Categories: Travel Destinations

All You Need To Know about Alaska

Alaska cruises are full of scenic landscapes and unforgettable experiences. The coveted view of Alaska’s blue glaciers is always among the most anticipated attractions. Choosing the flights with the best views of the glaciers is often an important factor when choosing a cruise to the 49th state. Since a number of Alaska cruise destinations have the word glacier in their description, it can often be difficult to decide which Alaska itinerary is the best option.

If you’re trying to decide which cruise itinerary is best for your trip to Alaska Glacier, we have information to help you sort through your choices and select Alaska Glacier for your trip.

Seals on an iceberg in Trace Arm Fjord (photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter).

Best glacier cruise in Alaska

Ask many Alaska cruise enthusiasts how to choose the best Alaska glacier cruise, and they will tell you how to choose an Alaska trip that includes Glacier Bay National Park. Because access to Glacier Bay is strictly controlled, only a limited number of cruise ships can visit Glacier Bay National Park each season. Spending a day in Glacier Bay is a must for any Alaska cruise, whether it’s your first or tenth trip to the area.

The Glacier Bay routes are still one of the most popular cruising routes in Alaska. Glacier Bay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its beautiful glaciers and incredible wilderness. Cruise ships visiting Glacier Bay usually spend almost an entire day in the area. The 3.3 million-acre park is home to numerous glaciers, occupying nearly a third of its surface. Boaters have the opportunity to see many glaciers while cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. In addition to glaciers, visitors to Glacier Bay can see snow-capped mountain peaks, fjords, waterfalls, forests and wildlife.

Glacier Bay cruises are often considered the best itineraries in Alaska because they offer views of numerous glaciers, spectacular mountain scenery and frequent wildlife encounters. Marine life is abundant in Glacier Bay. Boaters often see humpback whales, orcas, harbor seals, porpoises, otters and sea lions. Bears, moose, mountain goats and deer can also be seen on land. Park guides board each cruise ship while the ships are in Glacier Bay National Park. During conversations, they often point out wildlife and other attractions. You may see bald eagles flying overhead or even a brown bear swimming in the bay.

Glacier calves in Alaska (photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter).

In Glacier Bay, the glaciers are usually the stars of the show. Cruise ships usually pass through many of the park’s active tributary glaciers, glaciers that break off from huge icebergs that crash into the sea. This calving is an event that many cruisers hope to see when they spend time on Alaska’s glaciers. The crash of a glacier, followed by a colossal thud as the iceberg plunges into the sea, is an event that cruise ship passengers in Alaska will always remember.

The ships usually sail around Glacier Bay, exploring the fjords and passing through several glaciers. These are often the Johns Hopkins Glacier, the Lamplug Glacier, the Great Pacific Glacier and the Margery Glacier. The ships usually stay an hour or two off one of the glaciers so guests can see some waves. Many sailors visit Margery Glacier, a glacier with a rising tide that tends to calve often. Check your boat’s schedule for your day in Glacier Bay and find the best places to view the glaciers without obstruction.

Determining which ships call at Glacier Bay is often an important factor in choosing the best glacier cruise in Alaska. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises offer a number of Alaska cruises that go as far as Glacier Bay and offer a variety of itineraries that include ports like Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Sitka. Other cruise lines such as Alaskan Dream Cruises, American Cruise Lines, Cunard Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and UnCruise Adventures also offer cruises that call at Glacier Bay. Although most of these cruises include almost a full day in Glacier Bay National Park, several UnCruise Adventures Alaska itineraries offer two full days in Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay Landscape (photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter).

In summary, here are some of the many benefits of cruising to Glacier Bay on your Alaska cruise:

  • Boaters typically spend 9-10 hours in Glacier Bay National Park.
  • Glacier Bay National Park has eleven glaciers, eight of which can be seen on a clear day.
  • Sailing in Glacier Bay means navigating through fjords and scenic landscapes.
  • Glacier Bay National Park is often home to other wildlife.
  • Park rangers come on board to share their experiences and stories from their trip to Glacier Bay.
  • Kids can earn Junior Ranger badges while navigating Glacier Bay National Park.
  • The weather can be of great value, especially at the beginning and end of the season.

READ MORE: Alaska Inside Passage Cruises: What you need to know.

Glacier Hubbard v. Glacier Bay

For those looking for the best Alaska glacier cruise, one of the most frequently asked questions is: Which is better – Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay? Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay are both beautiful, though different. Hubbard Glacier is not located in Glacier Bay National Park. Glacier is located north of Glacier Bay National Park, at the tip of Disenchantment Bay, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Reserve. Elias.

