I was hosted by Major Marine Tours on a half-day wildlife cruise in exchange for coverage in this post. All opinions are my own.
The Best Way To Explore Kenai Fjords National Park: Major Marine Tours
Updated January 2023, The Best Way To Explore Kenai Fjords National Park: Major Marine Tours was originally published in August 2020
Alaska is a huge bucketlist destination for many travelers, home to eight national parks, most of which are difficult to access with the exception of Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Kenai Fjords gives visitors the opportunity to experience Alaska’s rugged coastline, countless glaciers, and abundant wildlife.
Then there’s us locals. A lot of us forget to explore our own backyard, and I’m totally guilty of this one: despite living a short 2.5 hour drive from Seward, I’ve never gone on a wildlife day cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park.
That’s not to say it’s not been on my radar, it has. I’ve thought about hopping on one for the last several summers, especially after talking with patients (many lifelong and long-time Alaskans) at work I’ve been meaning to take one after hearing nothing but rave reviews.
The summer up here has a tendency to get away from us all, so that had been my excuse for the last few years of not ticking this one off the to-do list. So finally, excuses aside, I made it on a half-day Kenai Fjords National Park cruise after living here for 33 years.
I was hosted by Major Marine Tours on a half-day Kenai Fjords National Park cruise, and in this post, you’ll find out a bit more about these trips and why I definitely recommend both visitors to consider adding it to their itinerary and locals to make the jaunt down to Seward for.
Start planning: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide
How To Visit Kenai Fjords National Park
While you can visit Kenai Fjords National Park by car/foot by visiting Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield located just outside Seward, in my opinion, the best way to experience the park is by taking one of Major Marine’s wildlife day cruises from Seward. Kenai Fjords is comprised of over 669,000 acres of coastal Alaskan wilderness where mountains and ice meet the sea. Given the coastal nature of these glacially carved fjords, the best way to explore the park is undoubtedly by boat.
Major Marine Tours Wildlife Cruises
3.5 hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise Adult $94.00 | Child $47.00
6 hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise Adult $169.00 | Child $84.50
8.5 hour Northwestern Fjord Cruise Adult $239.00
How To Get To Seward
Getting to Seward is pretty straightforward. The small town is located on Resurrection Bay about 120 miles south of Anchorage along the scenic Seward Highway (check out my Kenai Peninsula Road Trip post for ideas on where to stop along the way!). The drive itself takes about two and a half hours down from Anchorage, but I recommend budgeting in more time to make stops along the way for photos.
Another great option for those that want to take in the scenery between Anchorage and Seward, but don’t want to take on the drive themselves is to book the Rails to Whales package offered by Major Marine Tours. This package takes you on a day trip from Anchorage to Seward by way of the Alaska Railroad, then allows for you to board a 3.5, 5, or 6 hour Kenai Fjords Cruise before you would depart back to Anchorage by train.
Things To Do In Seward
There are plenty of things to do in Seward before and after your Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
Popular highlights include the Seward SeaLife Center, eating fresh Alaskan seafood at a number of restaurants and cafes in Seward, kayaking in Resurrection Bay, hiking to Caine’s Head, taking a glacier flightseeing tour, taking a hike at nearby Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield, and so much more.
For a full guide to Seward to see what the small coastal town has to offer, as well as where to stay, eat, and more, check out my Seward Travel Guide.
If you’re looking to get out of Seward for a couple of nights on your stay, I recommend booking a bed at Kayaker’s Cove and grabbing a water taxi to explore this little gem.
Exploring Kenai Fjords By Ship
As I mentioned before, the best way to explore Kenai Fjords National Park is by way of ship, allowing you to take in the wild sceneries and abundant wildlife the park has to offer. The fjords range from 600 to 1,000 feet deep, surrounded by towering peaks dotted with hanging glaciers.
You’ll spend your time cruising along the shores of Resurrection Bay keeping an eye out for wildlife as you make your way out toward the Gulf of Alaska, taking in deep green forests, misty coves, and sea rocks covered in hundreds if not thousands of birds.
