Glacier Bay vs Sawyer Glacier

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#1
Richmond, VA
2,543 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
If you were going, which itinerary would you prefer and why?
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- jame
CruiseGuy@live.com | 17 cruises, 113 nights at sea.
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#2
14,589 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
Glacier Bay, definitely. We'll be there for the first time next June. The ships that go to Tracy Arm rarely get far enough in to see the Sawyer Glaciers because of ice, although I understand Tracy Arm Fjord is beautiful even without seeing the glaciers.
#3
8,371 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
Most of the large ships that go into Tracy Arm don't get within sight of the Sawyer Glaciers. Tracy Arm is extremely dramatic, but if you want to see glaciers, it's a great addition to Glacier Bay (or College Fjord or Hubbard Glacier), but not a replacement, for that reason.

Murray
#4
Richmond, VA
2,543 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Helpful feedback. Thanks for the input.
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- jame
CruiseGuy@live.com | 17 cruises, 113 nights at sea.
UPCOMING CRUISES:
None.
COMPLETED CRUISES:
Norwegian Getaway - 01/10/15, S6 Aft Suite, 7 Night S Caribbean
Disney Fantasy - 01/18/14, 05E Aft Balcony, 7 Night W Carribean
Norwegian Jewel - 01/18/13, BA Balcony, 2 night NYC CTN
RCCL Freedom of the Seas - 11/18/2012, Jr Suite, 7 night Caribbean
Norwegian Gem - 09/28/12, BA Balcony, 2 night NYC CTN
Norwegian Dawn - 01/25/12, SF (AD) Penthouse, 11 night S Caribbean
Carnival Pride - 10/16/11, Vista Suite, 7 night Bahamas
Norwegian Star - 01/01/11, AE Penthouse, 15 night Panama Canal
Cunard, Queen Mary 2 -07/01/10, A2 Balcony, 5 Night East Coast
Norwegian Dawn - 01/10/10, AE Penthouse, 5 night W. Caribbean
Carnival Spirit - 01/07/09, Cat 8 Balcony, 8 night Mexican Riviera
Norwegian Sky - 11/24/08, BB Balcony, 4 night Bahamas
Norwegian Pearl - 09/09/07, AC Penthouse, 7 night Alaska
Norwegian Dawn - 05/04/07, BA Balcony, 1 night NYC CTN
Norwegian Dawn - 01/07/07, AF Mini-Suite, 11 night W. Caribbean
Carnival Victory - 09/30/06, Cat 11 Suite, 7 night Canada/New England
NCLA Pride of America - 01/07/06, AE Suite, 7 night Hawaii
#5
14,589 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
FYI - HAL's Zuiderdam and Zaandam will do roundtrips from Vancouver next year, and both go to Tracy Arm AND Glacier Bay.

**Just wondering...are you choosing between two NCL itineraries?
#6
Richmond, VA
2,543 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
I'm waiting to get pricing on a group cruise on either the NCL Pearl (new) to Glacier Bay or NCL Star (less $) to Sawyer Glacier. My impression was that Glacier Bay would probably make a better first cruise to Alaska, but I wanted to get some feedback on itins so that the final decision isn't based solely on price. Either way, we're cruising Alaska next September.
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- jame
CruiseGuy@live.com | 17 cruises, 113 nights at sea.
UPCOMING CRUISES:
None.
COMPLETED CRUISES:
Norwegian Getaway - 01/10/15, S6 Aft Suite, 7 Night S Caribbean
Disney Fantasy - 01/18/14, 05E Aft Balcony, 7 Night W Carribean
Norwegian Jewel - 01/18/13, BA Balcony, 2 night NYC CTN
RCCL Freedom of the Seas - 11/18/2012, Jr Suite, 7 night Caribbean
Norwegian Gem - 09/28/12, BA Balcony, 2 night NYC CTN
Norwegian Dawn - 01/25/12, SF (AD) Penthouse, 11 night S Caribbean
Carnival Pride - 10/16/11, Vista Suite, 7 night Bahamas
Norwegian Star - 01/01/11, AE Penthouse, 15 night Panama Canal
Cunard, Queen Mary 2 -07/01/10, A2 Balcony, 5 Night East Coast
Norwegian Dawn - 01/10/10, AE Penthouse, 5 night W. Caribbean
Carnival Spirit - 01/07/09, Cat 8 Balcony, 8 night Mexican Riviera
Norwegian Sky - 11/24/08, BB Balcony, 4 night Bahamas
Norwegian Pearl - 09/09/07, AC Penthouse, 7 night Alaska
Norwegian Dawn - 05/04/07, BA Balcony, 1 night NYC CTN
Norwegian Dawn - 01/07/07, AF Mini-Suite, 11 night W. Caribbean
Carnival Victory - 09/30/06, Cat 11 Suite, 7 night Canada/New England
NCLA Pride of America - 01/07/06, AE Suite, 7 night Hawaii
#7
Central NY
447 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
Be aware NCL does not have naturalists onboard...unless something has changed. We sailed the Dream last year and we feel our cruise would have been enhanced with a naturalist. We did not know where we were [even with a map] and when to look for whales, wildlife etc. The cruise director READ a canned commentary when we were at Hubbard Glacier.

