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What You Can See From the Deck of an Alaska Cruise

When you embark on a cruise of Alaska, the wonders all around you may make it hard to leave the ship's rail: glaciers calving, bears rambling along the shore, waterfalls crashing down hills into otherwise peaceful bays. Look up and see a bald eagle etching a circle in the sky; look down and find a sea lion lounging on a bobbing berg of ice. Mind-blowing mountains, impossibly narrow inlets, chunky ice fields stretching for miles, sunsets and dawns—it's as though Alaska is conspiring to keep you away from your stateroom.
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Valdez, AK 99686, USA
At the northern end of Prince William Sound lies the only spot in Alaska where a visitor can be surrounded on three sides by glaciers. Naming rights first went to the Harriman Expedition, an outing arranged by a railroad magnate who led artists...
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Lynn Canal, Juneau, AK, USA
The longest, deepest fjord in the United States connects Juneau with Skagway. A major gold rush route, this waterway—97 kilometers long and over 610 meters deep—makes for glorious scenic cruising. At its northeastern tip near Skagway, cliffs...
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Tarr Inlet, Alaska 99826, USA
Around 1.6 kilometers wide, this hanging glacier has a dramatic 76-meter-high face. Big and beautiful, the river of frozen water flows 1.8 to 2.4 meters daily and very actively sheds icebergs. Those fragments contain compacted snow that fell 75 to...
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Mt Fairweather
The coastal mountains of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve—topped by the 4,671-meter Mt. Fairweather—provide a glorious backdrop to cruises up the West Arm. They were created by an ongoing geologic traffic jam: The North American tectonic...
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Tarr Inlet, Alaska 99826, USA
The bay contains seven tidewater glaciers, which flow from the mountains to the sea. As the ocean undermines the frozen massifs, giant chunks—up to 60 meters high—crash into the water. Known as “calving,” these icefalls tend to be spectacular....
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Hubbard Glacier, Alaska, USA
What people most want when they see a glacier is to witness calving—the shearing off of ice in a dramatic crack. Such displays aren't predictable, however: A glacier calves ice only when it feels like it, and not one moment before. But when it...
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Disenchantment Bay, Alaska, USA
The edges of the iceberg (technically, bergy bits) are a great place for animal sightings. Harbor seals ride the floes, basking in the sun; orca whales prowl just around the ice barrier, waiting for an unwary seal to come out to where the whales'...
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Throughout Tracy Arm, cascades streak down the towering cliffs, which can loom 1,220 meters above the waterline. None is more splendid than Hole in the Wall, a long, lacy torrent flowing down dark rock fringed by evergreens. Big ships maintain a...
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Sawyer Glacier, Alaska, USA
These twin massifs cap the end of the 48-kilometer Tracy Arm fjord. Their striking cobalt hue occurs thanks to the dense ice, which absorbs every other color in the spectrum and whose crystalline structure strongly scatters blue light. Larger...
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NF-8488, Angoon, AK 99820, USA
On Sunset Island, near the southern end of the reach, Steller sea lions have set up house. One of the largest sea mammals, an adult male can reach more than 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds), heaving their weight around and hauling up on the rocks to...
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Hoonah-Angoon, AK, USA
Seals are big fans of Holkham Bay and often appear on ice floes that break off of the tidewater Sawyer Glacier at Tracy Arm. The Arm is one of the spots where the massive Stikine Icefield comes down to the ocean. Along much of Stephens Passage,...
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During one of its straightest, steepest sections, Stephens Passage takes a sudden westward bend at the mouth of the Taku River, near the Canadian border. Fed by the Taku Glacier, the Hole in the Wall Glacier, as well as the Inklin and Nakina...
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Auke Bay, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
When gold was discovered in Juneau—enormous amounts of it, $66 million from a single mine when gold was at $14 an ounce—the new arrivals, with their heavy equipment, steam heat and constant digging, confused the local Auke Tribe. They didn't...
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27500 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
Sail along the eastern edge of Admiralty Island, which has more bears than people, to find the north end of Stephens Passage and a choice. Head west for the sheer wild of Glacier Bay, or head almost due north into the Lynn Canal, North America’s...