Hubbard Glacier (Photo courtesy of Pixabay/lalycolon).

Cruiser routes that do not call at Glacier Bay often include Hubbard Glacier. With more than 30 stories above the waterline, Hubbard Glacier is the largest tributary glacier in North America. The sheer size of this glacier dwarfs cruise ships. Hubbard Glacier is also known as one of the fastest growing glaciers, with movements of several meters per day. Unlike many other glaciers, Hubbard Glacier is thickening. Because of the rapid progress of this ice flow, Hubbard Glacier has been nicknamed Galloping Glacier. Hubbard Glacier is also famous for its blue color on clear days.

Because the Hubbard Glacier is advancing rapidly, its movement is causing a lot of calving. Passengers on a cruise watch in amazement as large chunks of ice from several stories high fall into the sea during a storm. Some have reported that this happens three to four times an hour. Visitors to Disenchantment Bay can also, weather permitting, see nine of the sixteen highest peaks in North America on their way to Hubbard Glacier. Some cruise lines also offer optional small boat tours that can take you closer to Hubbard Glacier.

While Hubbard Glacier is beautiful, choosing this route may have some drawbacks. Since Hubbard Glacier is the only major glacier on some Alaska cruises, passengers may not be able to see a glacier up close during the cruise if the weather is poor. Hubbard Glacier can sometimes be difficult to access due to ice, fog or other adverse weather conditions. The weather in Glacier Bay is generally more reliable, although it can sometimes rain quite heavily.

Glacier icebergs (photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter)

Finding a cruise line that calls at both Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier would be the best of both worlds, but Alaska cruisers usually have to choose between the two. Here are some comparisons between visiting Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay.

Advantage of Hubbard Glacier over Glacier Bay:

  • Hubbard Glacier is larger and more massive than the glaciers of Glacier Bay.
  • Hubbard Glacier calves more frequently than Glacier Bay glaciers.
  • The calving of the Hubbard Glacier is generally more spectacular, with huge icebergs of several stories.
  • Ships can sometimes get a little closer to Hubbard Glacier than to Glacier Bay.
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  • The drive to Hubbard Glacier offers views of some of the highest mountains in North America.
  • On a clear day, the color of Hubbard Glacier is very blue.

Hubbard Glacier versus Glacier Bay Gaps:

  • Generally, ships spend most of the day in Glacier Bay – a visit to Hubbard Glacier takes less time.
  • Glacier Bay has several glaciers, while Hubbard Glacier Trails has only one.
  • Glacier Bay National Park is often home to other wildlife.
  • The spectacular landscapes of Glacier Bay are more varied.
  • Park rangers come on board to share their experiences and stories from their trip to Glacier Bay.
  • The weather in Glacier Bay can be a safer bet, especially in the early and late seasons.

Glacier Bay National Park v. Tracy Fjord Arm

Tracy Arm Fjord is another breathtakingly beautiful area often offered on Alaska cruises. Tracy Arm Fjord is part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Nature Reserve, which also includes nearby Endicott Arm Fjord. Tracy Arm, located south of Juneau, is a long and relatively narrow fjord that ends in two beautiful sides of Sawyer Glacier, the North Sawyer Glacier and the South Sawyer Glacier. These twin glaciers often form dark blue icebergs, and over a hundred seals can sometimes be seen on large ice floes – especially in June.

Sawyer Glacier (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter)

Sawyer Glacier is an active tributary glacier. The boats travel through the Tracy Arm Fjord, taking a long channel and steep turns along the way. During the Tracy Arm Fjord Scenic Cruise, cruisers can enjoy the steep walls of the deep fjord and the scenic beauty of the area. Tracy Arm Fjord is less than half a mile wide, and waterfalls often gurgle down the fjord’s rocky cliffs. Mountain goats can sometimes be seen near Sawyer Glacier, and bears can be seen at the water’s edge.

Crossing Tracy Arm Fjord is one of the highlights of the experience, especially on a small boat. Large cruise ships often offer small boat trips through Tracy Arm Fjord on itineraries that include a full day in Juneau Harbour. These tours are highly recommended because the small tour boats get much closer to Sawyer Glacier and the calving can be seen better.

