College Fjord to Whittier

College Fjord to Whittier      24 Nautical Miles                          8 Knots

As the Island Princess came about and started her return trip through College Fjord we kept our eyes peeled for animals.  So far we hadn’t seen the abundance of wildlife we’d expected but maybe the unusually late spring and cold weather was partly responsible. At least the scenery was spectacular.

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We did spot something. I’m not sure what. Just a dark head moving through the water leaving a wake… otter? seal? certainly not a whale or a porpoise. I’m really not sure. Now it’s easy to see how legends like the Loch Ness Monster come into being.

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As we headed back to the stateroom we stopped to linger near the enclosed pool, not to swim but to say good by to the little stowaways we’d been watching the whole cruise. There were some little sparrow/ finch type birds that had apparently joined the ship in warmer climes but they seemed to be doing ok for themselves in the enclosed part of the deck.

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But we had to get back to the room. Tonight we’d deal with luggage. It will be tagged and placed outside our stateroom door. We are going on to Denali and the luggage is limited. I sent some on to the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, things I didn’t expect to need but with the camera as my “carry on” I was still pushing the limit.

In the morning we’d be in Whittier where we’d board the dome train to Denali. That would take most of the day. The brochure says it’s 9 1/2 hours. For a number of reasons our train ride turned into 11 hours. The folks that took the bus arrived before we did! More on that later.

But I wanted to tell you a little about Whittier. We didn’t get to see much of it but we  did  get some basic information. All of our itineraries listed Whittier (Anchorage) so I wasn’t sure if Whittier was a neighborhood of Anchorage or if the names were for the same place or what.

Turns out Whittier is a little town in its own right. It sits at the head of Passage Canal, a deep fjord that connects with Prince William Sound. It’s location provides easy access to the interior of Alaska. The town was originally established in World War II to allow for the movement of troops and supplies but it had a  long history of being a supply route for the Chugach Indians, fur traders  and gold prospectors.

One thing that I found amazing is that most, if not all, of the 180 full-time residents live in the same building, the multi story Begich Tower originally built to house operations and personnel when the railroad was extended. The railroad tunnel has been converted to allow both rail and auto traffic so Anchorage is now only 90 minutes away.

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We got a glimpse of Begich Tower as we were escorted from the ship to the train. Once out of the cold we settled in for the next leg of the journey.


Whittier is the end of the line for the cruise and the beginning for the Denali portion of the trip. We should get into Whittier at  12:30 am (midnight) and we won’t need to meet our train to Denali until 5:45 pm. The leaves us open all day.

Once again I turned to the shore excursions. We want to be sure that whatever we do we will make our connections so we chose to explore with the cruise line vendors.

The tour we settled on here has me really excited because it starts with a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.


Like most places with the words wildlife conservation center in their titles, this where animals unable to survive in the wild are given refuge in spacious habitats. Here, you can safely get close, observe and photograph some of Alaska’s biggest land mammals, including moose, bison, bears and musk ox.


This is right up my alley!


But as an old commercial used to say…But wait, There’s more!

30 minutes away our tour will take us to the base of mighty Mt. Alyeska, home to one of the most breathtaking year-round destination resorts in the world. Ride Alyeska Resort’s Glacier Express Tram and take in panoramic views of Turnagain Arm and the surrounding valley from 2,300 feet above its floor. Woo Hoo! Can’t wait!


The last leg of the tour is the return to Anchorage (Whittier)  along the Seward Highway-Alaska’s “Scenic Byway.” We should be back at the Welcome Center with plenty of time to make it to the train station at 5:45 to head to Denali.

Of course these tours are all subject to change. I’m pretty sure we’ll do them all. The only one I really want to confirm with the excursion desk is this one. The special notes say you have to be staying in Anchorage because you have to get your luggage from the ship. I might try to call Princess to confirm but if I can’t get through there is an excursion desk on every cruise I’ve ever been on so we’ll have plenty of time for adjustments if necessary.

So our trip is all planned. Excursions booked. It’s just a matter of counting down the days. I can’t wait to share our actual experiences and of course…my actual photos.

The pictures I’ve used in these recent posts have all been on the internet with no copy write information. I was careful not to knowingly pirate any other photographers work.