|Stellar's Jay-courtesy of Fish and Wildlife Service|
Plenty of things to see and do in Valdez (Val-deez) with some great places to eat as well. Valdez has FIVE glaciers in the area that you can see and visit. One of the things Sparky wanted to do was take a cruise around the Prince William Sound with Captain Fred of the LuluBelle. She had read reviews of the two main glacier/wildlife cruises before leaving home. One was called the Stan Stephens glacier/wildlife cruise, and the other one was called LuluBelle Tours . Either one is spectacular, but the LuluBelle is a smaller boat and we thought the experience would be better with not such a big crowd on board. Not only that, but the Stan Stephens appears to have to run on a much tighter schedule and not have quite the flexibility of staying in the area if wildlife is being spotted. Since we were there early in the season, we had no trouble booking our tickets the day before the cruise. And we chose the LuluBelle. It's a posh touring vessel. Oriental rugs inside the stateroom and in the captain's cabin, teak and mahogany woodwork throughout, it's gorgeous.
Captain Fred has been running these tours for 39 years and he really knows where to go and how long to hang out. We saw EVERYTHING that the opening page of the website talks about. We were exceptionally lucky the day we went. Did we see wildlife? Is the pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods? Oh, YEAH!
Harbor seals? Check.
Bald eagles? Check.
Stellar sea lions? Check. One big fat mama. Check.
Go into a rocky cave in the boat (!) and bang your head on the rocks if you don't watch out? Check. He actually went part way into the tunnel and the rocks were right over your head! He kept saying, "Want to get closer?" Uh, ok....
Sea otters? Check. Up close and personal? Check.
Dall porpoise? Check. They look like mini orca whales. They swam and played under and around the bow of the boat. They were so fast! Sparky has a video of them on YouTube if you'd like to see them in action.
AND...tada...the whales...we saw several....AND Sparky caught the best shot of all, one on her bucket list...the tail end.
Captain Fred is terrific. He's a non-stop talker pretty much for the whole cruise, full of interesting facts and history. We learned a LOT about the wildlife and the area. We enjoyed his narrative very much.
The Columbia Glacier was fantastic! We did not see much calving, however. Sometimes, there are huge chunks as big as houses cracking and falling off the front of the glacier, but not this time. It was still spectacular. You could hear booming and cracking, it just wasn't falling much today.....
The fresh air was too much for some, and people were in and out of the inside cabin, in and out. Eventually, some just had enough of the fresh cold air which was in the 30's by the time we got to the Columbia Glacier and sacked out on the way back.
We had a marvelous time because we dressed really warmly, lol....you would be miserable if you don't wear appropriate clothing! Think dead of winter clothing and you'll be fine for whatever the weather brings. We absolutely loved this tour. We would go back and do it again in a heartbeat. We'll tell you about where we ate while we were in Valdez next time.....See you soon!