Best Alaska Cruises for Glacier Viewing
Best Cruise for Glaciers in Alaska’s Inside Passage
I was recently asked by a client which Alaska cruise itineraries might give him the best glacier views.
While there are three popular glacier stops available to Alaska cruisers, my immediate response was Glacier Bay National Park. Let’s take a peek at the three most popular options:
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
Note: click images for larger views. ©2012, David A. Porter
When most travelers consider the possibility of viewing a glacier, two things are dominant in their minds: blue ice, and the crashing sound of ice calving into the frigid waters.
I snapped this photograph from the deck of our cruise ship as we sat in front of the Margerie Glacier. As an amateur travel photographer, I can tell you that I was quite excited to capture these scenes. I have nearly 200 photographs from our day in Glacier Bay.
President Calvin Coolidge, in 1925, set aside this area as a national park and preserve and today it covers 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords. Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas.
Here’s a few things to expect when you visit:
- You will receive a copy of the park map/guide in your stateroom the evening before your arrival in Glacier Bay.
- Cruise ships typically spend a full day (9-10 hours) in Glacier Bay including a stop at a major tidewater glacier.
- National Park Service park rangers board the ship to provide a narrative about important aspects of the visit, give special presentations about the park, kid’s activities, staff an information desk, and answer all of your questions.
- Cruise ships do not dock anywhere in Glacier Bay National Park.
Glacier Bay is highly protected and therefore the number of ships allowed in the Park is highly regulated each day. Subsequently, not all cruise itineraries include a day in Glacier Bay National Park.
Therefore, if you take our strong recommendation and desire a cruise itinerary that includes Glacier Bay National Park, use our cruise search tool to scan across all cruise lines to find one that suites you and includes a day in Glacier Bay.
Note: click photos for larger views. ©2014, David A. Porter & Google Maps Image
The Hubbard Glacier, as you can see in the Google Maps image above, is approached from the Pacific Ocean. It is located in eastern Alaska with its beginnings in Yukon, Canada. This glacier is generally included in itineraries that include Sitka, Seward, and Anchorage.
While certainly a spectacular glacier, we were not able to get up as close as we were when we were in Glacier Bay National Park. If you look at my photographs above, we were able to traverse the small ice immediately in front of the ship, but the next line of ice was too large for us to get through. My third photo (above) show you the closest we were able to get to this glacier. While certainly still spectacular to see, we weren’t close enough to witness any ice calving. 😟
Tracy Arm Fjord & Sawyer Glaciers
Click image for large view. Google Maps Image.
Carol and I have yet to visit the Tracy Arm Fjord. Therefore, we don’t have any personal photographs to share with you. If you’re on an 8-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise, and your itinerary doesn’t include Glacier Bay National Park, then chances are very good that you’ll be visiting the Tracy Arm Fjord.
The twin Sawyer Glaciers, North Sawyer and South Sawyer, are featured on a Tracy Arm sailing and are both found at the very end of the fjord. While larger cruise ships can traverse this fjord, its close proximity to Juneau also provides visitors the opportunity to visit this popular area on much smaller expedition ships and kayak up close and personal to the glaciers. If that sound like your cup of tea, consider this as a shore excursion when you visit Juneau.
When considering an Alaskan cruise, you should give consideration to the glacier experience that most appeals to you.
Again, we highly recommend a cruise that will allow you to spend a day in Glacier Bay National Park & Reserve.
When using our cruise search tool, look in the itinerary for the glacier destination that most appeals to you. In the screen grab to the right, I’ve shown you an example of two Princess Cruises as an example. One of them includes the Tracy Arm and the other includes Glacier Bay.
Our cruise search tool features all of the major cruise lines, and every single sailing available in Alaska. Once you find your desired cruise, give us a jingle to book your cruise as we’re quite likely to have additional perks/special offers available to you on top of what the cruise line might be offering as we’re members of the $15 billion/year Virtuoso Travel Network.
Plus, if you’re reading this article after the first quarter of the year, we’re also quite likely to have unadvertised last-minute cruise offers for you as well.
I hope you enjoyed this article and learned important information about how to pick the right Alaskan cruise for viewing Alaska’s spectacular glaciers. Carol and I love Alaska’s Inside Passage. And, the only way to see it is aboard a cruise ship. In fact, we love it so much, we just booked our third Alaska cruise. Can’t wait!
For our expert help booking an Alaska cruise, and to receive our likely special perks/offers, call our travel agency at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient online information request (click here) and we’ll call you.
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We’ve cruised Tracy Arm twice, both times in early August. While we thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of this fjord, the glacier was only visible at a long distance. Early in the season(June) you probably won’t get close enough to see the glacier due to ice in the fjord. On another cruise we went to Hubbard glacier and were able to get fairly close and see the glacier features. Glacier Bay next time!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience sailing in the Tracy Arm. Bummer that you couldn’t get to the glacier. That won’t be happening in Glacier Bay. 😀
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