Honestly, my only request for this trip to Alaska was to see a glacier. I promised I wouldn’t complain about spending my entire vacation fishing if I got to see a glacier. This cruise was our solution, so Thursday morning we made the two-hour drive to Seward to catch our Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
We chose the 7 ½ hour tour from Major Marine Tours. We ended up booking through Alaska Tour & Travel because they offer a deal that includes the all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib lunch (normally an additional $19/person). The tour was really well organized and we also really enjoyed the food. Next time we’d probably only take the 6-hour tour because my boyfriend was getting pretty antsy by the end of the tour. That might be a better option if you are taking little kids too. Although, we had some kids on our boat and they seemed to really enjoy it…probably because we saw so many animals. Anyway…
While we were walking along the dock my boyfriend spotted a jellyfish. It was just floating in one of the empty boat slips. It was the first wildlife we’d seen on our trip (not including salmon), so we thought it was pretty cool.
Once we boarded the boat, we found our seats inside the cabin (Major Marine assigns everyone seats/tables inside the upper and lower cabins). We decided we’d rather sit outside while the weather was nice, so we grabbed one of the seats on the back deck (the seats outside are first come, first serve). I’m glad we decided to sit outside because right as we were pulling out of the harbor we saw a couple sea otters. So cute!
Not long into the trip, I saw my first glacier! Actually, three glaciers – from left to right: Prospect, Spoon, and Porcupine glaciers! These glaciers are called alpine glaciers and they don’t extend to the valley or water’s edge like the ones we’ll see later.
A few minutes later we saw a pair of humpback whales! I’d never seen a whale before, so I was pretty excited. We also saw some fin whales later on the tour!
Eventually we made our way into Aialik Bay to eat lunch and see Holgate Glacier.
The captain turned off the engines while we were stopped in front of the glacier so we could hear the ice cracking and breaking off (called calving). It sounded like loud thunder. We saw a few chunks break off while we were there and I got some great action shots.
While we were stopped, the crew pulled up a chunk of glacier that was floating in the water and made margaritas out of it! Of course I had to try one =)
Our next stop was Aialik Glacier, which is a tidewater glacier like Holgate Glacier.
It’s always hard to tell how large something actually is in pictures, so I’ve circled a tour boat in the picture below. You can barely see it, but it’s a great way to show scale in this picture and show you how large this glacier actually is.
Nearby we saw a large group of seals lounging on some ice chunks. We also saw a mama sea otter swimming her baby around on her stomach! It was definitely a great day for viewing wildlife!
As we travelled out of Aialik Bay we saw a smack of jellyfish in the water. There were thousands of them in the water!
We also had a couple Dall’s porpoises approach our boat. I’d never seen or heard of them before, but they kind of look like small killer whales. They were really cool and it was fun watching them play in the boat’s wake.
And finally our last stop, the Chiswell Islands, is home to puffins and stellar sea lions! Now, I’m going to be completely honest and tell you that I don’t like birds (actually I’m kind of scared of them), but I love puffins! I think they are the cutest little things! The park ranger told us that sometimes puffins will eat so much food that they aren’t able to fly! We actually saw a couple struggling to get into the air. How can you not like little fatty birds?!
And on another island, a group of stellar sea lions were busy sunbathing on the rocks.
Except for this guy – he’s king of the rock and had to keep an eye on things while everyone else rested.
After we finished watching the sea lions, we headed back to the harbor (we did see more whales on the way) and then drove back to Soldotna. It was a long day, but it was a great way to see another part of Alaska and see some amazing wildlife!