Waterfall at Tracy Arm Fjord (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter)

With these trips to Tracy Arm Fjord, glacier lovers have the opportunity to visit this amazing area in addition to Hubbard Glacier or Glacier National Park. When weather or navigational conditions make it difficult to navigate Tracy Arm, boats and tour boats sometimes choose to sail up the Endicott Arm to visit Dawes Glacier instead.

If you’re trying to decide between an Alaska cruise that calls at Glacier Bay and one that only calls at Tracy Arm Fjord, here are some pros and cons.

Fjord Tracy Arm v. The Glacier Bay advantage:

  • A fascinating and memorable sailing experience on Tracey Armagh’s narrow fjord
  • Numerous icebergs of a striking blue and magnificent waterfalls.
  • May release more seals on the ice depending on the time of year.
  • Sometimes you can get closer to Sawyer Glacier by taking a small tour boat.

Tracy Arm Fjord versus the Glacier Bay Fault :

  • Tracy Arm is smaller than Glacier Bay, with a fjord to explore.
  • Not as many glaciers as in Glacier Bay.
  • Because of the ice, large ships sometimes can’t sail far enough to see the twin glaciers.
  • Glacier Bay takes a full day, while Tracy Arm usually takes 4-5 hours.
  • The weather is often better in Glacier Bay than in Tracy Arm Fjord.

READ MORE: When is the best time to take a cruise in Alaska?

Glacier Hubbard vs Glacier Sawyer

The comparison between Hubbard Glacier and Sawyer Glacier is simple when it comes to size. Hubbard Glacier is the largest tributary glacier in North America, and its height and size are much greater than Sawyer Glacier. Calving at Hubbard Glacier can be both more visible and more frequent.

But the visit to Sawyer Glacier was an experience in itself. Crossing the narrow fjord of Tracy Arm is really impressive, especially on a clear day. Wildlife, including seals, mountain goats, bears and bald eagles, are often seen on the trip. Sawyer Glacier is an active tributary glacier and calves regularly. As the glacier extends hundreds of metres underwater, calving also takes place underwater and huge blue icebergs the size of submarines come to the surface.

A small boat cruises near Sawyer Glacier (photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter).

If your Hubbard Glacier Alaska cruise itinerary includes a full day in Port Juneau, you can visit Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier on a small boat ride. If not, and you have to choose between Hubbard Glacier and Sawyer Glacier, here are some pros and cons.

Sawyer Glacier Advantage vs. Hubbard Glacier:

  • Sailing through the narrow Tracy Arm Fjord was especially memorable.
  • May release more seals on the ice depending on the time of year.
  • Tracy Arm’s breathtaking landscape can include snow-capped mountain peaks and breathtaking waterfalls.
  • More wildlife is often seen in Tracy Arm, including mountain goats, bears and bald eagles.

Disadvantages of Sawyer Glacier versus Hubbard Glacier:

  • Hubbard Glacier is much larger and more impressive than Sawyer Glacier.
  • Calving is particularly impressive on Hubbard Glacier and may occur more frequently.
  • The drive to Hubbard Glacier offers views of some of the highest mountains in North America.
  • Due to weather conditions and ice, vessels may have difficulty reaching Sawyer Glacier.

Additional options for glacier views

In addition to all of these options, there are several additional glacier viewing opportunities for travelers looking for the best Alaska glacier cruise. Some cruise lines offer cruises to Alaska, for example. B. to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. Endicott Arm Fiord is located southeast of Juneau and is part of the Tracy Arm Fjords Terror Wilderness Area. The route on Endicott Arm Glacier to Dawes Glacier is similar to the route on Tracy Arm Glacier. Traveling through the Endicott Arm Fjord, you can often see waterfalls and a variety of wildlife, including sea lions, ibexes and bears.

Dawes Glacier (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Care_SMC).

College Fjord is another spectacular area that is sometimes included in northern Alaska cruise itineraries. College Fiord is located north of Prince William Sound and contains five tributary glaciers, five valley glaciers, and a number of smaller glaciers. Many of these glaciers are named after famous colleges and universities on the East Coast, such as Harvard Glacier, Yale Glacier, Amherst Glacier, Wellesley Glacier, and Williams Glacier. Other glaciers are also nearby.

A visit to Mendenhall Glacier is a popular excursion for Alaska cruisers spending a day in Juneau. These Mendenhall glacier tours may also include other active adventures such as kayaking, canoeing and glacier hiking. Another fascinating way to experience Alaska’s glaciers is by plane and dog sled.

READ MORE: What to bring for a cruise in Alaska: The 12 most important things you need

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