CRUISE SHIP GLACIER EXPERIENCES IN ALASKA

In response to many questions on the CruiseMates Alaska board and elsewhere, here is a page of our visits to the major glacier viewing areas in Alaska. This page represents only our own personal opinions and there are other options available.

You can also check out our page of Alaska Shore Excursion Experiences.

GLACIER BAY==|==HUBBARD GLACIER==|==TRACY ARM==|==MENDENHALL

G L A C I E R    B A Y

Glacier Bay, in my opinion, is the premier glacier viewing experience in Alaska and I thoroughly recommend it for first time Alaska cruisers as the option to choose. It is a National Park and a World Heritage Center and rightfully deserves the titles. It is truly stunning. You will surely want to spend the entire time up on deck, well bundled up, as you pass through wonderful scenery with a Park Ranger's commentary.
It is also beautiful to watch the glaciers from your own balcony. The Captain normally turns the ship around so that each side gets a good chance to view the glaciers. Margerie Glacier is the most beautiful glacier and usually the ship spends most of its time there.
The left arm of the Bay is a prime breeding ground for seals. During most of the season it is off limits to cruise ships and not possible to get close to the glaciers in that arm. But in September, the mothers have left and the seal pups are alone on the ice, learning to swim and fend for themselves, and the ships are allowed to get much closer.

GLACIER BAY==|==HUBBARD GLACIER==|==TRACY ARM==|==MENDENHALL

H U B B A R D    G L A C I E R

Hubbard Glacier was "discovered" as a destination because the National Park Service strictly limits the permits for cruise ships in Glacier Bay. As Alaska is such a popular destinaton another glacier experience is needed. Hubbard is the famous "galloping glacier" that some years ago cut off part of Yakatut Bay but has now retreated. Tide and ice conditions are variable and sometimes the ships are not able to approach as closely as others.
Fortunately on the day we visited, the ship was able to get very close. Here also the Captain normally rotates the ship for good viewing from all sides. Hubbard has an extremely long front and is noted for the numerous calvings that occur.

We enjoyed lying on the heated couches in the Thermal Suite for glacier viewing! Jumping right out of the hot tub to get a picture in front of the glacier is probably the height of foolishness, but a lot of fun!

GLACIER BAY==|==HUBBARD GLACIER==|==TRACY ARM==|==MENDENHALL

T R A C Y    A R M

Tracy Arm is sometimes included on Alaska itineraries along with one or the other of the glacier experiences, and sometimes replaces them. Although at the very end of Tracy Arm it is possible to view the Twin Sawyer Glaciers, you really need to understand that Tracy Arm is a scenic experience and not a very good opportunity for glacier viewing.
Tracy Arm is a fjord, a long glacial valley with water in the bottom. The scenery, moutains, and waterfalls are stunning as you cruise through the bay, and chunks of bright blue glacier ice float by.
At the end of the Arm are the glaciers. Many times it is not possible to even get close enough to view them, depending on times and ice conditions.
In recent years the Sawyer glaciers have been retreating. On our last visit in 2009, the Captain took the ship to the very end of the bay and turned it in a circle, but only the South glacier was visible at all. It is really best to consider Tracy Arm as a scenic cruising day, and not as a good way to see tidewater glaciers.

GLACIER BAY==|==HUBBARD GLACIER==|==TRACY ARM==|==MENDENHALL

M E N D E N H A L L

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is a different experience because you do not view it from the ship. It is about a 20 minute drive from where the ship docks. This picture is with our cabbie from 1986. The glacier was large and not very far away. SE PE SH DIY
In recent years the glacier has receded considerably. Our group took a shuttle in 2006. You can just look at the glacier and then go other places, or you can take the time to visit the wonderful Visitor Center and hike the trails.

However, this is not a true tidewater glacier viewing experience so you should understand the difference.

GLACIER BAY==|==HUBBARD GLACIER==|==TRACY ARM==|==MENDENHALL

Alaska Shore Excursion Experiences

We like to discuss our travels. Email us at thehalls@bully4.us

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