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{USA} Glacier Cruise @ Prince William Sound, Whittier (Alaska)

Together with our traveling buddies, Vincent & Sandra, we headed for a week-long trip to Alaska in September of 2010. One of the most anticipated activity of our trip was the glacier cruise. We decided to fly into Anchorage and head to Prince William Sound for the glacier cruise. If you’ve tried to book a glacier cruise in Alaska, you’d know that there are plenty of options. We narrowed it down to the top 3 as recommended by articles, forums and reviews…
[onethird type=”separate” height=”130″] 26 Glacier Cruise
Major Marine
Prince William Sound
[/onethird] [twothirds_last type=”separate” height=”130″] All Prince William Sound cruises departs from Whittier. A tiny little town about 1.5 hours away from Anchorage. We’re not kidding when we say “little town”! The “downtown” is pretty much a roundabout (you can count the number of stores/restaurants there with both your hands)! Population of the entire town is about 250 – 300 people, if I remember correctly. [/twothirds_last]

 

GETTING THERE

Even though it’s only 1.5 hours away, it’ll likely take you way more time than that to get there. As you drive along the Turnagain Arm (highly recommended that you stop by the points of attraction along the scenic drive), you’ll likely stop by to take pictures of the Beluga whales, visit the Wildlife Conservation Center etc… Then at the end of the scenic highway, you have to cross a one lane “Railway-Highway” tunnel. It is named the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.

 

Both automobiles and trains travel through this tunnel. We basically drove directly over the railroad track. Automobiles and trains take turns to use this one lane tunnel. If you miss a crossing, you might have to wait up to 45 minutes for the next “slot” to cross. Be sure to check the schedule and plan the time you’ll get to the start of the tunnel accordingly. Schedule located hereIf you do get stuck waiting for the next tunnel opening, head over to Portage Glacier (short drive away from the tunnel entrance waiting area).
  1. Anchorage to Whittier: 62 miles, 1.5 hours by car, 2 hours by train
  2. Tunnel Fee: $12/car
  3. Wait Time: ~45 minutes (check schedule)

If you decide that driving is too much of a hassle, the other 2 options you have are: By Rail or By Coach. Glacier Cruises also provide packaged transportation options from Anchorage too, so be sure to check those out if driving is not an option. Here’s the cost of rail transportation for you to compare with the packaged options…
Anchorage – Whittier (By Rail) – http://www.alaskarailroad.com

  1. Depart 10am, Arrive 12:05pm, $65.00/per person
  2. Return 6:45pm, Arrive 9:15pm, $65.00/per person

 

WHERE TO STAY

If you decide to stay overnight at Whittier, we’d recommend that you stay at the Inn at Whittier (we drove around to check the other accommodation and thought that the rest looked rather shady!)

 

GLACIER CRUISE

Anyways, back to the Glacier Cruise. The following is the table that we put together to compare the cruises. Please note that this was for September 2010. Prices, schedule and offers may have changed, so please do check their website for updated details.NOTE: Prices do not include taxes
Cruise Operator Cost Rough Itinerary Notes
Prince William Sound
~$107/person without transportation
~$187/person with coach transportation
Anchorage (10am) – Whittier (12:20pm)
RT: ~$80/adult
Cruise departs 1:15pm, returns 6:30pm
RT: ~$107/adult
Whittier (6:45pm) – Anchorage (9:15pm)
Price included in $80/adult price above.
Not available in September
26 Glacier Cruise
~$139/person without transportation
~$189/person with coach transportation
~$219/person with rail transportation
Anchorage – Whittier (By Coach)
RT: ~$50/person
Departs 9:30am/10:30am
Arrives 11:40m/12:40pm
Returns 7:30pm/8:30pm
Anchorage – Whittier (By Rail)
RT: ~$80/person
Departs 10:00am
Arrives 12:05pm
Returns 6:45pm
Glacier Cruise
Price: ~$139/person
Departs 12:30pm/1:15pm
Returns 5:30pm/6:15pm
#1 in Tripadvisor
Larger catamaran that goes faster, further, covering ~26 glaciers
Lunch is included.
Visits more glaciers, spends less time at each.
Major Marine ~$107/person without transportation See here for schedule and different options.
Smaller boat.
Visit less glaciers, spends more time at each, waiting for chance to see glaciers calve (fall into the water).
Offers all you can eat lunch (extra charge) – Prime Rib $19/person.

