Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Cruise

Travel through calm, protected waters outside of Whittier for the best glacier and wildlife viewing opportunities in Prince William Sound. Visit the towering Surprise Glacier, an actively calving tidewater glacier. Cruise with a National Forest Ranger. Enjoy our optional Alaska Salmon & Prime Rib Buffet during the cruise.

Price & Dates


Adult (age 12+): $149.00

Child (age 2-11): $74.50

Infant (under 2): $0.00


May 18 - September 16, 2018*

Departing: 12:15 pm

Returning: 5:30 pm

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Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Cruise

This 5.25 hour catamaran cruise takes you to some of the most beautiful places in Prince William Sound and provides the best opportunity for both wildlife and glacier viewing in the area. As you cruise towards the spectacular Surprise Glacier in Harriman Fjord you may see wildlife such sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, and harbor seals. Upon entering Harriman Fjord you will be surrounded by breathtaking mountains and alpine and tidewater glaciers. The catamaran will travel to the end of the fjord and stop in front of Surprise Glacier to give you up-close views of an active tidewater glacier. After spending time in front of Surprise Glacier, you will cruise through Esther Passage, a scenic narrow marine waterway surrounded by mountains. On your way back to the Whittier Harbor you will stop at a working salmon hatchery and the second largest kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound.

Please Note: The town of Whittier is only accessible via the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in North America. Since vehicles and trains share the same tunnel, access to and from Whittier is available only at pre-specified times. Please plan on traveling to Whittier through the 10:30 a.m. tunnel for this cruise. More information about the tunnel, driving directions, and transportation options can be found below in the Directions section.

*On the following dates, the Surprise Glacier Cruise will operate on a smaller vessel and include a complimentary deli lunch instead of the buffet. Please call to book these dates: May 23 & 26; June 9, 20, & 23; July 4 & 18; September 1.

Taxes, harbor fee, and meal not included in the above prices.

Now Booking for 2019

Dates: May 17 – September 15, 2019
Price: $149 per adult, $74.50 per child
Please call us to book your 2019 cruise.

Departing out of Whittier, our Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Cruise travels through Passage Canal and into Port Wells, a beautiful area featuring waterfalls, bird rookeries, sea otters, sea lions, and other wildlife. We will cruise along the rocky cliffs of Prince William Sound, inhabited by thousands of nesting seabirds.

Before entering Barry Arm and Harriman Fjord we will cruise by College Fjord, which was named by Edward Harriman in 1899. The glaciers in College Fjord are named after elite East Coast colleges such as Harvard and Yale.

As we enter Harriman Fjord you will begin to see Harriman and Surprise Glaciers.  These are tidewater glaciers, meaning that they flow down from the mountains into the water. You will also see other types of glaciers in the nearby mountains, including alpine and valley glaciers.

As we travel deeper into Harriman Fjord you begin to see small chunks of ice called icebergs in the water. We will come to a stop in front of the towering Surprise Glacier. Here, the captain will turn off the engines so you can hear the ice crack and groan. Often you will see harbor seals and sea otters lounging on the floating ice. We will spend about thirty minutes in front of the glacier so you have plenty of time to watch for calving, where chunks of ice break off and crash into the water.

Our return to Whittier takes us through Esther Passage, a small waterway that only small vessels can navigate through. Watch the shoreline for possible bear and eagle sightings as we cruise through this spectacular area. The high mountains of Esther Passage provide protection from high winds, making this a very calm cruising area.

While in Esther Passage, we will visit a salmon hatchery on Esther Island. This is the largest salmon hatchery in North America, where 300 million salmon fry are released every year. At the hatchery, salmon eggs are fertilized, baby salmon are born and are raised until they are two inches long, and then they are released into the wild. The salmon’s natural instinct causes them to return to the exact freshwater where they were born to spawn and die. About 20-25% of the salmon originally released return to this area.

Before we end our cruise we will visit the second largest black-legged kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound, where thousands of black-legged kittiwakes have built their nests on the steep sea-side cliffs. These migratory birds, part of the gull family, travel as far south as Baja, California and Costa Rica every year. During the summer they mate, lay eggs, and raise their young in rookeries built into rocky cliffs. After we leave the rookery we return to the Whittier harbor.

The Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Cruise route is indicated as the BLUE line on the cruise map.

Quick Facts

  • Visit an active tidewater glacier
  • Best chance to see wildlife in Prince William Sound
  • Wildlife: sea otters, Steller sea lions, eagles, harbor seals, seabirds, and occasionally whales
  • Onboard Chugach National Forest Ranger
  • Fun and educational Junior Ranger Program available for children
  • Delicious Alaska salmon and prime rib buffet for only $24, including complimentary soft drinks and dessert bar. Buffet served at approximately 12:30 p.m.
  • Guaranteed reserved table seating in our heated cabin for every guest
  • Large, stable catamaran with multiple viewing decks and fog-free windows
  • No seasickness guaranteed
  • Vessel: Fairweather Express II
  • Departure location: Whittier Marina

Hear What Our Customers Are Saying

Glaciers and Wildlife in Prince William Sound

I had never been to Prince William Sound before and was very impressed with both the spectacular beauty and the wilderness experience. It seemed like there was a glacier or two on every mountain, scores of otters, a rookery with thousands of black legged kittiwakes, a bear, sea lions, bald eagles, and salmon leaping out of the water. There was a helpful forest ranger on board who answered questions and narrated the journey. The food was delicious, better than I expected for a buffet. Despite what started out to be a very rainy day, we had blue skies for the trip and an awesome experience.

CaliforniaHiker_9 / TripAdvisor

Boat Tour of Prince William Sound

My wife, daughter and I took this tour the second week of August 2017 and it was a great way to end our vacation in Alaska. We booked online before our trip, which was simple and made checking in very easy. We paid for the all you can eat buffet lunch and we were happy that we did. We were served Salmon and Prime Rib, with rice and salad. It was very good.The crew was extremely friendly, helpful and knowledgeable...There was also a U.S. Forest Ranger, Dawn, on board and she actually narrated the tour and was extremely knowledgeable and had a lot of information to read and look at.This is a great day trip for the whole family but dress warm. Even in August, when you get up close to the Surprise Glacier, is Alaska and the glacier is a big chunk of ice...dress warm!

Casey R / TripAdvispr

Beauty everywhere and great lunch and service!

This was a great 5 1/2 hr tour. We saw a very good amount of wildlife which is always so exciting, but the best was visiting Surprise Glacier. Here the catamaran gets as close as possible to the ice, it is an amazing sight without going out too far out at sea. The crew is well informed, includes a Forest Ranger, and very friendly. The buffet is a really good and hearty salmon and prime rib lunch and the desserts yummy! Going to Whittier and having to cross the tunnel was also a fun part of the trip. Highly recommend this tour.

Mari245 / TripAdvisor

Specials, Packages & Add-Ons

Specials & Packages

There are no specials for this cruise at this time. Please visit our Specials & Packages page for a list of our current specials.

Specials & Packages

Major Marine Tours is your one-stop shop for Alaska adventure! Add transportation between Anchorage and Whittier aboard the famous Alaska Railroad to your cruise reservation.



Our Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Cruise departs daily from Whittier, Alaska. Whittier is a remote Alaskan town that can only be reached via the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in North America. The tunnel is located at the end of Portage Glacier Road. Since vehicles and trains share the same tunnel, access to and from Whittier is available only at pre-specified times. Passengers on our Surprise Glacier Cruise must travel to Whittier through the 10:30 a.m. tunnel. We recommend that you arrive at the tunnel 10 minutes prior to the tunnel opening. Click here for more tunnel information.  If you'd rather use your travel time to sit back and relax while you gaze at the spectacular sights, we are more than happy to arrange round-trip transportation aboard the legendary Alaska Railroad.
Click here for Whittier Driving Directions & Check-In Information
Click here for Transportation Options

OVERNIGHT IN WHITTIER: If you are looking for overnight accommodations in Whittier, we recommend the Inn at Whittier, a beautiful waterfront hotel located on the Whittier Harbor. The Inn at Whittier features mountain view and harbor view rooms, as well as a waterfront restaurant and bar.
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