Wildlife To Look Out For
On my trip with Major Marine Tours, we were able to witness countless orca whales at the mouth of Resurrection Bay as it dumps out into the Gulf of Alaska. Our crew believed some of the orcas we were seeing to be offshore orca, the rarest to see. Being surrounded by what felt like hundreds of orca watching as they breached and lobtailed was a definite highlight of my Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
Alaska is home to more bald eagles than the 48 other states combines (Hawaii is the only state to not have bald eagles at all). You’re bound to see bald eagles on a trip to Alaska, but your chances of seeing one here in Resurrection Bay while cruising the coves is highly likely.
The heaviest weasel and the smallest marine mammal, sea otters can range from 2.5 to 4 feet in length and weigh between 35 and 110 pounds. A sea otter was our first wildlife sighting out of the Seward Harbor as the day began out into Resurrection Bay.
Sadly, otters were hunted extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries for their prized fur. The numbers dwindled to nearly 1,000 before they were added to the endangered species list and hunting of the sea otter was banned.
These odd, clown-faced, diving birds can be found all along the coastal areas of the Kenai Peninsula. We had the opportunity to see numerous horned puffins hanging out of cliff faces and diving for fish in the sea.
Puffins are impressive little birds with the ability to dive up to 200 feet to catch fish underwater. You may be able to spot the tufted puffin on a Kenai Fjords cruise, look out for their yellow “horns”.
Steller Sea Lions
The reddish color fur distinguishes the Steller sea lion from its relative, the California sea lion. Steller sea lions remain on the near-threatened list because of their low numbers. Males can grow up to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 2,200 pounds, feeding on fish and mollusks.
Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting to see mountain goats on my wildlife trip with Major Marine Tours, as I tend to think of mountain goats being inland creatures. Well, there we were, bobbing in the sea, watching a couple of mountain goats graze on the cliffside above us.
Migratory Birds & Sea Birds
You’d be hard-pressed to come on a wildlife cruise in Resurrection Bay and not see a single sea bird or migratory bird. Keep your eyes peeled for black-legged kittiwakes, cormorants, common murres, petrels, harlequin ducks, and many more.
A Review Of Major Marine Tours
As most of you who have read my blog for a while know, I don’t do a lot of reviews or sponsored articles unless it’s something that really fits well with the nature of this blog. I had actually been recommending people go on wildlife day cruises up here in Alaska for years based on the rave reviews I’d heard from both longtime Alaskans and travelers who had gone on one (you wouldn’t believe how often I hear a longtime Alaskan lament that they couldn’t believe they had waited so long to go on one and after having done so take one every year).
So when I had the chance to work with Major Marine Tours I jumped at the opportunity, since I had been recommending them for so long based on others’ experience.
From the ease of booking, checking in, and boarding to the comfortable ship, expert and knowledgable staff, and beyond I can now without a doubt recommend taking a Kenai Fjords National Park wildlife cruise with Major Marine Tours. I couldn’t think of a single thing that could have been improved on for our Kenai Fjords cruise.
I was onboard the Spirit of Adventure, an 86 foot catamaran with a capacity of 174 passengers, for the 3.5 hour Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife Cruise.
Major Marine is an Alaskan owned boat tour company that has been in business for nearly 30 years.
Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Kenai Fjords Cruise
- Pack Dramamine in the event of seasickness.
- Bring binoculars.
- Dress in layers. Alaska weather is especially erratic so having layers you can easily add or strip off will make your trip that much more enjoyable because if you’re like me, you’ll spend nearly the entirety of the wildlife cruise outside on the deck. Having a waterproof rain jacket and rain pants is a must as the weather can be quite wet in Kenai Fjords. Find out more in my guide to what to pack for Alaska.
- Don’t forget to pack your camera (and batteries).
- Bring a dry bag for electronics if you prefer to be outside on deck for your trip.
- Snacks, beer, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages are available for purchase onboard all Major Marine Tours cruises. The 3.5 hour cruise is the only departure that does not include a meal. Complimentary coffee, tea, and water are provided.
Have Any Questions About Major Marine Tours Or Kenai Fjords National Park?
Ask in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: I was hosted onboard the Spirit of Adventure on a 3.5 hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise by Major Marine Tours in exchange for review and coverage on The Adventures of Nicole.