Ask any traveller; they’d say sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage is on their book-it list. Misty mountains, icy glaciers, and tranquil scenery await cruisers with their sights set on the famous Glacier Bay National Park – a 13,000 square kilometre nature preserve home to over 1,000 glaciers and wildlife.
Cruise ships don’t dock in Glacier Bay, so it’s important to find a cruise line with the right onboard experience for you to enjoy. I sailed to Glacier Bay National Park onboard Holland America Line’s MS Koningsdam – here are my top tips to make the most of your journey.
Research your cruise itinerary ahead of booking
Before booking your Alaskan cruise, pay close attention to the ports included in your itinerary. Not all sailings go into Glacier Bay, so if this national park is on your must-see list, make sure it’s included ahead of putting down a deposit.
Cruise ships typically spend a full day sailing through Glacier Bay, with an entire hour spent drifting alongside one of two famous glaciers: John Hopkins Glacier or Margerie Glacier. During the summer travel season, only two ships are allowed into Glacier Bay at a time, assuring a beautiful and quiet visit to the national park.
Did you know? Holland America Line has been sailing to Alaska longer than any other cruise line, and they have the most sailings to Glacier Bay.
Book a balcony stateroom or higher for the best views
If there is ever a time to book a balcony stateroom on a cruise, it’s when sailing to Glacier Bay National Park. While plenty of public areas are onboard to sit and experience the scenery (including the ship’s bow), there’s something special about sailing through Glacier Bay, wrapped in a blue plaid blanket, sipping a hot drink in serene silence.
Weather in the park can be unpredictable at times, too. Wind or rain can dampen your visit on the decks of the ship. With a private balcony, you’re more protected from the elements.
Order breakfast and eat it on your stateroom’s balcony
Every night, guests can order breakfast and coffee to their stateroom by hanging an order form on their door before going to sleep. Your food will be delivered to your stateroom the following day, warm and ready to enjoy.
Ahead of your sailing day in Glacier Bay, order food to your room so you can enjoy it on the balcony. This way, you’ll ensure you have a front-row seat to the beautiful scenery in the morning.
Indulge in local seafood for lunch or dinner
Locally inspired cuisine is a staple of every Holland America Line cruise, so add some seafood to your plate while visiting Alaska. Make restaurant reservations for The Dining Room or Sel de Mer for fresh king crab, salmon, and other Alaskan favourites.
On our sailing, Holland America Line offered a special seafood boil in the Lido Market after visiting Glacier Bay.
Did you know? Holland America Line is the only Alaskan cruise line to earn the Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification for serving only fresh and certified sustainable wild Alaska seafood onboard.
Join other guests on the bow of the ship for traditional Dutch Pea Soup
Holland America Line serves a cup of its famous Dutch Pea Soup on the ship’s bow on Alaskan cruises. It’s a tradition that’s been going on for years and something every guest onboard looks forward to. It’s only served in Alaska and Norway during special events, like visiting Glacier Bay.
Holland America Line was founded in the Netherlands, where pea soup is traditionally made in winter. Serving this popular dish onboard symbolizes Holland America Line’s early days.
Travel Tip: can’t wait to try a spoonful of HAL’s Dutch Pea Soup? Go online to find their recipe and make it for yourself at home.
Listen for announcements of wildlife sightings
Onboard Rangers and your cruise’s Wildlife Expert will keep guests informed of any wildlife sightings seen from the ship. Listen to announcements made throughout the morning and early afternoon for updates. You can hear these announcements from most areas of the ship, including your private balcony.
In Glacier Bay, you might be lucky to see Humpback whales, grizzly bears, sea otters, sea lions, and more. Check out CAA Travel’s article on eight animals you can see on an Alaskan cruise.
Bring a camera with a telephoto lens
There’s plenty to see in Glacier Bay, from bald eagles and sea otters to floating icebergs. Some of the best places to see wildlife are along the shoreline – where a set of binoculars or a camera with a long zoom lens comes in handy!
Sailing to Glacier Bay, I packed a Nikon COOLPIX digital camera with an 83x optical zoom lens. Not only could I zoom in on the shoreline to spot Dall sheep and sea lions, but I could also snap photos.
Join an EXC® Talk on the World Stage with Alaska Park Rangers
The World Stage is the largest entertainment venue onboard MS Koningsdam. You can visit the World Stage on regular sailing nights for music, dance, and even comedy shows.
During your cruise in Glacier Bay, however, onboard Rangers hold an EXC® Talk lecture on Glacier Bay’s history and ecological significance. Floor-to-ceiling screens will show stunning photos and videos of the park, giving each guest information to take home with them and further appreciate Glacier Bay.
Travel Tip: if you have kids ages 3-12 travelling with you, they can join the Junior Ranger Program in the Kids Club.