Stan Stephens Cruises is a well-known wildlife cruise company operating out of Valdez, Alaska. Through the summer, they offer two tours exploring beautiful Prince William Sound. The shorter cruise is a seven hour venture to Columbia Glacier, where you’ll experience some of the most amazing scenery and wildlife Alaska has to offer.
The views in this area of the state are absolutely beautiful. On this cruise you will see rocky beaches, mountains covered in lush green foliage, and waterfalls, such as Anderson Falls, that rage down the sides of the mountains.
Wildlife viewing is available at the discretion of the wildlife itself. The cruise passes through the habitats of many marine birds and animals. Sea otters, sea lions, and even humpback and orca whales can be viewed. The Columbia Glacier cruise passes by a beach that is a popular bachelor colony for sea lions. Horned and tufted puffins, cormorants, and bald eagles are some of the birds that can be spotted.
The highlight of the cruise is the beautiful Columbia Glacier, which is a tidewater glacier. The cruise goes right into Columbia Bay, where the glacier empties into the ocean. The captain carefully navigates through a maze of glacier ice that has calved from the glacier and is floating out to sea. This experience is absolutely amazing. The blue of the glacier ice is one of the most beautiful colors that occurs in the natural world. While in Columbia Bay, one of the cruise’s staff members fishes a chunk of glacier ice out of the water so that you can see and feel it first hand.
Along the way out of the Valdez Harbor, the tour passes the termination of Alaska’s great oil pipeline. This is designated by a large processing facility where oil tankers are loaded up for long journeys. They come and go frequently, so the chances of seeing one of these huge vessels is pretty great. This cruise does not pass directly by the Bligh Reef, which is the site of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill, but the location can be seen from a distance, and a brief history and current safety precautions are explained by the cruise operators.
Stan Stephens Columbia Glacier Cruise is roughly seven hours long, so thankfully the boats are equipped with restrooms. Viewing areas are available on both levels of the boat, and are both indoor and outdoor. On this cruise, a light lunch is provided. The lunch consists of clam chowder and a bagel. For vegetarians, there is a minestrone soup available. Both options are delicious. A small snack bar is also available, with provisions such as candy and chips available for purchase.
To prepare for your cruise, you should dress in warm layers. Rain is not uncommon, and even if it is sunny when you depart Valdez, you still may very well be rained on before the end of your cruise. The air temperature is also several degrees cooler as you approach Columbia Glacier, so be prepared.
If you are visiting Valdez on your next Alaska vacation, the Stan Stephens Columbia Glacier Cruise is a must do. The staff are all warm and knowledgeable and can answer your every question. The scenery is unparalleled, the wildlife amazing, and the experience incredible.