Royal Caribbean Receives Permission To Sail To Glacier Bay
The National Park Services has awarded a new ten-year concession contract to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd to provide cruise ship services in Glacier Bay National Park, beginning October 1, 2019.
Royal Caribbean has been awarded access to Glacial Bay for the upcoming 2019-2029 cruise seasons by the National Park Service . Every ten years NPS contracts are awarded allowing selected cruise lines to operate with the the Park. Each cruise is allowed a specific number of visits in the Alaska summer cruise season plus additional visits in the Alaska shoulder cruise season, including May and September.
The Parks Service asked each cruise line detailed questions about the impact its ships would have on the park’s ecosystem. A panel of technical experts reviewed each proposal package submitted by various cruise lines, and Royal Caribbean was among seven cruises lines that were awarded a contract.
“We are excited to welcome seven cruise lines to Glacier Bay. The very competitive process resulted in some of the highest cruise tourism environmental standards and best visitor experience quality seen in the world,” said park superintendent Philip Hooge.
Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Siteone of the worlds largest international protected areas.
Option : On A Cruise Ship
Almost every Alaska cruise on ships big or small that passes Glacier Bay will make a trip up the Bay to see the glaciers. This usually takes a full day, so its often obvious on your itinerary if your ship will spend one day in Glacier Bay.
In terms of where youll go in Glacier Bay National Park on a cruise ship, that depends. Specifically, it depends on the size of your ship and the permissions they have about where they can go. It also depends on the glaciers themselves cruise ships typically go to two tidewater glaciers, Margerie and Grand Pacific glacier, but may also go up Johns Hopkins Inlet for a view of John Hopkins Glacier. For the 9-10 hours most ships spend in the park, most spend at least one hour at a glacier.
Its important to note that mega cruise ships do not dock anywhere in Glacier Bay you wont be able to visit the Visitor Center or go hiking in Glacier Bay as part of a cruise. Instead, a Park Ranger will board the ship to be a guide for the day.
On my Alaskan Dream Cruises trip in September 2021, we actually spent almost two days in Glacier Bay, including time at Johns Hopkins Glacier, an overnight in Geikie Inlet , and a half-day on land at Bartlett Cove. For this reason and many others, I think small ship cruises are a superior way to cruise in Alaska.
Hubbard Glacier Vs Glacier Bay: Bottom Line
Fortunately, some Alaska itineraries include both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay, making the choice between the two nonexistent. But if you’ve got your heart set on seeing both, double-check your itinerary before booking.
If you have to choose, keep the time of year in mind. Ships most likely will not sail past Hubbard Glacier during the early or late parts of the Alaska season, as temperatures might be too low for waters in and around Hubbard to remain ice free.
In general, if you’ve never been on an Alaska cruise, we recommend a cruise that sails Glacier Bay for the full experience. But if you’re impressed by sheer size or if you’ve already experienced Glacier Bay, choose an itinerary that includes Hubbard Glacier.
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Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve Ak
A popular tour destination on cruise itineraries, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve wows with its icy wilderness and grand glaciers in southeastern Alaska. Cruise ships, sailboats, kayaks and more navigate the 65-mile bay for picturesque vantage points of more than 1,000 glaciers, but they can’t draw too near to the frozen giants since chunks of ice often break off, or calve, from glaciers and thunder down into the water, creating icebergs. Glaciers of note include the park’s largest tidewater glacier, John Hopkins the elongated 21-mile Margerie and the rapidly receding Muir. The park also is home to an amazing world of marine life, including humpback whales, sea otters, giant Pacific octopuses and harbor porpoises. An array of species resides on land, from brown and black bears to moose, mountain goats, wolves and prickly porcupines, while the bird variety includes bald eagles, tufted puffins and trumpeter swans.
What To See And Do
As the name suggests, Glacier Bay is a park that is all about glaciers. Its home to more than 1,000 of them, and seeing a glacier up close is the big draw for most visitors to the park.
Specifically, most visitors come to view one of the parks nine giant tidewater glaciers, which flow down from the mountains to the water. For those visiting Glacier Bay by cruise ship, the experience will revolve heavily around a stop at one of these glaciers to watch giant chunks of ice crash down from its face a magnificent show.
Cruise ships arrive in the park for the better part of a day, and the experience goes beyond just a stop at one of the parks glaciers. Sightings of puffins, harbor seals, Steller sea lions and even the occasional humpback whale or brown bear are part of the allure all while traveling by water through an immense, glacier-carved landscape.
If you come on a big cruise ship, youll be doing your Glacier Bay viewing from the deck of your vessel. Big cruise ships in Glacier Bay never dock, and nobody gets off them. Still, youll get the full National Park Service experience. Park rangers and often a local Huna Tlingit cultural guide will board the vessel for the day to offer presentations and shipwide commentary over loudspeakers, lead kiddie activities and answer questions.
Some small cruise vessels that spend the night in Glacier Bay do allow passengers to disembark.
