Alaska Glacier Cruises and More H2O 101

Aug 22, 2015

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

My dad, Buddy, AKA “Grandpa Points” has a love for travel as fierce as mine, yet our travel patterns are distinctly different. He and my mom are now in their mid-60’s, are (mostly) retired, DSCN4512and are ticking off “bucket list” destinations quicker than they ever thought possible thanks to miles, points, and travel deals.  They have an intense love of this country, of its National Parks and treasures, and have no problem with a clean budget hotel room and an economy airline seat on a budget airline as long as it gets them where they want to be.  A photographer by trade, his adventures are usually captured not just in his mind, but in his camera.  He shares his thoughts and travels here from time to time, and I’m excited to share another one of their adventures.
Check out Part 1 of their retirement journey to Alaska, including the role miles and points played in the journey here and Part 2 “Shedding Some Light on the Midnight Sun“.

Suffice it to say, that if you make a trip to Alaska, part of the trip will involve doing something on, in, or around water. There is just a lot of water. DSCN8290Judging by what source you use or what the measuring specifics are, there are somewhere between 6400 and eleventy bazillion miles of coastline in Alaska. I was confused by all the variables.

Our trip, too, was touched and enhanced by Alaskan waters. We visited the coastal port cities of both Seward and Valdez. Valdez is far more isolated than Seward as it is not currently a cruise ship destination, and because of its sheer distance from a major airport or population center. You have to want to go to Valdez to go to Valdez. It is not on the way to anything else. But, the trip into Valdez from Glennallen was one of my favorite drives. Framing your view out the driver’s side window are four giant sentries, Mts. Sanford, Drum, Wrangell and Blackburn. BBlm4Fd

 

These massive peaks range from 12,000 to 16,400 ft and protect your left flank all the way to Valdez. This enjoyable drive winds  through magnificently beautiful forests and mountain valleys.

 

 

The mountain sides are a green to die for. They are like Ireland, four leaf clovers and The Masters green jacket combined. DSCN8359

And above the tree line, the snow and rocks team up to create  intricate zebra like patterns. DSCN8364

DSCN9188As the drive nears Valdez, you pass by the roadside Worthington Glacier, zip over Thompson’s Pass,

DSCN8357,                                 jaw drop at the dramatic Bridal Veil and Horsetail waterfalls DSCN9205

DSCN8374

and then descend through a chute of trees going steadily downhill to the sea. Can you tell I like this drive? And just as an aside, this area gets 50 feet of snow a year and the town itself 25 feet. Wow! and Brr!

Valdez exists because of the water. It lives and dies by the sea.   DSCN9200Valdez has an interesting history but most people know of it because of the ’64 earthquake, the fact that it is the terminus and terminal for the Alaska Pipeline, and for being the locale of  the Exxon/Valdez oil spill of 1989. Valdez was essentially the epicenter for the massive quake and the shaking, unstable ground and huge waves combined to decimate the city. Because of the quake, the original town site was condemned and the city moved about 4 miles further west.

Valdez is a city of about 4,000 surrounded by endless beauty. It is a quaint town, almost quiet when we visited, that is famous for being a fishing mecca. DSCN8385

The harbor abounds with fishing vessels that provides both a significant commercial industry and a recreational boom. Tour boats also reside here to carry passengers to an up close and personal adventure into the Prince William Sound and this is what drew us to Valdez.

We chose Stan Stephens Tours for our 6-7 hour excursion to the Columbia Glacier. The tour cost $125.00 each and included a light lunch. Our conditions were ideal. Clear blue skies, warm temperatures and a boat at only 30% capacity greeted  us as we set sail. DSCN9221

We were immediately welcomed by groups of sea otters, sea lions and seals. DSCN8400

DSCN8505DSCN8488

 

 

 

 

 

 

They did not seem near as excited about our presence as we did theirs. Not once did we see a single one of them grab their seal phone to take a picture of us nor did we get a mention on their flipper feed. Maybe we should have checked their snapfish account. Anyway, it was a great intro to a GREAT DAY.

The scenery was legendary Alaskan and it was hard to not smile and be in awe. DSCN8414We stayed in cruise mode through both narrow and wide channels that we had to ourselves except for an Alaska Ferry or an occasional tour boat or, or, or, …………………or a WHALE?

DSCN8416DSCN8420

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, there breaking the water for air were a couple of humpbacks about 75 yards out. There are several spotters/crew members on board to help look for such sightings. The tour operators want you to see them as it is good PR for business and makes for a happy boat. The boat personnel are very patient in their search and will let the boat idle and wait for the whales to resurface. We saw about 8 on our trip including a small pod of orcas. What a thrill!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DSCN8517

As we neared the glacier, we became witness to another remarkable and call home about moment. We saw an eagle doing a 400 meter breaststroke while holding on to a weight.

DSCN8437

Not an eagle scout vying for a merit badge, but a real eagle. Apparently, an eagle’s eyes are sometimes bigger than its wingspan and it can’t get airborne with its prey. So when that happens, a hungry eagle has to do what a hungry eagle has to do,  swim to shore with its supper in tow. Or, in talon, as the case must be. It was an incredible sight.

The closer we got to our glacial goal the more glacial chunks we had to navigate through. We were such a small part of this vast icy liquid scene that it looked like, it felt like, we could have been characters in the movie HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS and we were adrift in a huge blue raspberry iced drink.

DSCN8500DSCN8439

 

 

 

 

 

 

After slaloming through a few hundred glacial gates, we came to the Columbia Glacier.

It is a massive bluish/white fortress wall of  frozenness that meets and becomes part of the sea.

Alaska Glacier Cruises

Its sheer size is intimidating and then….there is THE SOUND. Out of the silence comes a decisive and distinctive CCCCUUUUUUHHHHHRRRRRRAAAAAAACCCCCCKKKKKKUUUUUUHHHHH  !!

You don’t know whether to duck, run away or to keep the camera churning to chronicle what could be your last few moments alive. THE SOUND seems like explosives are being set off in the glacier as if being mined. Shrapnel of icy shards and ice boulders as big as cars, as big as trucks, are ejected into the echoing air and belly flop into the waiting arms of the sea. Enormous and reverberating splashes generate 4 to 6 foot waves that radiate and stir the waters of the cove. DSCN9327

We sit in our rocking and rolling  boat in stunned, but excited silence, as we anxiously watch and wait. Our concentrated stares are riveted on the wall of ice. DSCN8458

 

And then, the SOUND comes again. Small at first then crescendoing into a full symphonic roar.           DSCN8464

 

 

 

 

 

And it does again and again. It is as though the glacier is making sacrifices to the sea or entertaining the crowd with an afternoon matinee. We watched for 30 minutes, or an hour. I’m not sure. We were hypnotized and time was irrelevant. We had front row seats in the orchestra section of one of the grandest of stages to a performance conducted and directed by the virtuoso herself, Mother Nature.  The phenomenon we had been privileged to see is technically called “calving”. Somehow this simple word was just not adequate enough to describe what we had seen.

The boat tour gets two Evinrudes up from us. It was better than we had hoped for and we had high hopes. We absolutely recommend this tour, or one similar, to all Alaskan visitors. It is that special and that beautiful.

We loved it. It was a living, breathing highlight reel and we had a flag waving, whale of a good time.

DSCN8426DSCN8417

 

 

 

 

 

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.