Destination Guides,  Reviews

Kenai Fjords Tours Review:
Puffins, Whales & Waterfalls, Oh My!

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There’s nothing like the feeling of being out on the open water, wind in your hair, sun sparkling on the waves, call of sea birds in the air. Alaska has some incredible opportunities to explore its seemingly endless coastline – in fact, some parts of Alaska can only be explored by boat, such as the majority of Kenai Fjords National Park.

While I used to dread boat tours growing up in Alaska because I was plagued with bat motion sickness, marrying a mariner like Mr. V and living on a houseboat in Sausalito, California helped me learn the coping skills and which medications work best. Now, I love taking boat tours and recently had the chance to go on a Kenai Fjords cruise out of Seward with a company I’d never ridden with before: Kenai Fjords Tours.

Kenai Fjords Tours Review Hero

You might be surprised to learn that – despite growing up in Alaska and visiting many times since my family moved away – I had never taken a tour with Kenai Fjords Tours, but my family usually booked with one of the other companies that also offer tours out of Seward, and I just sorta stuck with that loyalty. However, I had a chance to take my first Kenai Fjords Tour in August 2022 and knew I had to share the experience.

In this Kenai Fjords Tours review, I’ll share my thoughts and experiences from this first ride, as well as tips and advice to help you enjoy your own tour with KFT if you choose to book with them. If you have any questions following my review, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help you choose the best tour for your Alaska itinerary!

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) peoples. 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.

Kenai Fjords Tours Cruise Options & Routes

Kenai Fjords Tours offers a number of cruise routes and lengths, like several other companies that offer cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park. Basically, the main differences between these options are:

  1. What season the cruise takes place
  2. How long you’ll be on the boat/how far you’ll go into Kenai Fjords National Park
  3. The main sights you’ll see/focus of the tour (wildlife, glaciers, or both)

For the Summer 2023 season, here are the cruises you can book with KFT:

Gray Whale Watch Tour*4 hours$80Lunch
Resurrection Bay Tour5 hours$108Lunch
Kenai Fjords National Park Tour6 hours$162Lunch
Glacier Dinner Cruise5.5 hours$162Dinner
Kenai Fjords National Park with Fox Island Dinner8.5 hours$189Dinner
Northwestern Fjord Tour7 hours$207Lunch
*Offered Spring only, 2023 dates TBA

As you can see, Kenai Fjords Tours offers a range of tours in both length and price, and as mentioned, the main difference is that the longer you stay on the boat, the further you can explore into Kenai Fjords National Park. In fact, the KFT “Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with Dinner on Fox Island” ranks #1 on my list of Kenai Fjords cruises, comparing price, duration, and more.

From my personal perspective – as with Denali National Park bus tours – longer is always better; the “Northwestern Fjord Tour” is hands down the best experience if you want to head as far into the park as possible, see more glaciers than the shorter tour, and have the longest opportunity to see wildlife. (You might be wondering why not the longer “Kenai Fjords National Park with Fox Island Dinner,” but if you notice, the KFNP tour (without dinner) is only a six-hour boat ride – adding dinner makes up the other 2.5 hours, not spending more time on the water.)

In the end, you really can’t go wrong unless you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to do a Kenai Fjords day cruise when you have the time!

Wildlife and Marine Life in Kenai Fjords

This might be your first visit to my site, and if so, welcome! One common question I get from people planning trips is: should I visit Seward or Whittier? I have a whole post detailing my recommendation about how to choose in the Great Debate of Whittier vs Seward, and the main takeaway is that Seward is great for wildlife and marine life. It’s therefore worth mentioning what we saw on our my recent Kenai Fjords Tours experience.

With bad weather, it can be hard to spot any marine life or wildlife, but our captain and crew did their best: we saw tons of seabirds including the crowd-pleasing puffins; there was a small colony of sea lions on the rocks at one point; we also spotted (actually I spotted, retaining my eagle-eye status!) a mountain goat, which is very uncommon; and a few miles out from the harbor, we even had the chance to see a Humpback whale!

As usual, Kenai Fjords National Park is a great spot for wildlife viewing, especially whales, and you’ll likely see similar marine life and wildlife on your own trip

Seasickness on Kenai Fjords Tours

Another big question I get asked a lot about Kenai Fjords Tours – and Kenai Fjords cruises in general – is regarding seasickness. The main body of water near Seward, Resurrection Bay, is generally quite calm; longer tours that head out into the Gulf of Alaska, especially the Northwest Fjords Tour, have a real chance of encountering swells and bad weather.

First, I always recommend bringing seasickness medication (it’s also offered on board for purchase); second, if the weather and waves are too bad, the captain will make a call about whether it’s safe to even attempt crossing that water.

