If an Alaskan cruise is on your wish list, choosing an itinerary can be a little tricky because there are so many options for harbor and fjord cruises.

But regardless of the route, an Alaska cruise is sure to offer some of the most breathtaking and picturesque views in the area. Each morning, guests have the opportunity to wake up to see towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls and wildlife.

One of the most popular parts of an Alaska cruise is the scenic cruise along Tracy Arm Fjord or Endicott Arm Fjord. While the Tracy Arm is the better known and most visited of the two, the Endicott Arm is just as amazing, if not more so.

The Endicott Arm Glacier is located about 80 km southeast of Juneau and is led by the impressive Dawes Glacier.

(Photo courtesy of Diana Zaluki/Disney Cruise Line)

Glacier Dawes

Dawes Glacier, located at the head of Endicott Arm Fjord and sheltered in the Tongass National Forest, was originally named Young Glacier by John Muir in 1880. In 1892, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey changed its current name in honor of Henry Lawrence Dawes, a Massachusetts lawyer and statesman.

Dawes Glacier, more than 600 feet high and nearly a mile wide, is the mighty remnant of an even larger block of ice that formed Endicott Arm Fjord a thousand years ago. Dawes Glacier consists of two huge glaciers and is connected in the middle by a middle moraine. The glacier covers 250 feet of ice below the glacier surface.

Cruisers can admire and marvel at this massive icy beauty from the outside decks of the ship. You may even witness ice calving, when heavy chunks of ice break off and seep into the sea water without warning, forming icebergs.

Due to strict environmental regulations, cruise ships visiting this area are only allowed to cross the Endicott Arm Fiord to Dawes Glacier at certain times of the day. All major cruise lines usually employ a naturalist who can comment on the fjord cruise, point out the wildlife in the area and give guests information about the area. However, due to strict noise regulations, there are portions of the ride where the nature guide must stop talking into the public address system.

Either way, guests can enjoy the tranquility of wildlife as the ship carefully maneuvers through the near-cold waterway to view the spectacular Dawes Glacier. Don’t forget to bring binoculars (if the cruise line doesn’t provide them), a camera and a warm coat.

Bald eagle seen on cruise in Alaska.

READ MORE: Alaska Inside Passage Cruises: What you need to know.


If you want to see the Dawes Glacier up close, many cruise lines offer a tour that allows guests on a smaller boat to see the glacier up close. Passengers can view large floating icebergs, waterfalls and wildlife such as brown bears, bald eagles and seals. Endicott Arm is one of the largest breeding areas for common seals. The chance to see these cute creatures swimming and resting on the icebergs is therefore very high.

Please inquire on board for prices and times of excursions or book online for your trip. Be sure to check availability at the beginning of your cruise or as soon as you book your trip, as these tours tend to fill up quickly.

If you decide not to do the excursion, please contact the Endicott Arm Fjord the day before your arrival to find out what time the ship will enter the fjord. The various cruise ships that operate in this area take turns during the day passing through these bottlenecks, one after the other. If your boat enters the fjord early in the morning, be sure to set an alarm clock so you don’t accidentally fall asleep and miss the beauty of the fjord.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Care_SMC)

You won’t have to worry about the best seat on board either, as you’ll have the best view from each of the ship’s outer decks. Usually the ships make a full cruise through the canal, so the customers can see everything.

Approximately 1.4 million cruise passengers pass through Alaska each year, and the fjord portion of the itinerary is arguably always the most popular, with cruise ships slowly working their way through these majestic destinations. They are also the best places to observe wildlife and discover what this beautiful region has to offer.

Is an Alaska cruise on your wish list or have you ever visited Dawes Glacier?

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