Klondike Express leads glacier watch on Prince William Sound

ANCHORAGE -- Phillips' Cruises and Tours' new Klondike Express will have its first "normal" Alaska season in 2000.

The new Klondike Express, of Phillips' Cruises and Tours, will be in the first year of its popular Prince William Sound 25 Glaciers Cruise pattern in 2000. Fares for its 26 Glaciers Cruises program will be pegged at 1999 levels -- $119 for adults, $49 for children.

The 342-passenger, high-speed catamaran day boat is in Prince William Sound service this year, but its season is in no way normal. The much-delayed boat started the season late, and because of uncertainty over its exact arrival date, marketing plans were short-term rather than long-term.

The saga of the Klondike Express has been well-publicized. Its construction was first commissioned in a yard in Port Townsend, Wash., which dillydallied for more than two years before going bankrupt, leaving behind only a badly built shell of a boat, virtually impossible to complete.

Brad Phillips, president of the sightseeing cruise-tour company, opted to cut his losses and, at short notice, commissioned the Nichols Bros. Shipyard in Freeland, Wash., to build him a boat from scratch.

It was completed in double- quick time but still missed several weeks of the start of this year's summer season.

Phillips thinks the boat was worth the wait. "There isn't another vessel like this on the West Coast," he said. "It has been very popular this year."

The Klondike Express offers close-up viewing of the wildlife and scenery of Prince William Sound, both from the outside decks and by videocamera images shown inside the plush cabin.

Its cruising speed -- 38 knots -- allows it to cover the 110-mile roundtrip from Whittier to 26 different glaciers in five hours.

"Because of our speed," Phillips said, "we get to the glaciers faster, so passengers have more time to enjoy the scenery and the wildlife than they do on other boats."

The bulk of the passengers on the new Klondike Express -- as on its predecessor of the same name -- originate in Anchorage.

Transportation from Alaska's largest city is by rail ($52 roundtrip for adults, $26 roundtrip for children) or by motorcoach ($61 and $31, respectively.) These prices are in addition to the sightseeing boat charges.

The Klondike Express has three decks and is handicapped-accessible. A hot lunch is served on board.

Phillips' Cruises and Tours
Phone: (800) 544-0529 or (907) 276-8023
Web: www.26glaciers.com

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