Updated August 21, 2018
A cruise to Alaska is awe inspiring, due in large part to the stunning glaciers you'll see while sailing the waters along the 49th state. Whether it's your first time to the Last Frontier, or it's your favorite domestic destination, differentiating between cruise itineraries can be tough. If you're debating a cruise to Glacier Bay versus Hubbard Glacier, we have what you need to know to weigh the pros and cons of each.
Glacier Bay Pros
Glacier Bay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many glaciers to see; past visitors rave about its scenery, which includes tidewater glaciers, glassy water, mountains and wildlife such as whales, harbor seals, otters and brown bears. One bonus of sailing a national park is that cruise lines are required to have a park ranger onboard while in the confines of the park; this means cruisers get access to the knowledge park rangers carry with them. The local park rangers narrate the sights and ecology of Glacier Bay over the loudspeaker as you sail and offer shorter lectures and informal chats.
Glacier Bay Cons
Glacier Bay is a safer bet to cruise throughout the season, although it could still be frigidly cold and even rainy. Bring plenty of waterproof gear, and dress in layers.
Hubbard Glacier Pros
Tall, wide and generally massive, Hubbard Glacier is a mesmerizing natural wonder framed in striking glacial blue. The largest tidewater glacier in North America at a whopping 76 miles long and 1,200 feet deep, Hubbard has been nicknamed the "galloping glacier" because of how quickly it's advancing toward the Gulf of Alaska through Disenchantment Bay. Rapid advancement results in major calving -- the dramatic breaking off of chunks of ice at the edge of a glacier. Watching ice melt has never been so exciting! This area is also rife with wildlife similar to that found in Glacier Bay.
Hubbard Glacier Cons
While spectacular, Hubbard is just one glacier, whereas Glacier Bay consists of many glaciers; sailing Glacier Bay takes several hours and is an iconic Alaska cruise experience. Hubbard can be hard to get to at certain times of the cruise season when the weather is cold, as ice can block ships from passing too near. That means cruisers can miss out on an up-close experience with this scenic cruising marvel.
Hubbard Glacier vs. Glacier Bay: Bottom Line
Fortunately, some Alaska itineraries include both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay, making the choice between the two nonexistent. But if you've got your heart set on seeing both, double-check your itinerary before booking.
If you have to choose, keep the time of year in mind. Ships most likely will not sail past Hubbard Glacier during the early or late parts of the Alaska season, as temperatures might be too low for waters in and around Hubbard to remain ice free.
In general, if you've never been on an Alaska cruise, we recommend a cruise that sails Glacier Bay for the full experience. But if you're impressed by sheer size or if you've already experienced Glacier Bay, choose an itinerary that includes Hubbard Glacier.