The 26 Glacier Cruise is the first of a 3 part series titled “AK Fun for Everyone”. I’m writing these articles because I’ve found through my work and talking to others, that many people who live here or visit Alaska have limited physical capabilities due to age (young or old) and health.
Yet, they still dream of seeing Alaska. That’s a tall order in a place this HUGE. So I pondered what I would want to see if I were coming here for the first time. I settled on three options: the coast and sea-life, high mountain tops, and the interior of Alaska (Denali, wildlife).
The other criteria is that it has to be accessible to just about everyone. So the activities I came up with are: 26 Glacier Cruise, Tram at Alyeska (or Juneau), and the Alaska Railroad. Hope you enjoy!
Choosing the Cruise in Prince William Sound
We have been on A LOT of boat trips around Alaska dating all the way back to 2000. Boat sizes ranged from a fishing dingy in Ketchikan to cruise ships. Since moving here, the coast is one of my favorite places to visit.
When my parents came in July, I really wanted them to see tidewater glaciers, sea-life and Prince William Sound. My mom has some restricted mobility with arthritis in her hips, and of course didn’t want to experience sea sickness so she was a little leary.
I decided to go with Phillips Cruises out of Whittier. We’ve been on the three “major” short trip companies from Seward and Whittier, and liked parts of all three. I selected the 26 Glacier Cruise with Phillips for the boat “Klondike Express” which is large, fast, stable and came with a “No Seasickness Guarantee”. (Not sure I’m buying that as I’ve seen people queasy just standing on the dock!)
When I booked it, I explained the situation with my Mom and asked to be seated by a window so she wouldn’t need to move around much to see the views.
The day we went dawned bluebird clear and what a day it was!
26 Glacier Cruise
After some drama getting to Whittier thanks to the McHugh Creek Fire, we arrived at the docks by train to board about 11 a.m. We took our assigned seats on the lower level with side by side tables to accommodate all 8 of us.
As requested, my Mom didn’t have to move far, she looked right out the front window. I was excited because I could get out quickly when they opened the doors to the bow.
The kids immediately took off for the upper decks as we set sail on calm waters. Right off the bat, we caught a glimpse of some Dall porpoises making their way up the channel. (There was WAY too much wildlife to include in this post, so I’ll follow up with the beasties in a couple of weeks).
The captain slowed the boat at points of interest, and opened up the front decks. One side of the bow access was reserved for handicapped patrons only to go out and view. A little old lady hobbled out with her leg braces every stop we made with assistance from husband and crew. That warmed my heart.
No question why this cruise is called the 26 Glacier Cruise. There was a glacier every direction we looked! I can’t even begin to name them all! The tidewater glacier we approached was Surprise Glacier. No calving, but beautiful blue hues. Cascade Glacier provided an epic backdrop to orcas we watched.
Of note, some glaciers may be covered in foul weather common to the coast, but it’s still well worth the trip.
The boat meandered through inlets and forests as the staff served lunch of either fish and chips or chicken fingers. It wasn’t half bad and the coleslaw was downright good. We put our $6 dollar refillable cups to good use. Hopefully they don’t change that policy after some teenagers guzzled soda.
Jeff, the kids, my nephew Hayden, and I were up and down the decks the whole trip. My parents enjoyed it from right where they were and accessed the front deck easily at their leisure.
Prince William Sound
Only one word for it…Stunning!
This is the Alaskan coast at it’s finest with exquisite scenery, bounteous chances to see wildlife, and tranquil peace.
In the 140 miles we covered in 5 1/2 hours (like I said, it’s a fast boat) we saw 1 other vessel out of the main passage. Yes, you have to deal with more people on-board than you might like, but to cover that much ground with the comfort the boat provided for the whole family was an acceptable trade off.
If you ever add Alaska to your dream list, include Prince William Sound. Chances are, you’ll check a bunch off of what you came here to see. I feel spoiled living so close. Next time, we rent the jet skis and head to Valdez!
*A couple of tips. If you choose this trip, I recommend to book early and request seating you would like, ie which of 2 decks, window, size of table etc. Expect to pay $150 for an adult and ~ $90 for a child. If you want to see coastal Alaska without spending that much, I suggest a drive down the Kenai Peninsula on the Sterling Highway to Homer.
Bring layers (including rain gear), cameras, sunscreen, and your own binoculars. No reason to leave ANYONE home as this trip really was fun for everyone in our group from ages 10-79.