by Bryan Bearss
Note: This was (gasp) Musher Bryan’s first foray into day cruising Resurrection Bay in Seward. He’d never see a whale, nor spotted a sea lion lounging on a rock. Below are his impressions from a rookie day cruiser’s perspective.
Here we are, standing on the doorstep of summer in Alaska. Everyone, it seems, is ready to blast off for adventures, and the scenic Kenai Peninsula holds many traveling treasures to explore. A gem I recently discovered, Seward’s Resurrection Bay, is already teeming with wildlife and on-water excitement via Kenai Fjords Tours, one of the most popular day-cruise companies in Alaska.
Located about 2.5 hours south of Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula town of Seward can be accessed for a day trip. It’s long, especially for smaller children, but worth the beautiful drive along the Seward Highway, especially for first-time visitors. Warmed up for a noon departure, my first adventure aboard a day cruise vessel was dazzling. Like classically trained Shakespearian actors, the wildlife blew our minds with with their beauty and acrobatic displays, and before even leaving the shelter of Seward’s small boat harbor we were able to see sea stars and anemones colonizing the piers.
Within minutes of departing the harbor, wildlife appears in waves. Spotting the multitude of marine mammals and birds is truly a team affair, with fellow passengers pointing out what they see and the expert eyes (and insider knowledge) of the captain and crew alerting passengers via a public address system.
On our trip, an early-season departure, we were treated to both land and sea creatures, including nesting bald eagles, sea lions baking in the sun, mountain goats precariously perched on near-vertical cliffs, gray and humpback whales feeding as they travel north, and Dalls porpoise playing in the waves. And, it’s only going to get better as summer approaches and animals and birds return to their frenetic preparations for, yes, another winter.
While some animal sightings may be achieved on any boat, the on-stage and behind-the-scenes work by our Kenai Fjords Tours crew turned this particular trip from ordinary to extraordinary. Captain Tim Fleming, a long-time employee of the company, expertly narrated the whole trip, providing a detailed history of the Resurrection Bay area that included present day economy, WWII impact, and geologic influence. He shared details about almost every animal we encountered, changing each sighting into an intimate experience with an increased appreciation.
While our eyes feasted on the sights, Captain Tim feeds your brain, and the crew delivers a hearty picnic lunch shortly after departure. The trip is capped with freshly-baked cookies (I swear they really do bake them right there on the boat!).
I can’t wait to go back.
The cruises: Kenai Fjords Tours offers a variety of family-friendly options for day cruises out of Seward. Visit the company website, and sign up for the Puffin Pass, a regular newsletter offering deals and specials that appeal to families traveling with children (or, for Alaskans, when you have visitors). Expect to pay between $80-$200 per person, depending upon the trip, services, and itinerary.
Preparing kids: While five hours cruising the serene and fascinating waters of Resurrection Bay may sound delightful to you, your kids may have other ideas after enough puffins have been spotted, and particularly if the weather is bad (it happens). Pack each child with a bag of treats, drinks, books, small toys, or other amusements that will aid their staying power. This is a great time to break out the tablets, but be aware there is no internet service once the boat departs the Sewadrd harbor.
Attire: Everyone in the family should dress in layers, adding a rain jacket, sturdy footwear, hat, and gloves to the outfit as needed. Weather is variable, and even on a nice day the wind can make for a chilly tour.
Seasickness: If you’ve never cruised before, consider adding ginger candy to your pack, or taking a motion-sickness medication one hour prior to departure. Ask pediatricians before giving to children, however. These pills will do NOTHING if taken during the waves and swells, though, to preparation is key.
Expanding your stay: Want to spend more than one day in Seward? Kenai Fjords Tours is part of the CIRI Alaska Tourism company of excellence, offering overnight accommodations at Seward Windsong Lodge (with fabulous foot at Resurrection Roadhouse, too). Many tours can be combined with an affordable overnight stay via the website, found HERE.