Marjorie Glacier

Photo Essay: A Cruise Up Bay

Alaska, Photo Essay, Travel
A map of our journey, drawn to painstaking detail.

A map of our journey, drawn to painstaking detail.

Maybe I’m biased, or maybe I’m an untrustworthy source because I work in Glacier Bay National Park, but I say that a boat tour up Glacier Bay is one of best things you can do in Alaska. Then again, I’ve spent 11 years traveling around this spectacular state, so I have some authority on the subject. Am I trustworthy? In most cases, probably not, but on this subject I am right.

I will let you decide for yourself. Here is a collection of photos from our tour on Saturday (August 1, 2015) that shows what we saw on our eight-hour tour up bay.

Glacier Bay Cruise Boat Tour

South Marble Island

One of the major highlights of the tour happens about an hour and a half into the journey. South Marble Island is a sea lion haul out and the rounded rocks are usually covered with (stinky!) lazy sea lions scattered around, seemingly dead. It looks like Jonestown the morning after.

In addition to the sea lions, this is a nesting bird habitat with sea birds by the thousands. Sea gulls, Arctic terns, horned and tufted puffins, cormorants and guillemonts are among the dozens of species seen at the islands.

Lazy Sea Lions South Marble Island

I like to wonder what the sea lions are saying. “Hey Frank! Do you want to come over and watch football tonight?”

Tufted Puffin Glacier Bay Cruise

Tufted puffin swimming near South Marble Island.

Nesting Sea Gulls on Marble Island

Nesting Sea Gulls on South Marble Island.

South Marble Island Sea Lions

Lazy sea lions.

Sea Lion checking out the tour boat

Hey guys, what are you doing?

Eastern Shore to Russell Island

After visiting the Marble Islands, the boat tour usually follows the eastern shore up the bay to Russell Island. This is a great place to spot terrestrial animals, such as brown bears, black bears, mountain goats and wolves. On our trip, we were lucky to see several bears, a mountain goat, a marmot and several bald eagles on land. In addition, along the eastern shore we saw a pod of killer whales.

Brown Bear in Glacier Bay

At low tide and during salmon run season, bears come down to the shore to look for seafood and fish. This is admittedly not a great photo but it does prove that we saw a bear.

Orcas in Glacier Bay

Killer Whales.

Mountain Goat Glacier Bay Boat Tour

Mountain goat on Gloomy Knob.

Cruise Ship in Glacier Bay

Two megacruise ships are allowed in Glacier Bay each day. Even though they are hideous and out of place, they offer great scale for the glaciers and mountains.

Marjerie and Grand Pacific Glacier

After cruising east of Russell Island, the boat tour has two options: visit Marjerie Glacier or John Hopkins Glacier. Due to time constraints (since we’d stopped for so many animals) we went to Marjerie Glacier. Marjerie is spectacular, but not quite as awesome as John Hopkins. Our great luck with seeing animals meant we’d have to see a glacier that was slightly less mind-blowing. #firstworldproblem

Marjerie Glacier

Marjerie Glacier.

Glacier Bay Boat Tour at Marjorie Glacier

It is hard to believe, but the glacier face is 250 feet high.

Marjerie Glacier

What these photos don’t illustrate is the popping, booming and groaning noise of the ice sheet.

Marjerie Glacier2

Marjerie Glacier.

Grand Pacific Glacier

On the left you can clearly see the clean and brilliant Marjerie Glacier. It is in America. On the right, you notice what looks like a bunch of dirt. That is actually the Grand Pacific Glacier in Canada. Canada doesn’t take very good care of its glaciers.


Lamplugh Glacier

After visiting Marjerie, we stopped by Lamplugh Glacier. The boat tour also serves as a ferry for kayakers, and we dropped off a few adventurous souls who were to spend 5 days in the wild camping and kayaking.

Lamplugh Glacier

Lamplugh Glacier.

Lamplugh Glacier

Lamplugh Glacier and mountains.

Glacier Bay National Park Mountains

View towards Jaw Point.

