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If Glaciers Were the Deciding Factor...


GreytRacer
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If Glaciers were the deciding factor, which would you pick?

 

Inside Passage and Endicott Arm

Icy Strait Point and Endicott Arm

Tracy Arm

 

I know there are many more factors that go into choosing an Alaskan cruise, but am curious about thoughts on this in particular.

Thanks!

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Just based on the limited information it appears the second choice goes to Dawes Glacier and “attempts” to get to the Sawyer Glaciers so that would be my choice.   Really though, I wouldn’t go on either of those if glaciers were a priority.  With a glacier priority I’d choose something that goes to both Glacier Bay and either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord.  Princess/Holland

 

Many times ships don’t make it to Sawyer Glacier due to the fjord being clogged with ice near the glacier.

 

You’ll also have easy access to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.

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59 minutes ago, Glaciers said:

Just based on the limited information it appears the second choice goes to Dawes Glacier and “attempts” to get to the Sawyer Glaciers so that would be my choice.   Really though, I wouldn’t go on either of those if glaciers were a priority.  With a glacier priority I’d choose something that goes to both Glacier Bay and either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord.  Princess/Holland

 

 

Many times ships don’t make it to Sawyer Glacier due to the fjord being clogged with ice near the glacier.

 

 

You’ll also have easy access to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.

Thanks for your response!  We're new to this Alaska cruising thing, so trying to figure it out!  😄

 

On further research I found:

NCL: Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Holland: Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Princess: Glacier Bay National Park

 

How about if we add those to the mix?  Which would you pick?  Thanks!

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I'd weigh in on Holland with Glacier Bay National Park with the addition of Icy Strait Point. I love Hubbard Glacier but the National Park is very scenic and park rangers come on-board to give commentary. It definitely adds to the experience. 


Karen

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3 hours ago, GreytRacer said:

If Glaciers were the deciding factor, which would you pick?

 

Inside Passage and Endicott Arm

Icy Strait Point and Endicott Arm

Tracy Arm

 

I know there are many more factors that go into choosing an Alaskan cruise, but am curious about thoughts on this in particular.

Thanks!

 

If Glaciers are a deciding factor for an Alaska cruise, none of these are great options.

 

Having worked a couple of full season on Alaska cruises and a number more as a pax, I consider Glacier Bay as an essential stop. With numerous visits to Glacier Bay, I have never NOT seen at least 2 glaciers, regardless of weather and ice conditions. Being a National Park, the commentary from the Rangers is amazing.

 

Hubbard Glacier is huge and most of the time I have been able to access this glacier. From memory, I believe I only missed 1 or 2 trips to Hubbard due to ice conditions.

 

Prince Willian Sound - scenic cruising, especially in College Fjord is amazing. In Whittier you can also book a Phillip's 26 Glacier Tour. Taking a 1-way N'bd or S'bd is definitely vastly superior to a R/T criuise that only visits touristy SE Alaska. However, to get up to Prince William Sound you must use Vancouver, as Seattle departures are all R/T.

 

For a cruise line in Alaska, Princess & HAL are the 2 longest serving experts.

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I would choose a cruise that includes both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay.  A cruise with visits to Glacier Bay and College Fjord will also be a good one.  

 

As others have pointed out, sometimes conditions are such that it is difficult for a ship to get very near the glacier(s) that they are trying to visit.  

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6 minutes ago, Heidi13 said:

 

If Glaciers are a deciding factor for an Alaska cruise, none of these are great options.

 

Having worked a couple of full season on Alaska cruises and a number more as a pax, I consider Glacier Bay as an essential stop. With numerous visits to Glacier Bay, I have never NOT seen at least 2 glaciers, regardless of weather and ice conditions. Being a National Park, the commentary from the Rangers is amazing.

 

Hubbard Glacier is huge and most of the time I have been able to access this glacier. From memory, I believe I only missed 1 or 2 trips to Hubbard due to ice conditions.

 

Prince Willian Sound - scenic cruising, especially in College Fjord is amazing. In Whittier you can also book a Phillip's 26 Glacier Tour. Taking a 1-way N'bd or S'bd is definitely vastly superior to a R/T criuise that only visits touristy SE Alaska. However, to get up to Prince William Sound you must use Vancouver, as Seattle departures are all R/T.

