Celebrity Cruises strives to visit the best areas of a destination. In Alaska, that means being very selective about which glaciers to visit. Glacier Bay is often considered the most well-known glacier area in Alaska, but Celebrity Cruises doesn’t sail to it. Why? Because we think our passengers will be much more impressed and have a more memorable time seeing Sawyer Glacier (via Tracy Arm Fjord) and Hubbard Glacier. Here’s what makes these towering glaciers stand out from others.
Tracy Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier: Alaska’s Premier Fjord with Iceberg Galores
Sawyer Glacier is accessed via Tracy Arm Fjord, which is located about 45 minutes south of Juneau. The 23-miles Tracy Arm Fjord route itself is full of natural wonders and gorgeous sights, with Sawyer Glacier being the pinnacle view.
When cruising with Celebrity, you’ll visit Sawyer Glacier on board the Celebrity Solstice, the first of Celebrity’s award-winning Solstice-class of ships, which will have you navigating the waters of Alaska in stylish comfort while offering plenty of viewing platforms to see the rugged scenery you’ll be passing. Some ships go just inside Tracy Arm Fjord and then offer shore excursions to get closer to Sawyer Glacier, but Celebrity Solstice sails up as far as possible.
The icebergs by Sawyer Glacier are formed from underwater calving by Sawyer Glacier and are the most impressive in Alaska. You’ll pass hundreds as your ship makes its way to Sawyer Glacier along Tracy Arm Fjord. However, it’s often the above water calving at Sawyer Glacier that people come to gawk at.
Calving occurs when large sections of ice breaks off from the glacier. When that happens above sea level it makes for a jaw-dropping spectacle as massive pieces of white-blue ice separate from the main glacier and fall into the sea below. It’s not only an incredible sight to behold – and one that happens regularly at Sawyer Glacier — but it’s also a remarkable thing to hear. The noise made by the calving is referred to as “white thunder” which gives you a sense for just how loud it can be! The largest chunks also create huge wakes in the water after they fall.
To make sure all passengers get prime viewing of the glacier, the captain of Celebrity Solstice pivots the ship so that balconies on the left, and then on the right, have a perfect view of the glacier and calving.
You’ll also witness a multitude of waterfalls as you make your way through Tracy Arm Fjord. How many waterfalls you’ll see glistening in the daylight depends on the amount of recent rainfall.
As for wildlife, you’ll likely see a variety of animals. Celebrity Solstice crosses the bar to Tracy Arm Fjord at sunrise and often there are whales that can be spotted at the entrance. Bald eagles make their nests along Tracy Arm Fjord, which you’re more likely to see from May through July. Also from May through July you’ll get the chance to see harbor seal pups and their mothers hanging out in the water and on glaciers. When the tide goes out along Tracy Arm Fjord you’ll get the opportunity to witness animals coming down to feed on the sea critters left behind on land; you also may even see bears feeding along the mud flats.
In the event that too much ice is along Tracy Arm Fjord and prevents the cruise ship from navigating it, Celebrity Solstice visits Dawes Glacier via Endicott Arm instead of Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier. Like Tracy Arm Fjord, Endicott Arm is also part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness. And like Sawyer Glacier, Dawes Glacier is mightily impressive.
Dawes Glacier is roughly the same size as South Sawyer Glacier (the part of Sawyer Glacier that cruise ships typically visit) and also has consistent calving that often involves large pieces of ice crashing into the frigid water below. Getting to Dawes Glacier exposes cruise passengers to the sheer beauty of narrow fjord cruising with the ultimate reward of seeing a tidewater glacier that still produces awe-inspiring iceberg formations that are hard to find anywhere else in southeast Alaska.
Here are some other reasons visiting Sawyer Glacier or Dawes Glacier on board Celebrity Solstice is such a memorable experience:
-Naturalist and ocean scientist Brent Nixon provides informative, expert commentary throughout the transit of the fjord and also provides six or seven captivating talks on Alaska’s history, diverse wildlife, glaciers, and more during the duration of your cruise.
