Maximize Cruising Glacier Bay With These Pro Tips

Pinterest Hidden ImagePinterest Hidden ImagePinterest Hidden Image

Planning an Alaskan cruise? Make sure Glacier Bay is on your itinerary, and follow our pro tips to make the most of your day. Its stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, and rich history make Glacier Bay a quintessential Alaskan experience.

Our day in Glacier Bay was a highlight of our cruise and one we can’t stop talking about. We were filled with awe from the moment we stepped onto our balcony until the final glacier faded into the horizon. Booking a balcony cabin, dressing for the cold, listening to the Park Ranger’s commentary, and capturing the stunning views are must-dos for the ultimate day cruising Glacier Bay.

We loved our experience so much that we returned and planned a family cruise for 2025 to share the magic of Glacier Bay.

featured blog image | cruising glacier bay alaskaPin

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission at no extra cost. Please refer to our full disclosure for details.

This guide will share insights on selecting cruises to Glacier Bay, what to anticipate aboard, and tips for making the most of your day amidst these ancient ice formations.

How to Plan for Glacier Bay With These Tips

admiring margerie glacier from cruise ship balconyPin
Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southeast Alaska, captivates with its tidewater glaciers, diverse wildlife, and sprawling 3.3 million acres of mountains, rainforests, and fjords. Accessible mainly by water, cruising is the preferred way to explore, with major lines offering itineraries that include a day in the park.

Glacier Bay is a big day on an Alaskan cruise. Even though it is called a sea day, it isn’t your typical one. This day is what you’d call scenic cruising when the cruise ship slowly goes through a scenic route—in this case, the majestic Glacier Bay.

Preparations for Glacier Bay start when you decide to cruise to Alaska by finding an itinerary that has secured this route since they are limited in permits. We dive into the following tips on how to maximize this special day.

Fun Fact: What does scenic cruising mean on a cruise ship?
Scenic cruising on a cruise ship refers to the experience of sailing through a beautiful or picturesque area, such as a fjord, bay, or glacier. During scenic cruising, the ship typically sails slower, allowing passengers to fully appreciate the stunning scenery around them.

Choosing the Best Time to Visit Glacier Bay

snow colored mountains reflected against the the bay with chunks of glaciers in the waterPin
Early morning views on Glacier Bay day.

The prime time to explore Glacier Bay is June to August and occasionally into September if the summer extends its warmth. These months offer the finest weather and the greatest probability for your cruise ship to journey through Alaska’s Inside Passage to Glacier Bay successfully. However, it’s important to note that excessive ice may elevate the risk of cruise cancellations in the bay.

Picking the Right Cruise Line for Glacier Bay

Only three major cruise lines are allowed in Glacier Bay: Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line. We suggest diving into each cruise line and its itineraries to see which best matches your travel style and budget. Remember, Glacier Bay day is a day at sea—you won’t disembark, but you’ll witness the stunning Alaska Inside Passage and glide into Glacier Bay as the sun rises. Check out our other article for a deep dive into Alaska cruise tips and how to dodge the usual slip-ups while planning your Glacier Bay adventure.

Splurge on a Balcony Cabin


Treat yourself to a balcony cabin. It’s an absolute game-changer for an Alaskan cruise, giving you your own slice of paradise to sip coffee and soak in the stunning vistas.

Come Glacier Bay Day, you’ll pat yourself on the back for choosing a balcony. My husband couldn’t stop thanking me for making that call. It improved our experience, especially since the observation lounge was always a hotspot, leaving us scrambling for a good view on other days.

Once we savored our private balcony views, we checked the public decks, finding that most spots were snagged. A balcony saves you from the hustle and ensures you don’t miss a thing or block anyone’s view. It’s like having VIP access to Alaska’s splendor.

Quick Tip: Opt for AFT Balcony for Panoramic Views
Choose an AFT balcony cabin for unparalleled panoramic views, perfect for scenic cruising. If seasickness is a concern, consider portside cabins for early glacier views, but remember, the ship’s slow 360 ensures everyone gets a spectacular glimpse.

Dress in Layers for Glacier Bay

I’m wearing multiple layers on the day we cruise Glacier Bay. Even grabbed my electric hand warmers.

Alaska’s weather is a box of chocolates—you never know what you’ll get. Packaging for all types is key: cold, rainy, and the occasional sunny day. Our Glacier Bay day was the coldest of our week-long cruise, reinforcing the need for layers. I layered up with a long-sleeve shirt, a fleece hoodie, and a fleece shacket, keeping a water-resistant puffer at arm’s reach.

Don’t forget accessories like fingerless gloves and a knit hat for extra warmth. You might shed a layer or two as the day warms up, so versatility is your friend. And always pack a rain jacket—just in case.

Though there’s an observation lounge for viewing, nothing beats experiencing the breathtaking scenery directly. If you can, step outside and immerse yourself fully in the pristine beauty of Glacier Bay.