 

For a cruise line in Alaska, Princess & HAL are the 2 longest serving experts.

Thanks for your response!  Glaciers aren't the only deciding factor (cost and sail dates being the most important), but we're trying to get as much bang for our buck as we can.  We live in Florida, so Alaska cruises won't be happening very often, if ever again.

 

I found these on further research:

NCL: Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Holland: Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Princess: Glacier Bay National Park

 

Which would you select from those?

 

Thanks!

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10 minutes ago, GreytRacer said:

Thanks for your response!  Glaciers aren't the only deciding factor (cost and sail dates being the most important), but we're trying to get as much bang for our buck as we can.  We live in Florida, so Alaska cruises won't be happening very often, if ever again.

 

I found these on further research:

NCL: Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Holland: Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Princess: Glacier Bay National Park

 

Which would you select from those?

 

Thanks!

 

It's impossible to give a definitive answer without knowing the arrival/departure ports, other ports and the route steamed. All 3 visit GB N/P, which is a bonus.

 

If I was planning an Alaska cruise and it could potentially be my one and only, I would want to maximise the viewing of the amazing scenery & wildlife. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Seattle departures - Alaska cruises departing Seattle are all R/T, as no distant foreign port is readily available for a 1-way cruise between 2 US ports. The R/T cruises can only reach SE Alaska within 7-days. Most of these also steam up/down to Alaska on the outside of Vancouver Island in the open Pacific Ocean. No land in sight and often moderate to heavy weather. To comply with US PVSA they must also visit a foreign port, most often Victoria, BC. Victoria is spectacular, but arrival is usually late afternoon/early evening and only for about 4 hrs. When heavy weather experienced the Victoria call is often reduced. Seattle is also further from Alaska than Vancouver, so the ships must steam at higher speed, or spend less time in port.
  • Vancouver departures - you can find R/T cruises to S/E Alaska, or 1-way up to Prince William Sound (Seward/Whittier). All cruise lines cruise the inside passage to Port Hardy, with Mainstream Lines then going up Hecate Strait. Smaller ships will remain in the Inside Passage for vastly superior scenic cruising. Vancouver is closer to Alaska and ships have no PVSA requirements, so they should generally spend longer in port, or do more scenic cruising.
  • 1-way cruise - departing Vancouver to Seward (HAL) or Whittier (Princess) is the only way to see the spectacular Prince Willian Sound.

If I could only do 1 Alaska cruise, Glacier Bay & Prince William Sound would both be on the mandatory list. In Whittier/Seward, even if pressed for time, I would want to set aside a few hours for a local Phillip's or similar sightseeing cruise.

 

For our next Alaska cruise it will be a 10-day Vancouver to Seward on Viking Ocean, but if NCL/HAL/PC are the only choices, it would be a 1-way Vancouver to Seward (HAL) or Vancouver to Whittier (PC), or the reverse trips.

  

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1 minute ago, Heidi13 said:

 

It's impossible to give a definitive answer without knowing the arrival/departure ports, other ports and the route steamed. All 3 visit GB N/P, which is a bonus.

 

If I was planning an Alaska cruise and it could potentially be my one and only, I would want to maximise the viewing of the amazing scenery & wildlife. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Seattle departures - Alaska cruises departing Seattle are all R/T, as no distant foreign port is readily available for a 1-way cruise between 2 US ports. The R/T cruises can only reach SE Alaska within 7-days. Most of these also steam up/down to Alaska on the outside of Vancouver Island in the open Pacific Ocean. No land in sight and often moderate to heavy weather. To comply with US PVSA they must also visit a foreign port, most often Victoria, BC. Victoria is spectacular, but arrival is usually late afternoon/early evening and only for about 4 hrs. When heavy weather experienced the Victoria call is often reduced. Seattle is also further from Alaska than Vancouver, so the ships must steam at higher speed, or spend less time in port.
  • Vancouver departures - you can find R/T cruises to S/E Alaska, or 1-way up to Prince William Sound (Seward/Whittier). All cruise lines cruise the inside passage to Port Hardy, with Mainstream Lines then going up Hecate Strait. Smaller ships will remain in the Inside Passage for vastly superior scenic cruising. Vancouver is closer to Alaska and ships have no PVSA requirements, so they should generally spend longer in port, or do more scenic cruising.
  • 1-way cruise - departing Vancouver to Seward (HAL) or Whittier (Princess) is the only way to see the spectacular Prince Willian Sound.

