Valdez is one of the many small coastal towns in Alaska that has whale watching cruises. The cruises that depart from Valdez all take place in Prince William Sound, which is spectacular even by Alaskan standards, and where a number of different kinds of whales and other marine life can be spotted. Perhaps because whales are only one of the draws of Prince William Sound, the ships that depart from Valdez aren’t actually offering whale watching cruises specifically, but rather broader nature and wildlife tours. Below we have compiled information about the major tours out of Valdez that feature a whale watching component of one sort or another.
Valdez, a town of about 4,000 people, is located on the south central coast of Alaska. Despite its small size, it is one of the most important port cities in Alaska, thanks primarily to the local fishing industry (although it may be best known for the notorious Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989). The fishing industry that is based there is largely commercial, but there is also plenty of sport fishing. So, between the visiting anglers and sightseers looking to sail around the Prince William Sound, Valdez has fairly healthy tourism industry, one that supports several tour companies.
As is the case with so many of the other coastal towns in Alaska, it is difficult to determine exactly who offers a tour that will allow you to see a whale. It seems like there are always at least a few small companies that charter boats for sailing trips, and we suppose these could take the loose form of a whale watching cruise. There are also a few different sea-based activities (like the aforementioned sport fishing tours) that could double as whale watching cruises. However, we are more concerned with companies that offer organized tours that are dedicated to wildlife and nature sightseeing, as these are the closest thing to whale watching cruises in Valdez. As far as we can tell, there are three companies that offer this type of cruise in Valdez – Lu-Lu Belle Tours, Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Tours, and Valdez Outfitters – and all three of them specifically state that whale watching is a part of their tours.
Every one of these companies is focused on showcasing the Prince William Sound, and thus their tours tend to be long, lasting in the eight-hour range, so basically an entire day. During the day-long trips, the most commonly spotted whales are humpback and killers whales, although you can also see other species on occasion. Apart from whales, there are lots of seals, sea lions, and otters in the area, and you’re also likely to get an up-close view of enormous glaciers calving (which is what it’s called when a chunk of ice breaks away from a glacier). The pricing structure of each company is a bit different, so it is best to check each company’s website for specifics, but the tours will end up costing the average adult somewhere around $150, give or take $25. Each one of these companies offers private charters, so you could rent the boat for a private cruise if you wanted to, and in fact Valdez Outfitters requires it because their vessel is quite small. You pay $1050 for the ship for eight hours, and up to six people can take a tour at once. For the other two companies, you can buy individual tickets.
So, once again, there aren’t really whale watching cruises per se out of Valdez, but there are a number of tours that feature whale watching as part of a broader itinerary. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and indeed many would consider it a plus, but it does mean that tours tend to be longer since spotting whales isn’t the sole ambition of the trip. Rather, the whole Prince William Sound is the focus, and whales are only one of the attractions. To get a more general sense of seeing whales in Alaska, check out our article on whale watching cruises in Alaska.