The 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers by Princess Cruises is a spectacular trip between Whittier (Alaska) and Vancouver (Canada). It is an excellent way to experience the highlights of the natural wonders and charming towns along the coast of Alaska and the Inside Passage – many of which can only accessed by sea.
Take a look at our photos of the 7-Day Voyage of the Glaciers
Summary of Itinerary (Southbound):
Whittier (Anchorage) – Yakutat Bay (Hubbard Glacier)
Yakutat Bay – Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay – Skagway
Skagway – Juneau
Juneau – Ketchikan
Ketchikan – Vancouver
There are also cruises that offer this itinerary northbound.
Transfer from Anchorage Airport to Whittier to Star Princess
After spending 5 days on a self-drive trip in Alaska, we returned our rental car to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The Star Princess cruise departed from Whittier, about 1.5 to 2 hours drive south-east of Anchorage, so we booked a 3pm transfer from the airport to Whittier with Alaska Cruise Transportation (ACT) Big Bus (the booking was made online well in advance). We thought this would be just a regular bus ride however the narration by our guide Peter, and the spectacular scenery was one of many highlights we experienced in Alaska.
Towards the end of the transfer we drove through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America. It is a one-lane tunnel, 2.5 miles long, shared by cars and trains. The Big Bus had booked a 4.30pm time slot to go through and it took about 6 minutes to drive the length of the tunnel. The port of Whittier was just on the other side.
Once at the port, luggage transfer, customs and check-in was very efficient.
On board the Star Princess we had a Balcony Stateroom L242 on Lido Deck 14, on the port side. We loved our room – it was well designed, well furnished and wonderful to have fresh air through the balcony door.
There was a Welcome Aboard brochure in our room that summarised some of the amenities on board – dining choices, gratuities, etc. At check-in we received a card each that was both a key to our cabin and a card we could run a tab of purchases onboard.
On our first evening aboard we dined in the Amalfi Dining Room, attended the compulsory Guest Safety Assembly and a Welcome Aboard show in the Princess Theatre.
The Princess Patter, delivered to our cabin each evening, was an invaluable source on information including a timetable of events for the following day plus dining guide; bars, clubs and lounges; locations and hours of services; etc.
Destination Guides & Shore Excursions
During the voyage we would also receive informative brochures on each of the destinations plus details of shore excursions available.
The Alaska Cruise Companion
We also bought a copy of The Alaska Cruise Companion – available onboard – with a map and detailed information on locations and wildlife we would be seeing on the cruise.
The Wake Show
Each morning on our cabin television we would try to catch a bit of The Wake Show – which was a chat show hosted by the Cruise Director Fernando Cunha – a very personable and entertaining guy. The show would run through the various activities planned each day.
North to Alaska Presentations
This was one of our favourite programmes on the cruise featuring talks on the natural world, presented by onboard Naturalist Sandra Schempp and various other guest speakers. Highlights included:
- Understanding the beauty of the Hubbard Glacier and surrounding fjords
- Tales from Wild Alaska – wildlife and landscape photography
- The story of Juneau’s friendly black wolf
- Discovering the Inhabitants of the Alaskan Coastal Waters
- Sled Dogs and Adventure
Shortly after booking the cruise, we had to choose between Traditional Dining (a set table and time each day) or Anytime Dining (flexible dining time, choice of two formal dining rooms, varied seating, reservations advisable). We opted for Anytime Dining and enjoyed the flexibility of eating times, and meeting a variety of people at a different table each night. We found the food and the service to be excellent in the dining rooms.
There was also the choice of Speciality Dining – if we wished to pay a little extra, we could choose to dine in the Crown Grill, Sabatini’s Italian restaurant or the Crab Shack.
Then there was the buffet – Horizon Court – where we usually ate breakfast and lunch each day.
And if we were still hungry, there was a pizzeria, hamburger and hot dog grill, international cafe (coffee shop), an ice-creamery or 24-hour room service!
There was plenty to do on board. We threw ourselves into the cruise experience – seeing a show in the Princess Theatre each night and listening to talented musicians and comedians at various bars and lounges throughout the evening.
Yakutat Bay & Hubbard Glacier
After breakfast we attended a 45-minute talk by Naturalist Sandra Schempp on what we would see during the next two days – Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay, respectively.
This was followed by a presentation by wildlife and landscape photographer Nick Jans.
After lunch Nick Jans gave a heartwarming presentation on a black wolf called Romeo and his subsequent book about that experience; and Naturalist Sandra Schempp gave a wonderfully detailed presentation on the wildlife we would see in the waters of Alaska.
That afternoon we sailed into Yakutat Bay to see the magnificent Hubbard Glacier – the largest tidewater glacier in North America. This was a highlight of the cruise. To be up so close to the glacier to see and hear the incredible noise of ice breaking off (calving), and to see the vivid blues of the ice was a once in a lifetime experience. Both starboard and port sides of the boat had a half hour each facing the glacier.
That evening we had a 5-course meal at Sabatini’s Italian restaurant, saw a show called Stardust in the theatre, and enjoyed listening to some very talented singers in the Crooners Bar and Explorers Lounge.
Glacier Bay National Park – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Another amazing day of glaciers.
After breakfast we attended a Ranger presentation on points of interest in Glacier Bay. A number of Rangers from Glacier Bay Park boarded the ship and set up an information station on deck to give a commentary during our visit to Glacier Bay and answer any questions.
