Aialik Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / AlbertoLoyo | Aialik Bay
Juneau, Alaska, kayaking at Mendenhall Glacier
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / Michael Turner | Kayaking at Mendenhall Glacier
Glacier Bay, Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / bennymarty | Glacier Bay National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, mountain goats
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / Arctos_Photography | Mountain Goats in Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, Harbor seals
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / Dougfir | Harbor Seals in Kenai Fjords National Park
Glacier Bay, Alaska, Whale Breach
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / TyMaloney | Whale Breaching in Glacier Bay

Alaska - Glacier Bay

Icy Strait, Alaska, totem pole Photo credit: iStock.com / gbautista87 | Tlingit totem pole

See the wilds of Alaska with sailings though scenic Glacier Bay. Itineraries are mostly seven-night, one-way (either northbound or southbound) between Seward or Whittier (near Anchorage) along the Gulf of Alaska, and Vancouver or Seattle below the Inside Passage. Either way, the sailings include a full day of cruising around Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is overlap between Inside Passage and Glacier Bay itineraries, and both often include ports like Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Choose the Glacier Bay route to get to the state's more northern reaches.

What We Love

Hubbard Glacier: This massive glacier north of Glacier Bay (near Yakutat Bay) is more than 6 miles wide and 350 feet tall where it meets the ocean. Huge calving chunks of ice crashing into the sea are common and a sight to behold.

Prince William Sound: In the northern part of the Gulf of Alaska are more than 100 glaciers. Incredibly striking is the College Fjord area and its glaciers set against the backdrop of snowcapped peaks rising up thousands of feet.

Kenai Fjords National Park: Here, several dozen glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield; if you’re cruising to or from Whittier, you may pass through the steep-sided, glacier-carved fjords of this gorgeous region.

Best Known For

Glaciers: The huge rivers of ice wedged into the fissures and creases of mountains, like Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau and Sawyer Glacier at the end of Tracy Arm to the south, are the main attraction. Many are tinted blue (due to the way light is transmitted), some are calving (when chunks break off the ends), and unfortunately, many are shrinking and receding, thanks to climate change.

Whales: Humpbacks and orcas spend the summers feeding along the coast of southeast Alaska. One of your best chances for seeing them up close is on an excursion from Skagway into the Upper Lynn Canal.

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Best Ports

Icy Strait Point: This historic port is steeped in Tlingit culture, the main attraction a restored 1930s salmon cannery owned and managed by Tlingit Native Americans. The port is also for active nature lovers, with kayaking, zip lining, and hiking opportunities.

Skagway: This is a classic old gold rush town, complete with saloons and wooden storefronts dating back more than a century to when prospectors came to find their fortunes in the nearby mountains. From here, you can ride the White Pass & Yukon railway or hike, bike, or take a river-rafting excursion.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Glaciers Are Receding: You can see with your own eyes the effects of global climate change, with glaciers shrinking at an alarming rate.

Wildlife Will Scatter: If you’re on a big ship near other big ships, don’t expect to see bears fishing along the shoreline or whales breaching next to your cabin balcony. You’re more likely to spot wildlife on an excursion with fewer people and less commotion.

Heidi Sarna

Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.

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