The Traveling Steve's

Windy Day at Hubbard Glacier, Alaska!

On Friday, our Crown Princess cruise ship sailed to and around Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard is the biggest of the glaciers visited by cruise ships, at over six miles wide and 400 feet in height, with another 250 feet beneath the water level.

Unfortunately on the day we sailed there, the weather was not on our side. It made the voyage quite rough actually as we sailed thru the Yakutat Bay toward Hubbard Glacier. Steve (DOS) and I were at breakfast at Sabatini’s (on the 16th floor of the Crown Princess), and the waves were quite high and rough, along with the winds and fog. Dishes started falling off the tables, pots were clanging in the galley, and the ship seemed to take a bit of a port list, which was quite a bit frightening us and the other passengers and even crew.

View outside our window in Sabatini’s Restaurant, showing the
rough seas on the way to Hubbard Glacier.

Dining room servers rush to pick up dishes that slid off the table due to the rough seas.

The ship’s Captain, Captain Christopher Lye, soon made a solemn and important announcement concerning the weather and safety precautions as we were sailing thru the Yakutat Bay. He said the bad weather would continue for about 45 minutes unfortunately and there was nothing they could do about it; it was like a sailboat of sorts with the wind pushing it to the port-side. The ship was visibly listing to the port-side, (we found out later it was at a 8 degrees list, with winds up to 75 mph) and the list may have been more noticeable to us as we were so high up aboard the ship on deck 16.

Hang on DOS! It’s going to be a rough ride, and this isn’t a roller coaster!

(Four days later at the Coffee with the Captain get-together in the main theater, Captain Lye went into more detail about the conditions when a passenger asked on a scale of 1 to 10, how rough was the ship rocking then, and he said a 5 out of 10. He said, and we know from experience as well, it has been much rougher than that even for us, especially on a Northern, Western bound trans-Atlantic crossing on Celebrity a few years ago, which I would rate an 8 as it was literally too rough to walk, with the fog horn blaring every 2 minutes for a day or so out of Iceland to Canada. The dining rooms were virtually empty as were the entertainment venues. Fortunately we didn’t get sea sick but many passengers did.)

The ship’s Entertainment Director on left, and Captain Lye on the right at “Coffee with the Captain”.

Captain Lye speaks in a calm but commanding and professional voice, and his frank talk was reassuring, especially the part about where the ship was listing a bit, and how the ship was made to handle this type of weather conditions and much worse. Captain Lye has been a superb and hands-on Captain this entire cruise, and he provides detailed daily announcements and we have seen him several places around the ship. He’s definitely one of the best Captain’s we’ve had at sea on the dozens of cruises we have taken over the years. Huge shout-out to Captain Lye!

Anyway, we made it thru breakfast ok, and back to our room safely although took it slowly due to the rock-and-roll of the ship. I feel especially bad for the crew who have to work in those conditions, as well as passengers more prone to sea sickness. This was quite rough, and again was reminiscent of the northbound trans-Atlantic crossing we were on once on the Celebrity Constellation, although that cruise was much rougher than this. We fortunately are not prone to sea sickness, but it’s still not fun to sail thru. (Ironically, we were docked next to the Celebrity Millennium yesterday in Skagway, which is a sister ship to the Constellation. The Constellation is a smaller and Panamax ship at 90,000 GRT vs 113,500 GRT on the Crown Princess we are currently sailing.)

The Celebrity Cruise Line Millennium (sister ship to the Constellation) we took on a rough trans-Atlantic crossing a few years ago. Beautiful and smaller ship, it was docked next to us in Skagway.

Once we arrived to Hubbard Glacier, the rough weather subsided mostly, and the ship slowed to a crawl, being careful to navigate thru the ice fields. We got as close to Hubbard Glacier as the weather and ice would allow, but we were still fairly distant from it. The weather was still rainy and overcast, which made for pretty miserable viewing conditions of Hubbard Glacier unfortunately.

At Hubbard Glacier; the small boat in the photo was a ship excursion that took 95 passengers up closer to Hubbard Glacier than what the ship could maneuver.

The Captain made two full and slow rotations of the ship, so everyone could see the glacier from their balconies or on-deck. The in-room TVs also broadcast the view from the front of the ship, although the view wasn’t great due to weather, but the commentary by the ship’s naturalist was very good, and informative.

I jotted a couple of notes down, such as Hubbard being the largest glacier in Alaska, at over 650 feet tall, with 400 feet visible, and 250 underwater. By definition, a glacier is made of ice, and it moves over time. We did not see or hear any “calving”; the term used where the ice breaks off from the glacier with a loud crackling or booming sound, although we’ve seen and heard the “calving” on other Alaska cruises. We realize this is the rainy season for Alaska, so while disappointing the weather wasn’t great, we’re so happy to be able to go.

Hubbard Glacier as seen from the Crown Princess September 2023.
Hubbard Glacier as seen from the Crown Princess this year (Sept 2023). Not a scenic day of viewing due to the weather as compared to the photo down below from last year on the Grand Princess.

By comparison, last year we were at Glacier Bay this same time, and had fantastic weather, also in September. Here’s a photo of the glacier we saw from the Grand Princess Sept 2022 at Glacier Bay for comparison.

Glacier Bay, Alaska from the Grand Princess Sept 2022. This was the day before I was admitted to the ship’s hospital for my heart issues, and subsequently evacuated to Seattle for 2 months.

And while I look well in the photo above from last year’s Grand Princess, this was the day before I was admitted to the ship’s hospital for my heart issues; and eventually airlifted to Washington state from Ketchikan. I told DOS today; I’d rather be well and have bad weather seeing a glacier, then being sick and having good weather seeing one!

After being in the Hubbard Glacier area for an hour and a half or so, the ship then sailed back thru the Yakutat Bay. Captain Lye again made a shipboard announcement, this time preemptively informing passengers that the return journey thru the Yakutat Bay would be rocky and similar to before, and to stay indoors and away from doorways. Captain Lye was indeed correct as it was quite rocky even into the evening, although again we did not get sea sick.

View from our aft balcony sailing back thru the Yakutat Bay after leaving Hubbard Glacier.

Rough seas for several hours .

Below is a clip of the view out the window at Vine’s Wine Bar we went to before dinner.

Not a whole lot to show today photo wise, but as Steve (DOS) and I always tell people asking about Alaska, you can go multiple times and experience something different each time due to the ever-changing weather and conditions. It’s all good, even when it’s rainy and wet; it’s truly nature up close and personal.

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