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Cruises to Whittier

Whittier, Alaska (Photo: Troutnut/Shutterstock)
Whittier, Alaska (Photo: Troutnut/Shutterstock)

About Whittier

Where? You're forgiven if you've never before heard of Whittier. Although it's a gateway to the glacier- and wildlife-filled Prince William Sound, most people have had no reason to go there. Except -- and this is a big except -- Whittier has experienced a boon as an alternative embarkation and disembarkation port to ship-crowded Seward. Princess Cruises primarily homeports ships here for the entire Alaska season.

Despite the sound views, quaint it's not -- the feel is very industrial and military. (The town holds a strategic position on the Alaska Railroad and at the head of a deep fjord; during World War II, it was a key port in the defense strategy for the state.) Weather is often nasty, with whipping winds and lots of rain, particularly in the winter.

Still, the tiny city of about 200 residents is a natural benefit for cruise lines sailing Alaska itineraries, actually more than an hour closer to Anchorage than Seward. (It takes about 90 minutes to get to Whittier from the Anchorage airport.) This means hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers are a part of the Whittier scene each summer.

How an increased cruise presence has changed this scene is unclear. What visitors will find today, however, is a really odd-ball place, where nearly all residents live in a single, 14-story concrete apartment building. (Most others live in a second building.) Kids in the apartment building don't even have to go outside to go to school in winter. A tunnel leads to their classrooms. (The average amount of snow on the ground on any given day between December and April is 33.8 inches!)

Getting into town is, however, one of the highlights of a visit: The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is like no other. You enter what looks like a Swiss Chalet structure and ride for 2.5 miles on a railroad track through the narrow pass cut into a mountain. The tunnel is actually shared by rail and vehicle traffic -- when one is inside, the other is not; they switch every half-hour.

If you are planning an overnight stay before or after your cruise, we highly recommend staying in Anchorage because there is much more to see and do in town, and there are more accommodation options. However, with Prince William Sound just steps away, there is plenty for cruisers to do with a few hours to kill in Whittier. Included are a few suggestions for what to do with one day in Whittier if you are feeling a bit adventurous.

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25 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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41 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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61 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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DAY 1: Vancouver

7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Glacier Bay, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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23 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Glacier Bay, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

14 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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35 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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22 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Shanghai
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Seoul, Sakaiminato ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Kushiro, Hakodate ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Hubbard Glacier, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Whittier

Leaving:
Whittier
Visiting:
Sitka, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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Why go to Whittier?

Pros:

Whittier is the gateway to scenic Prince William Sound; on a clear day you'll spot 26 glaciers

Cons:

The town has one way in and out by land: a tunnel shared by cars and the train that you'll have to time

Bottom Line:

Whittier is small and often shrouded in fog, but has a fascinating military history (and pet reindeer)

Whittier Cruise Port Facilities?

Whittier has more use as a staging ground for getting out on Prince William Sound. The town itself is rather industrial. There is a cruise ship terminal, where you can pick up a guidebook. There are a few restrooms around the Small Boat Harbor.

Good to Know?

It rains a lot in Whittier; bring your rain jacket and managed expectations. Even if the tour you're on boasts 26 glaciers, you might only see one or two due to cloud cover (still, the one or two are pretty amazing). Thusly, resign your sightseeing around Prince William Sound to fate.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Once in town, there is no need for taxis or shuttles -- everything in town is within walking distance.

By Bus: For people who are coming independently from Anchorage and do not have a cruise line transfer, check out The Magic Bus, which departs from the Anchorage Museum (7th and C streets) at 9:45 a.m. daily, May through September; the trip takes about 90 minutes, includes narration and picture stops, and drops at the Princess dock at noon. For reservations, call 800-208-0200. You can also get there by train: Call the Alaska Railroad at 800-544-0552; the trip takes about 2.5 hours.

By Car: If you're driving to or from Whittier be sure to have the schedule for the historic Anton Anderson Tunnel -- built during WWII, it's the only way in or out. Open to vehicles since 2000, the tunnel is used by the train and cars, but in one direction at a time. Be sure to catch the next opening in your direction or you might be waiting in line for another hour.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency is the U.S. dollar. An ATM is available at the Harbor Store (also the site of the Avis Rental Center) at Lot 8 Small Boat Harbor.

Language?

English is spoken.

Where You're Docked?

The cruise ship terminal, located at the mouth of Whittier Creek, doesn't offer much, other than efficient check-in and disembarkation facilities; a rack offers brochures on tours, eateries and the few existing shops. Passengers disembark in the heart of a tiny business/residential district.


Whittier Cruise Reviews

Coral Princess
BM from SA
Sail Date: Sep 2019
Disembarked here then took a train straight to Talkeetna - didn't see Whittier... Read More
Golden Princess
joauburn
Sail Date: Sep 2019
We went straight to the train for the land tour. We didn’t see anything in Whittier... Read More
Coral Princess
MisterDiodes
Sail Date: Sep 2019
Took the Glacier Explorer train form Anchorage to Whittier - Highly recommended. The train gets to the ship around 12:05pm, and some of the buses from airport won't get there until hours later. So if you want to... Read More
Royal Princess
gendaddy
Sail Date: May 2019
Got on the train and the narrator discussed the odd town of Whittier. One building that all residents live in, the military background of Whittier, why cruise ships go there instead of Anchorage...... Read More
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