Traversing the Tracy Arm Fjord is a breathtaking highlight for many adventure bound Alaska cruisers. The majestic beauty on display is both jawdropping and the type of thing one truly has to see to believe. The area includes glaciers, wildlife, and even a few icebergs.
But to get the most out of the experience, it’s worth booking an excursion which will bring you as close as possible to a glacier.
Located off Stephen’s Passage in Southeast Alaska (45 miles south of Juneau) is Tracy Arm Fjord, which highlights the twin Sawyer Glaciers. The glaciers are actually located at the end of Tracy Arm, so you’ll have to travel through the fjord for a while before you see it. The channel can get up to a mile wide at some points.
Fact: Although there are over 10,000 glaciers in Alaska, only 616 are officially named.
Usually, the ship will get as close as it is allowed to and then slowly rotate 360-degrees around the glacier so that both sides of the ship can take in the incredible views.
But to get closer to the glacial actions, you’ll have to book an excursion. Of course, because this particular excursion takes place from the ship as opposed to the traditional type which involves going to a port, there won’t be any third-party options available.
The ship’s excursion will be the only game in town. Although the price varies depending on the cruise line, you can expect to pay somewhere around $190 per person for this experience.
Note: If you’re in Juneau for an extended amount of time, you can book an excursion through Allen Marine Tours.
Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise Excursion
The shore excursion starts once you board a high-speed catamaran in Tracy Arm Fjord. The vessel docks alongside your cruise ship and you board it from one of the lower decks.
Once aboard the smaller vessel, you’ll be able to relax in a spacious, warm cabin, surrounded by broad windows as your experienced boat captain takes you past some of the stunning sights. You might witness seals resting on floating icebergs or some of the regions stunning waterfalls.
Binoculars are provided on the catamaran, but you should consider bringing a pair of your own to use throughout your cruise. Even if it’s not inside Tracy’s Arm Fjord, you’re almost guaranteed to see whales off in the distance or bears playing on the banks of the river at some point during your Alaska cruise.
As your tour boat enters the inner reaches of Tracy Arm, the onboard naturalist will give you a great deal of information about the area you’re exploring, along with facts about Sawyer Glacier.
Insider Tip: For the best views of the glacier, you’ll want to walk outside and head to the upper observation deck.
While sailing through this ice-carved fjord, you will cruise beneath cliffs that tower 4,000 feet above the jade-colored water. There will also be frequent stops along the way to see and photograph wildlife such as bald eagles, bears, arctic terns, pigeon guillemots, mountain goats and harbor seals.
The remarkable maneuverability of the catamaran allows you to get extremely close to the always-changing face of Sawyer Glacier. If the timing is right, you might even get to see what the natives call “white thunder,” which is when massive spires of ice break from the glacier and crash into the sea.
Fact: The ice that breaks off the glacier above or below the surface is what we know as blue icebergs.
If you get hungry or thirsty, the catamaran will have a stocked bar on the main level along with snacks and hot drinks. They’ll also have a selection of Alaskan Brewing Company beers, as well as souvenir books and postcards that are available for purchase.
There are also two restrooms located on the back of the catamaran. If you have mobility issues, you’ll want to sit this tour out because of the constant rocking of the boat when it’s docked next to the ship and the series of stairs to load the boat. In some cases, the tour will specifically say that it is not wheelchair accessible.
The minimum age for our excursion was 5 years old, so you’ll want to check your cruise line’s excursion policy.
Depending on ice conditions in the channel, your ship could be diverted to neighboring Endicott Arm, where you’ll experience Dawes Glacier instead. The ice diversions can’t be predicted, and it’s ultimately about the safety of the ship.
This is a great tour and well worth the money spent to experience the face of a glacier.
Once your ship arrives, you’ll be able to see the tidewater glaciers from the cruise ship. But for the best viewing and photo opportunities, you’ll want to book this excursion and take the two-hour tour to come face-to-face with the glacier, an opportunity that many people will never have in their lifetimes.
This tour sometimes sells out so consider booking it before your cruise. Due to local regulations, only a limited number of excursions per day are allowed to enter the area.
Make sure you pack warm clothes for the Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier cruise excursion. It can get chilly on the water and windy in the fjords. If you plan to spend time on the observation deck on top of the boat, you may want to consider a warm hat and a pair of gloves.
Tracy Arm’s Sawyer Glacier truly provides a breathtaking glimpse of nature’s majesty.
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