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What to Expect at Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay National Park
Beautiful Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park is the highlight of any Alaskan cruise lucky enough to stop there. Only accessible by boat or plane, for many of us, a cruise is one of the easiest ways to see Glacier Bay National Park. For cruises that stop in Glacier Bay, it’s a whole day that can be just as busy as a port day.

But what can you expect at Glacier Bay? You can expect a lot of things – from beautiful glaciers to changes in rules on your ship – but this list of top 5 things to expect in Glacier Bay will help give you an idea of what might happen on your day in Glacier Bay.

1. Expect Special Rules and Restrictions

Sign on the Royal Princess that was set up while in Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay National Park is a wonderful place and as such, it’s protected by a number of special rules. For one, only two cruise ships are allowed there a day. But for another, there are no disposable utensils or cups allowed. That means you’ll have to do without if you’re used to getting a plastic to-go cup for your morning coffee or a paper straw for your drink. Don’t worry, though, most cruise lines will have alternatives available.

The rules are generally well-posted and honestly, most are common sense. Just be respectful to any animals that you see and enjoy the beautiful nature around you and you’ll be fine!

2. Expect to Learn From the Park Rangers

Just a sample of the information you’ll receive on your Glacier Bay day.

Park rangers will board your ship at the entrance of the national park and will provide commentary throughout your time in Glacier Bay. On my last cruise, the commentary could be heard on the decks. They pointed out some wildlife, too, so it’s definitely worth listening to! Additionally, park rangers walked around to answer questions individually, and there was a presentation by a park ranger in the theater. They’re full of information and super helpful so be sure to ask any questions you may have.

Pro tip: You can see the park rangers board the ship if you’re awake and looking! Stay on the top decks and you should be able to watch their small boat approach. It’s pretty crazy to see!

3. Expect to Spend Some Time Outside

Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park
Sights like the Lamplugh Glacier are best seen while outside on deck.

It might be cold out, but the sights are amazing. Trust me when I say that it’s worth it to bundle up and get up to the top decks or out on your balcony to see the sights. It’s just not the same as being inside. Being on the top deck, where you can easily go from side to side, is also a must-do. You never know what you’ll see!

You’ll want to be prepared for any weather. On my last trip, I went from needing a heavy jacket, earmuffs, and gloves to hanging out in just a sweater over the course of several hours! Wear layers and be prepared to take clothes on and off. Luckily, you can just run down to your cabin if you get too hot or cold!

4. Expect to Look for Animals

Sunbathing harbor seals in Glacier Bay
This is no ordinary island – it was completely full of sunbathing harbor seals!

I’ve been fortunate enough to see some incredible animals in Glacier Bay and with a keen eye and some luck, you may be able to, too. You’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for a variety of creatures, including bald eagles, bears, humpback whales, sea otters, seals, and more.

I recommend bringing a pair of nice binoculars so that you have the best chance of seeing animals. While park rangers may point out some animals, they may still be far away and best viewed with binoculars. Other animals may be seen but won’t be called out by the captain or park rangers, so it’s best to keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you might see!

Related: Top 5 Food Experiences on Carnival Breeze

5. Expect to See Some Amazing Sights

Margerie Glacier from the Royal Princess. A truly incredible sight!

Glacier Bay is full of incredible sights and you will definitely see some! From glaciers to mountains to wildlife, there’s so much to see. Most cruise ships see Margerie Glacier, which is one of Alaska’s most-photographed sights. Your ship will do a 360-degree turn so that everyone will be able to see it.

Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll see glaciers throughout the park, beyond just the ones your cruise ship stops at. You may also see animals (see #4) and you will see mountains and other beautiful scenery. Glacier Bay is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and you’ll have a great time!

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