Seattle offers much more open ocean sailing since those trips usually sail outside of Vancouver Island. You will miss alot of scenery.

My pick would be Holland America RT Vancouver. You can still fly into Seattle [cheaper] and take Amtrak or the Quick Shuttle to Vancouver.

You will love Alaska! Have fun planning!
#8
502 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
If you decide to take the cruise to Sawyer glacier check and see if your ship has an excursion where a smaller boat takes you to the glacier. We did this and it was GREAT. We got very close, while the ship didn't even get to seeing distance. We also saw whales on the way and the trip down Tracy Arm was amazing in the little boat. Later on we met up with our ship in the fjiord, tied up to her and got back on board.

We've been twice to Sawyer. Last year we stayed on the ship. We did see the glaciers from afar but it was a very different experience being on the hug ship then the little boat. The little boat makes you realize the vastness of it all.

I'm planning now to go on the NCL Pearl next year to experience Glacier Bay.

Which ever you choose I know you'll have a great time.
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9 delightful cruises
#9
Southaven, Ms
8,306 Posts
Joined May 2006
Was just on the NCL Star this week. Glacier Bay was outstanding. Got all the way up to John Hopkins's glacier. It calved so many time, they quit counting. A park ranger got onboard early and talk us through the park. Water was so calm. will be posting pictures later. Watch for my review for this board. Have posted a review in NCL's thread.
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Cathi
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We pack our Pollyanna Attitude And our Rose Tinted Glasses

My Space travel blogs and short videos from trips
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#10
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Another Glacier Bay vote. For clairfication, in Sept, you can sail up the John Hopkins, it is closed to ships May- August. I'm booked on the Pearl next year too. But the lack of a ship naturalist is a big overall negative with NCL. Superior for first timer's is definately HAL for a round trip.

I found I made a pretty good "ship information" person to people out on deck. My sightings locations were ALL proved out by the people out enjoying them, which was few.
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Happy Alaska travels

budgetqueenalaska@yahoo.com
#11
Seattle, WA
82 Posts
Joined May 2006
Originally posted by katybird
Be aware NCL does not have naturalists onboard...unless something has changed. We sailed the Dream last year and we feel our cruise would have been enhanced with a naturalist. We did not know where we were [even with a map] and when to look for whales, wildlife etc. The cruise director READ a canned commentary when we were at Hubbard Glacier.
!
We had a naturalist on our 6/24-7/1 NCL Sun sailing. He gave helpful commentary the whole trip up the Tracy Arm. I didn't know that wasn't a usual thing on NCL ships.
#12
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by ChelseaM
We had a naturalist on our 6/24-7/1 NCL Sun sailing. He gave helpful commentary the whole trip up the Tracy Arm. I didn't know that wasn't a usual thing on NCL ships.

I will speculate this was a "lecturer" and not a naturalist, which are different. NCL does have someone who does narrate Tracy Arm and they usually do basic programs during the week, but they do not have the extensive knowledge/background or education that HAL, Princess, etc ship naturalists have, which are way superior.
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#13
Southaven, Ms
8,306 Posts
Joined May 2006
On NCL Star - The park rangers did do a good job. I didn't see the information display they set up, i stay (mostly) on my balcony trying to get clear pictures without other people or blocked by glass. We had very clear weather for this day, my view from the balcony was great. but i did miss the calving at John Hopkins when the ship turned. On the tv they had one program that ran all day with information about the wildlife and how the glaciers were created. On another channel you could hear the Park Ranger, going over much the same thing. Up where the Park Rangers were, you could ask questions and look over their displays. Maybe not as good as a naturalist, but it was still very good and if you listened..you learned. We were lucky, it was the only day that sun came out...but as soon as we left the bay..we were in fog.
Our ship only turned a 180, it didn't turn back around to me. we had another ship moving in, as soon as we were pointed away from the glacier..we moved out of the other ships way.
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Cathi
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We pack our Pollyanna Attitude And our Rose Tinted Glasses

