top of page

Glacier Bay National Park vs Hubbard Glacier: which is best?

Updated: Mar 18


Choosing between Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay for your icy adventure is like picking between a sapphire and a ruby - both are precious gems with unique charms. Today I will help you decide which one is best from the Alaskan cruises to buy. Many Alaska cruises do one route or the other. There are a handful that do both, but most Alaska cruise itineraries only travel to one or the other. How do you decide which route to choose? Decisions Decisions Decisions..... Well, I am here to help you make this decision, and guide you to whichever you decide. Either way you will have a great glacier visit.


Panoramic View of Hubbard Glacier
Panoramic View of Hubbard Glacier

As a cruise passenger, you must be standing out on deck to see these massive icy mounts. Sure, you can see them through a window, but you need to step out into the air to truly appreciate them. If you have a balcony room, you might choose to stay in your stateroom and walk out to your balcony instead. This is fine. My favorite spot was the promenade deck, and outside. It was less crowded than the top deck. This was the best for a panoramic view as the ship was turning around in the bay.


Hubbard Glacier, standing tall and proud, is the star of the longest tidewater glacier drama. Its staggering size and propensity for dramatic calving is a heart-stopping spectacle that's hard to beat. My first Alaska Cruise itinerary on the NCL Jewel traveled to Hubbard Glacier.

a view of Glacier Bay
a view of Glacier Bay

On the other hand, Glacier Bay is a serenade of icy wonders, offering a veritable smorgasbord of glaciers in one sweeping panorama. Each glacier, from the Grand Pacific to the Lamplugh, has its own tale to tell, leaving visitors with a kaleidoscope of unforgettable experiences. This was seen from the Princess Cruises Itinerary.


For those of you trying to decide, sometimes it all boils down to when you can take your vacation, where are you leaving from (Seward, Seattle, Vancouver, or Whittier for example) or if you are embarking and disembarking from the same port. Even picking a particular cruise ship might end up making this decision for you. But for those of you who have some flexibility, you might have to make the decision. Do I choose a cruise that visits Hubbard Glacier, or Glacier Bay National Bay? Or both?











Me in front of Hubbard, sorry picture does not do justice
Me in front of Hubbard, sorry picture does not do justice

Other Glaciers Nearby

Royal Caribbean and Holland Cruises also do these but sometimes their itinerary includes Endicott Arm instead. So, for just a second, I will talk about Dawes Glacier and Endicott Arm. This is an area that some cruise ships travel to for glacier viewing and my opinion is it is not the best. You can barely see Dawes Glacier which is one of many tidewater glaciers to be found in Alaska. The huge cruise ships are too large to get an up-close view through the narrow fjord. Also, if I am not mistaken you don't have as much time to view from the cruise ship, I am familiar with one that does this route only in early mornings, from 5AM to 8AM for viewing before heading onto Juneau Alaska. At least with Glacier Bay you will have around 6 hours in the bay, viewing several glaciers. Also, from my research it seems that weather related issues tend to prevent cruise ships from traveling into Endicott Arm. Fog or even ice break off have prevented the ships from going due to safety issues. I understand for safety and totally agree, but it is upsetting to be on an Alaska cruise to see Glaciers and not be able to because the cruise ship says it is not safe enough to enter Endicott Arm. This is just a little bit of info as to why I will not be adding Endicott Arm to my comparison list, because Endicott would always come in last. 


The Twin Sawyer Glaciers: The Sawyers Glaciers are also not able to be seen from cruise ships. South Sawyer Glacier, also located in Endicott Arm, it is almost impossible to see from a cruise ship, as the cruise ship cannot get close enough. Tracy Arm Fjord contains the northern part of this glacier which is called North Sawyers Glacier. More people travel to North Sawyers Glacier but still this is not for cruise ship travel really.


Hubbard Glacier

Let's traverse the breadth of the continent to the icy wonderland of Alaska, where the awe-inspiring Hubbard Glacier awaits! The grandeur of this tidewater glacier is simply astounding, extending over 76 miles, with an imposing face towering up to 400 feet above the ocean's surface. But what you are looking at is just the tip of the iceberg literally... (no Pun intended) the glacier goes all the way to the ocean floor about 1200 feet. This is one massive glacier; the sheer size is overwhelming.


Sea lions swimming and resting on ice floats
Sea lions swimming and resting on ice floats

Hubbard Glacier is considered to be the largest calving glacier in North America. It is actually larger than the state of Rhode Island. If you look at a map, this glacier starts in Canada and heads towards the coast of Alaska. In fact, it moves forward at about 80 feet a year, and at times has prevented entrance into Russel Fjord. You will see floating glacier ice from the calving, with seals or Steller sea lions resting on top. As you are first heading to the Glacier you are actually in Disenchantment Bay, named this because an early explorer thought it was a water route eastward, hoping to reach the Atlantic Ocean from here.


As you observe its majesty, shivers run down your spine, but not from fear - rather from sheer astonishment and the crisp, chilly air. This ice giant is a living testament to Earth's glacial age, remarkably active and audibly groaning, creaking, and rumbling as it advances into the sea.

Huge iceberg from Hubbard Glacier
Huge iceberg from Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier likes to put on a show, frequently calving huge icebergs with thunderous splashes that echo across the fjords. That dramatic moment when chunks of ice, some as large as skyscrapers, break off and crash into the ocean. It's not just the sight of it, but the thunderous sound that makes 'calving' an unforgettable, heart-thumping spectacle! Buy a ticket to this frozen theater, where the curtain never drops, but sometimes, gigantic pieces do! So come experience this breathtaking spectacle for yourself but be warned - you may never want to leave! With all the groaning and creaking, it's a bit less eerie than a haunted cemetery, but it's every bit as thrilling, in its own icy way!