Whidbey Passage

Almost everyone on the boat was drowsy as we made the return cruise home. I drank a beer and contemplated a nap, when up ahead we saw a humpback whale breaching. Everyone was jolted awake. We dutifully grabbed our cameras and went outside.

In the passage, we saw several whales displaying a variety of behavior. Some were tail lobbing, some pectoral slapping, some where breaching, some just blowing snot into the air (aka breathing).

Whale slapping the water with his fin

Scientists are not sure why whales slap the water with the pectoral fin. Some believe they are saying hello to tourists, others think they are waving goodbye.

Glacier Bay Whale watching

Column of whale breath and snot.

Glacier Bay Otters

Playful otters in Whidbey Passage.

Junior Ranger

At the beginning of the trip, my lovely wife signed up to become a junior ranger. Part of her duties were to assist the park ranger on the tour, do a service project and complete a booklet of activities. She worked hard all day and earned her junior ranger badge. I’ve never been prouder.

Junior Ranger Glacier Bay

Kristi helping the rangers.

Junior ranger ceremony.

Junior ranger ceremony.

Kristi Junior Ranger

Kristi getting her badge.

So, what is the verdict?

Am I a credible source? 

Facebook |  Instagram


Posted by

Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

33 thoughts on “Photo Essay: A Cruise Up Bay”

  1. Seal lions are so unbelievably smelly!! I saw them in South Africa. Half of the boat were taking photos, the other half was nearly vomiting on side of the boat that was turning away from the seal lions.

    • Vomiting!? That is intense. They eat oily fish and smell like oily fish, which, by the way, is gross. Maybe your boat was closer there. I’ve had seriously close encounters with kayaking and that is freaky. They are longer than the kayak usually.

  2. Wow. Incredibly beautiful place. And you work there! I can’t even begin to imagine what all that might ensue. The tufted puffin looks unreal! And agreed that those big cruisers look out of place. Thanks for sharing! Regards.

  3. Such an incredible area to explore! We did an Alaskan cruise a few years ago. The cruise was not my cup of tea, way too touristy for my liking but the sights were amazing. I would love to go back to Alaska as some point & really explore!

    • The cruise ships tend to overwhelm the ports when they arrive. If you stay overnight in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, or Sitka, all the ships leave and the locals reclaim the city.

  4. What a fabulous cruise! So much to see, to experience. Especially love the puffin, and the otters, and the goat, and the bear, and . . . . . . . . But hey! Be careful what you say about Canadian glaciers, Lamplugh is not so pristine 🙂
    Oh and your junior ranger is gorgeous!

    • The Grand Pacific Glacier did carve out Glacier Bay, so I guess I can’t be too hard on it. Yes, I am married to a gorgeous junior ranger.

  5. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    Once again jealous. A few of us went whale watching yesterday in Puget sound and had great viewing of Orcas, Minke whales, and humpbacks. But no glaciers or puffins. And certainly not Kristi Bell, Junior Ranger.

      • Adventures in Kevin's World says:

        I’ve done 2 whale trips this year, both were incredible. But I **still** have yet to see a whale breach!

  6. that traveling nurse says:

    Glacier calving is something else right? It sounds like a clap of thunder with the gods playing bowling above. 😉 Missing Alaska, again.

      • that traveling nurse says:

        Try glacier hiking. Was so much fun! Wish I tried the ice climbing too, that seemed scary. Lol!

  7. I am convinced – that looks pretty awesome. I’m all in for the junior ranger program! 🙂

  8. I have just picked my jaw off the computer keyboard Jeff. This is where you work? I am so sorry we were unable to come this summer. This is unbelievable! Can you tell I am enthralled with your photos. If you are there next summer we would definitely like to chat about possibilities.

    • We hope to be here again next summer, and maybe many more. We really love it here. We are always looking for influential bloggers to visit and write about us. Glacier Bay is one of the great U.S. National Parks but probably one of the least well known.

      • Jeff let’s stay in touch about this for sure! We would love to feature Glacier Bay. Neither of us have been to Alaska. What months are best to consider?

      • May and June have the best weather usually. July and August can be nice too, plus there are more whales in those months.

  9. Pingback: Top 10 Things To Do in Glacier Bay | Planet Bell

Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s