If you include all our islands, Alaska has almost 46,600 miles of shoreline—far more than any other state. Jumping on a day cruise or whale watching tour gives you unparalleled opportunities to view dramatic, steep-walled fjords, tidewater glaciers thousands of years old spilling into the sea, and whales and other marine wildlife feasting on the ocean's bounty.
Half-day or full-day whale watching excursions are the best way to see humpback whales, gray whales, orca and other aquatic animals like massive Steller sea lions and sea otters. You'll also get a new perspective on Alaska's magnificent seabird colonies, which make their home on sheer cliffs that are inaccessible by any other means. Sometimes you'll also see bears, mountain goats and even deer along the shore.
Almost all whale watching and day cruise ships have warm, indoor accommodations you can retreat to if things get chilly or wet. But bad weather can mean good things: Believe it or not, a gray, drizzly day often makes for great whale-watching, because the cool temperatures and limited sun bring their food closer to the surface. Clouds also make the stunning deep blues of glaciers more visible.
Ocean-going day cruises are available in most parts of the state, but they're especially popular out of Seward for Kenai Fjords National Park, Whittier and Valdez for Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay National Park and all the way up and down the Inside Passage.
If you're traveling through an inland portion of the state, look for river cruises, where you can ride in a jet boat as it races up mighty glacier-fed rivers, or tour through iconic Alaskana sights—including a simulated Alaska Native village and watching a bush plane take off—in an authentic stern-wheel paddle boat.