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The sky is clear and the sun creates a million sparkles of light on the face of the ocean. A humpback whale erupts from the shallow waves in a full breach. A glacier cracks loudly making the nickname “white thunder” make sense as a giant piece of ice falls into the water. An otter rides the wake of our boat, holding onto a rock it will use to crack open the clamshell in its other paw for lunch. These are some of the quintessential experiences you can have on a Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
Kenai Fjords National Park is both unique in Alaska – and very much like all of the other national parks in The Last Frontier. Like most parks, it’s isolated and hard to reach. This is made doubly so because most of Kenai Fjords National Park is only accessible by boat.
Luckily, there are a number of cruise companies and a wide variety of cruise routes and itineraries to help you reach Kenai Fjords. In this post, I’ll break down the basics of each company. Then I’ll provide a ranked list of the best Kenai Fjords National Park cruise options. If you’ve got your heart set on visiting Kenai Fjords to see whales, glaciers, and wildlife, this will help you choose the perfect cruise for your trip.
Who Offers Kenai Fjords National Park Cruises?
Before diving into the ranked list of the best Kenai Fjords National Park cruises, I want to quickly cover each of the companies that provide cruises in the national park. This will help you get a sense of why I ranked the tours in the order I did.
Note: I’ve listed these cruise providers in alphabetical order. If you want to see the ranked list of all Kenai Fjords National Park cruise options, scroll past this section.
Kenai Fjords Tours
Kenai Fjords Tours is one of two major cruise providers in Seward (the other is Major Marine Tours). They’ve been operating Kenai Fjords National Park cruises since 1974 and are well-reputed. I don’t think I’ve ever sailed with them as a kid, though it’s possible and I just can’t remember it.
Kenai Fjords offers four main cruises:
- 5-hour Resurrection Bay Tour
- 6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Tour
- 7-hour Northwestern Fjords Tour
- 8.5-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with Dinner on Fox Island
It’s that Fox Island dinner option that makes a lot of people book with Kenai Fjords Tours. They also offer a spring cruise, a 4-hour Gray Whale Watching Tour.
Major Marine Tours
Major Marine Tours is the company I usually recommend for people who want to do a Kenai Fjords National Park tour; they are the company I’ve cruised with multiple times. They used to offer a 7-hour cruise that I always recommended; unfortunately, this isn’t available for the 2021 season.
They offer three main Kenai Fjord National Park cruise itineraries:
- 3.5-hour Wildlife Cruise
- 6-hour National Park Cruise
- 8.5-hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise
If you’re visiting Alaska in the spring, they also offer two whale-watching cruises: an early-spring Grey Whale tour and a late-spring Orca tour.
Northern Latitude Adventures
Northern Latitude Adventures is a smaller cruise operator in Seward, which (like most things) has its benefits and costs. Their smaller ships mean you won’t feel like chattel on the boat like with some bigger operators (though in 2021, all of these companies are operating at reduced capacity); conversely they cost substantially more for that more-private experience.
They have five main cruise itineraries – the most of any company on this list:
- 3-hour Resurrection Bay Tour
- 3.5-hour Ultimate Whale Watch
- 5-hour Tidewater Glacier Express
- 7.5-hour Kenai Fjords Glacier Odyssey
- 9-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour
They have three boats in their fleet, so not every tour is offered every day and availability varies.
Seacor Tours is another smaller Kenai Fjords National Park cruise operator based in Seward. They sail on the M/V Outright, an aluminum catamaran that can fit up to 30 passengers. This makes for an intimate experience. They offer just one set cruise itinerary, a 6.5-hour Wildlife & Glacier Tour.
Seward Ocean Excursions
Finally, Seward Ocean Excursions is the final smaller cruise operator in Kenai Fjords National Park with a set itinerary (unlike the private/charter options mentioned below). They operate two boats and offer two cruise itineraries:
- 3.5-hour Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay Half Day Tour
- 6-hour Tour Deeper into Kenai Fjords National Park & Aialik Bay
Bonus: Private & Charter Cruises
A number of other, smaller companies offer private sightseeing charter cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park. Availability and price vary a lot, but if you are are willing to pay and have a specific set of experiences you really want to have, this could be a great option. Here are the companies that offer private charters in Kenai Fjords (in alphabetical order):
- 60 Degrees Adventure Charters – This company offers fully customizable charters in Kenai Fjords. They offer anywhere form single day to multi-day adventures, starting at $2400 for an 8-hour cruise for up to 6 guests.
- Alaska Coastal Explorer – Alaska Coastal Explorer focuses primarily on fishing charters, but they also offer a full-day Sightseeing charter that includes lunch. Group size is limited to 12.
- Alaska Dream Charters – While Alaska Dream Charters focuses primarily on fishing charters, they also offer a Sightseeing/Photography Tour as a custom charter option.
- Latitude 60 Marine – Their private charter option focuses specifically on whale watching and helping you try to see one (or more) of the five whale species in Kenai Fjords National Park.
- Northern Latitude Adventures – In addition to the tours mentioned above, Northern Latitude Adventures offers a private “Full Day Excursion” and private charter option.