In the case of my most recent tour in August 2022, the weather was too bad, so we ended up turning back – but still had to endure about an hour of serious movement as part of our truncated 4.5-hour tour. I am super motion-sensitive and knew we’d attempt to brave the waves so had taken my standard dose of Dramamine shortly after departing Seward. I felt mostly fine, but many people felt quite unwell or were sick. Don’t wait to take/apply your seasickness remedy – take it when the boat leaves the harbor for the best effect!

Boats, Crew & Food on Kenai Fjords Tours

As you compare options for cruising in Kenai Fjords National Park, it might seem hard to tell the various companies apart. Sure, there are price differences, but the routes are quite similar and it’s all the same area of Alaska, right?

On the whole, that’s true: both of the primary operators (Kenai Fjords Tours and Major Marine Tours) offer both mono-hull and catamaran boats depending on the tour. Both offer tours ranging from 4 hours to 8.5 hours in length. Both visit similar parts of KFNP, including Northwest Fjord. So how do you choose?!

While I’m not here to compare the two in this post, I do want to cover the boats, crew, and meals on Kenai Fjords Tours in detail, so you can decide for yourself.

Before departure, I took a stroll down onto the docks past all of the Kenai Fjords Tours boats; they have a fleet of modern vessels, about 50/50 between monohull and catamaran. I’m not sure how it’s decided which boats run which routes, but generally catamarans are good for longer tours with the chance of greater wave motion; you could always ask which boat is allocated for your tour when booking.

In our case, we were on the Tanaina (named after an Athabaskan-speaking group of Native Alaskans), a monohull, for our supposed-to-be 7-hour Northwest Fjords tour. Unfortunately, due to bad weather and big swells, we only did a modified 4.5-hour Resurrection Bay tour.

Our crew was very professional throughout said tour, even as the weather and waves made fellow passengers quite uncomfortable and sick. In addition to safety and general boat duties, they did a nice job of checking on us regularly to make sure people were feeling okay, and when not, advising them to step outside and providing other amenities to help them feel better.

And while you might not want anything to do with lunch after all this talk of seasickness, the crew also served us lunch – which was actually a very hearty and filling chicken wrap. While most of the Kenai Fjords cruise operators used to offer a hot lunch on long trips like the ones I recommend, most have switched to pre-made wraps and sandwiches as a result of the pandemic. I definitely miss grilled salmon and salad though, and hope they bring it back!

Kenai Fjords Tours Review: Overall Experience

Okay, so given that the weather was crap, the meals have changed, and a bunch of people got seasick, you might think you know whether I recommend Kenai Fjords Tours (or not!).

Overall though, I had a great experience on my first trip aboard Kenai Fjords Tours. Sure, the weather was very traditionally Seward-ian/coastal Alaskan. Yeah, the waves sucked and people felt like hot garbage (thank goodness my Dramamine worked!!). Absolutely, it was a bummer to not visit Northwest Fjord and see the glaciers.

But those are things that are outside my control – and outside the control of Kenai Fjords Tours. So it wouldn’t be fair to judge them on that. Instead, I’ll say this: our boat was beautiful and comfortable, the meal was delicious, the captain and crew made the best of it for us, and I in turn had a good day despite it all.

The reality is that Alaska is never going to give you a perfect vacation – and part of the adventure is learning to admire the beauty of the wilderness around you, still keep a keen eye out for whales and wildlife, and make memories even when everything doesn’t go according to plan. I am very confident saying Kenai Fjords Tours does their best to make your vacation as close to your perfect plan as possible, and in the event they cannot, they’re going to prioritize your safety and wellbeing (and offer a partial refund for the parts of the tour they aren’t able to do).

Kenai Fjords Tours is a company with integrity and they operate safely in Kenai Fjords – that’s what I look for in the Alaska companies I recommend.

Other Tips for Visiting Kenai Fjords & Seward

In addition to taking a day cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park with Kenai Fjords Tours, there are other things to do in the park including the gateway town of Seward.

I have a complete list of things to do in Seward already, but if you want a short list of my absolutely must-do suggestions, be sure to:

  • Go for a walk or hike at Exit Glacier; this is the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park you can access by car, and there are a few trails of varying difficulty to give you views of this quickly-receding glacier.
  • Visit the Seward SeaLife Center, where you can learn about the marine life in Kenai Fjords and see some up close and personal (including touch tanks!)
  • Go tide-pooling at Lowell Point. If you have a car, drive out to Lowell Point State Recreation Area at low tide and see what cool critters you can find.
  • Explore Seward’s marina and ‘downtown.’ Seward is a quirky little waterfront town, and has some fun shops and great restaurants.

And, of course, you’ve already got plans to go on a Kenai Fjords Tours ride, so don’t forget to accommodate that in your Seward itinerary!

Have any other questions about my Kenai Fjords Tours review or taking a cruise with them during your Alaska trip? Let me know in the comments below!

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My Kenai Fjords Tours experience was arranged by Pursuit, and my tour was hosted by them.
This review was produced in partnership with them.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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