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The Wildlife In The Park
The densely wooded islands of the national park are home to numerous animal species, such as brown bears, black bears, wolves, snow goats, moose, coyotes, foxes, marmots, porcupines, red squirrels, bald eagles and more than 200 other bird species. The water is home to a variety of marine mammals such as killer whales , humpback whales, grey whales, seals, seals, sea otters, beavers and, of course, a lot of salmon.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is the mack daddy of all the scenic cruising sites. So much so that cruise lines need to submit applications in advance and compete to garner the coveted use-day spots. Holland America and Princess have historical rights to nearly half the spots, and cruise lines that fail to secure access can only try again every 10 years.
Ships that visit Glacier Bay will spend approximately nine hours in the park, entering the bay from Icy Strait and sailing to either the John Hopkins glacier or the Grand Pacific and Margerie Glaciers at the bays farthest ends. Park rangers join each cruise ship from the park headquarters near Glacier Bays entrance and offer live narration about the park and its sights, as well as answer questions.
Keep your binoculars at the ready, and scan the sea, sky, and slopes for bears, mountain goats, bald eagles, sea lions, seals, and sea otters. Even if you dont spot any wildlife, your time on deck will be rewarded when the ship cuts its engines and slowly revolves, so everyone can ogle at the gigantic ice-blue glaciers that run down to the sea.
Glacier Bay National Park is located northwest of Juneau and diagonally across the channel from Icy Strait Point.
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Things To Know About The Park
Glacier Bay National Park attracts up to 400,000 visitors a year and is located in southern Alaska, about 150 kilometers northwest of the capital Juneau. The park offers snow-covered mountain ranges that reach up to 4,500 meters in height. The highest point is on the flank of Mount Fairweather, which is 4,663 metres high.
The national park, which covers more than 13,000 km2, has been a protected area since 1925. When the English captain George Vancouver first explored the present region in 1794, the bay was almost completely covered by the ice of the glaciers. But as early as 1879, less than 100 years later, the Scottish scientist John Muir discovered that the ice masses had receded by up to 80 kilometres. Many parts of the Bay were now ice-free. The warming of the earth and the associated decline of glaciers can be seen impressively in the park to this day.
A map of Glacier Bay National Park
The Best Way To See Glacier Bay In Alaska
You don’t have to travel far to experience awe-inspiring natural beauty. Dynamic glaciers, rugged mountains, and temperate rainforests are just a few of the natural wonders that you can see on an Alaskan cruise to Glacier Bay.
Glacier Bay National Park is a 3.3-million-acre park that offers cruisers limitless possibilities for inspiration and adventure. Most notably, the park is one of the few places in the world where it is relatively easy to access glaciers. As part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park is one of the world’s largest protected areas.
Not only does Glacier Bay provide cruisers with a look at some of the most amazing scenery in the world, but it also offers a diverse array of activities for anyone to enjoy. Explore the remote forests or marvel at the snow-capped mountaintops. Boat into the inlets and hidden coves and discover some of the most amazing Alaskan marine life, including sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters. You might even have the unforgettable experience of seeing a humpback whale.
The best way to see Glacier Bay in Alaska is on a cruise with Norwegian. Although planes do fly into nearby city Gustavus, ground transportation is limited. Also, since a good portion of the park consists of waterways, you’ll have more opportunity to see wildlife on a cruise. Plus, you can breathe in the fresh, crisp Alaskan air as you sail along.
Here are some of the best Norwegian cruises that include Glacier Bay on the itinerary:
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Tips For Cruise Passenger To Glacier Bay National Park
In June, I travelled with Norwegian sun and visited 3 port of calls. On top of that, our ship visited 2 glaciers, namely Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier.
Here are some tips for cruise passengers:
1. Do read the cruise itinerary carefully and know what time the cruise will be stopping in the national park. Large cruises are only allowed an hour or two in the waters of the national park. So you do not want to miss it.
2. Wake up early in the morning. I am talking about having breakfast at 6.30-7.30am to avoid the large infux of passengers going for breakfast at around 8-9am.
3. Secure an outdoor seating to eat your breakfast. This is fairly important to those who stays in interior stateroom. You would want a good spot to view the glaciers and to take pictures.
4. Dress warmly even in summer. It can get quite chilly out there. Dress in layers! No need for down jacket. A good fleece jacket, t-shirts and jeans will suffice. It will be good if you have long john for the bottom half of the body.
5. If traveling with more than 4 people, please book rooms on both side of the ship. This will make viewing of cruise easier as the ship will be rotating 360degree.
6. Bring a good camera/binoculars with a good zoom. LOL. The cruise is not as close to the glaciers as i expected it to be.
For tons of pictures on glacier bay national park, do visit my blog at
For tips on Ketchikan,
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Day 8 Juneau Disembarkation
Linger over breakfast this morning cruising into Juneau. Wish your crew and new friends goodbye. Then its off to the airport or begin your UnCruise hotel stay or land tour.
Passport required . Itineraries are guidelines variations in itinerary and the order of days may occur to maximize your experience.
