Alaska is home to eight national parks, many of which are largely inaccessible despite the inherent beauty that lies within each of them. Denali National Park is understandably the most iconic given that it is home to the tallest peak in North America and we had an amazing experience there. However, we also had the opportunity to explore Kenai Fjords National Park courtesy of Major Marine Tours and this experience was certainly one that will long live in our memories.
Who are Major Marine Tours?
Kenai Fjords National Park is accessible primarily via chartered cruises that are offered by two major cruise companies, one of which is Major Marine Tours.
A variety of daily cruises are available dependent on your interests and time constraints (or perhaps your ability to survive sailing in the North Pacific!) but we opted for the six-hour tour of Kenai which was an amazing experience.
Major Marine Tours is an award-winning, family-owned Alaska boat tour company celebrating 25 years of business in 2016.
Major Marine Tours are the market leaders in Alaska given that they offer national park rangers as interpreters and provide guests with the option to purchase a delicious Alaska salmon and prime rib meal.
I want to emphasize the mission of Major Marine Tours which I think epitomizes why the onboard experience is so amazing.
- Committed to bringing the control and benefits of the Alaska visitor industry back to Alaska.
- Motivated to delivering an authentic, world-class Alaskan experience to our guests.
- Dedicated to operating with reliability, honesty, integrity, and environmental sensitivity.
- Alaskans who thrive in a challenging, dependable work environment.
Before heading on this tour, we had very little experience in the open waters of the ocean but everything about this tour was meticulously planned, organized and coordinated by the captain, his team and of course, the national park ranger who provided in-depth knowledge of everything we saw.
Let’s take a look at the options available to visitors wishing to experience this tour company.
The following 5 tours are all available and depart out of Seward Harbor (prices listed below are for the 2017 season as many of the tours are no longer available for 2016. For the latest prices, check out the website here):
- 8.5 Hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise – Adults $224; Children $224
- 7.5 Hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise – Adults $179; Children $89.50
- 6 Hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise – Adults $159; Children $79.50
- 5 Hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise – Adults $88; Children $44
- 3.5 Hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise – Adults $79; Children $39.50
A couple of alternative whale watching cruises are available, including a brand new Orca Quest Cruise that will be available in 2017!
Prince William Sound
Major Marine Tours also operates cruises from Whittier into the Prince William Sound as follows:
- Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Cruise – Adults $149; Children $74.50
- Prince William Sound Blackstone Bay Glacier Cruise – Adults $119; Children $59.50
Our journey to Kenai Fjords National Park started in Anchorage with a 2.5-hour drive south to the quaint town of Seward where as you can see all tours to the Kenai Peninsula depart from. This journey itself is an amazing experience but that’s for another post. Arriving in Seward we first had to find somewhere to park for the day.
Arriving in Seward we first had to find somewhere to park for the day. Fortunately, there are a couple of parking lots available and for only $10, you can leave your vehicle all day without worrying about whether you will have a car when you return. We arrived in plenty of time for our 11:30AM cruise so had some time to get out and explore.
After collecting our boarding passes at the ticket office inside the Harbor 360 Hotel, we wandered along the harbor front and grabbed a coffee from a quirky hole in the wall called ‘Nature’s Nectars’.
A couple of visits to souvenir shops and the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center and our time quickly passed. We headed down the jetway passing beyond the fleet of catamarans owned by Major Marine Tours along with all the other vessels that docked in Seward.
Our first experience with wildlife occurred before we even boarded the Spirit of Adventure as we saw a couple of sea otters playing in the water and also a nasty looking (in a good way but I don’t think you would want to touch it!) jellyfish on the opposite side of the dock.
Spirit of Adventure
As we slowly made our way out of Seward Harbor and into Resurrection Bay, this gave us ample opportunity to explore our home for the next six hours – the Spirit of Adventure. I think this was aptly named given that we were heading out with only one idea in our minds, exploring and being adventurous in Kenai Fjords National Park.
The Spirit of Adventure is an 86-foot catamaran that operates the 6-hour Kenai Fjords cruise. With a seating capacity of 174 passengers and three different levels for visitors to enjoy stunning panoramic views across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond, this vessel is an impressive sight as it cruises into the open ocean.
