Day 16 of the Miami to Alaska Family Road Trip: Our First Awesome Encounter with an Alaskan Glacier

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The third day on our special boat trip to Alaska marks the beginning of four consecutive days of what my wife and I call the Natural Geographic experience aboard the Disney Wonder cruise to Alaska.  These are the meaty adventures that lured us here and if today is any barometer for what’s to come this ocean voyage part of our 40-day Miami to Alaska vacation is only going to be more spectacular.

Character Breakfast

We began our favorite day on the ship so far with the much anticipated character breakfast at the Parrot Cay restaurant.  Every passenger gets this priviledge so you want to be sure that when you go on your Disney cruise you don’t miss breakfast on that day.  Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip n Dale and our daugthers’ favorite Goofy all came by to get their breakfast photos with us.  If you don’t buy one of the photo packages Disney sells on the ship this is your best opportunity to use your own camera for free snapshots with many of the top Disney characters.

Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier

At noon, the glacier viewing excitement began to build for us as our ship started winding through Alaska’s famous Tracy Arm en route to the South Sawyer Glacier, a popular glacier that’s frequented by other cruises.  While guests begin to jockey for the best seats on the top deck of the starboard side of the ship, the part that will get the best view of the glacier, Disney crew prepared a BBQ lunch of salmon and steak.  It’s chilly so everyone snags one of the Disney-supplied snuggle blankets to stay warm.

The things our kids and I are about to see are truly alien to us Miami dwellers so earlier today, right after breakfast and before reaching Tracy Arm, we took a crash course on glaciers and were reminded that a glacier is a large body of ice originating on land that forms where the accumulation of snow and sleet exceeds the amount of snow that melts.

The onboard ranger program was great for educating our family about the things we would be seeing on this trip.


The contrast of pools and glacier country is interesting. In general we didn't find too many people using the pools today even though they are heated.

The sea passage to South Sawyer Glacier is gorgeous with surrounding steep, pine tree-lined mountain cliffs that rise hundreds of feet and then simply crash down straight into the frigid waters below. To think that Alaskan fire fighters sometimes have to climb these steep hills to control fires is pretty amazing.  We sat next to a Washington state forest ranger that told us that the danger of black bears is so great here that rangers in Alaska are the only ones in the country who are supplied with shotguns.  Talk about tough jobs.

On either side of the ship, everywhere we look, it’s photograph city.  We’re in awe to see so many springs and valleys in one place.

A major clue that we’re fast approaching the South Sawyer Glacier is evident as the closer we get to the glacier the more pieces of ice we see in the water.  Most of the floating ice sheets are chunks that have chipped off the glacier itself.  At first we see small ice sheets but then the ice sheets get bigger.  These larger chunks of ice are icebergs but don’t worry none of them are huge like the ones that sank the Titanic and even if they were, our ship is keeping a safe distance from any that could hurt us.

90% of this iceberg is actually underneath the water, a pretty startling fact about most icebergs and one of the reasons why you need to think of icebergs as floating underwater boulders.

About two hours or so into our journey into Tracy Arm we arrive in a part of the passage that looks like a field of pure floating ice sheets and icebergs.  In the backdrop, imposingly beautiful but safely hundreds of yards away is the South Sawyer Glacier, a so-called Tidewater glacier because it’s the kind you always see suddenly collapsing into the sea in documentaries and newscasts about the environment.

If you didn’t get to your viewing spot early you will have a hard time taking the most obvious photos you should have but a crew member tells me that some of the best photo views can be taken on the top deck of the ship at the back of the starboard side because most people congregate only in the parts that have chairs.

Doctor Visit Number Three

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it turns out that our two year old Briani decided to potty train herself on our trip.  That’s good but it’s also bad because for several days we thought the pain she kept showing us she had in her private parts were related to a diaper rash.  In fact it appears Briani’s pain is related to not wanting to wet her diapers.  We thought it would get better because we’ve been regularly taking her to the bathroom but the pain hasn’t gone away.  Today we decided to take her to the doctor on board the ship and he confirmed what we believed all along.  Briani has a bladder infection.

The good doctor prescribed some antibiotics and sent her on her way.  How’s that for knowing every facet of our ship?



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