Making the correct cruise choice can be tough: Carnival or Royal Caribbean? Breakaway or Getaway? Alaska or the Caribbean? In our new Cruising Choices series, we take a look at some of our readers’ more difficult decisions – and hope to help with some answers. Today’s dilemma: Glacier Bay vs. Tracy Arm.
Background: Alaska has adventure to spare; your only difficulty is figuring out which magnificent glacier is on your bucket list. While most Alaska itineraries include a stop in famed Glacier Bay, not all do – and small ships are far likelier to bring you to Tracy Arm instead.
The Differences: When it’s clear, Glacier Bay offers a stunning panorama that encompasses eight of the national park’s 11 glaciers; bring your best camera. The National Park requires cruise ships to bring guides onboard and time within the bay is regulated. Passengers are not allowed to get in smaller skifts. On the way in, you’re likely to see whales breaching and seals sunning themselves on rocks.
Tracy Arm is the name of the fjord that leads up to the two faces of Sawyer Glacier. Instead of a large bay, the fjord walls are narrow and craggy, with steep rock faces that contain multiple waterfalls. The closer you get to the end of Tracy Arm, the more icebergs you’ll see, in shades of blue so deep you’ll think they are made of glass. In June, you may see newly born seal pups on the larger floes, their mothers guarding them closely. Cruise ships often send smaller excursion boats out to get a closer look at Sawyer Glacier (if you’re lucky, you’ll see it calve, close-up).
Choose Glacier Bay If: You’re a checklist person for whom Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime destination. With Glacier Bay, you’ve got a daylong transit through the national park, enough time to take plenty of photos and hopefully spot some wildlife while you listen to expert commentary. The weather is often better too.
Choose Tracy Arm If: You’ve been to Alaska before and want a feeling of awe; there’s something about the passage’s deep channel that inspires communion with nature, no matter how big a ship you’re on. Small boat excursions bring you closer to the glacier face, although note that these can be canceled when the weather is stormy.
Tell us! Which one do you recommend – and why?