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Glacier Bay National Park

Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park, glaciers, Holland America, Johns Hopkins Inlet, Marjorie Glacier, Tarr Inlet, Zaandam

Day 5 & 6: At Sea on The Zaandam & Cruising Glacier Bay

We are at sea for the next two days, so for day one, I decide to acquaint myself with the cruise ship. As an avid adventurer, most of my past travels have taken me to off-the-beaten-path kind of places where there are mountains to climb, hidden beaches to discover and historical ruins to explore. In the past, I’ve associated cruises with feelings of restlessness and claustrophobia, and despite hearing a number of good things about them, it’s taken me 34 years to find myself on one. However, when the Travelzoo deal for this Alaskan Land & Sea Package was delivered to my inbox back in February, I knew the deal was too good to pass up and it would be an ideal way to take in a lot of this vast state.

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Deck 3 on The Zaandam.

We board the Zandaam after our Kenai Fjords Tour and attend the mandatory ‘muster drill,’ where we locate our life boat and answer role call. We then head to dinner in the Lodi, a buffet style restaurant on the 8th floor.

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The Rotterdam Dining Room.

After breakfast this morning, I decide to walk the entire ship, starting on deck 3, of which the outside circumference is a walking track. Deck 4 is home to The Rotterdam, a fine-dining restaurant. On deck 5 is Explorations Café, the library, a casino, wine bar, and duty free shops.  Up on Deck 8 is the spa, fitness center, pool, hot tub and a bar and cafe. While finding the Crows Nest (another bar on deck 9), and the outside viewing area, the rain sets in and stays with us for the rest of the afternoon. I realize there is plenty to take in on a cruise ship, but after three action packed days, I opt for chilling out. With no wifi connection while at sea, it’s amazing what I find time to do – I pick up my book I’ve been trying to finish for a couple of months, edit some photographs from the first part of the trip and write post cards home.

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Day 6 is also spent at sea, but today’s cruising is much more scenic than yesterday’s. At breakfast, we watch Glacier Bay Park Rangers approach in a small boat and board the Zaandam by ladder. At 10:30,they give a short presentation on Glacier Bay, mainly focusing on the wildlife in the area. They also give us an overview of what we will potentially see during our day.

map_of_glacier-bay-national-parkGlacier Bay covers over 3 million acres and we will spend scarcely a day exploring here. About 80% of visitors to this National Park arrive by cruise ship. Others travel in by sea plane or smaller boats to kayak and explore. I feel like this is the epitome of ‘untouched land.’

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                          Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay.

The day is overcast, but I don’t feel so bad when I find out that in a month, this area might experience a total of four sunny days. We’re still afforded awesome views of Reid Glacier, Marjorie Glacier, and Tarr Inlet. Here, we stay idle for about 45 minutes, and we can hear the thunderous claps of glaciers calving around us. However, with limited visibility, we can’t actually see the movement today. We spot the occasional sea otter, and later in the day we approach Johns Hopkins Inlet.

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                  Johns Hopkins Inlet.

I’m feeling a little frigid from short stints of standing outside on deck to photograph glaciers, so I head inside to the library and take a seat in front of floor to ceiling windows and watch as we pass one glacier after the next. I learn there are around 600 named glaciers in Alaska, but there are thousands of others that are unnamed. We seem to continually pass more impressive glaciers and it’s no good trying to sit still. I end up back outside with the camera, trying to capture just how majestic this area is. I am back and forth from either side of the ship to the library for the rest of the daylight hours.

We head for dinner at the Rotterdam and dine on seared tuna carpaccio and rock fish. We sit with a couple from New York City, Maude and Carl. Carl is a professional photographer who has just returned from photographing bears in Kodiak. The other couple are Crystal and her husband. I sit next to Crystal and find out she has walked portions of the Camino, and returns each year for a couple weeks at a time to work as a hospitelaro, or volunteer. We share Camino stories and make plans for the day in Haines, hoping for better weather on land tomorrow.