Bridgeworthy: Alaska Cruising – Gorgeous Glaciers and Gliding Over Hoonah

The Norwegian Jewel at sea approaching Hubbard Glacier

Alaska is known as “the Last Frontier” – its name comes from the Aleut word Aleyeska, meaning “great land,” an understatement for the incredible beauty of its vast mountains, glaciers, and over 6,000 miles of coastline.  The best way to experience the diverse landscapes and immense beauty of Alaska’s coast is by taking an Alaskan Cruise that will bring you close up to otherwise unreachable glaciers, surround you with breathtaking views, and take you to beautiful ports of call.

Navigating through the icebergs to get as close as possible to Hubbard Glacier.My family embarked the Norwegian Jewel out of Seward, Alaska for a seven-day cruise of the Inside passage to Vancouver, Canada. The first day at sea we enjoyed whale watching from the deck and visited Hubbard Glacier, a solid block of ice six-miles-wide and 400 feet tall with colors ranging from bright white to deep blue. The ship navigated through mini icebergs to approach the glacier. As we got closer, we watched huge pieces of ice crack off and fall into the ocean, a natural occurrence known as calving, and heard the thundering sound of the crashing ice several seconds later (due to the ships distance from land). We learned that glacial ice absorbs every color of the spectrum except blue, the color you see, and the bluer the ice the denser the glacier. Being this up close to a massive glacier can be a humbling experience as you realize how small we are in comparison to nature’s wonders. Alaska has more than 100,000 glaciers, covering more than 29,000 square miles of the state.

The hydrotherapy hot tub in the spa.

Cruise ships offer a lit bit of everything for just about everybody, regardless of age. From a gym with spectacular views of the Alaska coastline and surrounding water where you can spot whales while running on the treadmill or riding a bike, to hot tubs and heated pools on deck, to the sports courts where you can play basketball–there are a number of options for those wanting to stay active. Cruise ships also offer relaxing spas and salons where you can unwind before heading to an art auction, piano bar, casino, or dance club. Our family took advantage of it all in different ways, but we always made time to meet for meals. From fine dining to a burger bar to the buffet, meals were always a wonderful experience. The amazing food and the incredible views alone make a cruise a worthwhile experience.

The Norwegian Jewel anchored off Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska

On the second day, we pulled into Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska. A tiny fishing village, Hoonah boasts incredible views and clear water where you can see starfish as you disembark the ship.

 

A Bald Eagle flying through Hoonah, Alaska. Photo by Jeannie Groeneveld
A Bald Eagle carries his fresh fish catch in his talons back to his nest.

On the way to the in-port zipriding adventure, we saw four bald eagles soaring through the sky and a baby eagle high up in its nest. The ship offers several tour options from whale watching and fishing to kayaking, but our kids love zip-lining so we couldn’t pass up the “World’s Largest Ziprider” with six ziplines next to each other soaring 5,334 feet from the top of the mountain back to town at sea level.  Higher than the Empire State Building and reaching speeds up to 60 miles an hour, the Ziprider gives you 90 seconds of awesome views as you soar down the mountain. You can ride ATVs up or take a 45-minute guided tour bus ride to the top (we opted for the bus). Our driver, a local resident of Hoonah, had a great sense of humor and shared local information about the town.

Views from the shuttle bus up to the Ziprider
People gliding down the ziprider.

After reaching the top and getting a safety brief, we soared down the mountain back toward our ship. It is as close to flying as you can get and a worthwhile experience.

Lump crab Bloody Mary

When back at the pier, we enjoyed a free hour of wifi while grabbing a local cocktail, the lump-crab Bloody-Mary was a favorite. After the day in Hoonah, we embarked the ship and set sail for Juneau.

 

 

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Jeannie is a recently retired Naval Officer whose first duty station brought her to Coronado in 1998.  A Navy Helicopter Pilot for 10 years and a Public Affairs Officer for 11 years, the Navy afforded her many incredible opportunities to serve her country in unique ways while seeing the world.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com