If I could only do 1 Alaska cruise, Glacier Bay & Prince William Sound would both be on the mandatory list. In Whittier/Seward, even if pressed for time, I would want to set aside a few hours for a local Phillip's or similar sightseeing cruise.

 

For our next Alaska cruise it will be a 10-day Vancouver to Seward on Viking Ocean, but if NCL/HAL/PC are the only choices, it would be a 1-way Vancouver to Seward (HAL) or Vancouver to Whittier (PC), or the reverse trips.

  

Thanks again for your insight!  We're looking at r/t from Seattle this September, which is all they're offering at this time.  

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4 minutes ago, GreytRacer said:

Thanks again for your insight!  We're looking at r/t from Seattle this September, which is all they're offering at this time.  

 

Timing is another key consideration for Alaska.

 

Closer to the Solstice (June 21st) gives many additional hours of daylight to enjoy the scenic cruising. While weather can be a negative factor at any time, the 2 severe storms I experienced in Alaska, were both in September. These were both when I worked the cruise ships, as personally, I wouldn't book an Alaska cruise in September. Had a few nice weeks, but after August they were few and far between.

 

September departures are generally cheaper, but for a very good reason.

 

Any chance you can delay to 2022, or later.

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September has the potential for the worst weather of the cruising season.

 

I would put Glacier Bay first, Hubbard Glacier second. I would try to do Tracy Arm as an excursion in Juneau (need to be there all day for it 8 to 6 or 7 pm.).

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2 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

Any chance you can delay to 2022, or later.

No, this September is our opportunity.  That's why I was asking specifically about the below, as that's what's available.  I'm getting the impression from everyone's responses we shouldn't go.  Unfortunately, "peak" season is out of out budget.   

Inside Passage and Endicott Arm

Icy Strait Point and Endicott Arm

Tracy Arm

Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Glacier Bay National Park

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2 minutes ago, GreytRacer said:

No, this September is our opportunity.  That's why I was asking specifically about the below, as that's what's available.  I'm getting the impression from everyone's responses we shouldn't go.  Unfortunately, "peak" season is out of out budget.   

Inside Passage and Endicott Arm

Icy Strait Point and Endicott Arm

Tracy Arm

Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Glacier Bay National Park

 

May or early June aren't peak season and have more daylight and a higher possibility of better weather. Might want to consider early season, rather than late season.

 

BTW - mentioning Stephen's Passage as a highlight is the marketing dept taking liberties. It is a rather wide (for the Alaska/BC Coast) channel south of Juneau. No different from many other channels. Since we arrived in Juneau early morning, we sailed through this mostly at night.

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Factor you do not want to visit a glacier in the early morning hours - F-O-G -

low overcast skies - limited visibility !

 

Most of the Alaskan glaciers you have to visit by cruise ship or charter excursion boat -

The notable ones -

 

Glacier Bay

Hubbard

Dawes (Endicott Arm)

Sawyer (Tracy Arm)  

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15 hours ago, GreytRacer said:

No, this September is our opportunity.  That's why I was asking specifically about the below, as that's what's available.  I'm getting the impression from everyone's responses we shouldn't go.  Unfortunately, "peak" season is out of out budget.   

Inside Passage and Endicott Arm

Icy Strait Point and Endicott Arm

Tracy Arm

Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)

Glacier Bay National Park

Any time in Alaska is a good time.  Princess has substituted Glacier Bay for Endicott/Dawes now that PVSA has been waived.  Go for it! You won’t regret it.  I’ve been hot and cold, experienced sun, rain, and freezing temperatures, and still enjoyed every minute.  

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20 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

BTW - mentioning Stephen's Passage as a highlight is the marketing dept taking liberties. It is a rather wide (for the Alaska/BC Coast) channel south of Juneau. No different from many other channels. Since we arrived in Juneau early morning, we sailed through this mostly at night.

 

I wondered about that in the suggested itineraries that the OP was considering.  What is so special about Stephen's Channel?  

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7 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

I wondered about that in the suggested itineraries that the OP was considering.  What is so special about Stephen's Channel?  

 

Nothing that I can recall.

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7 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

 

Nothing that I can recall.

I agree. I remember some one here thinking the itinerary with this in it was better than another. I made the comment that both traveled that same way.

