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May 2016

Tips for Glacier Bay Cruising as Nieuw Amsterdam Kicks Off Alaska Season

Submitted by: HAL Destinations Team
Glacier Bay is a highlight of Alaska cruises.
Glacier Bay is a highlight of Alaska cruises.

Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam arrived at the Port of Seattle Friday, April 29, marking the start of the city’s summer Alaska homeport cruise season. We’ve increased our Seattle calls this year to 55, and three Holland America Line ships will sail roundtrip Seattle routes in 2016: Westerdam arrives Saturday, May 7; Amsterdam arrives Sunday, May 22; and Maasdam arrives Monday, May 23, to begin their Alaska sailings from Seattle. New to Alaska cruising, Nieuw Amsterdam’s arrival at Seattle was the start of a one-day cruise to Vancouver to reposition to its summer homeport.

Nieuw Amsterdam makes it maiden call at Seattle.

Nieuw Amsterdam makes it maiden call at Seattle.

In addition to the 48 roundtrip Seattle cruises to Alaska this season, three cruises to Australia/New Zealand or Hawaii/South Pacific will begin or end at Seattle, including Amsterdam’s 53-day Tales of the South Pacific voyage and Maasdam’s 23-day South Pacific Crossing. All of the options combined make a total of 55 calls by five ships — Zaandam makes one Seattle call — that will welcome more than 86,000 guests to Seattle.

Alaska cruising brings a lot of thrills for both first-time and repeat visitors. From jaw-dropping glaciers to unexpected tree-covered hills. From breaching humpback whales to bears grazing for a fresh catch. Local customs and history overflow at every port, and guests leave Alaska wanting more, ready to return again soon.

Holland America Line produced a series of articles about Alaska and its wonders so travelers can get insight into The Last Frontier. Enjoy this installment on Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve of Alaska

An area in a constant state of change, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve allows visitors the chance to see some of this planet’s most powerful and creative forces at work. Encompassing the past, present and future, this park is a true bucket-list-worthy experience.

What is Glacier Bay?

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve of Alaska is part of a 24-million-acre World Heritage Site, which also includes Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in British Columbia. The park is made up of more than the famous glaciers — rugged, high mountain peaks; fjords, inlets, rivers, and streams; as well as forests, foothills, plains, and wet tundra compose a symphony of wilderness scenery, making it a unique lifetime experience.

Gorgeous Glacier Bay is a sight to behold.

Gorgeous Glacier Bay is a sight to behold.

When Captain George Vancouver explored this coastline in 1794, the region was covered in a single glacial sheet of ice thousands of feet thick. Since then, it has receded some 65 miles, revealing the bay and its surrounding environment. Today, the park consists of over 1,000 glaciers, covering almost 30 percent of its 3.3 million acres. Seven of the glaciers are considered active tidewater glaciers — the type that breaks off icebergs into the sea. This glacial “calving” as it is called is one of the more spectacular sights to be seen from aboard a cruise ship. As new areas become exposed (deglaciated), fresh life springs forth from land and sea now free from eons of icy embrace.

What Alaskan Wildlife Can I See?

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a vibrant ecosystem made up of a variety of terrestrial and marine species. Since nearly 20 percent of the park is composed of water, marine wildlife is in great abundance, with humpback whales, Steller sea lions, orcas, harbor seals, porpoises, otters, and a variety of fish prowling the waters. On land, a large population of both brown and black bears as well as moose, mountain goats, wolves, and Sitka black-tailed dear call the park home. And there’s a good chance you’ll catch sight of a bald eagle or two soaring overhead, in addition to the more 200 species of other birds that keep watch over Glacier Bay.

From cute and cuddly to marvelous and majestic, animals abound in Alaska.

From cute and cuddly to marvelous and majestic, animals abound in Alaska.

The Rangers Come to You

Since the majority of Glacier Bay’s visitors arrive by cruise ship, the park staff is well versed in how to cater to passengers’ viewing experience. Rangers come aboard the vessel bringing a mobile visitor’s center to you! During the tour of the bay, rangers will be out on the decks pointing out areas of interest and answering questions.

Glacier Bay park rangers are available on deck on every cruise.

Glacier Bay park rangers are available on deck on every cruise.

Tips for Your Glacier Bay Cruise Experience:

• When you first board your cruise ship, scope out the prime viewing spots ahead of time — these are the open decks without windows between you and the scenery. The covered promenade deck has the added benefit of shelter from potential rain.

• Speaking of rain, be sure to pack rain gear for your trip. The region receives a great deal of precipitation — so the chances are you’ll need it. And dress in layers. The average temperature is 55°F (13°C), but the moist air may make it feel colder.

• Remember to bring a pair of binoculars. This is the best way to view wildlife from the deck, and will give you a better chance to take in the scenery.

• The cruise ships typically spend about one hour directly in front of a tidewater glacier. Find out ahead of time when this will be to be sure you can get a good spot to see potential calving.

Be sure to find a spot on deck for prime viewing.

Be sure to find a spot on deck for prime viewing.

Click HERE to read the article on the Holland America Line website.

Who is cruising with us in Alaska this season? Tell us what you’re most excited to see and do!

2 Comments

  1. What is the difference between MS Amsterdam and MS New Amsterdam?
    On 22 may start the 14 days cruise with MS. Amsterdam from Seatle to Canada and Alaska.
    Is there also a excursionlist in Dutch or German?

    Kind regard,

    Ben Eekhuis
    The Netherlands

  2. Ben, Amsterdam – launched in 2000 – is smaller, carrying 1,380 guests, while Nieuw Amsterdam – launched in 2010 – carries 2,106. They are a different class ship so have different features, but the same Holland America Line hallmarks like Pinnacle Grill, etc. As for the Dutch or German excursionalist, please contact reservations in your country or email HAL_reservations@hollandamerica.com for more information.

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