Skip to Content

Misty Fjords Boat Tour: My Explorer Cruise Review

Alaska, known as “The Last Frontier,” boasts some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet. Among its many awe-inspiring destinations, the Misty Fjords National Monument in southeast Alaska stands out as a true gem.

Located 40 miles east of the Ketchikan cruise port, most travelers access it on a port day from their cruise ship. Since large cruise ships can’t access the narrow fjord, you have two options to visit; by air or by sea.

While Misty Fjords flightseeing comes with a high-ticket price, families can enjoy the Misty Fjords boat tour at a reasonable cost.

Steep cliffs in Misty Fjords National Monument, Alaska

The Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer Cruise offers a fantastic way to experience this classic fjord. During the excursion, you’ll learn how nature creates these steep fjords and discover the hidden corners of its mist-shrouded landscapes.

Cruise lines offer this port excursion, or you can book independently. Our tour was operated by Allen Marine, who has 45 years of experience, and we cruised on the St. Aquilina ship.

The Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer Overview

The Misty Fjords boat tour is wheelchair accessible and a good choice for those who can’t walk too far. Guests board the large catamaran 300 yards from the Ketchikan dock.

Misty Fjords Tours

Our 5-1/4 hr. excursion took all of a port day, so we did not have time to walk around the town of Ketchikan afterward. However, if you love the outdoors and want a nature lovers’ tour, this one’s for you.

Some cruise lines sell shorter excursions. However, the shortened itinerary determines how much time you’ll spend exploring the wilderness area.

The two-tiered watercraft has comfortable seating, much like you find on a luxury coach. The spacious heated cabin provided lots of space to move around. If you get a window seat, you’ll enjoy a front-row view to see marine wildlife.

Our tour boat had two outside viewing decks, and the upper deck opens to guests once the craft arrives in Misty Fjords.

Misty Fjords' landscapes and a large boat operated by Allen Marine offering tours to the fjord
Like it, PIN IT!

Drinks and snacks were provided throughout the tour, but we could not purchase meals or hot food. Since our tour ran from 2:30 pm to 7:45 pm, we carried some of our favorite snacks.

The tour includes a naturalist who talks about the environment and landscapes. The naturalist points out bald eagle nests, waterfalls, and rock formations.

About Misty Fjords National Monument

More than 15,000 years ago, ice covered this area. As the ice retreated, the glaciers carved deep grooves into the landscape, creating the fjord seen today.

The fjords are home to harbor seals, black bears, brown bears, bald eagles, and pigeon guillemots. Everywhere you look, the landscape is dotted with mesmerizing waterfalls.

A series of waterfalls in Misty Fjords National Monument
Misty Fjords waterfalls

The exploration of Misty Fjords traces back to the late 18th century when British explorer George Vancouver navigated these remote waters. In 1793, Vancouver and his crew charted the area and marveled at the breathtaking landscapes.

Before Vancouver’s arrival, the area was home to the indigenous Tlingit people and other native groups who had occupied the lands for countless generations.

The Tlingit people developed a deep spiritual and cultural connection to the land, which is still honored and celebrated today.

The Misty Fjords National Monument is a testament to the enduring legacy of the native people and the explorers who marveled at its splendor.

Covering more than two million acres of the Tongass National Forest, the fjord continues to inspire all who visit. As its name suggests, mist often blankets the fjords, creating an ambiance that adds to the landscape’s allure.

The Boarding Process

We boarded a large catamaran close to our ship, the Quantum of the Seas, and we were thankful we didn’t have a take a bus to reach the touring vessel.

St. Aqilina tour boat operated by Allen Marine
St. Aqilina tour boat operated by Allen Marine

While the boat had two levels with comfortable seating, the top upper level filled up fast. That meant the last few guests needed to sit downstairs. The vessel had a maximum capacity of 149, but we cruised with 77 plus the crew of six.

The lower level contained a washroom and an area to get drinks and snacks.

Cruising To Misty Fjords

It takes a two-hour boat tour to reach Misty Fjords, and if I had known that, I’m not honestly sure I would have booked this tour.

In distance, the tour travels 110 nautical miles or 121 miles (202 km) roundtrip. Now, I see the appeal of the more expensive, shorter flightseeing tour.

When leaving Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island, the vessel cruises slowly to adhere to the marine bylaws. Through the Tongass Narrows, you’ll see Pennock Island to your right and the signs of a vibrant fishing industry to the left.

A small island in the Tongass Narrows
A small island in the Tongass Narrows

On the way, our naturalist pointed out the Saxman Native Village, another popular shore excursion. We saw an active bald eagle’s nest and many eagles resting in the trees, which were easy to spot with their white heads.

While Ketchikan experiences 13 feet of rain each year, we were fortunate to visit on one of the few dry days. The wet weather contributes to thick rainforests in the area. However, with clear skies, and calm seas, we enjoyed the rock formations and landscapes from the outdoor deck.

One of the trip’s highlights was the impressive New Eddystone Rock formation. It juts out of the emerald sea like a sore thumb. Located in the Behm Channel, the 237-foot pillar creates quite a majestic image.

