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Norwegian Sun
  • Glacier Flightseeing, Mt. McKinley

  • Glacier Bay
  • Hubbard Glacier
  • Tracy Arm and the Twin Sawyer Glaciers
  • Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau
  • The Kennicott Glacier
  • Worthington Glacier, near Valdez

    Visiting glaciers is surely one of the highlights of a journey to Alaska. There are an estimated 100,000 glaciers in the State, covering three percent of the landscape and creating most of its rivers. Glaciers are rivers of ice that flow from ice packs high in the mountains, where more snow falls than melts. In constant motion, they can move ahead at speeds of several feet a day, or sudden surges of as much as 300 feet. Some are retreating, or shrinking due to increased melting or a lack of new snow to feed them.

    Tidewater glaciers flow to the sea and are found at the head of fjords or inlets which they carved while retreating. Calving occurs when pieces of a tidewater glacier break off and fall into the sea. The creaking sounds associated with calving glaciers and the roar as pieces fall into the sea are as impressive as the visual scene. The beautiful blue colour associated with glaciers is created by the density of the ice which absorbs all the colours of the spectrum except blue, which is reflected.

    Here are photos of various glaciers you are likely to see on your cruise or cruisetour of Alaska:


    Glacier Bay is a collection of fjords and inlets, home to 16 active tidewater glaciers, all five species of Pacific Salmon and 25 percent of the total number of bird species in all North America. It is located in the middle of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, a 3.2 million acre sanctuary. Rangers come on board during the hours you spend in the Bay to explain the various glaciers you will see and the natural history of the region. In just over 200 years, the ice of Glacier Bay has retreated 65 miles. When Captain George Vancouver visited in 1794, the entrance to the Bay was a wall of ice.

    Entrance to Glacier Bay is closely guarded in order to protect the delicate environment, so cruise lines must apply for permits to visit. A limited number of permits are issued each year for ships which meet the strict criteria.

    Margerie Glacier from Regal Princess
    on a wet September day.

    Lampugh Glacier

    Sea Princess in Glacier Bay

    Enjoying the Jacuzzi in Glacier Bay


    Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska extending 76 miles from its source on Mt. Logan in the Yukon. The cliff face you sail along is over six miles wide, 300 to 400 feet from the top to sea level and 300 feet from sea level to the bottom. As Hubbard is advancing, it creaks and groans as it moves and is a very actively calving glacier. This makes for some exciting moments when the huge chunks of ice crash into the Bay creating a wonderful sound called 'white thunder' by the Tlingit people.

    Situated at the head of Yakutat Bay, in Disenchantment Bay, the sail up to Hubbard is both leisurely and beautiful. Small ice bergs, sometimes with sea birds or seals resting on them, float in the water which is glacial blue. Seals calve on the ice bergs here as Orca whales do not visit the bay.

    The smaller Turner Glacier adjacent to Hubbard is overshadowed by its neighbour.

    Hubbard is my favourite glacier because of its size and remote location as well as the active calving that takes place during your visit.

    If conditions are right, you'll sail within a quarter mile of Hubbard, along the face then turn and sail back.

    Infinity at Hubbard Glacier. Most people are on deck for the event.

    The Sun Viking at Hubbard in June, 1995.

    The following photos were taken from Serenade of the Seas, September, 2004:

    Disenchantment Bay

    Approaching Hubbard Glacier

    Serenade's Bridge and Hubbard

    View from our balcony, deck 8, Serenade of the Seas

    Hubbard Glacier
    Serenade at Hubbard - the pool area.


    Hubbard Glacier
    From the Viking Crown Lounge.

    Hubbard Glacier
    From the Viking Crown Lounge.

    Sailing Away

    Regarding names: According to "Alaska's Place Names" Hubbard Glacier "was named in 1890 by Russell of the US Coast & Geological Survey for Gardiner G. Hubbard, 1822-97, Massachusetts lawyer and educator, regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and founder and first president of the National Geographic Society, which office he held from 1888 until his death. Interested in exploration of Alaska, he helped in instigating Russell's 1890 and 1891 expeditions, which were sponsored jointly by the National Geographic Society and the U. S. Geological Survey."

    "Mt. Hubbard, 14,950 feet on the Alaska-Canada border was also named by Russell in honor of Gardiner G. Hubbard."

    Links to Hubbard Glacier-related sites:
    U.S.Forest Service:
    Tongass National Forest Web Site:


    South Sawyer Calving - Click photo for full size.

    A highlight of my 2003 Alaska cruises was Tracy Arm. It was my first visit to this fjord which is 1,200 feet at its deepest point. I returned in 2004 aboard Silver Shadow. The bends in the fjord add to the spectacular views as the ship changes angles, meandering passed ice en route to the twin Sawyer Glaciers at the head of the fjord. The only sounds are bird calls, ice creaking as it thaws and water lapping against the ship's hull. The naturalist spoke occasionally explaining the natural history of the area.

    The surrounding Mountains are 7,000 feet in this area. The sides of Tracy Arm rise steeply with many waterfalls visible along the route. The water is glacial blue due to the microscopic sediment or glacial flour it contains. Sea lions, eagles terns, kittiwakes, mew gulls and mergansers were spotted and some smaller birds flew around the ship.

    Aboard Prinsendam we did not sail right up to either of the twin Sawyer Glaciers (Sawyer and South Sawyer) but saw them from a distance. We could see a small Cruise West boat in front of the Sawyer Glacier but we turned around and sailed back along the fjord.

    Aboard Silver Shadow we sailed much closer to South Sawyer Glacier. There were many small tour boats visiting at mid-day which gave some perspective to the size of the glacier. It was a perfect sunny day and we enjoyed a salmon bake on deck as we sailed down the fjord.

    One of the many waterfalls
    from a Prinsendam balcony.

    Tracy Arm Fjord from Prinsendam
    on a misty, June morning.

    Tracy Arm Fjord from Silver Shadow on a
    perfect August day. Click photo for full size.

    Approaching South Sawyer Glacier
    click photo for full size

    South Sawyer Glacier
    click photo for full size


    That's me at Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau. One of the most accessible glaciers on your cruise, you can drive out to the glacier lookout for an excellent view. Enjoy the many hiking trails - guided hikes are offered by park rangers. Tours of Mendenhall include flightseeing or landing on the ice to hike or ride a dog sled. You can also take a raft from the lake down the river.


    On a cruisetour to Denali Park, you'll have the opportunity to take a flightseeing helicopter over Mt. McKinley, known locally as Denali. It is a spectacular ride and surpasses most people's expectations. Here are a couple of shots of glaciers and Mt. McKinley.


    At the ghost town of Kennicott in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, you'll see the remains of a once thriving copper mining centre. Early last century, Kennicott was known as "Glacier City" as it was built alongside the glacier. The ice was so high, locals could not see across the valley. Since then the ice has retreated leaving mounds of glacial silt. You can visit this intriguing mining town on cruisetours operated by Princess Cruises. (Copper River Lodge departures). Here's a view of the glacial remains from the only lodge in town, Kennicott Glacier Lodge, a haven for hikers from around the world who come here to enjoy the spectacular opportunities in Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest National Park in North America.

    Here's a view taken from the old mill.


    On the scenic Richardson Highway, outside Valdez, you'll find Worthington Glacier. Princess makes a stop here when you travel from Copper River Wilderness Lodge to Valdez to cross Prince William Sound. A park area with interpretive center and walkways has been established at the foot of this very accessible glacier.

    Lead photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line. Other photos are Susan Milne