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.
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.