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Whittier Alaska Cruise Port Tips

Whittier Harbor. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Whittier Harbor. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
The small cruise port of Whittier Alaska is the first or last stop for many Alaska cruises.

“Whittier is by far the most visited gateway to the mesmerizing wilderness of Prince William Sound. Each summer, thousands of visitors arrive at this magnificent port by ship, train, or automobile,” the village government website says.

Less than 300 people live in the town supporting the Alaska State Ferry, the Alaska Railroad, freight barge, commercial fishing, the Whittier Harbor, recreation and tourism with an annual visiting population of over 700,000.

Attractions and Shore Excursions


Whittier is known for several unique attractions. The village claims to have the longest combined vehicle and railroad tunnel in North America. The other is where most of the residents live.

Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is 2.7 miles long. Cruise passengers can see it when they travel between Whittier and Anchorage by car or by the Alaska Railroad. It is three miles outside of the village on Portage Glacier Road.

Begich Towers, Whittier
Begich Towers. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Begich Towers Condominium is a 196-unit building that houses nearly all of the village’s 220 residents. It has bed and breakfast units on the 14th and 15th floors. It also houses a store, church, mayor’s office, hospital and police department. Cruise passengers won't necessarily tour Begich Towers. They just can't help but notice it because most of the town lives in this one building.

Whittier’s harbor has its share of nature and glacier boat tours. They can see glaciers at Blackstone Bay and Harriman Fjord and hope for some whale sightings or other wildlife along the way.

Prince William Sound Museum, launched in 2003, has 32 exhibits in a 1,200 square foot space at the Anchor Inn. The exhibits display Whittier's history as a military port and rail terminal. It also has exhibits on Alaskan military heritage during World War II and the Cold War. Admission is $5.

Otherwise, the town is so small that it has few available shore excursions. In fact, the most common “excursion” is a transfer from Whittier to Anchorage.

A “straight” transfer from Whittier to the Anchorage airport or an Anchorage hotel takes about two hours and costs about $75 per person.

The more expensive and more interesting option is a tour and transfer. Several tour possibilities are available and vary in price depending on the length of time and places they visit. Most of them stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which we enjoyed. These four- to six-hour transfers that include tour stops usually range between $100 and $200 per person (and sometimes more). These longer tours often include lunch.


Getting Around / Transportation


Whittier is 60 miles southeast of Anchorage and closer to the city than Seward, which is 127 miles south of it.

Cruise passengers who simply want to go to the most popular cruise ports and save a little travel time can begin or end their journey in Whittier. Anyone who wants to take advantage of the attractions in the much larger Seward should begin or end there.

Otherwise, don’t count on taxi service or public transportation. The main ways of getting around are walking, tour buses, private shuttles and the Alaska Railroad.

Weather


Whittier is too small to have its own weather records from the U.S. National Weather Service. But the nearby Anchorage offers some clues.

As one of the more northern cruise ports, Whittier is a bit cooler but also a bit drier than others on an Alaska cruise.

Average daytime temperatures usually peak in the upper 60s Fahrenheit during the summer, especially in July. Nighttime temperatures often hover in the low to mid 50s Fahrenheit.

Rainfall is an inch per month or less in May and June, which is quite low for an Alaska cruise. It increases to about two inches in July and three inches in August and September.

Like most other cruise ports in Alaska, June through August are the best months to go for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

August 29, 2019

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