There's not much happening right at the cruise dock. But you'll find everything -- shops, restaurants, tourist information, tours -- at the small boat harbor.
Kenai Fjords National Park:
The park is an incredibly scenic series of islands, rock outcroppings and fjords to be visited by small boats. Trips range from a half day with lunch included lunch onboard, to a full-day cruise with an island stop for a salmon and steak barbeque. Along with the spectacular fjords and glaciers, there's an excellent chance of seeing puffins, bald eagles, sea otters, mountain goats, seals, whales and occasionally bears. If you spot orcas, the captain may lower a mike below the surface so you can listen to their amazing calls. Several operators cruise into the park, including Kenai Fjords Tours(888-478-3346; 1304-4th Ave.) and Major Marine Tours (800-764-7300; #2 Boardwalk).
Alaska SeaLife Center:
This state-of-the-art aquarium and marine life rehabilitation center gives visitors a view of the local sea life from above and below water level. Check out the puffin habitat and see the birds "fly" underwater. Meet Woody, an enormous male Steller sea lion. For a few extra bucks, you can join a behind-the-scenes tour and watch an orphaned sea otter pup getting groomed by its human "mom." The center opened in 1998 and was partially funded by the Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement.(301 Railway Ave.,800-224-2525).
Follow the footpaths for an up-close encounter with Exit Glacier. Weather and safety concerns determine just how close you are allowed to get. Parts of the path may be roped off. The glacier is noticeably receding (check out the date markers), making the hike to the ice longer each year. Currently, it's just under a mile, partly up hill. Exit Glacier is outside of town, so a guided ship tour may be the easiest way to see it.Kayak Close to Otters:
Paddle with a guide around Resurrection Bay. With luck, you'll glide up to otters or whales. Tours begin with a sea kayaking lesson. Check out Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking (907-224-4427).
A visit to Resurrection Bay Historical Society Museum (907-224-3902; 336 3rd Ave.) fills you in on the colorful history of Seward. Did you know, for example, this was the original starting point of the Iditarod (today, the competition starts 30 miles north of Anchorage in the town of Willow)? You'll also discover what happened to the town in the devastating 1964 earthquake and see a display of native baskets.
Salmon. Halibut. Cod. Whatever fish is your favorite, there's a time and place to catch it. Join a charter boat tour and try your luck. Seward Fish Company (907-947-3349) will get you geared up. Guides will even bait your hook, if you're the squeamish type.
Soar Over a Glacier:
Get a sweeping overview of the massive, 700-square-mile Harding Ice Field from your seat in a small plane. Contact Scenic Mountain Air (800-478-1449).
Getting to the port: If you're traveling on your own from Anchorage (the airport gateway), Alaska Tour and Travel has bus service to Seward twice a day (800-208-0200). If you don't mind getting up early, the Alaska Railroad departs from Anchorage at 6:45 a.m., and arrives in Seward at 11:15 a.m. Leaving Seward, it departs at 6:00 p.m. and arrives in Anchorage at 11:05 p.m. (800-544-0552).
On foot: The two main walking areas are the historic downtown and the small boat harbor. They are within a mile of each other, and both have souvenir shops and cafes.
By Shuttle: A free shuttle bus runs from the cruise dock to the tour boat docks, Alaska SeaLife Center and downtown. It's available daily, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The schedule is posted in various shop and cafe windows.
By Car: Taxis gather near the cruise dock or can be flagged down in town. However, there are only a dozen or so in service. For car rentals, call Hertz (907-224-4378; 600 Port Ave.)
Christo's Palace (907-224-5255; 133-4th Ave.; from 11:00 a.m. daily) is a little bit Mexican, a tad Greek and totally Alaskan fresh fish. Try the halibut quesadilla or a shrimp salad. Christo's is located across the street from the SeaLife Center.
Railway Cantina (907-224-8226; 1401 4th Ave.) is good for a quick, inexpensive Mexican meal or to-go snack. The tacos and burritos come with fish as well as the usual meat and chicken.
Resurrection Roadhouse Restaurant (907-224-7116; 31772 Herman Leirer Rd.; lunch from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. daily) is part of Seward Windsong Lodge. Drop in for burgers, chowders, salads or fish and chips on your way down the road to Exit Glacier or a dog mushing adventure.
Ray's Waterfront (907-224-5606; 1316-4th Ave.; from 11:00 a.m.) features dining with a view of the small boat harbor and snow-capped mountains overlooking Resurrection Bay. The location couldn't be more appealing or convenient. Prices are on the high side, but the delicious fish is worth it.
Editor's Note: Look for the daily fish and seafood specials on the chalkboard of your chosen lunch spot. Restaurants are scattered around town. Come as you are. Everything is casual.
Where You're Docked
Seward Cruise Port Address:
1300 4th Ave Seward, Seward, AK 99664
Cruise ships dock at the north end of town on Port Avenue. The small boat harbor where Kenai Fjords tour boats depart is less than a mile's walk south. The downtown area is roughly another mile further down the road.
Watch Out For
Getting seasick on small boat tours around the islets and inlets of Kenai Fjords National Park. Most operators provide meds if you feel queasy, however the pills may put you to sleep. It helps to watch what you eat and spend some time outside in the fresh air.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
U.S. dollar. ATMs are available in banks and at Safeway.
English. Many adventure guides and seasonal workers come north from the lower 48 to spend the summer.
For adults: Yummy salmon you've caught yourself, had processed, packed up and shipped home.
For kids: A cuddly toy sea otter from the Alaska SeaLife Center.
For More Information
On the Web: Seward Conference and Visitors Bureau
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Alaska
The Independent Traveler: Alaska
--by Ginger Dingus, Cruise Critic contributor