Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Voyage of the Glaciers (2015)

Glaciers again - this time it's up close and personal

RIGHT: View from the cabin on waking up (complete with reflections - apologies!)

As this was to be a full day at sea, there was no particular need to be up early. Having said that, 'full day at sea' normally means simply being in transit from one point of interest to the next, whereas in this case it held out the promise of some serious sightseeing potential without having to leave the ship. And indeed, we awoke to find that Grand Princess was already making her way into our main objective for the day, Glacier Bay. Deciding to do something different for breakfast in the interests of variety, we managed to put together sausage & bacon biscuits from the contents of the main buffet.

We then spent some time out on deck, well wrapped up against the cold but basking under wonderfully clear skies and surrounded by stunning landscapes. We learned from the National Park ranger team, who had come on board at 0630, that Glacier Bay gets 300 rainy days a year. Not only had we managed to arrive on a dry day, but it was one with glorious, unobstructed sunshine. Our destination was certainly a worthy one: a US National Monument and later National Park, it was also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest UNESCO-protected biosphere in the world. In order to minimise the impact of tourism on this pristine natural environment, entry to the bay is restricted to two cruise ships per day. As suggested by the name, we were sailing into a large body of water, around the edges of which a number of glaciers were to be found; more of a surprise was learning that, as recently as 200 years ago, the bay had been almost entirely covered by one of them, the Grand Pacific Glacier.

After walking around the decks for a while, we found a pair of well positioned deckchairs near the stern and used these to enjoy both the sun and the views.

The ship made a brief call at the Johns Hopkins Glacier before proceeding to the main highlight of the visit, the Margerie Glacier, for which we relocated to our own cabin balcony. Grand Princess stopped right in front of the glacier and the engines were shut down. It was truly amazing to listen to sounds like thunderclaps coming from the glacier. Sometimes there was no visible movement, while at other times, pieces would fall off the front and into the sea - a process known as 'calving'.

After 30 minutes, the ship turned on the spot using its thrusters, so that passengers on the other side could get their fair share of the spectacle. The nearby Grand Pacific Glacier, the one that had once covered the whole area, was bigger but had a dirty, gravelly appearance. Having seen all this with our own eyes, we then attended a presentation at noon in the Princess Theater, by one of the National Park rangers. As ever with the US National Park Service, this was very well done. We had a light buffet lunch and watched from our cabin balcony as the ship progressed southwards and out of the bay, slowing around 3pm to offload the excellent ranger team.

ABOVE: Time to say goodbye to our National Park rangers

A spell of relaxation in the cabin then seemed to be in order, in advance of the second and last formal night in the dining room. We drank pre-dinner cocktails in the Explorers Lounge on this occasion, trying our hand at another trivia contest, this one marking the 50th anniversary of the much loved 1965 movie The Sound of Music. We didn't do quite as well as expected; there must have been some serious fans on board! (The celebrated film was also being shown at 8pm on the giant, outdoor 'Movies Under the Stars' screen.)

BELOW and RIGHT: 'Formal night' dinner in the Botticelli dining room

The second formal dinner was most enjoyable, consisting of a seafood starter, followed by tomato soup and filet of beef medallions, all washed down with an agreeable Cabernet Sauvignon from California.

After dinner, we watched the one-hour show The British Invasion in the Princess Theater, covering UK pop hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. While it didn't necessarily feature the strongest voices or the slickest production, I nevertheless thought it was impressive for a shipboard performance. After that, a balloon party in the central atrium provided some laughs and we saw some of the closing scenes of The Sound of Music in the open-air surroundings of Deck 14, but any thoughts of sticking with it right to the end were thwarted when it began to rain.

Thursday 03 Sep

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