Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cruising Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska

          Nothing to do and all day to do it in.  Tim and I have 24 hours to kill in Valdez, Alaska before embarking on a raft trip of the Copper River.  Our plans?  We thought we’d relax, take a walk around town, maybe find a good restaurant for dinner.  We stroll to the harbor and notice a signboard announcing “Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise”.  Two cruises—a 7 hour and a 9 hour—are offered.  

This map shows the tour route for the wildlife and glacier cruises.
Our seven hour tour turned around at the Columbia Glacier.
The nine hour tour continues to the Meares Glacier.

         We inquire at the ticket office.  The seven hour cruise has a price tag of $120.00 per ticket and includes lunch.  The boat plys the coastline of Prince William Sound and continues to the Columbia Glacier.  Should we do it?  Seems kind of pricey and Tim and I are not really the “guided tour group” type.  “You won’t be sorry,” the ticket booth operator opined:  “It’s a beautiful day to be in the bay and you should see plenty of wildlife.”  Well, that sounds better than spending the day in the tourist shops.  Okay, we’ll do it!

Harbor scene in Valdez.
Fishing boats in the waters of Prince William Sound.

           Our boat leaves the dock at noon.  We secure seats on the upper deck as the vessel sets sail.  Slowly we motor around the sound, past the Alaska pipeline and the scene of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.  More than 25,000 gallons of oil remain along parts of Prince William Sound's coastline, but our tour doesn’t venture into those areas.  Instead we pass shorelines teeming with sea lions, puffins and eagles. We sluice through waters filled with sea otters, seals and a humpback whale.

Sea Otters show their proficiency at the back float.

Mew Gulls rest on small icebergs.

Sea Lions crowd the rocky shores.

           Floating icebergs glitter like diamonds in the sea at the Columbia glacier’s terminus.  Our boat’s captain stops the craft near an iceberg flotilla;  the crew plucks a couple jewels from the water and passes them around among the passengers.

The sea is literally littered with icebergs from the Columbia glacier.

How many shades of blue can you see in this floating jewel?

It's 7:00 p.m. and we're heading in to port. Thrilled as we were by the wildlife sightings and our close encounters with icebergs, Tim and I agree it was a great decision to have taken a chance on this guided tour of Alaska’s Prince William Sound. 
Nothing to do in Valdez?  Not as long as Stan Stephens Wildlife and Glacier cruises continue to operate.  Read more about the tours here: http://www.stanstephenscruises.com/

A bald eagle surveys his kingdom from atop an island of ice.

Next week's post will begin a six day rafting adventure on the Copper River. 


  1. Rita, I am so envious of the many remarkable adventures that you and Tim do. But an Alaskan adventure pushes me to envy overload! :-)

    The dollar price of the cruise was reasonable, in my estimation. But regardless, the sights you witnessed on this cruise were priceless and precious!

    Regarding your question as to how many shades of blue can be seen in those "floating jewels", the word that readily comes to mind is "countless"!

    Thank you for sharing another extraordinary report!


  2. Hi John,

    After finishing the tour both Tim and I agreed that the price of a ticket was well worth the experiences we had while cruising along the wild Alaska shoreline.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our 13 day trip to Alaska—the first and only time I've ever been in our 49th state. We're looking forward to a return trip sometime, but that's the problem: there are TOO MANY wonderful places in the US to return to!

    Thanks as always for commenting!

  3. Hi Rita,

    As John says, the shades of blue are too numerous to put a number to. But I do have a photography question: Were you using a filter in some of those shots? The blues in these pictures are astounding (happens to be my favorite color, too!) - were you doing anything with the camera or the image to bring them out?

    1. Hi Vickie,

      To answer your question: To take the Alaska pictures I used a polarizer on my camera lens. But also I was using slide film which emphasizes blue and green tones. The sky and the water really were a brilliant shade of blue—but it's possible that my slide film "enhanced" those natural shades even more.

      Thanks for asking!
      P.S. Blue happens to be my favorite color too!

  4. True blue!

    Amazing pictures as usual Rita and erm... my favourite colour as well

  5. Glad to hear that we have another member of the blue fan club!

    Thanks for reading and commenting Manikchand!