ogle at glaciers, all of which are in abundance. This year, in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, day cruise companies have had to defer opening days and reconsider how to manage a vessel usually crowded with people not related to each other.
But they’re ready, adaptations in place, to welcome visitors on board over the course of the next month. And Alaskans, they’re looking at you in particular, with specials and packages that suit just about every budget.
What should you expect? Look for smaller passenger manifests, requirements for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), extra cleaning procedures, and a lack of self-service food and/or beverages (plan to bring your own snacks and drinks if necessary). Social distancing will be a priority, so be aware if you’re traveling with smaller kids who may find the restrictions too confining for several hours. And, always check with the day cruise company before your trip, just in case mandates or policies have changed.
Major Marine Tours, Seward
“Right now our plan is to start running cruises in late May/early June,” says Lindsey Middendorf of Major Marine. “We are waiting on the next round of mandates from the State, as well as tour operator guidelines, but we are optimistic that we will be able to stick to that timeline.”
Look for full-day and half-day cruise options available starting in June, with a new local special this summer. Our Sea & Stay Getaway is a deeply discounted cruise and hotel package available in June. This package includes the 3.5-hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise, Orca Quest Cruise, or six-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise with an overnight at the Harbor 360 Hotel (including free breakfast), starting at $132 per person, based on double occupancy.
The company is also offering Rails to Whales, a new package with the Alaska Railroad. Starting July 1st, which entails 30% off cruise and train packages for the rest of the season. Guests have three options: The Family Package, which includes our 3.5 hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise and train; the Adventure Package, which includes the six-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise and train; and the Overnight Package, where you can add an overnight at Harbor 360 Hotel to either package.
Additionally, Major Marine is providing an Alaska resident special: 30% off most day cruises for the month of June.
For the full scoop, visit the company’s Specials & Packages page.
Kenai Fjords Tours, Seward
Cautiously optimistic about the summer day cruise season, popular Kenai Fjords Tours is gearing up for a mid-June opening.
June 11: Opening day of the six-hour National Park Tour, departing 11:30 a.m. (lunch included).
June 24: The National Park Tour with a stop at beautiful Fox Island for dinner launches from Seward at 10am. This is an 8.5-hour tour, with both lunch and dinner provided. It can be a long one for kids, but the stop at Fox Island for a bit of rock skipping is often a perfect diversion.
July 3: The shorter, five-hour Resurrection Bay Tour departs from Seward, and includes lunch. New to day cruising with kids? This is an excellent, usually-calm sailing with plenty of wildlife to be seen.
Also, Kenai Fjords Tours is pleased to offer a spring promotion: Kids sail free (and adults save 10%) for any Kenai Fjords Tours cruise this summer—just book any time in the month of May. Details here.
Seward Ocean Excursions, Seward
A small boat cruising pretty much wherever you want them to go, whether it’s after wildlife, glaciers, or a bit of shoreline-peeking, Bixler McClure and his team do a great job. The price is the same ($164/pp), but you’ll be a one-household trip, so if there’s three of you, bonus — your own personal captain for the trip! Find day cruise options HERE.
Lazy Otter Charters, Whittier
Looking to explore scenic Prince William Sound? Kelly and Mike Bender and their small, six-person M/V High Velocity (how’s that for a name?) vessel, fresh from a remodel, are ready to take your family out to explore the waters AND shoreline, because the Velocity is a landing craft, too. Depending upon the tour, look to spend between $180-$260/pp for a custom tour between five and nine hours. Details HERE.
Lazy Otter Charters is offering 20% off all sightseeing tours for Alaskans booked between now and June 1 for travel any time this summer. Need a water taxi, or plan to paddle for a few days on your own? The company offers 10% off water taxis and 20% off multi-day kayak rentals.
“Lazy Otter always recommends the Best of Prince William Sound for the most bang for your buck (the most glaciers and best wildlife opportunities) for families with younger kids (under 7 or so),” says Kelly Bender. “The 4.5 hour trip is good for glaciers and wildlife, plus all of our cruises include the beach walk, so that shorter cruise is usually just right for younger kiddos.”
Phillips Cruises and Tours, Whittier
Carrying the bulk of the day cruise traffic in Whittier, Phillips Cruises and Tours plans to begin sailing on June 20, offering only the famous 26 Glacier Cruise aboard the M/V Bravest or M/V Klondike Express. Enjoy a hot lunch while cruising 140 miles to see the glaciers and wildlife of this wild and scenic area. Sailings will continue well into October, 2020, so it’s possible to plan ahead for a fall cruise, too. Check out the itinerary and pricing, HERE.
Stan Stephens Cruises, Valdez
While the community of Valdez is still on lockdown to avoid COVID-19 illness, longtime company Stan Stephens Cruises is still planning to operate this summer, albeit not until July 1. That said, it’s well worth the wait to be able to make the scenic drive to Valdez, then hop aboard one of their vessels for a cruise to Columbia Glacier (six hours) or Meares Glacier (8.5 hours). Plan on rates between $70-$170/pp.