Renfeldt: It’s going to be as busy as ever for Cordova tourism

The Whale’s Tale at Orca opens for a third summer, sets up Coffee Flights

Cordova Harbor. (Aug. 24, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova is anticipating for a busy 2022 tourism season, with a focus on independent travelers seeking a self-supported experience that draws them to town, says Cathy Renfeldt, director of the Cordova Chamber of Commerce.

The Ferry M/V Aurora arrives in Cordova for the first time since 2019. (April 21, 2021) Photo by David Little/for The Cordova Times

Renfeldt’s optimism is in large part based on consistent ferry service to and from Cordova laid out by the Alaska Marine Highway System, Alaska Airlines’ commitment to daily flights inbound and outbound, and closure of the Denali Park Road for the season, a location that annually draws thousands of visitors. Closure of the park road is going to have a lot of visitors looking for alternatives, and it will shift tourism in other parts of the state, Renfeldt said.

A black bear who is a frequent visitor outside the premises of The Whale’s Tale. Photo courtesy of Wendy Ranney

“We are really seeking to reach independent travelers, those looking for quality over quantity,” she said. “Cordova has a rich cultural history, with a lot of artisans. The city already has a committee working to identify what we want tourism to be, to incorporate community values.”

The entrance to Chugach National Forest’s Haystack Trail. Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams

Fewer options for overseas travel should also work to the community’s advantage, Renfeldt said. Local offerings include a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking trails, camping areas, glaciers and a lot of outdoor recreational areas.

To that end, Renfeldt also noted the opportunities for those interested in providing increased ground transportation, including shuttle services for incoming visitors to those hiking trails, camping areas and more, which would be in demand.

Wendy Ranney of The Whale’s Tale at Orca, at work making espresso drinks. Photo courtesy of Wendy Ranney

Meanwhile at the Orca Lodge, owned by Steve and Wendy Ranney, Wendy Ranney is preparing to open the popular Whale’s Tale at Orca right after Mother’s Day on May 8. Summer hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We are heading into 2022 with some new and exciting items,” Wendy Ranney said.

Returning barista Ria will be busy serving up an array of espresso drinks to summer visitors. Photo courtesy of Wendy Ranney

They include three different “Coffee Flights,” sets of two or more different miniature, six-ounce drinks assembled by the barista and served together as a set.

The Dessert Flight will include a Macaroon Latte Cully Ann; B-Day, Heli Skier and a latte with a choice of flavor. The Chai Flight includes the Alaska Chai, Ginger Turmeric Chai, Marsala Chai and Elephant Vanilla Chai, and the High Test Flight offers the Red Eye, Kona Latte, Bullet Coffee and Dirty Chai.

The Whale’s Tale at Orca features along with its coffee options an extensive tea menu from the Republic of Tea Ambassador. Photo courtesy of Wendy Ranney

Those wanting to know what they really taste like need only show up and order.

“Come join us for a mug-up at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., where you can grab a 50-cent cuppa joe and a plate of cookies, as long as you eat them here and stay and chat with us.” she said. “We want to encourage the atmosphere of the cannery mug-up when everyone stopped working, took a break with treats and got to know each other.”

Other new drinks on The Whale’s Tail menu include an Iced Cotton Candy Latte with real cotton candy, a macaroon letter, Thai tea and sparkling lemonade bar, plus a large, expanded chai menu with over 10 Chai options.

Faith, a veteran barista at The Whale’s Tale at Orca, is back for the 2022 season. Photo courtesy of Wendy Ranney

“We have a young and enthusiastic staff of knowledgeable baristas who are excited to work some major behind the bar to help make us the safe harbor in your stormy day,” Ranney said. “Two of our regulars, Faith and Ria, are back once again to entertain you, and we are joined by Grace and Abby and a few more new faces hopefully rounding out the staff of high energy coffee enthusiasts making your favorites.”

New food options at The Whale’s Take include homemade hummus flavors for bagels and the return of the café’s smoked salmon bagel for a third season.

“Don’t forget our hearty soups, fresh bread and sometimes salads for your lunchtime enjoyment, paired with one of our gourmet ice tea flavors,” Ranney said. There are also fresh baked scones and cookies.