-Weather permitting, you can watch the spectacular calving from the helipad on board, which has a prime viewing location on the front of the ship. While you gaze at the glacier, Celebrity Cruises butlers bring out hot chocolate for you to sip. How cozy does that sound?
-There are sections of the fjord that are quiet zones, so no announcements are allowed to be made so passengers can enjoy the beauty of Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness area in silence.
Whether you end up sailing to Sawyer Glacier or Dawes Glacier, you won’t be disappointed in the wild, frozen landscape that awaits you.
Hubbard Glacier: The Giant Galloping Glacier
If the calving at Sawyer Glacier sounds exciting, then you’ll definitely want an itinerary that visits Hubbard Glacier, located in Disenchantment Bay between Seward and Skagway.
Hubbard Glacier is an advancing tidal glacier, which means it is moving toward the Gulf of Alaska through Disenchantment Bay, and it is the largest tidal glacier in North America – it is as large as Rhode Island! This also means it has some truly impressive calving as glaciers calve more when they are advancing (as opposed to the ones in Glacier Bay, which are receding). Hubbard Glacier calves about every 15 minutes and at times, sheets of ice as large as 10 or 15 stories tall will break off with a thunderous crack and cascade into the sea right in front of your eyes.
Nicknamed the Galloping Glacier for how fast it’s advancing (about 33 meters a day), Hubbard Glacier is a highlight for many cruisers and is actually the biggest glacier you can see from from a cruise ship. When visiting Hubbard Glacier with Celebrity Cruises, you will spend about 90 minutes at the face of Hubbard Glacier and the ship will rotate during her time at Hubbard Glacier, providing every guest from both side of the ship’s outer decks and private verandas spectacular viewing opportunities.
Though Hubbard Glacier is the highlight, the journey to get to it through Disenchantment Bay is also memorable since nine of the sixteen tallest peaks in North America are visible on approach to Hubbard Glacier. These peaks are part of the Wrangell St. Elias mountain range, which includes the famous Mount Fairweather. From Disenchantment Bay, Mount Fairweather is even more visible than from Glacier Bay.
You can visit Hubbard Glacier with Celebrity Cruises on board Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Infinity, and Celebrity Millennium.
Here are some other “cool” facts about Hubbard Glacier:
-It takes about 400 years for ice to traverse the length of the glacier.
-Hubbard contains enough ice that it could cover all of the Los Angeles Basin in six feet of ice.
-Hubbard Glacier is 76 miles long and spans six to seven miles wide and 25 to 30 stories tall at its face.
Ready to Go?
If you’re still not swayed that Hubbard Glacier and Sawyer Glacier are the glaciers you want to see while cruising Alaska, here are some more reasons Glacier Bay is worth skipping when visiting Alaska with limited time:
-Glacier Bay is a National Park so it has restrictions on announcements and activities.
-It take six hours to get up the bay to see two glaciers, both of which are receding and will likely have little to no calving while you’re there.
-Johns Hopkins Glacier is off limits to park visitors during the summer months, so you miss great wildlife viewing.
-In the 1920s, Glacier Bay was full of ice, however, 60 miles of ice have melted in the last 10 years so there is not much left to see now.
To summarize, Glacier Bay just isn’t what it was 25 to 30 years ago, due to the fact that most glaciers in Glacier Bay are now “hanging” glaciers, which have long since receded far back into the mountainside. People still associate Glacier Bay with Inside Passage cruising due to its history, but travelers in the know seek out the wonders of Hubbard Glacier, Sawyer Glacier, and Dawes Glacier.
Alright, so now are you ready to book your cruise to see these iconic glaciers and fjords? Then visit www.CelebrityCruises.com or speak with your travel agent. Due to the limited length of the Alaska cruise season (May through September), popular sailing dates and the best cabins book up quickly so don’t delay if you’re ready to see these iconic glaciers up close.