Near the entrance to Glacier Bay is Gustavus. If you want to visit Glacier Bay independently a ferry runs from Juneau to Gustavus twice a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (At the time or writing, every Monday and Wednesday the ferry runs Juneau to Gustavus at 7.30am and back to Juneau at 3.30pm.) There are plenty of inns and B&Bs in Gustavus. Transport is provided to the Visitor Centre near Glacier Bay Lodge. Visitors can also stay at Glacier Bay Lodge – there is hiking, fishing and kayaking. From the Visitor Centre a small ferry runs up into Glacier Bay to see the glaciers.
Just after midday, we saw the Margerie Glacier – it was fabulous – 250 ft above the water and 2 miles wide. We saw more calving and a ‘shooter’ (when ice breaks off the glacier underwater and shoots up to the surface).
We also saw Lamplugh Glacier on the port side as we sailed near John Hopkins Inlet. We did not enter John Hopkins Inlet as it was closed to cruise ships until August. There was too much ice and the seals were calving and raising their young in the Inlet.
Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike Highway
We arrived at the port in Skagway at 5am, and disembarked at 7.30am. While there had been plenty of organised tour options in Skagway, we decided to do our sightseeing independently. It was an easy 10-minute walk into Skagway where we hired a car at the local Avis depot. We drove the Klondike Highway from Skagway to Whitehorse, returning to Skagway in the evening in time for the cruise departure at 8.30pm.
Highlights of Skagway and the Klondike Highway:
- Skagway town
- Dyea Road lookout – lovely views over Skagway
- Pitchfork Falls
- White Pass
- Summit Lake
- Cross border into the Yukon (Canada) – take your passport!
- Lovely village of Carcross – excellent Visitor Information Centre
- Emerald Lake
- Yukon Suspension Bridge – entrance fee, try the home-made cinnamon buns from the excellent kiosk/cafe.
- Town of Whitehorse
Scenic Railway of the World
If you do not want to hire a car, many people choose to take the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad – this scenic narrow-guage railway trip takes you on a three-hour, 40-mile round trip from Skagway to the summit of White Pass, 3,292 feet above sea level. Check the White Pass & Yukon railway excursions or book an excursion onboard the Star Princess.
Other attractions in and around Skagway:
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
- Red Onion Saloon – bar/restaurant and brothel museum
- Haines (www.visithaines.com) – 45-minute ferry ride or 1.30hrs by road from Skagway – adventure activities, visit Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, American Bald Eagle Foundation, the Hammer Museum, Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center (last remaining village of the Chilkat Tlingit), and more.
Juneau – Alaska’s Capital
With just a day in Juneau, while there are many activities to choose from, we elected to do a Whale Watching Cruise and then visit Mendenhall Glacier.
Whale Watching Cruise
Prior to landing in Juneau, we booked a Whale Watching Cruise with Junea Tours and Whale Watch
We were picked up at 8.30am just a few minutes walk from our ship in the parking lot of the Mt Roberts Aerial Tramway, and drove about 30 minutes to Auke Bay Harbor where we boarded the 9.15am whale watching cruise. Not only was the view from the boat spectacular, we had numerous sightings of humpback whales in the bay together with an informative commentary. The cruise was 2.5 hours and we can highly recommend this tour.
After the cruise, we made our way by bus (about 10 minute’s drive) to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area and Visitor Centre. Visitors must buy a Day Pass (US$5), available from the automated machines in the parking lot, or at the bookstore in the Visitor Centre.
At the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Centre there was a wonderful display, we watched the 15-minute video ‘Landscape of Change’, and found information on the walks available. We took a walk on the Nugget Creek Trail – providing wonderful views of the glacier. Other walks are:
- Steep Creek Salmon Viewing Trail
- Trail of Time
- East Glacier Trail
After visiting the glacier, we took a shuttle bus back to Juneau port to board the ship.
There are so many things to do in Juneau which we did not have time for (ship departed 3.30pm):
- Mount Roberts Tramway – a 5-minute ride to the top of Mt Roberts on the Juneau Tram for a panoramic view of Juneau.
- McCauley Salmon Hatchery – learn about the life cycle of Pacific Salmon.
- Alaska State Museum – history, art, and culture from the many regions of Alaska,
- Juneau-Douglas City Museum – learn about the history and life in Juneau.
- Walter Soboleff Center – discover the history and art of Southeast Alaska’s Native people.
Ketchikan – Alaska’s 1st City and the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’
We dock at 9.15am in walking distance to many of the sights of Ketchikan. With a short time here we:
- Saw the one-hour Lumberjack Show – an excellent display of lumberjack skills.
- Explored Creek Street – an historic area that was the red light district during the Gold Rush. Walk the boardwalks between brightly coloured buildings now housing shops, galleries, cafes, museums, etc.
- Visited Totem Heritage Centre – houses one of the world’s largest collections of original, unrestored 19th Century totem poles together with contemporary Northwest Coast Native Art.
There are many more things to see and do in Ketchikan including:
- Totem Bight State Park
- Saxman Native Village
- Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
- Misty Fjords National Monument
- George Inlet Lodge
- Tongass Historical Museum
- Deer Mountain Hatchery
Day at sea sailing to Vancouver. Plenty of entertainment on board and a wildlife presentation.
We dock in Vancouver at 7am. After placing our luggage outside our cabin door last night for collection, we are given a disembarkation time of 9am. All very quick and orderly.
The Voyage of the Glaciers on the Star Princess was a wonderful experience. The entertainment, food and service onboard was excellent. The itinerary, the natural wonders, wildlife and naturalist presentations onboard were fabulous. We highly recommend this cruise.
Best Month of Your Life