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Independent Cruises From Juneau
Bookings through All Alaska Tours include an early morning flight from Juneau to Gustavus, an eight-hour catamaran cruise and an evening return to the capital. Enjoy lunch while a park ranger provides narration. Catamarans operate June 1st through early September. Refunds are issued in the event of grounded flights due to inclement weather. As of spring 2011, adult pricing for one-day tours was $526.00.
Visitors to the park’s Glacier Bay Lodge can board the Baranof Wind, departing at 7:30 a.m. daily in the summer. A park ranger is aboard for the full eight-hour tour, which includes lunch, beverages and a souvenir. Reservations are recommended children 3 to 12 years old receive a discounted rate.
The Margerie Glacier In Tarr Inlet
From Johns Hopkins Inlet, the journey continued into Tarr Inlet, the northernmost side arm of Glacier Bay. The Inlet is about 15 kilometers long and three kilometers wide and runs almost to the border with Canada. The Grand Pacific Glacier, which has no continuous ice surface up to the water, flows into the head area of the bay, the Margerie Glacier is located a little further south on the left bank.
The Margerie Glacier is a 34 km long glacier and certainly the highlight of the Scenic Cruise in Glacier Bay National Park. The glacier rises on the southern flank of Mount Root and flows from there to the Tarr Inlet. The ice front rises about 75 meters above the water of the fjord and another 30 meters lie below the waterline. The Margerie Glacier is one of the few glaciers that still grow today: the ice front grows by around ten metres every year!
In total we drove 9 hours through the Glacier-Bay National Park and were also very lucky with the weather: an almost bright blue sky and pleasant temperatures. This can be quite different here in the area. Overall, we liked the Scenic Cruise very much and reminded us a little of our cruise through the Geirangerfjord in Norway
Around 3 p.m. the Park Ranger left our ship and we continued our journey north towards Anchorage.
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National Park Service Announces Glacier Bay Cruise Plan
The current practice of permitting no more than two ships a day in the park will be preserved under the 10-year plan, park officials said.
President Calvin Coolidge declared Glacier Bay and surrounding wilderness a national monument in 1925. Its only accessible by air and water, and most visitors experience the park from a cruise ship.
spend a total of about eight hours inside the park waters, concessions specialist David Lucas said Monday from the park services regional business office in Anchorage. Its just a very unique opportunity for these folks to get into the park.
The concessions plan includes a return of Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival-owned cruises including Princess Cruises and Holland America Line.
But the plan also includes newcomers Royal Caribbean Cruises, Viking Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line.
Its just a wonderful place to bring all these numbers of people in at one time, Lucas added.
The concession contracts once signed by the cruise lines would go into effect for the 2020 season, resulting in a total of 153 visits per year.
Officials said further details would become available once the contracts are finalized.
Top Things To Do And See In Glacier Bay National Park
Cruises to Glacier Bay National Park combine nature and wildlife, dramatic landscapes, adventure activities, relaxation, and the chance to explore remote villages and see the local way of life. Cruise itineraries generally combine a variety of experiences so that you can enjoy the very best of Glacier Bay National Park. Top things to enjoy on cruises around Glacier Bay include:
Glaciers – Stunning glaciers that are surrounded by snow-capped peaks and verdant forests are sure to take your breath away. Admire these huge natural wonders, and watch as the landscapes gradually change, with huge blocks of ice calving away and crashing into the waters. The is a particularly exceptional spot for witnessing the majesty of nature. John Hopkins Glacier is incredibly photogenic, whilst McBride Glacier is a terrific place for kayaking.
Wildlife – An abundance of wildlife calls Glacier Bay National Park home, and small ship cruises let you get even closer to an array of fascinating creatures. Watch as whales and seals glide through the icy waters whilst sea lions and sea otters frolic nearby, look to the skies and observe eagles soaring above, and see bears, deer, wolves, and moose roaming on dry land. Other animals that populate the area include squirrels, weasels, foxes, ermines, marmots, and minks.
Top Tips for visiting Glacier Bay National Park
Different Parts Of Glacier Bay National Park
Like many National Parks in Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is a huge place some 3.3 million acres in all.
As such, it helps to get oriented to different areas of the park:
- The Bay Carved by glaciers in only the last 300 years, this is the main area people will spend time and want to explore in the park. From the Bay you can reach a number of tidewater glaciers by boat.
- Bartlett Cove This small waterway is the headquarters for the National Park Service in Glacier Bay literally. Here youll find the Visitor Center/Park HQ as well as a visitor information center, and the only docking facilities in the park. There are also hiking trails and the parks one campground is here.
- Gustavus The small town of Gustavus is located near Bartlett Cove and is the main gateway to reach the park on your own. It is accessible only by plane or ferry some smaller cruise ships might stop here, but its not common.
- The Outer Coast The Pacific coast of Glacier Bay National Park is a wild, rugged, and mostly inaccessible place. There are no tours here, so youll likely only visit it or pass by on a cruise.
- Dry Bay Officially in Glacier Bay National Preserve, this area of the park is only accessible by plane from the Alaskan town of Yakutat and has virtually no visitation, so is a perfect place to escape the crowds.