Play a May ‘I Spy’ With Phillips Cruises and Tours

Phillips Cruises guests approach Blackstone Glacier on a sunny day cruise. Image courtesy Phillips Cruises.

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by Erin Kirkland

Southcentral Alaska’s Prince William Sound is 3,800 miles of pristine coastline bordered by the Chugach range east and north, and the Kenai Peninsula to the west. Known for rugged peaks and abundant wildlife, the sound is a recreationalist’s paradise. It also is the perfect place to spend a day cruising the blue-green waters near Whittier, Prince William Sound’s port of call for Phillips Cruises and Tours.

With two day itinerary options beginning in May, Phillips Cruises and Tours makes sightseeing around the sound an excellent reason to kick off a spring and summer of family adventure. Prepare to be amazed. 

AK Kid takes a turn at the helm of a Phillips Cruises vessel out of Whittier. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Why is spring a good time to cruise? Snow may be gone in some parts of Alaska, but out in the wilderness of Prince William Sound, winter still has hold of the landscape. Trees have few if any leaves, making wildlife viewing easier, especially on lower-elevation slopes. Snowy mountain tops against the water provide texture to the picture as well, and from the minute you climb aboard the Klondike Express or Glacier Quest, the scene is one of idyllic beauty. 

A raft of otters in Prince William Sound gets curious at the approach of a boat. Bill Rome Photography for Phillips Cruises.

What will you see? Wildlife. Lots and lots of wildlife. The knowledgable crew of any Phillips Cruises and Tours vessel know where the wildlife hangs out, and how to adjust course for the best angle. Here’s a sampling of Prince William Sound critters, large and small, to use in your own version of “I Spy” as you sail. 

  • Black bears are much easier to spot as they forage among the brown grasses of lower hillsides. Trees are without leaves, so the bears’ activity is fun to follow with a pair of binoculars. 
  • Mountain goats munch small mosses and lichen, and some grasses at lower elevations while waiting for a winter’s worth of snow to melt higher up the rocky mountainsides. These shaggy acrobats are able to navigate narrow ledges at heights that make humans dizzy, and are something to see as they scrabble along in search of spring greens. 
  • Sea otters, known for their fuzzy faces and gentle backpaddling around Prince William Sound, are at the height of pupping season right now, and mamas float with babies secure on their chests, teaching pups the ways of a sea-born and raised lifestyle. Often gathering in groups called “rafts,” otters with pups are a delight for day cruise passengers. 
  • Bergy bits of ice are no problem for the peaceful, doe-eyed harbor seal, a plump marine mammal that uses the ice as a staging area for young pups, who must learn how to hunt, swim fast, and avoid predators during their short childhood. Phillip’s Cruise ships slowly ply the water around these smaller ice patches to avoid disturbing the seals. 
  • Humpback and orca whales can be seen in the sound from April through September, and watching the gentle flow of a dorsal fin or fluke is a highlight for most Alaska visitors. 

The Klondike Express pauses to inspect local wildlife in Prince William Sound. Image courtesy Phillips Cruises and Tours.

Phillips Cruises and Tours offers two cruises beginning in the month of May, and a scenic Sunset Glacier Cruise starting June 16. The 26 Glacier Cruise departs Whittier daily between May 5 – September 30, 2017. The five-hour cruise (12:30-5:30 p.m.) is $159 Adult + tax/fees, $99 Child age 2-11 + tax/fees. 

The shorter Glacier Quest Cruise, a perfect option for families, departs daily between May 13 – September 10, 2017. At 3 hours, 45 minutes (1 p.m.-4:45 p.m.) the Glacier Quest remains one of the most popular and enjoyable family day cruise experiences, and is a great way to introduce children to the joy of traveling by boat. Tickets are $109 Adult + tax/fees, $69 Child age 2-11 + tax/fees. 

A black bear grazes on spring grass near a shoreline of Prince William Sound. Image Bill Rome Photography for Phillips Cruises.

Both cruises include a hot lunch, reserved seating, and the famous Phillips “No Seasickness” guarantee. A snack bar, beverage bar and onboard gift shop are also open for guest comfort and convenience. 

Reservations can be made online or by calling 800-544-0529, or 907-276-8023. 

Never day-cruised Alaska before? Here are some tips from AKontheGO. 

Want to share your Phillips Cruises and Tours experience? Hit up Facebook and Instagram with #26glaciers! And don’t worry about losing a charge on your mobile device, either; the company has upgraded the Klondike Express with USB ports at every seat, the first day cruise company to do so. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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