Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay is not really a park that many people visit by driving up to the gate. That’s because you can only access Glacier Bay National Park by boat or plane. More than 95% of visitors never technically set foot in Glacier Bay, but arrive by cruise ship. We did just that in 2023, arriving on an Alaskan cruise that originated in Seattle.

We loved our Alaska cruise, especially our visit to Glacier Bay.

This was definitely our most unique national park visit. Our cruise ship slowed as we entered Glacier Bay National Park’s waters. Then two rangers approached and attached their small boat to the ship. They climbed up a rope ladder and made their way onboard. This spectacle alone was worth the visit!

The cruise line had obviously worked with the park before. The rangers’ program and schedule were all a part of our itinerary. The rangers made themselves available for programs and questions and even used the ships PA to talk about the features we were passing in the national park.

The entire park was gorgeous. Look at the color of that water.

As our cruise ship sailed along we spotted whales spouting in the distance. As we got closer, otters floated lazily in the frigid water. Then the pass narrowed down and we could see mountain goats on the rugged slopes above us. There was even a bear spotted on the beach, though you had to have binoculars to see it well.

We saw tons of seals and sea otters.

The rangers continued to narrate as we began to pass glaciers, naming each one and pointing out the soft blue ice as it chugged slowly (very slowly) down the mountain. Eventually, we came to a sort of dead end at the foot of a glacier, in our case, the Johns Hopkins Glacier. There were countless ice floes all around the ship, and many of them had lazy harbor seals laying right on them.

We saw a few other glaciers along the way.
We called this seal city!

The John Hopkins Glacier was amazing! Most passengers crowded onto the prow of the ship as we got close. Then the ship came to a stop right in front of the mile-long blue wall. The ship pirouetted both right and left so that both sides of the ship had a facing view of the glacier. In the relative silence, we saw large chunks of ice “calve” or fall from the face of the glacier. They smacked the waters surface with a slightly delayed gunshot sound. It really was breathtaking. After an hour at the glacier, we turned around and sailed back the same way we’d come. The rangers left in the same spectacular fashion to remain in Glacier Bay National Park.

This is John Hopkins Glacier.
This glacier was so amazing up close.
This is just one part of the glacier.
We loved how blue everything was.
Just a piece of ice floating by!

While onboard, the rangers ran a small giftshop just like you’d see at any other national park. We were able to buy patches for our boys, and they enjoyed completing the Junior Ranger program, just as they would at any other venue. Make sure to check out the Glacier Bay National Park website, and your cruise line itinerary to learn more about this amazing national park!

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