- Resurrection Bay Sailing Charters – If you are an adventurous mariner type, this one’s for you! Resurrection Bay Sailing Charters offers a captained 3.5-hour “Day Sail” for up to six people for $669, with additional hours for $129/hour.
- Seward Ocean Excursions – In addition to their pre-set Kenai Fjords cruises (mentioned above), Seward Ocean Excursions also offers both a custom Full Day tour and a “Custom Tour” option (for total customization).
The Best Kenai Fjords National Park Cruises Ranked
Okay, now that I’ve covered all of the companies that offer Kenai Fjords cruises, I want to provide you a ranked list of all of the cruise itineraries they offer. These are all of the primary cruises offered during the Alaskan summer season. I cover each one briefly to explain why I ranked it that way.
1. 8.5-hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise by Major Marine Tours
Since my 7-hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise isn’t an option this year, this is the Kenai Fjords National Park cruise I’ve been recommending as part of my custom itineraries. It’s a long day on the water but spends the most time in the far-reaching parts of the park maximizing your chance to see wildlife and whales. See more & book.
2. 7-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour by Kenai Fjords Tours
I debated a long time about putting this 7-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour as my #1 recommendation since it’s similar to the one I’ve done and used to recommend. Having not done it though, I felt it was fair to put in the #2 spot as a great backup if you don’t want a full 8+ hours on the water but still want a great day. See more & book.
3. 8.5-hours Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with Dinner on Fox Island by Kenai Fjords Tours
While I haven’t done the Fox Island cruise tour from Kenai Fjords Tours, I’ve always heard good things about it from those who have done it. It’s a long day, but doesn’t go quite as far as the Northwestern Fjords itineraries that rank higher. See more & book.
4. 9-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour by Northern Latitude Adventures
I put this 9-hour cruise from Northern Latitude Adventures as #4 because I think nine hours can potentially be a really long day if you’re motion-sensitive or there aren’t many whales or wildlife to see. That said, if you have no problems with wave motion, you might want to book this to maximize your time trying to spot said whales and wildlife. See more & book.
5. 7.5-hour Kenai Fjords Glacier Odyssey by Northern Latitude Adventures
I like this 7.5-hour glacier-focused option from Northern Latitude Adventures because of both the duration and focus on those gorgeous icy formations. If you’re more interested in millennia-old ice than modern wildlife, this is a good option for you! See more & book.
6. (Tie) 6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Tours
It might seem weird to have a tie, but this 6-hour tour option is probably the most popular length – so basically all of the operators have an option like this. Obviously they each offer a different route, but here are the three similar ones to choose from:
- Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise by Major Marine Tours
- Kenai Fjords National Park Tour by Kenai Fjords Tours
- Tour Deeper into Kenai Fjords National Park / Aialik Bay by Seward Ocean Excursions
In general, all of these tours spend a nice amount of time exploring what makes Kenai Fjords National Park special: wildlife, whales, glaciers, and wide-open views.
9. 6.5-hour Wildlife & Glacier Tours by Seacor Tours
If you can handle the motion of the ocean and the idea of a small boat sounds great, this one from Seacor is a great one. It’s just long enough to give you the best of the national park, plus time to explore as your ship discovers new wonders. See more & book.
10. 5-hour Resurrection Bay Tour by Kenai Fjords Tours
For the rest of the list, we start to drop into shorter tours that can really be considered “half-day” rather than “full-day” Kenai Fjords cruises. Five hours is enough time to get out and see glaciers, spot whales if they’re in the area, and still have time in the day for other adventures in Seward.
This Resurrection Bay Tour from Kenai Fjords starts at noon and includes lunch, so you can sleep in and spend your morning in Seward before spending the rest of your day on the boat. See more & book.
11. 5-hour Tidewater Glacier Express by Northern Latitude Adventures
Here’s another good 5-hour tour; like their 7.5-hour tour, I really like that Northern Latitude Adventures focuses this tour on seeing and experiencing the glaciers. This one does cost more than others around the same length, though, which is why it’s further down the list. See more & book.
12. 3.5-hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise by Major Marine Tours
If you only want a short half-day Kenai Fjords National Park cruise, I recommend this one from Major Marine Tours. The bigger boat means you can get further into the park in this shorter timeframe – and the price is lower which is always good in an expensive destination like Alaska! See more & book.
13. 3.5-hour Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay Half-Day Tour by Seward Ocean Excursions
Like my tie earlier, I could have made this tour tie with the same length one from Major Marine Tours (#12), but I put it one spot lower just due to the per-person price. See more & book.
14. 3.5-hour Ultimate Whale Watch by Northern Latitude Adventures
If you don’t want to spend a full day on the boat but seeing whales is a priority, this option from Northern Latitude Adventures can be good – though it does have a high price point relative to other tours of this length. See more & book.
15. 3-hour Resurrection Bay Tour by Northern Latitude Adventures
Rounding out my list, I wanted to include this three-hour tour from Northern Latitude Adventures even though I think it’s pretty short. If you’re super motion-sensitive, three hours on rough water can feel like a lifetime, but it’s also not quite enough time to really get into the best parts of Kenai Fjords National Park, especially for this per-person price. See more & book.
Ready to book your Kenai Fjords National Park cruise? If you have any questions about these, let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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