 

We went with 26 Glacier Cruise. We decided that what was important for us was to see many different glaciers and that is the unique feature of 26 Glacier Cruise. There’s a ranger aboard so it was a rather educational trip for us as well. We also got to see many different wildlife along the way (sea otters, porpoises, bald eagles & sea lions to name a few. The ranger even pointed out some mountain goats for us).
[bq_left]In the end, we probably got close to 2-3 glaciers and saw the rest from a further distance. Not sure how many Major Marine actually gets close to – a good question to ask if you’re inquiring with Major Marine.[/bq_left]

 

The catamaran was heated on the inside and so for those who don’t want to step outside, you can always sit inside in the heated compartments. Seating was assigned but it was rather spacious, so we did not feel cramped at all. The meal was OK. We chose the Cod Lunch which was basically Fish & Chips.If you go with Major Marine, I believe you get prime rib. In our opinion, the meals weren’t important. It’s the glaciers that are important. So 26 Glaciers was our choice.
In the end, we probably got close to 2-3 glaciers and saw the rest from a further distance. Not sure how many Major Marine actually gets close to – a good question to ask if you’re inquiring with Major Marine. We think getting close the the glaciers were definitely the highlight of the cruise.
With global warming, glaciers are quickly melting/disappearing. Portage Glacier for example (near the Whittier Tunnel entrance) has receded so much that you can barely see the glacier. So, if you have a chance, definitely take the time to go visit these amazing nature’s creations before they disappear! The sheer size and beauty of these glaciers will take your breath away! Here are some pictures from our trip…
Glacial ice has no air in them, see how clear the ice is compared to compacted snow next to it…
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REMEMBER

  1. There are specials and packages offered throughout the year for glacier cruises. So be sure to take a look at their “specials & packages” options. Sometimes, they include an extra wildlife cruise or an overnight stay or free transportation or even further discounts.
  2. Glacier Cruise leaving from Whittier
  3. Stay at the Inn at Whittier if you’re staying overnight
  4. Bring waterproof jackets
  5. Bring your camera
  6. Bring binoculars
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8 Comments

  1. Wilburn March 3, 2014 Reply

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I’m quite certain I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right
    here! Good luck for the next!

  2. Fiona Seow April 2, 2012 Reply

    Amazing pictures and great post. Thanks to you, I’ve booked my cruise with 26glaciers. We will be going on our first Alaska Cruise, but it doesn’t cover College Fjord which we will see on the short cruise with 26glaciers. Though I wish I can take such great pictures like you!!!
    Fiona Seow recently posted..Travelogue: Northern lights in Tromso, NorwayMy Profile

    • Author
      Jeremy & Shirlene
      Twitter:
      April 6, 2012 Reply

      Glad this post was of help! Hope you enjoy your cruise!

      You take great pictures too – love the northern lights photos you took in Norway. We too have been wanting to go see the Northern Lights and just couldn’t make it fit in our schedule this year. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to go someday!
      Jeremy & Shirlene recently posted..{Spain} Best Peruvian Style Ceviche at Ra, BarcelonaMy Profile

      • Fiona Seow April 8, 2012 Reply

        Yep can’t wait for our trip. Hopefully will get some great pictures. I am just a point and shoot person, so am chuffed that my northern lights pictures came out well 🙂 Do try to go and catch the lights. I am hoping to plan another trip to Alaska next winter to call it again there. It was amazing!!! It is also good to go these next couple of years due to solar maximum. Despite that, we were super lucky to catch it on the night we went, coz you must have so many different factors working for you to catch it, moonlight, no clouds, solar activity, geomagnetic activity. But when you finally see it, it’s worth it!!!
        Fiona Seow recently posted..Travelogue: Trip to Polar Zoo in Bardu, NorwayMy Profile

  3. Idelish ( August 26, 2011 Reply

    {USA} Glacier Cruise @ Prince William Sound, Whittier (Alaska) http://t.co/xxm5Eje #alaska #glacier #cruise

  4. Idelish ( June 21, 2011 Reply

    repost: {USA} Glacier Cruise @ Prince William Sound, Whittier (Alaska) http://t.co/UG3Qi08

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