On the 4th of July we didn't get fireworks, but we got something better. The Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay CALVING ICE like it was going out of style! Here's a video I did of it, and I didn't even start shooting video until it had already calved three times.
Speaking of Glacier Bay, I'm not sure how the other cruise lines work, but I know that with NCL they do two basic itineraries for roundtrips out of Seattle. I think they all hit Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Where they differ is on their Day at Sea "excursion" where the actual cruise ship sails into either Glacier Bay OR Tracy Arm (Sawyer Glacier). These are two MAJOR highlights in the area, so each itinerary gets a different one.
I was having none of that, so I ended up seeing BOTH on a single cruise! The trick is to go on the Pearl because when it is stopped in Juneau, the cruise offers an excursion through Allen Marine that takes you to Tracy Arm and back in 6 1/2 hours (time in port 2 PM to 10 PM). As I was planning all this, I was worried there wouldn't be enough time. I thought the excursion would be rushed since Tracy Arm is some distance away from Juneau. But no one in our party felt it was rushed.
We stopped a LONG TIME at a major waterfall, and both the North and South Sawyer glaciers. We even ran into the Norwegian Jewel in Tracy Arm, and being such a big ship, she couldn't go as far in as we did. I had heard that before... All the people that prefer Tracy Arm to Glacier Bay did Tracy Arm in a smaller boat (people who have done both in a large boat seem to uniformly prefer Glacier Bay).
Tracy Arm is narrow where Glacier Bay is wide open. Tracy Arm is more dramatic in a sense, filled with waterfalls and huge chunks of bright blue ice. I can see how it wouldn't be as impressive from a big cruise ship. I feel like we got the best of both worlds doing it this way (Glacier Bay on the cruise ship, Tracy Arm on a smaller boat). As for which I like better...I almost can't choose. It's a tough, tough call. Both are great in their own way, they are both very different and both worth doing.
Moving on, we also did the "Bennett Scenic Journey" excursion through Chilkoot Charters. It combines a train ride, bus ride, some nice stops for photos, and a surprisingly satisfying lunch. 8 hours is a long excursion, I must admit. Still, I loved getting all the way into the Yukon, and quite frankly I thought the best scenery of the day was in Canada, not Alaska. People who only do the White Pass Summit thing and then head back, well...I dunno. It's shorter and less taxing, but also less rewarding. Four people in our party did the short version and seemed happy with it. I loved the longer trip (which still left us four hours in Skagway!), but I won't deny it was a full and tiring day.
Lastly, we did the Misty Fjord seaplane excursion out of Ketchikan with the best there is (from what I've read and what I experienced on the day). Island Wings, and their pilot, Michelle. My girlfriend was nervous about going up in a seaplane, but Michelle has over 22,000 hours flying the De Havilland Beaver. IT SHOWS! You don't even feel the take offs and landings. The whole thing was terrific, and she lands out in the middle of nothing but nature, where you get to walk around for about twenty minutes on land. From what I understand, the other excursions only let you stand out on the floats.
Anyway, loved the whole trip. No issues. It was a real joy from start to finish, aboard the boat as well (doesn't hurt that I won some money at Blackjack in the casino). If any of you are interested, here is my photo album of the trip with scenes from every excursion and Seattle pre-cruise.