Every summer, tourists and Alaskans alike flock to Seward looking for an unparalleled experience on the waters of Resurrection Bay and deep within Kenai Fjords National Park with Kenai Fjords Tours (KFT), a CIRI Alaska Tourism Corporation (CATC) subsidiary. This summer, visitors will get the chance to explore Seward’s waters and wildlife from aboard the M/V Callisto Voyager, a new 83-foot aluminum catamaran purchased by KFT.
“We’re pleased to be adding a third catamaran to our fleet,” said Dee Buchanon, CATC director of marketing. “It’s important to us that our guests have the best possible views of the park’s wildlife and glaciers. These catamarans are designed not only to provide those views but to make the voyage safe, enjoyable and fuel-efficient.”
Certified for 150 passengers and 6 crew members, the three Voyager class vessels are about 44 percent more fuel efficient than the single-hull vessels also used by KFT, according to Gideon Garcia, CATC chief operating officer. Lighter and faster than the other catamarans, and built for shallow drafts, the Callisto Voyager is designed with a hydrofoil, a metal wing underneath the hull that connects the two sides of the vessel and allows the Callisto to carry more guests, too.
“With this vessel, we can go further and burn less fuel,” said Garcia. “That helps us get more flexibility in our tours, in how much time our captains might choose to spend visiting certain spots on the tour where there might be rich wildlife, and not have to worry about a deadline.”
Burning only 350 gallons of fuel-compared to the 600 gallons a single-hull vessel uses-on a 6-hour national park tour, the Callisto also represents considerable economic savings.
The boat, built by All American Marine in Bellingham, Wash., was designed to provide maximum comfort and accessibility to KFT’s guests with complete outside walk-around access, so guests can go from one side of the boat to the other without having to go inside the cabin and possibly miss out on a wildlife sighting.
Those who choose to stay inside can still enjoy amazing views from large, fog-free windows. “Nothing’s worse than going on a once-in-a-lifetime marine voyage, looking for wildlife, only to have the windows be fogged up,” said Garcia.
Special design permission was given by the U.S. Coast Guard to make the Voyager vessels friendlier for those with mobility challenges. While doorways on most marine vessels are required to have a high threshold to prevent interior flooding, the Callisto has a lower threshold, making it easier for a standard wheelchair to move between the outer deck and inner cabin.
“Adding a third Voyager-class vessel to the Kenai Fjords Tours fleet is part of an ongoing initiative to keep our fleets current and up-to-date,” said Garcia. “We use state-of-the art marine technology to make our tours safe, efficient and memorable-for all the right reasons-for our guests.”
CIRI Alaska Tourism provides discounts to CIRI shareholders and their immediate family. Learn more at www.ciritourism.com/shareholder.
THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME
“The Callisto Voyager” was named for a geographic landmark in Resurrection Bay – Callisto Head – that we go by in many of our tours,” explained Garcia. But the name of this new vessel has another connection to Alaska. In Greek mythology, Callisto was a young woman who was turned into a bear, then cast into the sky. There, she transformed into the constellation Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper – the same constellation prominently featured on the Alaska State flag.
The Callisto Voyager under construction at All American Marine in Bellingham, Wash. Courtesy of CIRI Alaska Tourism. Right: The Callisto Voyager under construction. Below: The Aialik Voyager is one of two sister ships the Callisto Voyager vessel will join in the spring of 2014. Photos courtesy of CIRI Alaska Tourism.