The sight and sounds of Southeast Alaska’s Hubbard Glacier are transcendental. We encountered the world’s largest tidewater glacier on the second day of a week long cruise aboard the country club stylish 700-passengers Regent Seven Seas Mariner following the rugged, fjord-cut coastline of Alaska’s panhandle from Seward to Vancouver, and it was a showstopper. Hubbard winds 76 miles from the massive high-altitude ice field in Canada’s Yukon that feeds it down to Russell Fjord’s Disenchantment Bay in the United States. It moves with surprising speed, at a rate of tens of feet or more per day, not the inches typical of other glaciers. Its 400-foot-high face, or “snout,” is gnarled into abrupt towers and riven with the blue of ice compressed under great pressure until all air has been forced out of it. That vast shelf of sea-level ice is a mile across, and it periodically showers ice falls or calves icebergs into the water, often accompanied by the sharp cracks and deep booms of fracturing ice. Even the biggest cruise ships seem like bathtub toys. In front of it.
Hubbard Glacier, which is estimated to be from 400 to 700 years-old, is a highlight of any Alaska cruise It proves even more so on a stylish ship like Mariner where every suite has a balcony and thus instant access for all passengers to view a humpback whale blowing or a lone brown bear (called grizzly elsewhere) in search of a salmon dinner, and small enough to move quickly from one place to another to appreciate the ever-changing scenery of snow-clad mountains hung with high-altitude glaciers and endless swaths of thick forest packed with spruce, cedar and alder. Even the time of year cooperates, Alaska’s famed “midnight sun’s” lengthened days allowing hours more sightseeing time.
Captain Serena Melani, Regent Seven Seas first female commandant, adeptly navigated her 700-passenger vessel to the imposing glacier while naturalist and story teller Terry Breen regaled passengers with fascinating commentaries. Oohs and aahs were audible as passenger spotted turquoise-colored icebergs falling noisily into the water, a surreal scene and act of nature.
On this cruise the approximately three-hour voyage to the foot of the glacier took place on the day after embarkation in Seward. It is one of the most impressive experiences of the cruise but there are many more exciting sites to be seen until disembarkation in Vancouver on June 29.
Regent Seven Seas is one of the truest all-inclusive fare ships afloat, on this trip passengers were treated to unlimited WiFi for one device , wines, Champagne, spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, shore excursions (we did four in seven days) and tips paid. The voyage was magical on this recently refurbished luxury liner.