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From a former Alaska resident who gets back as often as I can, my thoughts for your

possibly once in a lifetime trip this September:

- Glacier Bay is a must for the best glacier experience. You'll have secondary opportunities to cruise by (Hubbard, Dawes, etc.) or as excursions in port (Mendenhall in Juneau, easily accessible and affordable; Taku Glacier and lodge via floatplane from the pier in Juneau).

- Don't fret the weather in September. I've done it before and lucked into great weather, but you are travelling in a rain forest in Alaska: cool and wet should be expected so be prepared.

- As much as I love Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway (really I do), the character these towns are totally dominated by the cruise ships: each can handle 5 ships a day and 20,000 people a day totally changes the town. You'll find Diamonds International, etc. just like you do in Cozumel, St. Maarten, etc. For a chance to see "real Alaska", Icy Strait Point and Sitka offer you a little more perspective on the history and culture of Alaska while interacting with year round residents, not the seasonal workers you'll find in the other towns.

 

HAL has an itinerary that looks appealing to me, but there are other options that may fit your needs as well. With all the late planning and dropping the Victoria requirement, I'd be flexible for more changes, possibly adding ports,  as the summer moves on.

 

 

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6 hours ago, kennystwin said:

Icy Strait Point and Sitka offer you a little more perspective on the history and culture of Alaska while interacting with year round residents, not the seasonal workers you'll find in the other towns

 

I agree.  It's been several years since I visited Sitka; always had to tender when I did, but now I understand there has been a pier built.  Icy Strait Point had only one pier when I was there; now, there are two.  Don't think that is good news for either of the communities if they want to maintain the character that they had.  Icy Point Strait was a real treat for me!

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6 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

I agree.  It's been several years since I visited Sitka; always had to tender when I did, but now I understand there has been a pier built.  Icy Strait Point had only one pier when I was there; now, there are two.  Don't think that is good news for either of the communities if they want to maintain the character that they had.  Icy Point Strait was a real treat for me!

 

So true.

 

When I worked on the Alaska cruise ships, Sitka was always a tender port. Didn't have a berth in those days, so tendering was the only option..

 

Even in the 70's/80's it was the most authentic Alaska port, with lots of Russian culture. One ship anchored, with only 750 pax going ashore - perfect.

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Fondly remembered - HAL WESTERDAM -

Holland-America Westerdam, 8099, Alaska SEA-SEA 06/11

 

The Westerdam was the perfect size ship compliment to the port call at Sitka.

 

Only regret was not bringing enough batteries for my camera - way too many photo opts - - -

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would pick the NCL itinerary.  I had that one booked for this year, and moved it to next year because I didn't have any faith that Alaska would open up this year.  For a R/T Seattle, you want the longest possible itinerary, and the 9/10 day NCL cruise gives you that and it also gives exceptionally long port calls.

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On 6/1/2021 at 7:38 AM, kennystwin said:

From a former Alaska resident who gets back as often as I can, my thoughts for your

possibly once in a lifetime trip this September:

- Glacier Bay is a must for the best glacier experience. You'll have secondary opportunities to cruise by (Hubbard, Dawes, etc.) or as excursions in port (Mendenhall in Juneau, easily accessible and affordable; Taku Glacier and lodge via floatplane from the pier in Juneau).

- Don't fret the weather in September. I've done it before and lucked into great weather, but you are travelling in a rain forest in Alaska: cool and wet should be expected so be prepared.

- As much as I love Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway (really I do), the character these towns are totally dominated by the cruise ships: each can handle 5 ships a day and 20,000 people a day totally changes the town. You'll find Diamonds International, etc. just like you do in Cozumel, St. Maarten, etc. For a chance to see "real Alaska", Icy Strait Point and Sitka offer you a little more perspective on the history and culture of Alaska while interacting with year round residents, not the seasonal workers you'll find in the other towns.

 

HAL has an itinerary that looks appealing to me, but there are other options that may fit your needs as well. With all the late planning and dropping the Victoria requirement, I'd be flexible for more changes, possibly adding ports,  as the summer moves on.

 

 

 

I would add Valdez, Wrangell, Kodiak and maybe Wrangell to the list of relatively unspoiled towns.  Maybe also Haines.  All of those towns would not dry up and blow away if cruising stopped.

 

DON

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