Update: Spirit of Glacier Bay Runs Aground in Glacier Bay

July 8, 2008
Update: Spirit of Glacier Bay was able to float yesterday at about 4 p.m., and is traveling to Bartlett Cove under its own power. All passengers and 14 crew members were transferred to a Glacier Bay National Park service vessel, and will head to Bartlett Cove and then on to Juneau. Passengers will receive a full refund of their cruise fare -- 50 percent in cash and 50 percent as a future cruise credit. Stay tuned for news on whether future itineraries will be affected.

(July 7) This morning, a few dozen Alaska cruise travelers learned that their short getaway cruise was about to get shorter. At 7:12 a.m. local time, Cruise West's Spirit of Glacier Bay ran aground in its namesake waters near the Grand Pacific Glacier. The ship was on day three of a four-day Glacier Bay Highlights Cruise.

This is the third time this season that a Cruise West ship has encountered problems in Alaska. In May, Spirit of Columbia experienced generator problems during an Inside Passage cruise, which caused some itinerary adjustments. In early June, Spirit of Alaska also touched bottom, this time in Tracy Arm Fjord, which prompted the cancellation of that cruise and the subsequent one.

The reason for today's grounding is still under investigation, Cruise West spokesperson Jerrol Golden tells us. The ship was traveling slowly (about 1 knot), and the hull was not compromised. There were no injuries to the 24 passengers or 27 crewmembers -- nor was there any threat to marine life or the environment. The Coast Guard has sent two helicopters, a 47-foot motor boat, a 25-foot response boat and a 110-foot Coast Guard cutter to the scene. Spirit of Glacier Bay is stable and should re-float when the tide rises at about 4 p.m. local time.

The cruise line is now working to transfer passengers back to Juneau, either on the re-floated vessel or other transport. Until the amount of damage to the ship is assessed, it's unclear whether upcoming Spirit of Glacier Bay itineraries will experience any changes or cancellations.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor