Sailing from Anchorage to Vancouver with Holland America included many once-in-a-lifetime moments, but none were perhaps as remarkable as the day spent in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. I’m now embarrassed to say that before the cruise, I thought the day spent sailing would be boring and even prosaic. Naturally, nothing could be further from the truth and the experience of cruising through a UNESCO World Heritage Site was the highlight of the trip. I want to share today what I think you should know about Glacier Bay and what makes it such an extraordinary destination.
Glacier Bay would be a remarkable place no matter what, but its very unique geology and the speed in which it changes is what truly sets it apart. When the first European explorers arrived it was a vast sheet of ice, but even just a few decades afterwards the glacier had receded dramatically. It’s continued this process over the years, creating the massive bay in the process and serving as a unique opportunity to see how glaciers behave in just a few years instead of the normal few decades. It’s also a massive preserve covering a total of 3,223,384 acres and the best way to understand the size and scale of the park is to visit via cruise ship.
The Experience of Cruising in Glacier Bay with Holland America
With more than 50 named glaciers, Glacier Bay is home to the world’s most impressive assemblage of tidewater glaciers, as well as the most accessible. Before the cruise, I didn’t realize that the experience would be an all-day affair but from the moment we entered to the parting shots, it was an experience I know that I’ll never forget. It was on this day when the Holland America EXC – or Explorations Central – department took center stage. National Park rangers boarded the Westerdam in the morning and, along with the ship staff, spent the day giving special talks and serving as guides for our voyage through the park. Whether it was standing on deck watching the landscapes roll by as I listened to a running commentary, or stopping to admire the calving glaciers, the entire experience is something truly extraordinary, as I hope these photos demonstrate.