Alaska Adventure {Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve}

I have been SO excited to share our Glacier Bay experience with you since I started the trip recap series. It was one of the most magical days I’ve ever had on a trip and something we will all always remember!

Visiting Vancouver & A 49th State Alaska Adventure

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

We were one of the fortunate travelers to sail inside Glacier Bay, something that only a few cruise lines (Holland America) can access. There’s no place quite like it on earth, with over 3.2 million acres of forest, inlet and shore, mountain peaks rising over 15,000 feet, and the namesake glaciers.

First thing in the morning, the National Park Rangers boarded the ship and set up shop in the Crows Nest. This is not just a sea day – you need to be up and ready by 7AM! Here you can see our itinerary for the day, as well as the HQ for the park rangers. The Crows Nest has 180 degree windows at the bow of the ship. It serves cocktails every day, but this morning coffee and light food were also set up.

Around 9AM the scenic narration begins both outside on the aft observation ship (and on the ship PA system) as well as on the in-room television. This is when you will thank your travel agent that you have a veranda! We literally moved between the outside aft deck, Crows Nest and our room all day long, soaking up every second. When you reach Margerie and Johns Hopkins glaciers, the captain spins the boat slowly so that every part of the ship is treated to a beautiful, head on vantage point.

When Captain George Vancouver first set eyes on the small five-mile inlet that was Glacier Bay in 1794, he described a “sheet of ice as far as the eye could distinguish.” By the time John Muir visited in 1879 with a group of the native Tlingit, who call the bay their ancestral homeland, the ice had retreated enough to begin exposing one the world’s most majestic wilderness areas. These were our very first WOW moments of many to come that day.

As we reached the grand Margerie Glacier, we were on the back deck. Staff all over the ship started serving the Holland America pea soup tradition! Those are chunks of ice in the bay!

Of the more than 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, 95% are currently thinning, stagnating or retreating. But, due to heavy snowfall in the Fairweather Mountains, Glacier Bay is home to a few healthy and advancing glaciers, a rarity in today’s world.

In fact, Glacier Bay boasts seven tidewater glaciers, including Margerie – one of Alaska’s most photographed features and one of the state’s more active glacial faces. We were treated to one of nature’s grandest displays – the thunderous crack of a calving tidewater glacier. The crowd cheered! Glaciers can move over five feet a day and calving usually occurs a few times an hour, so chances are good you would witness this too.

Margerie Glacier is about one mile wide with an ice face of about 250 feet above the waterline and a base of about 100 feet below sea level. We learned that the ice looks blue because when light hits the highly compacted glacial ice, long wavelength colors (red) are absorbed, while short wavelength colors (blue) are reflected.

Glacier Bay was carved out by a glacier and filled in with saltwater as the glacier retreated, creating a fjord. Much of the bay is over 1,000 feet deep! Johns Hopkins glacier was the other absolute stunner of the day!

As we sailed out of Johns Hopkins, we took a break from glacier viewing to enjoy the halibut fish and chips lunch in the dining room. Then, we were back for more viewing and to visit the park rangers.

We were also sure to get our National Parks Passport stamped and purchased the Glacier Bay sticker. The passports are available to purchase at any national park and were also onboard. Junior Rangers can complete program booklets in Glacier Bay through the kids club and earn Junior Ranger badges. Our kids were content to spend the day with the adults, but I thought it was a worthwhile option!

The Glacier Bay excitement ended just as spectacularly as it began – with the debarkation of the National Park Rangers! They run their boat up next to the ship and cause a controlled collision. With both vessels moving, the rangers climb out of the ship via rope ladder back to their boat, along with all of their stuff they brought on board for the day!! The whole thing can be viewed from deck 4 of the boat, but you will need to ask around for which side they are using as it varies. For the hundredth time this day, everyone cheered when the rangers were safely headed home and waving their goodbyes! It makes me smile just remembering it!

If you have the great fortune to visit Glacier Bay, go all in. Get outside on the open decks, attend the ranger talks, study up before you arrive! The National Park Service even runs videos about Glacier Bay on the stateroom TVS to watch before the visit.

I will never, ever forget the sense of scale and magnificence of Glacier Bay, the thunderous sound when the glaciers calved, and bearing witness to what must be one of God’s most beautiful creations right here in the United States of America on this day.

As a Virtuoso affiliated travel adviser, I have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies, and I secure exclusive amenities for my luxury clients.  I have recently refocused my travel business primarily on Disney destinations, but am always happy to book and consult on destinations I have personally visited, as well as other Virtuoso resorts and all major cruise lines. Contact me to learn more and start designing your dream vacation today!

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5 thoughts on “Alaska Adventure {Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve}

  1. Enjoying your blog posts and itinerary. We especially appreciate hearing about your parents’ choices as we are in the same category, and are considering this trip. What a gift for your whole family to partake in this journey together!

  2. I am LOVING this trip. I’ve really never had any interest in Alaska, but now this exact itinerary is now on my bucket list! We went to the PNW for the first time a few years ago and I was just shocked and in awe by all the natural beauty. So different from the East coast.

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