I was fortunate enough to have visited four of our National Parks this year! I saw Everglades National Park with Princess Cruises, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona & Arches National Park in Utah this summer with Adventures by Disney, and I was lucky enough to visit Glacier National Park while cruising on the Norwegian Bliss this past September! Glacier Bay was stunning! It was my favorite day of the Inside Passage cruise that I took.
I thought I would share some information, history, trivia about this amazingly beautiful part of our country. This information is from Princess Cruises, my absolute favorite cruise line. During this entry, I’ll also share some pictures I took with my iPhone during my visit.
Glacier Bay is wild, resilient and sacred. This globally significant 3.3 million acre marine and terrestrial wilderness sanctuary is protected as a National Park, a Biosphere Reserve and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Glacier Bay encompasses some of the North American continent’s most amazing scenery & wilderness.
Tidewater glaciers are great rivers of ice that stretch over and between mountain ridges until they meet the green tidewater, calving large chunks of ice with thunderous cracks into the sea.
The bay boasts seven such tidewater glaciers, including famous Margerie Glacier – one of Alaska’s most photographed features, and also one of the state’s most active glacial faces. It’s about one mile wide, with an ice face that is about 250 feet high above the waterline and a base about 100 feet below sea level.
- Glaciers cover 2,055 square miles or 27% of the park
- There are 1,045 glaciers in the park, and 50 of them are named
- 7 glaciers are active and calve icebergs
- The largest glacier in the park is the Grand Pacific Glacier which is 60 feet tall (with another 60 feet below the water line) 2 miles wide and 35 miles long — it moves 1 to 4 feet per day. Because it’s face is black, it appears to be rock or land.
- The Grand Pacific Glacier is largely responsible for carving out the fjord through which cruise ships travel.
- Fish: 160 marine & estuarine species
- Birds: 274 species
- Mammals: 41 species
- Amphibians: 3 species
- Plants: 333 species
Guests on cruises frequently see bald eagles, puffins and sea mammals like otters, seals & humpback whales. They may even be lucky enough to see a brown bear, moose or mountain goat when viewing the shore.
As a Princess Cruise ship enters Glacier Bay, a team of Park Rangers climb out of a small pilot boat and scale a rope ladder up the side of the ship.
- They share their insights and stories about Glacier Bay’s fascinating natural scenery over the ships PA system.
- Guests learn compelling details about the park’s ecosystem, wildlife and ongoing conservation, while gaining a deeper understanding of the incredible glaciers, mountains and other sight enjoyed from the deck (or from your balcony)
- They are available throughout the day to answer questions
- Special programs are conducted in both the Princess Theater and the Youth Center. Kids can join the Junior Ranger program and even earn their ranger badges!
HOW IS IT PROTECTED?
To protect park resources and enhance visitor experiences, the National Park Service limits the number of vessels during the summer months. Two cruise ships may enter each day and a permit is required. Access to these waterways is closely monitored to protect wildlife and enhance the experience of each visitor.
The National Park Service works in close conjunction with Princess Cruises to minimize disturbance to endangered humpback whales and other vulnerable marine life by maintaining strict operating and speed restrictions in this diverse habitat. Their mission is to share our world and preserve and protect the scenic beauty, geologic land forms and diversity of life in the area.
When Captain George Vancouver first set eyes on the small five-mile inlet that was Glacier Bay in 1794, he described a “sheet of ice as far as the eye could distinguish.”
By the time naturalist John Muir visited in 1879 with a group of the native Tlingit, who called the bay their ancestral homeland, the ice had retreated enough to begin exposing one of the world’s most majestic wildernesses. His poetic descriptions of the area have been inspiring visitors to Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve ever since.
It rains a lot — 70 inches a year near park headquarters. May and June are the sunniest, and it is usually not as cloudy near the glaciers as in the lower portion of the bay. The constantly changing moods and quality of the light are part of Glacier Bay National Park’s splendor.
WHAT TO WEAR
It’s important that you dress appropriately because the weather in Glacier Bay can change quickly. Have enough layers to stay warm and dry as it’s usually cooler on the water and near the glaciers.
On Princess Cruises, guests sailing on their top-rated Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary visit Glacier Bay National Park on most departures. Select roundtrip Inside Passage itineraries also include a visit to Glacier Bay. Materials onboard enchance the experience:
- Glacier Bay map delivered to stateroom
- Glacier Bay Patter insert
- Onboard Ranger Station
- Special daily schedule & locations of key presentations for adults and children
- Extensive selection of books on Glacier Bay and Alaska in the Princess library
- National Park Service videos played on stateroom TV
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world. Princess Cruises carries more guests to Glacier Bay every year than any other cruise line, and they are committed to preserving this amazing place.
I hope that you enjoyed this brief visit to Glacier Bay National Park from Princess Cruises! If you’d like to find a Princess Cruises Alaskan itinerary that visits Glacier Bay, give me a shout. I’d love to help you visit this amazing destination.