On our recent cruise to Alaska, we couldn’t wait to see glaciers! On our recent Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise, we went cruising through the Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, just before arriving in Juneau. Depending on the time of year you cruise, and how big your cruise ship is, will depend on how close you can get to the glaciers while on the cruise ship. The cruise ship will get as close as possible (depending on icebergs and weather visibility) to Dawes Glacier, but because our ship was so big, we were still about 4 miles away from the glacier.
Luckily, we were able to book the Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier explorer excursion to get up close and personal to Dawes Glacier.
Watch our experience on the Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier Explorer here:
Tracy Arm vs Endicott Arm
If you book an Alaskan cruise, you’ll most likely cruise through the Endicott Arm or Tracy Arm. Tracy Arm branches to the north from Holkham Bay; Endicott Arm is the more southerly branch.
Endicott is straighter than the twisting Tracy Arm, but otherwise offers similar views of waterfalls, wildlife, and glaciers. Cruise ships can get somewhat closer to the Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm than they can to the Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm.
Located approximately 50 miles southeast of Juneau, the Endicott Arm Fjord houses the impressive tidewater glacier, Dawes Glacier, at its head. This narrow fjord is part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness area. Breathtaking Endicott Arm extends over 30 miles long, with nearly one-fifth of its area covered in ice. At the head of the fjord, tidewater glaciers, such as the Dawes Glacier, regularly expel enormous chunks of ice into the waters below in a magnificent process known as calving. You’ll see many icebergs floating on the water, but what’s crazy to think is that we only see 10% of the ice on the top of the water, meaning the other 90% is below water!
Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier Explorer Excursion
This excursion is only booked through Royal Caribbean, so spots are limited. When we originally tried to book this excursion, it was sold out. Luckily I kept checking back and was finally able to snag some spots.
As we were cruising through glacier on the Quantum of the Seas early in the morning, the excursion was set to be an early morning. The excursion ticket said to be ready at 6:45am in the music hall. We didn’t start boarding the smaller boat until 7:30am. The boat holds probably 150 people. And as we are driving through lots of icebergs, the boat is made for navigating the ice.
We were boarded, given the safety talk, and then we were off! The boat had plenty of indoor seating on two levels, plus two levels of outdoor standing room for photos. The top level was only opened when we were stopped. The boat, which was operated by Allen Marine Tours, had complimentary coffee, tea, and water, plus alcoholic drinks and snacks for purchase.
After about an hour of cruising through icebergs, we arrived at Dawes Glacier. As if the cruise to the glacier wasn’t spectacular enough, the glacier is unbelievable! We were incredibly lucky with the weather, we didn’t need to wear as many layers as we thought, and had lots of visibility. We were able to get about a quarter of a mile away from Dawes Glacier. We hung around the glacier for about an hour, providing plenty of photo opportunities. We were even able to see and hear the glacier calving into the water- what an incredible moment!
After spending a good hour in front of Dawes Glacier, we started the journey back to Juneau. What I didn’t know when booking this excursion, is that we would spend a lot of time after Dawes glacier, looking for wildlife, waterfalls, and cruising around Fords Terror Wilderness.
We were able to see whales, bald-eagles, seals, and seal lions. Along with beautiful waterfalls cascading into the water. The scenery on this excursion is just amazing! As you cruise through the fjord, you’ll pass by a lush forest, beautiful waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and blue-tinted glaciers. The pictures don’t even do it justice.
After 6.5 hours we cruised into downtown Juneau, and met back up with our Royal Caribbean ship. We get back on the ship, just like we got off. Be aware of this if you plan to do another excursion right after, as there were lots of people that were “late” for their departing time!
Is the Endicott Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer worth it?
At $219/person, the Endicott arm fjord and glacier explorer is spendy. With the weather in Alaska so unpredictable, you have no idea how close you will be able to get to the glacier from the cruise ship, we would 100% say this excursion was worth it! Being able to get as close as we did to the glacier, plus all of the other wildlife, and scenery that we saw was incredible! Not many people can say that they are able to get 1/4 mile away from a glacier, or even see the glacier calving in! It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience for most people!
What to wear for your Glacier excursion
You’ll want to make sure that you have enough layers for this excursion. As you are getting closer to the glacier, it will get colder. There is an inside seating area, so you use that as an option as well, but you’ll get much better views of the glacier and wildlife, if you’re outside. That being said, it still is summer in Alaska, and we had 70 degree days while we were there in June, so you’ll need to bring layers!
We recommend wearing (or bringing):
- Waterproof jacket
- Fleece sweatshirt
- Long-sleeve shirt
- Comfortable hiking pants
- Tennis shoes
- A beanie
- Power bank to charge your phone
A couple important things to note about this excursion:
- This excursion is only available through the cruise line
- While you don’t get off the boat at anytime, you do need to be able negotiate transit of a narrow, moderately-steep gangway with only minor assistance to embark the tour vessel.
- I originally thought the excursion would go to Dawes Glacier and then back to the ship, I was not aware that we would spend so much time looking at wildlife, waterfalls, and other scenery, which was a great bonus, but unexpected.
- While there are some small snacks for purchase on this excursion, bring some food with you!
- Bring lots of layers, as the weather is unpredictable. As you get closer to the glacier, it will get colder and windier, so bundle up!
- You will meet up with the cruise ship when it is docked in Juneau. You will get back onto the cruise ship the same way you got off, and then if you have another excursion, you will have to exit the cruise ship like normal.
- While they originally said it was a 5 hour tour, it was actually almost 7 hours! We didn’t back to the ship in Juneau until almost 2. So be aware if you wanting to book another excursion directly after this
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