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
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
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
“[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
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
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