New Eddystone Rock in Behm Channel
New Eddystone Rock

The Behm Channel separates Revillagigedo Island from the mainland and offers panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and emerald-green cliffs that plunge dramatically into the water below.

Keep a keen eye out for wildlife during this part of the journey, as Behm Canal is known to be home to a diverse range of creatures, such as bald eagles, sea lions, and humpback whales.

We took the Misty Fjords excursion during our mid-May Alaska cruise and saw no whales during our 5-1/4-hour journey.

Soon our ship approached Rudyerd Bay, the gateway to Misty Fjords National Monument.

Misty Fjords

As we entered the fjord, I could understand its appeal and the true magnificence of the Misty Fjords began to unfold. While mist often blankets this area, we enjoyed the sheer cliffs with clear skies.

Misty Fjords granite cliffs
Misty Fjords granite cliffs

The monument is characterized by steep granite rock walls that rise dramatically from the tranquil waters below. Some of these measure a staggering 3,000 feet above sea level.

With high cliffs and abundant rainfall come the cascading waterfalls, one of the most iconic features of the Misty Fjords National Monument.

In mid-May, the higher elevations still had snow. With temperatures beginning to rise, the snow meltwater added to the volume of water in nearby waterfalls. If you visit during a dry spell in the peak of summer, you may not see the cascades we enjoyed.

As we cruised into the fjord, multiple waterfalls were on each side of the vessel. Some were thin strands of angel hair; others gave a powerful display.

A Misty Fjords waterfall
A Misty Fjords tall waterfall

With both the upper and lower deck open for viewing, there was plenty of space to accommodate all guests to get photos. Misty Fjords is one of those places where you can’t capture a bad image.

Thick forests of spruce, western cedar, and hemlock line the fjords and, along with the abundance of moss, create a striking contrast with the granite.

The occasional sound of nature punctuates the serenity of the fjord—water lapping against the vessel’s hull, the distant cry of a bald eagle, or the sound of a waterfall.

With eyes peeled to capture the beauty, a guest next to me spotted a lone mountain goat on a cliff. During our trip, the crew scanned the waters and coastline with binoculars for signs of wildlife. We carried a compact pair too.

The rugged cliffs of the fjords are a prime landscape for mountain goats, and I was surprised we only saw one.

A black bear in Misty Fjords
The black bear we saw

As we were leaving Misty Fjords, our crew spotted a black bear roaming the shores for food. While we couldn’t get that close, the crew members remarked it was large and healthy for early in the season.

It seemed unconcerned of our presence and went about its business foraging for food.

Food And Drinks Onboard

Guests could enjoy complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate during our tour. The crew also offered chowder and vegetarian chili on the ride back.

Brian tried the chowder and remarked it was good, but I couldn’t try either since they weren’t gluten-free. After the chowder, a sampling of smoked sockeye salmon on a cracker was also offered to the guests.

Brian also took the opportunity to purchase a local stout that came from a brewery in Talkeetna, Alaska.

Trying a stout from Talkeetna, Alaska
Trying a stout from Talkeetna, Alaska

As with the outgoing journey, returning to Ketchikan took another two hours. Later in the day, it got relatively cool, so make sure you’re dressed appropriately.

Pros And Cons Of The Misty Fjords Explorer

Having done the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour in Ketchikan (which customers rave about), I tend to compare other excursions to that one.


  • You can explore an area where larger ships can’t go.
  • The tour is accessible to those in wheelchairs or who have limited mobility.
  • No transportation is needed to get to the catamaran.
  • If you’re lucky, you may enjoy whale-watching and other wildlife sightings.


  • At USD 249.99, the tour was over-priced since we spent an hour at Misty Fjords.
  • The tour takes 4 hours to go to and from the fjords.
  • You may not see any wildlife, depending on when you go.
  • If it’s dry, you may not see any waterfalls.

My Thoughts Of The Misty Fjords Boat Tour

Leaving Misty Fjords
Leaving Misty Fjords

Having cruised through Tracy Arm, Endicott Arm, and College Fjord, this tour was a scaled-down version without the glaciers. Although the fjord was picturesque, the travel time to access it was far too long.

While our Ketchikan Misty Fjords tour was over five hours, some cruise lines sell a shortened one of 4-1/2 hours. Should you sail a shortened itinerary, you’ll only spend 30 minutes in the fjord.

We were fortunate to have great weather, although bad weather conditions could make for rough seas and poor visibility.

If you prefer to explore Misty Fjords another way, you can book a Misty Fjords flight with Taquan Air. Floatplane tours are popular in Ketchikan, and with a shortened excursion, you’ll have time to explore picturesque Creek Street, a must-see downtown.

Visitors staying in Ketchikan can arrange kayaking adventures through tour operators. It will include a kayak and drop-off and pick-up in Misty Fjords.

However, taking the Explorer cruise, as we did, was the effortless way to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness.

Rocks, cliffs and waterfalls, seen on a Misty Fjords boat tour in Ketchikan, Alaska