Kristi received media rates for the cruise. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own.
If you’ve ever explored off-the-beaten-path destinations on vacation you know the excitement of experiencing something new that not every other tourist has seen. Each day on the Alaska Discoverers’ Glacier Country cruise with UnCruise Adventures is an opportunity to discover spectacular scenery and animals in their natural habitat. Well-organized, daily expeditions lead explorers of all ages into the wilderness of Alaska’s Inside Passage.
The Inside Passage is a coastal waterway that begins in Puget Sound and winds its way through British Columbia and the Alaska panhandle. Protected from the open ocean, cruising the 500 mile-long Alaska portion is generally smooth sailing for passengers and it’s a popular summer cruising route.
For one week, my family explored the wildlife-filled islands, coves, bays and glacier-carved fjords of Alaska’s Inside Passage with rarely another ship or person in sight. After departing from Juneau, our days were spent cruising, kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking and our nights were filled with tales of the day’s adventures and relaxing with our fellow passengers.
There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska and they’re a highlight for any visitor to the 49th state. With UnCruise Adventures, getting up-close and personal with glaciers is an essential part of the cruise experience.
The glacier that creates the most excitement is the brilliant blue tidewater glacier that flows into the sea and calves huge chunks of ice at whim. These tidewater glaciers greet you in the form of floating ice floes – sometimes home to lounging seals – before you ever see the glacier. The boom and crash of a calving glacier is an unforgettable experience that captivates all ages.
Cruising the fjords, you’ll also see hanging glaciers which are suspended on the mountain never intending to reach the sea and receding glaciers with waterfalls trickling or rushing down the mountainsides.
Hiking on the glaciers is a highly anticipated excursion on the ship and available for all levels. The more experienced hikers jump over crevasses and the less adventurous hike and poke around the base of the glacier making discoveries along the way. It’s an education in the lifecycle of a glacier as you first discover the rocky debris that the glacier picks up along the way and deposits at the water’s edge. Rivers and lakes of meltwater are often nearby and “boot-sucking” glacier mud is a fun adventure especially with the kids who like to test the mud.
There are two must-sees for most visitors to Alaska; bears and whales. Our cruise in mid-June occurred before the salmon run which is when the bears show up so we didn’t see them fishing but we did have a few on-land sightings and the most unexpected sleeping bear sighting. If bears are high on your list, time your cruise with the salmon run which begins in mid- to late July.
Besides bears and whales there is an endless list of possible wildlife sightings including moose, mountain goats, orcas, dolphins, sea otters, sea lions, eagles, sea birds and more. It’s akin to being in a zoo-aquarium with no cages and no closing times.
The humpback whales spend their summers in Alaska feeding on the rich krill and small fish that abound in the Inside Passage waters. One of the most spectacular sights is the humpback whale group bubble net feeding. When a group of humpbacks finds a school of fish, one whale dives below the fish, blows bubbles up through the school creating a “net” to disorient them while the whales surge up with mouths open for an easy dinner – it’s an unbelievable sight.
According to the American Bald Eagle Foundation, half of the world’s population of bald eagles live in Alaska. Everyday we saw adult and juvenile bald eagles sitting in the trees always looking for their next meal, soaring across the treetops and even scavenging a dead sea lion and halibut. However, we usually didn’t see them doing what my fellow passenger captured – screaming.
One day in Glacier Bay we passed colonies of Steller sea lions, flocks of seagulls, puffins, other shore birds and even a whale surfacing among them. If you’ve been to aquariums it’s pretty common to see a puffin exhibit and the cute little birds swim and dive but seeing them in the wild taking off in the water brings home the power of flight.
While the wildlife and scenery are the focus of the cruise, there is no doubt that the ship environment and socializing is a close third. As we awoke every day wondering what we’d see on the expeditions, the adults also wondered every evening at cocktail hour what the inventive drink of the day would be from our fabulous bartender Jerry. On the last day he outdid himself with a little help from the expedition team. Our last evening’s drink was a Basil Berg chilled with 400 year-old ice cubes chiseled from a calved ice chunk from Dawes Glacier.
All photos by Kristi Marcelle except where noted.
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