If you have been looking into an Alaska cruise you may have noticed that each one includes a visit to a tidewater glacier (a tidewater glacier flows far enough to reach out into the ocean), and quite frankly, that’s one of the highlights of an Alaska cruise! Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, or Tracy Arm…is one better than another? Here’s what you need to know.
Glacier Bay is a protected national park spread across 3.2 million acres of southeast Alaska, It ishome to more than 50 named glaciers, countless seabirds, otters and humpback whales. It is quite common to see seals sunbathing on ice chunks. Cruise ships spend most of a day in Glacier Bay, where passengers will visit several tidewater glaciers and explore inlets carved by the ice. Most ships head up the West Arm, towards the Margerie Glacier, an impressive glacier, which is advancing 12 to 14 feet a day and calves frequently.
Hubbard Glacier is the biggest tidewater glacier on the North American continent. With a 6-mile wide, 400-foot tall face, its size is what distinguishes Hubbard from every other glacier on the Alaska cruise route. Located in an inlet off the Gulf of Alaska, this is one truly remote wilderness area with an amazing backdrop of massive, snow-capped peaks. Imagine coming face to face with a wall of ice six miles wide! And while many glaciers have been shrinking due to climate change, Hubbard has actually been getting thicker!
Just south of Juneau is the long, narrow and utterly spectacular Tracy Fjord. At some 30 miles in length (about 6 of which are covered in glacier), the Fjord has magnificent, steep cliffs running along much of its length. Waterfalls intermittently rush off the cliffs, while bears and mountain goats navigate the precipices. Once the ship makes its way up the Arm it confronts the twin Sawyer Glaciers, the true draw for the cruise ships. The pair are actively calving and cruise passengers patiently wait on deck listening for the loud cracking and thunderous booming as chunks of ice plunge into the water below!
So which Alaska cruise itinerary do you choose to see a magnificent icy blue tidewater glacier? It doesn’t really matter. You can’t go wrong with any of them!