If you are taking one of the longer cruises, you are likely interested in experiencing as much wildlife as possible on your cruise.
We hadn’t left Seward Harbor when our captain pointed out a bald eagle perched on the dock and we slowly glided close beside this gorgeous bird of prey. We immediately knew this was going to be an epic experience and we just hoped our luck would continue.
A couple of spottings of humpback whales occurred as we left Resurrection Bay but none of them were long enough to capture a good picture. For the wildlife photographers out there, trying to capture that perfect image of an animal that prefers to spend its time under the water making it incredibly difficult.
We saw several more sea otters during our cruise out of the bay along with a couple of Harbor seals that were relaxing on the jagged rocks that jutted out from the Kenai landscape.
The ultimate goal to see a whale would have to wait until later in our journey but we kept our fingers crossed.
We saw a couple of puffins that were the final ones to migrate out of the area before the winter set in but we were finally rewarded for keeping our eyes peeled when we saw two transient orcas elegantly gliding in tandem just a short distance from us.
The onboard national park ranger informed us that we were incredibly fortunate to see this given that these mammals generally prefer to stay away from human interaction and stay underwater.
Kenai Fjords National Park Scenery
If you thought the Kenai Fjords cruise couldn’t get any better after experiencing all of this amazing wildlife, wait until you reach the amazing Aialik Glacier. After passing a couple of glaciers from a fair distance en route out of Resurrection Bay, we were amazed at just how close we were able to get to Aialik Glacier.
The experience is amazing, there is no other way to describe it. As we approached the active glacier, we noticed more and more ice in the water and our tour guide warned us to listen and appreciate our surroundings.
He constantly kept reminding us to “open up our senses” which at first we were both a little confused about but the moment we walked to the top deck, we appreciated exactly what he was referring to.
The crisp sound of the glacier carving ice into the water along with a distinctive smell was enough to open up our senses. Combine this with the amazing visual that was in front of us and well, it was a moment that will long live with us.
It was amazing watching the ice crack and then crash into the bay, a sight that I am sure the majority on board had never experienced before.
Time flew by and after our captain announced that it was time to move to our next location we were all left trying to capture those last selfies and pictures of Aialik Glacier.
The glaciers throughout Kenai Fjords National Park are not the only attractions that are worth experiencing. The coastline itself is a spectacle that you will want to admire though we suffered the disappointment on our return trip of pretty poor visibility given the presence of some pretty heavy rain squalls.
For more images of both our wildlife and breathtaking scenery experience, check out our photo gallery of Kenai Fjords National Park here.
Alaskan Salmon and Prime Rib
Visitors on the longer Kenai Fjords cruises have the option to purchase the Alaskan salmon and prime rib lunch buffet. For only $19, you can enjoy an ‘all you can eat’ experience and this is certainly great value for money.
Lunch is well organized and each section of the vessel is given an opportunity to form an orderly queue at the buffet line and fill your plate with as much as you can eat. You will also have the opportunity to return later if you need more of the amazing cuisine on offer.
We are not huge fans of prime rib (sorry folks just being honest!) but the Alaskan salmon was AMAZING! Combine this with salad, rice pilaf, and sourdough bread and you won’t be leaving the boat hungry.
Just before the end of the cruise, a delicious dessert offering of cheesecake, chocolate brownies, and fruit are offered for that final indulgence before you leave the cruise and bid farewell to an amazing experience on board the catamaran.
When I started writing this post, I really hoped that I would do Major Marine Tours enough justice because everything about our experience was amazing. Heather was a little skeptical prior to boarding because she suffers from sea-sickness but she coped admirably and had very few issues throughout the six-hour tour of Kenai Fjords National Park.
The highlights? Everything! In all honesty, seeing all of the amazing wildlife, in particular, the bald eagle and orcas were probably our top picks but after seeing everything we experienced it’s difficult to pinpoint one aspect.
Our recommendation is pretty simple. Book a trip to Alaska and be sure to head to Seward to take a cruise of the Kenai Fjords offered by Major Marine Tours. It’s a no-brainer, great value for money and you won’t leave disappointed.
Disclaimer – We were hosted by Major Marine Tours on the 6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park cruise in consideration of a blog post review. The views contained within this post are entirely our personal opinion/experience and we received no final compensation for this.