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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 phrase “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.
(Oh, and to clarify a common question, be sure to read my comparison of Whittier vs. Seward to understand the differences between glacier and whale watching cruises from each place. Okay, let’s jump in!)
In this post, I promote travel to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in March 2021, and updated in May 2022 with new tours and rankings.
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 – KFT 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.
- Major Marine Tours – Major Marine 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.
- Northern Latitude Adventures – A smaller cruise operator in Seward (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.
- Seacor Tours – Seacor 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 – 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, for 3.5 and 6 hours.
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 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 from a 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 with 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.
|2022 Rank||Tour Name||2021 Rank||Diff.||Link|
|1||8.5-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with Dinner on Fox Island (Kenai Fjords Tours)||3||+2||Link|
|2||8.5-hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise (Major Marine Tours)||1||-1||Link|
|3||4-hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise (Major Marine Tours)||13||+10||Link|
|4||8.5-hour Kenai Fjords Ultimate Adventure (Northern Latitude Adventures)||5||+1||Link|
|5||6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Tour (Kenai Fjords Tours)||6||+1||Link|
|6||5-hour Resurrection Bay Tour (Kenai Fjords Tours)||10||+4||Link|
|7||5.5-hour Glacier Dinner Cruise (Kenai Fjords Tours)||–||New||Link|
|8||7.5-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise (Major Marine Tours)||–||New||Link|
|9||7.5-hour Kenai Fjords Glacier Odyssey (Northern Latitude Adventures)||4||-4||Link|
|10||6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise (Major Marine Tours)||6||-4||Link|
|11||7-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour (Kenai Fjords Tours)||2||-9||Link|
|12 (Tie)||3.5-hour Ultimate Whale Watch (Northern Latitude Adventures)||14||+2||Link|
|12 (Tie)||3.5-hour Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay Half-Day Tour (Seward Ocean Excursions)||14||+2||Link|
|12 (Tie)||3.5-hour Resurrection Bay Tour (Northern Latitude Adventures)||16||+4||Link|
|15||6.5-hour Wildlife & Glacier Tours (Seacor)||9||-5||Link|
|16 (Tie)||6-hour Tour Deeper into Kenai Fjords National Park/Aialik Bay (Seward Ocean Excursions)||8||-8||Link|
|16 (Tie)||6-hour Tidewater Glacier Express (Northern Latitude Adventures)||12||-4||Link|
Now I’ll go through the five best Kenai Fjords cruises in greater detail, since these are the ones I most recommend; if you don’t like the sound of these ones, I recommend checking the above list and clicking any that interest you – that will help you find the perfect tour for your Alaska itinerary.
1. 8.5-hours National Park Tour with Dinner on Fox Island by Kenai Fjords Tours
If you’re looking for a tour that’s A) popular, B) has a good amount of time on the water, and C) a truly unique Alaskan experience, that is available in only one Kenai Fjords cruise: the national park tour with dinner on Fox Island offered by Kenai Fjords Tours.
I haven’t personally done this tour as of 2022, though I’ve heard good things about it: there’s plenty of time for watching glaciers and spotting wildlife, and you get to step on land and settle your stomach with a meal of fresh Alaskan food.
Since you’ll spend time on land, this cruise doesn’t go as far as some of the others on this list – but it’s a really nice option for balancing a variety of factors (including price!)
$189 for adults, $94 for children; book here.
2. 8.5-Hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise by Major Marine Tours
Major Marine Tours is my favorite Kenai Fjords cruise operator, and this 8.5-hour tour is their longest tour that will take you to the furthest reaches of the national park. You’ll spend a whopping 8.5 hours out on the water – a great amount of time on a day with good weather (or a miserable unending slog if the water is choppy or has swells!).
Along the way, you’ll head deep into fjords to watch glaciers calf and skim the edge of the Gulf of Alaska with the best chances to spot whales and other wildlife.
$249 for adults and children 12+; this tour is not advised for children under 12; book here.
3. 4-hour Wildlife Cruise by Major Marine Tours
As I mentioned earlier, I generally advise that longer is better in Kenai Fjords, but perhaps you only have – or only want to spend – a half-day on your Kenai Fjords cruise. (There are plenty of other great things to do in Seward!) In that case, a shorter tour is best, and the 4-hour wildlife cruise from major Marine Tours is my top recommendation.
You won’t go as far into Kenai Fjords as other tours given the shorter time frame, but as the name suggests, it’s a great chance to get out far enough to spot wildlife including otters, puffins, and – if you’re fortunate – whales! This is a great option for kids who love Alaskan wildlife, too.
$99 for adults, $49.50 for children; book here.
4. 8.5-hour Ultimate Adventure Tour by Northern Latitude Adventures
It should come as no surprise that the other longest-possible tour in Kenai Fjords makes my top-five list; it ranks further down because it is significantly more expensive than those offered by Kenai Fjords Tours and Major Marine Tours. However, Northern Latitude Adventures runs on smaller boats, making this a much more intimate experience.
So the 8.5-hour Kenai Fjords Ultimate Adventure Tour should be on your list if you want the most time on the water watching whales and glaciers, want a more private experience, and are not sensitive to motion (since smaller boats are more likely to make you feel seasick!).
$399 per person, no child pricing noted; book here.
5. 6-hour National Park Tours by Kenai Fjords Tours
Finally, rounding out the top five is the six-hour tour from Kenai Fjords Tours. Six hours is by far the most popular length of time to spend on a Kenai Fjords tour (though you know that I always recommend more time if you have it), so it makes sense that this tour would be high on my list given its balance of price and experience. (Major Marine Tours’ similar six-hour tour ranks #10 for comparison.)
You won’t go as far into Kenai Fjords on this mid-length trip, but you’ll still have a chance to see wildlife, visit a glacier, and admire the beauty of the National Park at a very reasonable price.
$162 for adults, $81 for kids; book here.
As mentioned in my table above, there are a dozen other Kenai Fjords cruises if you don’t see one you like on this list (or the one you want is sold out!). Be sure to re-visit the table to review them all and choose one that’s right for you and your Alaska travel plans.
Seasonal Kenai Fjords Cruises
To wrap up this article, I wanted to include a short list of the seasonal whale-watching tours that are offered each spring in Kenai Fjords National Park. These are great if you’re planning to visit Alaska in the spring and want to get out on the water – though they are quite different than what’s offered during the summer months.
- Kenai Fjords Tours offers a four-hour grey whale watching tour from March 10-May 15*; be aware that Resurrection Bay can be a lot choppier during this time of year so plan ahead if anyone in your group is motion-sensitive. It’s $80 for adults and $40 for kids.
- Major Marine Tours also offers a spring wildlife cruise with a chance to see grey whales and other wildlife, which runs from March 11-May 7*. This four-hour tour costs a bit more than Kenai Fjords Tours’ (as do all of their tours); it’s $109 for adults and $54.50 for kids.
- Major Marine also offers a late spring Orca Quest Cruise from May 9 to June 12*. This is another short four-hour cruise focused specifically on visiting an area of Kenai Fjords where the salmon run early and Orcas are commonly spotted. It’s $99 for adults and $49.50 for kids.
*These are the 2023 dates, and may change before next year’s season starts. Be sure to check the corresponding site to verify your travel dates will work.
Ready to book your Kenai Fjords National Park cruise? If you have any questions about these, let me know in the comments.
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