Bring a Good Camera for Glacier Bay Memories

kathy taking pictures cruising glacier bayPin

Don’t forget a quality camera for your Glacier Bay visit! Consider a zoom lens for those close-up glacier shots. While fully soaking in the moment is valuable, capturing it allows you to relive and share this breathtaking experience later. These photos become lasting reminders of your journey’s beauty, perfect for sharing with friends and family, inspiring them to explore. Remember, sharing the awe of Glacier Bay extends its magic far beyond your cruise.

Tip: You don’t need to go out and invest heavily in camera equipment. You can always rent a good camera or a lens for the week from places like or We highly suggest adding insurance to the rental agreement.

Don’t Forget Binoculars for Alaska

looking at lamplugh glacier through binocularsPin

Hubby is looking at Lamplugh Glacier with his binoculars.

A must-pack for Alaska? A solid pair of binoculars. They’re crucial for wildlife enthusiasts aiming to catch every detail of Alaska’s rich fauna. Spotting a whale or catching the subtle beauty of a glacier becomes an intimate experience with binoculars in hand. They bring the vibrant blues, intricate crevasses, and rugged edges of glaciers right to your eyes, enhancing your Glacier Bay visit uniquely. Though we initially doubted their necessity, our binoculars proved invaluable, making us grateful we brought them along.

I'm sitting on my balcony with the extra blanket while cruising Glacier Bay.Pin

While cruising Glacier Bay, I sat on my balcony, enjoying and taking pictures of the beautiful views, while staying warm under a cozy blanket.

Request an Extra Blanket for Balcony Coziness

Don’t hesitate to ask your cabin attendant for an extra blanket at the beginning of your Alaska cruise. It’s the perfect addition for those chill moments spent admiring Glacier Bay from the comfort of your balcony.

Rise Early for a Magical Day in Glacier Bay

Don’t give in to the temptation of a cozy duvet on Glacier Bay Day—trust me, the early wake-up call is your ticket to the day’s most magical moments. As you set that alarm the night before, think of the majestic views that await: a pristine morning panorama of glaciers and mountains, the occasional playful otter or whale making an appearance.

There’s something about the calm of Glacier Bay at dawn, a serene silence shared with other like-minded adventurers from the solitude of your balcony. The early morning moments are among the most magical. My husband, up before me with morning coffee, was captivated by the scenery and insisted that I come out to experience it.

Enjoy Glacier Bay from Your Cabin with Room Service


Make the most of your Glacier Bay morning by ordering room service for breakfast and coffee. Enjoy the luxury of dining in your cabin, allowing you to soak up the views without interruption until lunch—and perhaps even order in again for lunch.

Be aware there might be a nominal fee for room service, which is a detail worth checking with your cruise line. This small cost is a fair trade for the convenience and the opportunity to witness Glacier Bay’s beauty from the comfort of your room.

Pro Tip: For a seamless start to your Glacier Bay day, complete the room service order form the evening before. Schedule your breakfast and coffee to arrive when you’re ready to wake up. Having coffee delivered to your cabin makes for an ideal alarm, ensuring you don’t miss a moment of the morning’s beauty.

Just Listen

kathy admiring margerie glacier alaska cruisePin
Margerie Glacier, the highlight of Glacier Bay

Staying indoors, playing the TV or music loudly in your cabin (don’t do this), means missing out on the breathtaking auditory experience of Glacier Bay. The awe-inspiring roar can suddenly break the silence of the pristine environment of a glacier calving. Hearing this powerful natural phenomenon is a unique experience that deepens your appreciation for being in such a majestic place.

Engage with the Park Ranger’s Insights on Glacier Bay

Enhance your Glacier Bay journey by tuning into the Park Ranger’s commentary, available throughout the ship and on your cabin’s TV. Check your cruise newsletter for the specific channel. This commentary, covering the bay’s history, geology, and ecology, adds depth to the visuals, enriching your experience.

For a more interactive experience, attend the Park Ranger’s presentation in the ship’s atrium or theater. It’s a great opportunity to dive deeper into Glacier Bay’s wonders and ask any lingering questions. Plus, you might find unique souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

On the Norwegian Encore, there was a Ranger’s Children program, where the kids met the Park Rangers and became Junior Rangers. Check your newsletter and watch for fun kid activities that may be taking place on the ship the day you cruise Glacier Bay.

Watch for the moment park rangers come aboard in the morning. It may require stepping out of your cabin for a better view.

Optional: Venture Out to the Ships Bow, AFT, and Other Outdoor Areas

Hanging out in your cabin gives you those personal Glacier Bay moments, but stepping outside later adds so much more to your cruise experience. It’s all about striking that perfect balance between private chill time and mixing it up with the rest of the ship. We left our cabin right after admiring Marjorie Glacier.

  • Shared Amazement
    There’s this awesome vibe of amazement on the ship, especially for us Alaskan cruise newbies. Being part of that collective excitement is priceless.
  • Bow and Aft Explorations
    • Bow: Usually off-limits, the bow opens on Glacier Bay Day. It’s a rare chance to feel like you’re at the front of the world, and the photo ops here are epic.
    • Aft: Hit the aft for a quieter spot with equally stunning views. It’s my go-to for less crowded, postcard-worthy scenery.
  • Snack and Sip Stations
    • Keep warm with stations offering coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Fancy something with a kick? Irish coffee stations are where it’s at—I couldn’t resist a Bailey’s.
    • Look out for treats like seafood chowder being handed out. It’s like they know exactly what you need to stay cozy.

