Please Pass the Plankton: Galley Gourmet Guests Enjoy Alaskan Whale-Watching Dinner Cruises

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Travelers looking for a unique experience will find it on Kodiak Island where Galley Gourmet guests enjoy whale-watching dinner cruises, combining what the nation’s second largest island is famous for: Seafood and coastal scenery.

Ask Alyce Bacher of Albany, New York what she thought of her rhubarb-chocolate cake and she’s likely to say, “Fine, but the whales were the greatest!” While Galley Gourmet’s guests rarely leave crumbs on their dinner plates, they often ignore their dessert. “I blame Marty,” says wife and cook Marion Owen. “He pulls the anchor and says, ‘Dinner’s over, let’s go watch whales!’”

Kodiak, Alaska is famous for its seafood and coastal scenery, and one business combines the best of both worlds with its gourmet dinner cruises. Galley Gourmet, owned by longtime residents Marty and Marion Owen, provides visitors with a unique way to experience coastal Alaska aboard their classic, 42-foot motor yacht, the Sea Breeze.

“We leave the dock at 6 PM and serve appetizers on our way to a secluded lagoon on a nearby barrier island,” says skipper Marty Owen. Sea lions, puffins and whales are frequent visitors along the route. Majestic spruce trees and wildflowers cover the islands like thick wool. Bald eagles watch from the treetops.

The yacht’s teak interior and the Owens’ attention to details, from the cloth napkins featuring a sea otter motif to the soft music and fresh-cut flowers, set the tone for a pleasant evening. The guest log is filled with comments like this one from Gail Conner from Boston, Mass. “Your dinner cruise was a feast for the taste buds as well as a feast for the soul.”

Once anchored, the Owens serve an organic, garden-fresh salad and warm bread followed by the main course, a seafood highlight such as Salmon Kiev (sockeye salmon stuffed with crab) or coconut-encrusted halibut with fruit salsa. Then it’s time for dessert, which can range from salmonberry tortes to rhubarb-blueberry crisp. And those whales…

“Kodiak Island is one of the top whale-watching areas in Alaska,” says Kate Wynne, marine mammal specialist with the University of Alaska. Nutrient-rich waters surrounding the Kodiak Island archipelago provide an ideal habitat for diverse populations of marine mammals, including sea lions, otters, porpoises and whales.

For Marion, a master gardener and co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, the dinner cruises provide an opportunity to combine two passions: cooking and the sea. As a teenager, she catered events for friends, including a dinner for Dan Evans, then Governor of Washington State. “At one time,” she recalls, “I dreamed of becoming a professional chef, but I chose a life at sea instead.”

Marion spent eight years aboard research ships and tugboats, working as a seaman and later as a Merchant Marine Officer in the North and South Pacific. “The salt air is in my blood, but so is my love for playing with food.” she says.

In the mid 1980’s, when Marion switched her focus to the land, she also took up photography and became a well-published photographer. She enjoys helping guests with camera questions and pointing out good photo ops. “Kodiak Island is a great place to experience seabirds, and wildlife in a National Geographic setting.”

Her husband, Marty, is Kodiak’s harbormaster with family ties that date back to the 1930’s. His grandfather, Alfred A. Owen, served in the territorial government and was Kodiak’s first state senator. Marty likes to share his enthusiasm for the island. “Our dinner cruises, which last three and a half hours, serve more than the typical waterfront tour. It’s a nature trip, mini-history lesson, refreshing getaway and gourmet dining all rolled into one.”

Kodiak Island is located in Southcentral Alaska, a 45-minute flight south from Anchorage, the State’s largest city. Kodiak is the second largest island in the U.S. following the Hawaii’s Big Island, and is home to more than 3,000 brown bears, eagles, salmon and Alaska’s largest commercial fishing fleet. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and several state parks attract sea kayakers, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Kodiak has a wide variety of museums, festivals, science centers and restaurants, hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Galley Gourmet dinner cruises cost $105 per person. For those with an appetite for more whale watching and adventure, Galley Gourmet offers 1-day trips and 3-day excursions. For more information visit or call toll free at 800-253-6331 (US and Canada) or 907-486-5079. Mailing address: PO Box 1694, Kodiak, AK 99615.

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