So it’s been ages since I last posted. I’m sorry. This is a start to getting back on track. Renee and I both love being out on the water looking for marine mammals, so here is my experience on the Klondike Express in Whittier, Alaska.
It started out as a cold misty morning, very similar to what I understand most days in Whittier to be like [all day]. But we were lucky, the sun broke through, evaporating the gloominess away leaving us a brilliant sunny day with little wind and sparkles on the blue ocean. “Superb” we thought, as we headed towards the Klondike Express for our 26 Glacier Cruise.
The Klondike Express is the fastest large tour boat running in Alaska, with a cruising speed of 38 knots it can cover significant water, in our case speeding between twenty-six glaciers in a single day. It’s roomy interior offers dinner table seating and almost 360 degree views out of the tinted windows. Dressed up waiters and waitresses wander around, almost giving the feel of a flash restaurant more than a marine tour. We did feel this boat was more designed for sitting and looking out through the windows (observing from the inside) rather than getting outside and feeling the Alaskan sea breeze on your face – but Alaska can get pretty cold so this would often be a good thing.
The tours main feature (as highlighted in their advertising and the tour name “26 Glacier Cruise”) is to see twenty-six glaciers. Funnily we only saw twenty-five as our captain made an executive decision to spend longer at an unusually accessible glacier rather than rushing to the twenty-sixth – for which I’m very grateful. Once you’ve seen one glacier, the next twenty-five can look surprisingly similar and as the day progressed we found ourselves less inclined to rush out with our cameras when the national forest service ranger commentator announced we’d come into view of another one. Glaciers are awesome – ginormous hunks of continuously evolving ice, but I’ve decided that I don’t need to see so many in one day. That said the landscapes you see on this tour are awesome, don’t go because you will get great value in how many glaciers you see, but go because you will see spectacular glaciers.
Our route took us on a 145 mile traverse of the Prince William Sound.
Barely five minutes after moving off the jetty we were already watching our first humpback whale. It was feeding in the mouth of the harbor, diving for around five minutes and then coming up for air. This particular whale had been feeding for months around Whittier at the time we did our tour. We got some really good sightings of it, better than we’d experienced out of Seward.
We saw a colony of sealions, the size of these creatures is amazing, obviously not like whale size amazing, but certainly the size which can scare the bajeezus out of you if you encounter one close up on a kayak while out after dark (story to come).
We saw plenty of sea otters, floating around in their flotillas. While hard to get a good photograph of they were interesting to watch; laying on their backs basking in the sunlight, they would be cleaning their fur, just watching us or eating off their bellies. The forest ranger who was providing the on board commentary had an adult male sea otter pelt to show us. It was incredible, the fur was so densely packed (highest hair concentration of any animal) and it was large and heavy. It was easy to see the value in the pelt that the early fur hunters had hunted for till the otter nearly became extinct.
We also saw a variety of birds including bald eagles. Sadly no more whales after our promising initial encounter with the humpback.
And a common seal sighting, although brief, seeing ‘him’ swim among the ice floats was quite special.
Overall a very enjoyable tour of the Prince William Sound and I’d happily recommend someone take the Phillips Cruises 26 Glacier Cruise. Pro’s were certainly the glacial landscapes and the speed of the vessel which allowed you to see a lot. Con’s were also to do with the speed of the vessel, because it goes so fast you have limited exterior access while moving and because it’s built for speed there is also less exterior viewing space compared with other tour boats we’d encountered in Alaska.
Tour: 26 Glacier Cruise by Phillips Tours
Available: May 11 – September 13 2015