The views, the atmosphere, and the little luxuries all add to a special experience you don’t want to miss. So, enjoy that balcony, but also get out there and see what the rest of the ship offers.

Above all, Respect the Environment

Experiencing Glacier Bay is a privilege. It offers an unparalleled closeness to nature’s untouched beauty. As visitors, we are responsible for preserving this wonder for future generations.

  • Don’t toss anything overboard.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Follow the rules.

Which cruise lines visit Glacier Bay?

These three major cruise lines were granted permits to enter Glacier Bay National Park:

  • Princess Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
princess cruise and holland america cruise docked in juneau alaskaPin

What to Expect on a Cruise While Cruising Glacier Bay?


On a cruise to Glacier Bay, this day is an event throughout the ship. Most passengers wake up at dawn in anticipation of the day. Some start their morning with breakfast delivered to their cabin, while others head to public viewing areas for the best spots. Crew prepare for the busy day ahead, ensuring that all amenities and services are prepared for the influx of excited passengers.

What to expect:

  • Maps of Glacier Bay and Other Reading Material
    The night before, you’ll be given a map of Glacier Bay, along with your newsletter and possibly some other reading material to prepare you for It’s great to have the map and follow along with the Park Ranger’s commentary.
  • Park Rangers On Board
    A Park Ranger from the Glacier National Park boards the ship by boat in the early mornings. They are on the ship all morning and part of the afternoon for presentations and answering cruise passengers’ questions. That is included as part of
  • All Hands on Deck
    There is always staff around on a cruise, but it feels like all hands on deck the day we are cruising Glacier Bay. They are there to provide you with the best day possible.
  • Coffee Stations and Food
    Buffets and restaurants typically open on sea day will also be open (check your newsletters). However, since everyone will be outdoors or in observation areas, the cruise ship does a nice job setting up coffee, juice, and water stations and handing out hot chocolate, pastries, and seafood chowder later in the morning. These are small touches that add to the overall experience.
  • Stunning Views of Glaciers and Natural Landscapes
    One of the primary reasons people cruise to Glacier Bay is to see the stunning glaciers and the untouched beauty of this part of Alaska that you can’t see unless it’s by ship or
  • Public Viewing Decks Open
    There are public viewing decks, and some ships have better public viewing spaces than others. Some ships even open the bow so everyone can get a panoramic view—a perfect opportunity to take photos.
  • Opportunities to See Wildlife
    You will spot wildlife. We’ve never seen so many whales in our life.
  • A Connection With Fellow Cruise Passengers
    The shared experience of witnessing these magical moments can create a sense of camaraderie and connection throughout the cruise. One moment, everyone is quiet and in awe, enjoying what’s before them, and the next, someone is shouting, “Whale!” And then a flurry of excitement breaks out.

Fun Fact: What does scenic cruising mean on a cruise ship?
Scenic cruising on a cruise ship refers to the experience of sailing through a beautiful or picturesque area, such as a fjord, bay, or glacier. During scenic cruising, the ship typically sails slower, allowing passengers to fully appreciate the stunning scenery around them.

Is Glacier Bay worth seeing on a cruise?

Absolutely, Glacier Bay National Park is a must-see on a cruise. Imagine seeing incredible glaciers, hearing ice calve with a roar, and spotting humpback whales and eagles. Truly a bucket-list experience, Glacier Bay promises unforgettable moments and stunning natural beauty.

A tranquil view of Glacier Bay from the aft of a cruise ship, showcasing the ship's wake cutting through the turquoise waters, with scattered ice floating and snow-capped mountains in the distance under a clear blue sky.Pin

What is the best time to cruise Glacier Bay?

June to August are the best time to visit Glacier Bay as it is warmer and has the longest summer days. September can also be a good time, depending on how warm the summer has been. During this time, it is easier for cruise ships to navigate the area.

Do all Alaska cruises include Glacier Bay?

No. Not all Alaska cruises include a visit to Glacier Bay. Only select cruise lines with permits and contracts are authorized to enter the bay, and there is a strict limit of two cruise ships a day.

If you are interested in cruising Glacier Bay, you must research the Cruise Lines that cruise into Glacier Bay, their cruise ships, and Alaska cruise itineraries before booking.

Which side of the ship is best for Glacier Bay?

Portside is the best side of the ship for Glacier Bay because you’ll get the first peek at Margerie Glacier. However, the ship will gradually turn so everyone can admire the glacier from all sides. It will do the same when it reaches Lamplugh Glacier.

Are there any shore excursions in Glacier Bay?

There are no shore excursions in Glacier Bay. Cruising Glacier Bay is technically a sea day because you don’t dock at a port and spend it on the ship.

What wildlife can be seen in Glacier Bay?

Yes! Glacier Bay is home to diverse wildlife, including humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, harbor seals, bald eagles, brown bears, moose, and more. Your eyes will be glued to the scenery, looking for any signs of movement as Glacier Bay is teeming with life.

YouTube video

Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *