Tag Archives: Inside Passage

Cruising the Inside Passage

An UnCruise ship looking to sail Alaskan waters in 2021

The cruise ship industry has been arguably the hardest hit industry in Alaska. 2020 saw no cruise ships dock at state ports, and 2021 is shaping up to see limited options.

One business based out of Seattle, Un-Cruise, will bring ships through the Inside Passage with passenger numbers of less than 100 people. They hope to have six ships sailing into the Alaska market, bringing some 6000 passengers to coastal communities like Juneau.

Due to the pandemic, Un-Cruise already had to reshuffle when a scheduled stop in Ketchikan was skipped due to a spike in the town of Covid-19 cases.

I’ve traveled the Inside Passage once, although not on a cruise. It is a remarkable experience, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Personally, I can see the smaller cruise ships as being far more enjoyable for this experience than the large ones.

Guests leaving the UnCruise Legacy

The Passenger Service Vessels Act states that no foreign ship can carry passengers only between U.S. ports. Since the fleet of large cruise ships are foreign owned, a cruise ship from Seattle will stop at a Canadian port before getting to Alaska. With the pandemic, Canada has closed its ports to the large cruise ships, leaving Alaska high and dry. This situation left an opening for the smaller companies like Un-Cruise.

The United States Senate voted last week to temporarily bypass the act for the remainder of the 2021 season. That bill now goes to the U.S. House. If passed, it would allow some large cruise ships to return to Alaska ports this summer.

For an industry that really plans things out long in advance, I’m not sure how much of a boost this will be for Alaska’s coastal communities, although I imagine they are grateful for anything they can get at this point. There will be a scramble for employees and inventory if/when the bill passes. At any rate, it appears that some large cruise ships will be seen at Alaska ports in the second half of July.

Photos credit: Un-Cruise Adventures


Taku Glacier & the Juneau Ice Field

The Juneau Ice Field, as seen from the air

The Juneau Ice Field is located just north of Alaska’s capital city. The ice field covers 1500 square miles, more than a third larger than Rhode Island, and stretches from Alaska across the border into British Columbia. The ice field is home to over 40 large glaciers and more than 100 smaller glaciers. The Juneau Ice Field has been one of the most studied in the world, with the Juneau Ice Field Research Project being conducted annually since 1946.

Taku Glacier, as seen across the Taku River

One of the most talked about glaciers within the Juneau Ice Field has been Taku Glacier. It has been the last advancing glacier within the ice field. It’s “mass balance” has been in the positive; it has been gaining more snow during the coarse of a year than it has lost in melt.

Taku Glacier from the air

Taku is the thickest measured glacier in Alaska. It is considered a high elevation glacier, which has helped it maintain the title of an advancing glacier.

That designation has officially come to an end. With the increasingly warm temperatures that Alaska has been experiencing over the past decade plus, the Taku Glacier is now retreating.

When Taku has calved in the past, it has sent icebergs into the Juneau harbor. Massive calving events would not only send icebergs to Juneau, but also into the Inside Passage.

When Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound started its retreat, sending icebergs into The Sound, the State of Alaska was forced to create an ice-watch program for oil tankers and cruise ships.

Taku Glacier is twice the size of Columbia.