My Space travel blogs and short videos from trips
Webshot photo: NCL Spirit (ship, cabin, ports) Western Caribe, Alaska
West. Carib NCL Spirit review:
Alaska/NCL Star 2006 review
#14
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Toyz711
On NCL Star - The park rangers did do a good job. I didn't see the information display they set up, i stay (mostly) on my balcony trying to get clear pictures without other people or blocked by glass. We had very clear weather for this day, my view from the balcony was great. but i did miss the calving at John Hopkins when the ship turned. On the tv they had one program that ran all day with information about the wildlife and how the glaciers were created. On another channel you could hear the Park Ranger, going over much the same thing. Up where the Park Rangers were, you could ask questions and look over their displays. Maybe not as good as a naturalist, but it was still very good and if you listened..you learned. We were lucky, it was the only day that sun came out...but as soon as we left the bay..we were in fog.
Our ship only turned a 180, it didn't turn back around to me. we had another ship moving in, as soon as we were pointed away from the glacier..we moved out of the other ships way.

For clarification- all ships sailing Glacier Bay MUST be escorted in, by rangers. They do a wonderful job of narration. The biggest advantage of a ship naturalist, is the ongoing commentary they provide and information they have from the previous sailings. Significant for wildlife sightings having them on board full time.

I've sailed NCL several times to Alaska they have many good points and their freestyle can't be beat in my opinion. But the ship "lectures" I have on my sailings were very poor in my opinion. Essentially, did a generic "history" lesson and offered nothing unique to the sailing, one didn't even know areas we were sailing by, nor wildlife trends. I get right cozy with ship naturalists. They offer me so much more. I've now got 2 long time friends out of that deal that I value greatly.
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Happy Alaska travels

budgetqueenalaska@yahoo.com
#15
Anchorage, Alaska
2,729 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
You bring up an excellent issue on naturalists, Budget Queen (I always like reading your posts). It really seems to vary from company to company, not only the quality but the committment to having naturalists at all.

As a long time (34 year) college geography teacher, I got into the naturalist business several years ago with the cruise lines. Some are extremely interested in providing on-going quality narration while others squeeze the naturalist presentations in between the bingo contests and the "shopping in Alaska" lectures.

If future cruisers want to guarantee a great naturalist experience, go with the smaller cruise lines whose ships sail through Alaska during daylight hours and go places where the megaships don't go. The big guys seem more interested in spending times in port for pricey excursions and shopping for "gen-u-ine" Alaskan mementos.
#16
77 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
Its a no brainer. Go with Glacier Bay. We have been to both and bye far Glacier Bay is more senic. We could not get close to Sawyer because of the ice, but it still was very pretty. Glacier Bay on the other hand was awesome. To hear the calving and see it happen before your eyes was somthing i will never forget. We hope this helps in you making your choice. Either way, you will have a great time! Happy cruising!
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#18
AL Gulf Coast
1,693 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
The ships do occasionally make it all the way. I think I've seen a number like 25%? If I'm not mistaken, there are twin glaciers at Sawyer, and it is even more rare to be able to see both. But if you go on one of the small boat excursions, you will almost certainly see them.
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#19
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Cherokee Indianspirit
So has ANYONE seen the glacier of Sawyer bay? Everyone is saying they don't far in enough to actually see so how can the cruise line say Sawyer bay on thier itinerary and we not get to it?
Yes I have seen the twin Sawyer Glaciers. I put together this photo sample of a single trip, comparing what was seen on the add on Tracy Arm tour, vs the ship transit. http://community.webshots.com/user/budgetqueen

The ship photo was the closest, it got to the south Sawyer Glacier, but they did SEE it.
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Happy Alaska travels

budgetqueenalaska@yahoo.com
#20
Central NY
447 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
If you have a long day in port you can take a private excursion with Adventure Bound Alaska. We were scheduled to go with them but the boat had a problem and our trip was cancelled. I have read good reviews of their tour and if we have another opportunity we will try again.