‘It really is the best job I can imagine’

Nicole Lawrence
Nicole Lawrence
Nicole Lawrence

Nicole Lawrence
Major Marine Tours

For much of the year, Capt. Nicole Lawrence carries passengers deep into Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park. The region is home to pristine, blue-hued glaciers and abundant wildlife with a mesmerizing mountain backdrop. 

Guests often tell her, once the tour boat returns to the dock, that she has the best job in the world. She readily agrees with them. 

“It really is the best job I can imagine,” she said recently from Michigan, where she was visiting family after a busy season operating for Major Marine Tours of Seward, Alaska. 

“I never know which way the day is going to go. We never have a set route. We go out looking for new things every day. And I like when the weather is bad because it gives people a real and true Alaska experience.”

Lawrence, 42, grew up in Michigan, where she cruised the Great Lakes with her family. She and her father took a year after high school to sail the Great Loop route down the Mississippi River, around Florida and the Caribbean Sea, and then back to the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal. 

She passed the days on that once-in-a-lifetime voyage reading classic maritime and nautical texts. It prepared her to take her 100-ton license exam at age 19. She currently holds 100-ton master’s and 200-ton mate’s licenses. 

Her job as captain includes driving the vessels, including the four-engine waterjet-powered Skana and Spirit of Matushka, both of which were built within the last three years. The job also entails narrating tours, interacting with guests and managing the deck hands. 

Lawrence has encouraged many female deck hands to become captains during her career. Her advice for any mariner looking to make that leap, especially women, is to say yes to opportunities when they arise. 

“Women are hard-wired to want to be excellent at something before we agree to do it. But that is not how the industry works,” she said. “You can be cautious to a point that it can hold you back. You are probably more capable than you realize.”