This was a great experience! We too selected this company because it offered 2 for 1 with the Alaska Tour Saver Coupon Book ($99, the trip cost £149 – do the math!) and our experience couldn’t have been better despite low-lying cloud and choppy seas in the Gulf of Alaska (It brightened up later!). We took the advice of the staff and bought a pack of non-drowsy motion sickness tablets when we checked in (approx. $6) and thus were able to enjoy the adventure AND the food (which was excellent: the prime rib and salmon dinner was delicious, plenti-ful and reasonably priced – you book before the trip so they can gauge the amount) and there was plenty of tea and coffee from the machine downstairs. Unfortunately, about a quarter of the passengers were visibly affected by the 4’ swell as we passed briefly through the Gulf of Alaska, but the crew was there to help with plenty of sick bags, ginger candy and TLC.
We boarded the Spirit of Adventure at 9.30 (our seats were already reserved for us) after the inevitable photo-shoot with the boat’s lifebelt. (Pictures were shown in a loop on the screens in the lounges). The staff on the boat was friendly and helpful and our tour had a NPS Ranger who was knowledgeable and friendly, which was a definite plus. Most of the trip was through calm waters, but in the Gulf, the water was choppy and made the boat bounce quite a bit, but that didn’t last long.
There was plenty of room and you could wander to the open areas aft and up top (good if you were feeling queasy). I was worried the trip would be too long, but we had a fabulous time on the 7.5 hour cruise which whizzed by as we moved from port to starboard to observe the abundant wildlife. The captain was brilliant as he slowed down, cut the engines, idling and circling so both sides of the boat could observe.
Our first sighting was shortly after we left the harbour: a raft of oh-so-cute sea otters! We saw humpbacks feed-ing, followed a couple of pods of killer whales hunting, saw porpoise, sea-lions on a haul-out, harbour seals rest-ing on ice floes in front of the glacier, and a variety of birds, including black legged kittiwakes, horned and tufted puffins and a bald eagle on its nest. We even saw a fin whale, not seen in the bay for 3 years. The high-light for me was seeing a humpback breaching SEVEN times in succession – wow!! My husband’s favourite part was the stop in front of the tidal Aialik Glacier, where you could see and hear the ice calving
We arrived back at the small harbour at 5:30 pm, tired but VERY happy! There are a number of different cruises offered – read the descriptions carefully to choose the one suitable for you, but we were very happy with our choice, and would go again in a shot!
Tip 1: there is a free shuttle which goes from the cruise terminal every 15 minutes – we took a tour of the town to orientate ourselves for later: the driver was helpful at giving advice.
Tip 2: if you are staying at the Windsong Lodge, there is a free shuttle which stops at the small boat harbour every hour – look for the logo.
Tip 3: If you prefer, you could pick up something from Subway or the bakery across the road from the office in the small harbour.
Tip 4: spend time looking round the small harbour (and town) to see how many creatures you can see painted and carved, atop posts and in shingles, as well as on the numerous murals.