Alaska’s scenic Glacier Bay isn’t a port of call for large cruise ships, but it has become a highlight for small ship cruises on an Inside Passage itinerary. Cruise lines often take a nine-hour scenic tour through the icy waters of this natural fjord. Along the way, passengers can take in the grandeur of rain forests and glaciers, plus whales, bears, and other wildlife.
What We Love
Bird-Watching: Since 2013, 274 species of birds have been spotted in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. You don’t have to be a birder to enjoy eagle, puffin, and other waterfowl sightings.
Gustavus: For those extending their stay, the town of Gustavus is only nine miles further inland. Galleries and studios showcase the work of local sculptors, painters, potters, and woodcarvers.
Best Known For
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve: Visitors to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve are treated to a massive expanse of boreal wilderness. The park comprises 3.3 million acres, 27 percent of which is covered in glaciers.
Bartlett Cove: As the starting point for all adventures into the park, this cove is a great spot to take a ranger-led guided hike or go kayaking.
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Who It's Best For
Wildlife Watchers: Keep your eyes peeled. In summer, whales abound. Glacier Bay also has the largest population in Alaska of brown and black bears.
Kayak Enthusiasts: Rent a vessel from Bartlett Cove or onboard your tour boat to glide past icebergs and marvel from sea level at glaciers calving.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Don't Count on It: Be sure to inquire when booking whether Glacier Bay is on your agenda as a scenic cruise or a port of call, since most major cruise ship lines don’t actually dock at Bartlett Cove.
Hard to See All at Once: You will likely have to choose one activity and stick with it on your stop, which can be frustrating for travelers who want to experience more than one slice of the 3 million-acre park.
Matt Villano is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Wall Street Journal.