Smooth Sailing Ahead

Phillips Tours’ 26 Glaciers provides guests with a one-of-a-kind view

By: Christopher Batin

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Passengers delighting in some of the
glacier scenery on the 26 Glacier Tour
Phillips Tours is a longtime player in Alaska tourism for a reason. They have developed sightseeing in Western Prince William Sound’s glacier fjords and its wildlife in perhaps the most comfortable way imaginable, on the M/V Klondike Express. This boat is one of the smoothest sailing in Alaska waters and, in fact, the company guarantees no seasickness.

The crew of this fast, high-tech vessel is commanded by captain Nina Pere Himmelwright who stands 5-foot, 1-inch tall. Together with engineer Renee Audette and operations manager Tracy Thomas, as well as a support crew, Himmelwright takes up to 320 passengers daily on Phillips’ 26 Glacier Cruise tour.

This is no slow open boat ride. This 137-foot catamaran cruises at speeds of nearly 50 mph, taking passengers deep into College and Harriman fjords to see 26 named and many more smaller unnamed glaciers. The tour covers about 135 miles and lasts 4½ hours, during which Himmelwright routinely pilots the cruise boat to within 1,000 feet of calving tidewater glaciers in direct line with the roaring onslaught of the ice shearing away from the glacial mountainside.

Guests are also encouraged to watch for sea otters, orca whales, seals, puffins and other marine life. The crew offers excellent background on local history, including the Harriman Expedition that named many of these glaciers over 100 years ago.

Two of the ship’s three decks are heated, and large picture windows and comfortable booths allow superb panoramic views for clients who don’t wish to stand outside on deck. Excellent onboard meal service of Alaska halibut or chicken, with side dishes, ensures that clients have enough energy to take in the sights and move around the ship for the best views, or take in the ongoing presentations on marine mammals, history, geology and weather.

In addition, as a bonus, the crew has a festive-looking wooden sign that says “Happy Holidays” that passengers hold up when the boat has a spectacular backdrop of glaciers. Then a crew member skilled in photography takes photos with the customer’s camera for their holiday greeting cards. That’s called attention to detail in my book.

Phillips’ marketing and sales manager, Marsha Barton, said the tour is one of the most popular among Alaska cruise-tour customers as well as local residents, who bring their visiting friends and relatives.

“[Alaska locals] can take their guests anywhere in the state, and the fact that they bring them here says a lot about our service and the quality of the scenery of Prince William Sound,” she said.

Back at the dock at the end of the cruise, the crew’s pleasantries and friendly handshakes made me take note to bring my own friends and guests on what I believe is one of south-central Alaska’s best day tours.



Base fare for the 26 Glacier Cruise is $139 for adults and $79 for children, plus $11.50 each for tax. Motorcoaches leave downtown Anchorage or the Alaska Railroad daily throughout the summer in time to meet the cruise. The Alaska Railroad is $74 and the motorcoach is $50 roundtrip from Anchorage. The company offers agent commission.

Be sure to advise your clients to make time to meet Capt. Himmelwright. As I discovered, she is as comfortable piloting the ship as she is answering questions about the company’s operation, tours and tourists she meets on a daily basis. She’s a real Alaskan original.