Most people want to go to Alaska to take a cruise: they board a ship in Seattle or Vancouver, spend seven days wending their way north, and enjoy a few excursions along the way. Upon pulling into port in Alaska, usually in Seward or Whittier, they’re then eager to explore Alaska by land: they see the sights in Anchorage, maybe explore the outdoors a bit (maybe by hiking), and try to catch a glimpse of Denali. Most visitors don’t necessarily think to hop back on a boat and explore the waterways looking for wildlife; they skip the chance to explore these two northern ports entirely!
After a lifetime of traveling in Alaska – growing up there, visiting repeatedly since my family moved away – day cruises are one of my favorite Alaskan activities. There’s nothing like boarding the ship in Seward, eager to see whales, otters, puffins, and glaciers on a day in Kenai Fjords National Park.
In this post, I’m going to share my thoughts on one of the two bigger day cruise providers in Seward: Major Marine Tours. For an unknown reason, my parents exclusively cruised with Major Marine when I was a kid growing up in Alaska, and since I became an adult, it’s the only Kenai Fjords cruise operator I’ve cruised with too. (For full disclosure, most recently in 2017 on Mr. V’s first trip to Alaska.)
If you’re researching Kenai Fjords cruise options and have discovered Major Marine, you might wonder if they are any good. In this Major Marine Tours review, I’ll cover all you need to know to decide whether to cruise with them: the different tours they offer, what you’ll experience, and more.
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.
This post was originally published in August 2017, and was updated most recently in June 2022.
Major Marine Tours Cruise Options
In the past, I’ve done two cruises with Major Marine Tours… that’s probably more than most local Alaskans!
On each occasion, the weather could not have been more different: the first featured sapphire blue skies and smooth seas and the second was rainy and eight- to twelve-foot swells. During that my second trip, Mr. V had to shoot photos, since I was seasick like 98% of people on the boat.
Aboard a Major Marine Cruise, you’ll spend 3.5-8 hours cruising through the open bay and fjords of Kenai Fjords National Park. During that time, you’ll see glaciers, wildlife, and stunning scenery.
Click below to explore the Major Marine Tours options:
- 4-Hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise
- 6-Hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise
- 7.5-Hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise
- 8.5-Hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise
I took the 7.5-hour tour in 2014, and the 6-hour tour in 2017. Today, I recommend the 8.5-hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise, which ranks most highly among Major Marine Tours on my ranked list of the best Kenai Fjords cruises.
A Day on the Water in Kenai Fjords
You might wonder, as a visitor to Alaska who’s just gotten off a cruise ship, why do a cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park?
As an introduction, Kenai Fjords National Park is a 607,805 acres park established in 1980. The park is home to Harding Ice Field, which is the source of 38 glaciers, including Exit Glacier. Like their Norwegian namesake, Kenai Fjords are glacially carved fjords that range from 600-1000 feet deep; the mountains tower up to 6,500 feet above sea level.
As such, within the park, there are some incredible mountain and fjord views! The landscape alone is stunning.
Many people visit Kenai Fjords to try and see wildlife. Some of the most common animals you’ll spot in the park include sea birds – the puffin is a crowd favorite – and sea otters. Don’t be surprised if you see so many of these cuties during the day that they aren’t as exciting by the end of the cruise! (This is a mixed blessing, since large otter populations indicate that the species has recovered since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the 1980s, but they can decimate the populations of critters they eat including shellfish and urchin which help keep the water quality stable.)
You might also spot other animals like mountain goats, harbor seals, and Stellar sea lions while out on the water.
Perhaps the most exciting animal you’ll see in Kenai Fjords is whales – this is one aspect where Seward/Kenai Fjords is actually a better destination than Whittier/Prince William Sound, since you’re more likely to see whales in Kenai Fjords than PWS. (Read my full comparison of Seward and Whittier here.)
The two most commonly spotted whale species are Humpback whales and Orcas (Killer whales). You might also see Fin whales if you’re really lucky. In any case, the captain and crew of each Major Marine vessel knows that people come to see whales and will do a great job trying to find them and giving you plenty of viewing time if you do see whales.
Finally, Kenai Fjords is a great place to see glaciers; Major Marine Tours’ longer routes will take you to one or more glaciers where you can learn about these rivers of ice and watch to see if any ice falls off (a process called calving). If you want the best opportunity to spot wildlife and see glaciers on a Major Marine tour, opt for the 8.5-hour Northwestern Fjord tour which gives you maximum time at both.
Additionally, all 6-hour and longer Major Marines cruise includes food of some kind; I don’t have any great photos of the meals, but you can double-check what’s included on whichever tour you choose.
A Guide to Seward, Alaska
Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the most accessible for visitors who come to Southcentral Alaska; it’s only 2.5 hours by car from Anchorage. For most visitors, it makes sense to stay a night or two in Seward, and you might wonder what else to do in addition to a Major Marine Tours cruise.
Seward is a small town on the southern coast of Alaska, home to 2,700 hardy souls. Established in 1793 as a trading post by Russian fur trader Alexander Baranov, Seward grew through World War II, and gained notoriety for the massive damage it sustained in the 1964 earthquake. Over time, the town has begun to grow beyond its fishing roots with restaurants, bars, and tourist sights developing to support the cruising tour operators.
There’s a ton to do in Seward, so much that I ended up writing a post about all the things I recommend. These include:
- Visiting the Alaska SeaLife Center
- Hiking at Exit Glacier
- Trying local beer and food (especially at Seward Brewing Company)
- Exploring the marina and Waterfront Park
- Tidepooling at Lowell Point
But there’s a ton more too – so be sure to check out my post above.
That’s just about all you need to have a great day aboard a Major Marine Tours cruise from Seward. Let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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This post was produced in partnership with Major Marine Tours, in exchange for my two trips several years ago.