Exploring Dawes Glacier by Cruise Ship

There’s nothing quite like an Alaskan cruise to make you feel small in the best possible way!

As you weave between icy cliffs taller than skyscrapers, watch chunks of ancient glaciers crash into the sea, and spot wildlife like eagles and whales in their natural habitat, you’ll be awestruck by the power and beauty of nature.

Though every Alaskan cruise offers jaw-dropping sights, Endicott Arm Fjord is a must-see. And at its end lies the icy behemoth that’s Dawes Glacier, looming larger as your cruise ship nears!

Dawes Glacier Alaska Cruise
(Photo courtesy of Diana Zalucky/Disney Cruise Line)

Overview of Dawes Glacier

Located at the head of Endicott Arm Fjord and protected within the Tongass National Forest, Dawes Glacier was originally named “Young Glacier” in 1880 by John Muir.

In 1892, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey changed it to its current name in honor of Massachusetts lawyer and statesman Henry Laurens Dawes.

Over 600 feet tall and around 1 mile broad, Dawes Glacier is a mighty remnant of an even bigger ice block that forged Endicott Arm Fjord thousands of years ago.

Consisting of two massive glaciers and combined by a medial moraine in the middle, Dawes Glacier covers 250 feet of ice underneath the surface of the glacier.

Cruise guests can admire and stand in reverence for the gigantic icy beauty from the outer decks of the ship.

They might even get to witness ice calving, which is when heavyweight chunks of ice fall off and shed into the seawater underneath without warning, creating icebergs.

Visiting Dawes Glacier by Ship

Due to strict environmental restrictions, cruise ships visiting the area have specific times of the day when they’re allowed to venture through the Endicott Arm Fjord to Dawes Glacier.

All the major cruise lines usually have a naturalist narrating the voyage through the fjord, pointing out any nearby wildlife and providing guests with factoids about the area.

However, due to strict sound pollution rules, there are portions of the journey when the naturalist will have to stop speaking through the P.A. system.

Regardless, guests will be able to enjoy the tranquil wilderness as the ship carefully maneuvers through the near-frigid waterway to the peak of the mighty fjord to get a good glimpse of the impressive Dawes Glacier.

Make sure you pack binoculars (if the cruise line doesn’t provide them), a camera, and a warm coat!

Dawes Glaciers Alaska Cruise
A bald eagle is spotted during an Alaska Cruise.

READ MORE: Alaska Inside Passage Cruises: What You Need to Know

Getting Closer to Dawes Glacier

If you’re interested in getting a closer look at Dawes Glacier, several cruise lines will offer an excursion that takes guests not far from the glacier on a smaller boat.

Passengers will be able to enjoy close-ups of floating icebergs, waterfalls, and wildlife including brown bears, bald eagles, and harbor seals.

Endicott Arm is actually one of the largest breeding grounds for harbor seals, so your chances of seeing these cute little critters swimming and resting on icebergs are very high.

You’ll need to check with the shore excursions desk for pricing and times once onboard or book online prior to your trip.

Just make sure you check on availability early on in your cruise or as soon as you book your trip, as these excursions tend to fill up pretty quickly.

If you opt to not do an excursion, you will want to make sure you check the evening before arriving at the Endicott Arm Fjord to see what time the ship will be entering the fjord.

The various cruise ships sailing in the area take turns throughout the day navigating these narrow areas one at a time.

If your ship will be entering the fjord in the early morning, you’ll want to make sure you set an alarm so you don’t accidentally oversleep and miss all the beauty it has to offer.

dawes glacier alaska flickr
(Photo courtesy ofFlickr/Care_SMC)

Also, don’t worry about getting a prime spot onboard, as you’ll have optimal viewing from any of the outer decks onboard. The ships normally do a full turn in the channel, allowing guests the opportunity to see everything.

With approximately 1.4 million cruise guests sailing in Alaska each year, it’s safe to say that the fjord scenic cruising portion of the itinerary is always the most popular, with cruise ships slowly making their way through these majestic areas.

These are also prime spots to see wildlife and experience up close what the beautiful region has to offer.

Things to Do at Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier

There’s a lot that you can do at Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, from boarding a high-speed expedition boat and cruising through the fjord’s jade waters to searching for humpback whales, bald eagles, brown bears, and harbor seals.

We recommend that you finish your Endicott Arm expedition by getting as close to the face of the glacier as possible. By doing so, you increase your chances of seeing a large chunk of ice calving into the sea.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Dawes Glacier in Glacier Bay?

No, Dawes Glacier isn’t in Glacier Bay. The narrow scenic fjord is southeast of Juneau, around 50 miles. The glacier is considered part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness area.

Is Dawes Glacier worth seeing?

Definitely! Getting close to the glacier is a breathtaking experience that enables you to see and hear the calving of the glacier. You may also be able to spot whales, seals, eagles, and more.

Can you see Dawes Glacier from a cruise ship?

Yes. Most cruise ships journeying through the scenic Endicott Arm offer cruisers a clear view of Dawes Glacier. It should be easy to spot; it’s 600 feet tall, after all!

Is an Alaska cruise on your bucket list, or have you already visited Dawes Glacier?

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