Despite the weather forecast we had a beautiful day on the water with plenty of wildlife sightings. We opted for Major Marine’s 6-hour tour in Kenai Fjords National Park to the Holgate Glacier. They offer both longer and shorter trips for folks who want more or less time to see wildlife. For me 6 hours was plenty long. We had several good encounters with whales and orcas and about 30 minutes at the glacier.
The wildlife sightings started soon into the trip with fin whales. At one point there was a pod of 4. The captain generally took his time with these sightings, allowing people time to get to the deck they wanted to be on. He would even wait when the whales dove, timing how long it would be before we might see them again, up to 13 minutes for a fin whale. We also had 3 encounters with humpback whales and finally saw the fluke with a subsequent view of the head. We stopped by a small island to view sea lions lazing on the rocks. On our way back to Seward we had a pod of orcas. There were also 2 encounters with porpoises. They go so fast the boat can’t follow them very well and it is next to impossible to get a decent photo. As for birds we saw a bald eagle when we were leaving the harbor, a couple of lone puffins in the far distance and kittiwake and cormorants in front of the glacier.
At the glacier they spent a good 30 minutes slowly going back and forth in front of the glacier until everyone had more than enough opportunity to get every photo they wanted and a good long chance for calving, though we saw only small pieces break off.
Weather and Seasickness
A front had come through the night before our cruise and the weather was beautiful with blue sky and some cloud cover. The sea, however, was a bit rough with 5ft swells causing a number of passengers to get sea sick.
Size of Boat
I read on TripAdvisor forums that Major Marine had smaller boats with fewer passengers compared to Kenai Fjords Tours. From my observation I don’t think this is true any longer. It may depend on which tour you are doing. Our boat had at least 150 passengers and felt crowded when we first got on. For viewing wildlife, however, it generally worked out because the captain turned the boat to the left or right of the animals, allowing more people to get a good look or photo. It was only when the sight or creature was straight in front of the boat that it was much of an issue. Also, many people watched from inside. Major Marine has a listing with descriptions and photos of their vessels here.
Major Marine has assigned seating but many people spent most of their time outside. Although we had good weather the seas were rough so there were some passengers staying outside to alleviate seasickness.
It was cold and windy when the boat was changing locations so sitting up top all the time wasn’t pleasant. We went back and forth between our table and the top deck to view animals without too much difficulty.
Lunch was a choice of deli sandwich – roast beef or salmon spread with an apple, chips, and a brownie.
All in all the trip was professionally run and narrated with plenty of time for observing wildlife and the glacier.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Alaska page.
June 21, 2021