Beautiful Hubbard Glacier
Beautiful Hubbard Glacier

The Hubbard Glacier, a star attraction in the icy wilderness of Alaska's Yakutat Bay, took center stage about 400 years ago during the Little Ice Age. Born from the merger of three other glaciers, it was named in honor of Gardiner Hubbard, the founding president of the National Geographic Society. It is one of the few glaciers that is still growing, defying the global trend of shrinking glacial bodies. As it thickens and advances towards the Gulf of Alaska, the Hubbard Glacier offers us a rare, tangible connection to our glacial past, reminding us of the power and beauty of nature's icy hand. Valerie Glacier is one that joins Hubbard on the left when facing the glacier.


The glacier is also home to a diverse range of wildlife. From harbor seals basking on ice floes, to seabirds swirling in the cold breeze, the Hubbard Glacier is a living, breathing spectacle that serves up a treat for both the eyes and the soul. Be sure to look up at the craggy mountain cliffs, you might see mountain goats. Hubbard Glacier is a place where time stands still, your troubles melt away, and the world's icy beauty takes center stage.


Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Hubbard, let’s take a fun-filled icy slide into Glacier Bay, Alaska—a true winter wonderland! This shimmering marine sanctuary is a patchwork of no less than sixteen glaciers, each with its own unique charm. At the heart of this icy paradise, lays the colossal Grand Pacific Glacier, the granddaddy of them all, standing proud and defiant against the Arctic chill.


Ready to meet some of the breathtaking ice giants that call Glacier Bay National Park home? Yes, this area is a national park with park rangers and all. You will not see the rangers from the cruise ship but if you were doing a tour of the park instead of by cruise ship you would. They could even be your tour guides. Let your imagination go on a frosty expedition as we sail through the icy realms of these glaciers. First, we dance with Margerie Glacier, a tidewater glacier that stands a whopping 250 feet above sea level and extends a further 100 feet below water. Then we wave hello to the Johns Hopkins Glacier, named after the renowned university, and one of the few glaciers still advancing. Lamplugh Glacier is a sight to behold, known for its striking blue ice, while the Reid Glacier is known for having been named after Harry Fielding Reid, a geophysicist who visited the bay in the late 19th century. Each glacier has a story to tell, a spectacle to behold, and a memory to create. So don't forget your icy introductions, these glacial wonders are eagerly awaiting your visit!

Glacier in Glacier Bay
Glacier in Glacier Bay

Up next, the Grand Pacific Glacier, the largest among them all, with a face that stretches over 2 miles wide and 150 feet tall. Grand Pacific like Hubbard also starts in Canada like Hubbard, it's just not as long. (just 26 miles long) and only 60 feet deep under the water. This large glacier has advanced about 60 feet a year over the past few decades.



Look at glacier coming down the mountain
Look at glacier coming down the mountain

Glacier Bay isn’t just the home to several glaciers. It’s a playground for a whole host of frolicsome critters. Inquisitive sea otters bobbing in the frosty waters, majestic bald eagles soaring overhead, and humpback whales breaching the silver spray with a splash nearby! It’s a feast of thrills where the wild dance of life amidst the ice unfolds. So, wrap up warm, adventure seekers, as Glacier Bay, Alaska holds the promise of a frosted adventure that will send shivers of joy down your spine! There are chances of seeing Black Bears, Brown Bears and possibly even a Moose.


One captivating feature of Glacier Bay that sets it apart from other icy realms is its dynamic nature. This isn't your typical static, frozen landscape, oh no! Over the past 200 years, the glaciers here have been playing a game of retreat and advance, with the ice receding nearly 60 miles from the bay's mouth. This dramatic change has given birth and carved a new ecosystem, transforming barren rock to lush forest. Talk about an Ice Age makeover! In the world of glaciers, that’s like the blink of a cosmic eye. This ever-changing landscape makes Glacier Bay a living laboratory for scientists and a thrilling spectacle for adventurers. Remember that global warming is changing everything about this rugged terrain including the glaciers themselves.


Pictures below are all from Glacier Bay

I have made tons of quick little videos of Glacier Bay. If you would like to watch them, click below on the links. They are on my YouTube channel too, if it is easier to watch them all there.


Decision Time

Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay

So, is Hubbard's grandeur superior or is Glacier Bay's diversity more appealing? We have compared them both today, my thrill-seeking friend. It all boils down to your personal taste. Are you after one grand showstopper or a variety of glacial wonders? Your icy adventure awaits either way, promising a frosty reception that is sure to give you chills whichever one you choose! Last thing I must tell you, bring your binoculars, not only are they great for whale watching from the cruise ship while out in the ocean, but they are also great to get an up-close view of the glaciers. And just remember, Alaska weather could always cause issues with any cruise ship, from fog to large ice chunks floating, the cruise ship may view the side of caution and cancel the trips to the glacier. So, I wish you good weather and clear days while traveling the inside passage, to whichever glacier you choose. I know which one my preference is. Now do you?


Hilton Honors


This blog contains affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might receive a commission at no extra cost to you.


Comentarios

Obtuvo 0 de 5 estrellas.
Aún no hay calificaciones

Agrega una calificación
bottom of page