Whittier is a tiny town – its population is only 222 people – but like so many other small towns in Alaska, they have a few different wildlife and nature tours to serve the tourists who pass through town. None of the nature tours are, strictly speaking, whale watching cruises, but they include whale watching as part of a larger cruise itinerary that focuses on the sights and wildlife in Prince William Sound. Below we’ve compiled some helpful information about who offers these tours and what to expect when you go on one.
Wittier, a stop along the Alaskan Marine Highway System, is located in south central Alaska, essentially across Prince William Sounds from Valdez. Valdez is on the east side of the sound and Whittier is on the west, and these are the two main starting points for tours of Prince William Sound, which is filled with marine life and glaciers. The two most commonly seen whales are humpback whales and killer whales, but occasionally other species are spotted. Besides whales, you might see a variety of other forms of marine life, including otters, sea lions, seals, and seabirds. On some tours you’ll also spot animals on land, like bears and mountain goats. The calving glaciers are the other draw of the tours, and people come from all over the world to see the huge sheets of ice crashing into the sea. As you can see, the tours are focused on much more than whales, even though whales remain a focus of these cruises.
There are two main providers of tours in Whittier: Phillips Cruises and Tours and Major Marine Tours. (The latter of which also operates cruises out of Seward.) Both companies offer two different tours, which are both labeled as “glacier cruises.” All these cruises are similar in terms of the “content” and aim of the tour, and really the only difference between them is the route your ship will sail. Both companies have a longer tour of around five hours that costs about $150, and they also both have shorter tours that are cheaper. In the case of Phillips Cruises, their 3.75 hour cruise is $99, and Major Marine’s shorter tour is 4.5 hours long and costs $119. These two are definitely the major nature and wildlife tours that operate out of Whittier, but there are also charter boat companies in town. Most of these outfits focus on fishing, but you could probably arrange something like a whale watching trip with one of them, and in fact whale watching could probably be built into a fishing trip.
If you want to see the sights and animals of Prince William Sound, including its whales, there are a few different ways to do this from Whittier. There are two boat tour companies, and this is probably who you’ll book with if you want the “standard” nature and wildlife tour, but there are also various charter boats that you might hire for a more custom trip. For more general information about seeing whales in Alaska, check out our article on whale watching in Alaska.