Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises have been at home in Valdez since 1971. Known then as North Star Marine Charters, Stan and Mary Helen Stephens operated fishing and hunting charters on the 26 foot m/v Mary Helen. Seven years later in 1978, the family business operated it first glacier cruise to Columbia Glacier on board the m/v Vince Peede; at this time the company name was changed to Stan Stephens Charters, Inc.
Between 1978 and 1984, Stan, Mary Helen and their three daughters worked to develop their family operations as they increased the awareness of Valdez and the Sound amongst Alaskan travelers. In 1984, the Stephens contracted Westport Shipyard to construct the m/v Glacier Spirit, an 80 foot, 149 passenger vessel.
With the addition of the Glacier Spirit to the fleet, the Stephens family was able to diversify their tour itinerary offerings to include other portions of the Sound, extended overnight cruises, and in 1986 Stan Stephens Charters, Inc. opened a wilderness camp at Growler Island. Growler Island Wilderness Camp became an important aspect in the tours serving both as a lunch stop and an overnight retreat where guests had an opportunity to spend the night in the Sound, kayak, and explore the shorelines.
On Good Friday 1989, life for the residents of Prince William Sound changed when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef. Stan's vessels were the first to carry response observers to the spill site. Due to the need for spill research vessels, the Stephens' purchased two additional boats; the m/v Nautilus II and the m/v Spirit of the Sound. The Nautilus II was contracted to the State of Alaska for research, while the Spirit of the Sound was added to the tour fleet - ensuring that the company maintained the ability to share the Sound with travelers.
With the company goal to provide tours between the three major communities in the Sound, Stan Stephens Charters constructed m/v Chugach in 1992, purchased the m/v Glacier Queen II in 1995, and constructed the m/v Nunatak in 1996. With this vessel combination the company now offered two-day tours between Valdez and Cordova, daily round-trip passenger service between Valdez and Whittier, and day cruises from Valdez that featured both Columbia and Meares Glaciers.
In December of 1995 Stan Stephens Charters, Inc. was purchased by Cook Inlet Region, Inc (CIRI). Between the years of 1995 and 2002, the Stephens family managed the day-to-day operations for CIRI under the operating name of Prince William Sound Cruises and Tours. In December of 2002 CIRI ceased tour operations from Valdez, and in January of 2003 the Stephens family and staff re-opened a newly designed business - Stan Stephens Cruises, Inc.
After purchasing the m/v Glacier Spirit from CIRI, purchasing and remodeling the m/v Columbia Spirit, the company began the 2003 operations season - back to being 100% Alaskan family owned and operated. In 2005 Stan Stephens Cruises completed construction of a new vessel "the m/v Valdez Spirit" an 82 foot catamaran built by All American Marine.
Throughout the past 34 years the tours and vessels operated by Stan Stephens Cruises have changed, but the one thing that has not changed is the commitment to the customer and the company's long term dedication to Valdez and Prince William Sound. This is why when you cruise with us you will be traveling with the local experts!