Cruising Tracy Arm – in Luxury
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
After four solid days spent stopping in ports, guests aboard Silversea’s Silver Shadow were treated to a day of scenic cruising in beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord. I’ve been here four times before, but my experience today will forever make me eat my words the next time I describe it to people.
You see, Tracy Arm is one of those places that is frequently listed on itineraries as including visits to the North and South Sawyer Glaciers. In practicality, however, the glaciers are difficult to reach. They’re located at the end of a fjord that is normally choked with ice even during the warm summer months. This hampers the ability of most cruise ships to even get within sight of them.
More critically, the fjord narrows considerably as you approach the North and South Sawyer glaciers. It takes a series of tight port and starboard turns to even reach the mouth of the glaciers – leaving ships with precious little room to maneuver should ice block their path.
With mainstream ships, there is also the question of time. As we arrived at the mouth of Tracy Arm this morning, we had to wait approximately 20 minutes to let Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess exit the fjord. The ship was bound for Juneau, just a few hours’ sail north.
While the Silver Shadow was planning to spend all day in the Fjord, guests on the Grand Princess were already leaving at ten in the morning. Assuming they entered the fjord around 7a.m., that only leaves them with about 90 minutes of sailing time before they have to turn around to make their scheduled 2 p.m. arrival into Juneau.
That means I know exactly where Grand Princess stopped her journey: a little clearing about halfway into Tracy Arm with a brilliant waterfall on the starboard side. It’s the only place – aside from several turns many more nautical miles up – that a 952-foot long vessel like Grand Princess could successfully turn around in.
I’ve been here four times, but I have only seen the glaciers once, on an excursion nine years ago that departed from Juneau aboard a small catamaran and rejoined our ship in – you guessed it – the little clearing with the waterfall.
The other times, we’ve always sailed halfway down the fjord before stopping – and turning – in the little clearing with the waterfall. So, naturally, when readers ask me about Tracy Arm, I make sure to add the disclaimer about actually seeing the glaciers.
Given the positively chilly temperatures here as of late, I wasn’t expecting much out of today. I figured much of the pass would be too caked with ice to really traverse any great distance. So you can imagine my surprise when we steamed right on past the little clearing that I am so used to hearing the bow thrusters whirr into life on and just kept right on going, sailing at a safe speed that sometimes barely broke five knots.
Although the sun disappeared and the temperature plunged dramatically the closer we got to the glaciers, the scenic cruising we enjoyed today was every bit as in-depth as the small catamaran excursion I took nearly a decade ago. During the intervening nine years, not much has changed in Tracy Arm – it’s still as beautiful as ever.
To keep those of us out on deck warm, Silversea’s helpful bar attendants walked around with trays of hot chocolate and my absolute favorite drink ever: Gluhwein. Anyone who knows me can attest that the path to my heart is paved with the spiced, mulled wine that is commonly served in the European Christmas Markets throughout the month of December. I had to indulge in two glasses. It keeps you warm and, for all I know, it will be another six months before I can have another cup of the stuff.
When we finally reached the clearing for the Sawyer Glaciers, I was astonished to see that we were continuing on, towards the South Sawyer Glacier. We were now officially further than I had ever sailed into Tracy Arm on any ship, and Silver Shadow crawled along at two or three knots, pushing bergy bits and small chunks of ice out of her path using her bow thrusters and careful navigation.
Along the way, Captain Alessandro Zanello came over the public address system to inform us of all the seals and sea lions that were resting on ice in the bay ahead. He said this was a very rare event, and I can certainly attest to that. Their barks, sounding like crying children, rang out across the mountains in the bay. I have never seen or heard anything like it here in Alaska. Silver Shadow lingered in the bay for nearly 45 minutes as the ice clinked and cracked against itself and the currents and the sea lions and seals crawled on and off small bits of ice.
On our way back up the fjord, we encountered Disney Cruises’ Disney Wonder. She’d made it much farther down the fjord than most ships her size, but there is absolutely no way she could have completed the navigational feat that we enjoyed this afternoon onboard Silver Shadow. We measure 610 feet long, and to turn us around, the bow of our ship was only about 50 feet away from land. Disney Wonder is 300 feet longer than our ship. I don’t doubt they were having a wonderful experience, too, but looking at the passengers crunched against the railings made me appreciate the generous passenger-to-space ratio here onboard the Silver Shadow.
To warm up from all the time spent outside, I enjoyed a spicy Mexican-themed lunch in The Restaurant on Deck 4, within full view of the amazing sights as we retraced our route back through Tracy Arm.
Here’s a look at what’s happening this afternoon and evening onboard the Silver Shadow, courtesy of the Silversea Chronicles:
- 12:00 – Join the Bar Team for a Cocktail Demonstration. The Bar (5)
- 2:00 – Bridge Play with Fellow Guests (unhosted). Card Room (7)
- 3:00 – Blackjack Tournament with the Casino Staff. Casino (5)
- 3:45 – Golf Putting Challenge – fun and laughs with a cast member of the Artists of Silversea. Lobby, Athenian Lounge (6)
- 4:00 – Kids Corner with Christy (until 6pm). Conference Room (7)
- 4:00 – Afternoon Tea Time. La Terrazza (7)
- 4:15 – Team Trivia Quiz with your Cruise Director Don. The Bar (5)
- 5:00 – Destination Lecture: Black Gold Highway with Destination Consultant Niki Sepsas. Athenian Lounge (6)
- 5:00 – Aerobics with Personal Trainer Vlad. Aerobics Room (10)
- 5:30 – Introduction to the Art of Bob Dylan with Art Consultant Rami Ron. Lobby (5)
- 5:30 – Friends of Bill W. Observation Lounge (10)
- 5:30 – Stretch Class with Personal Trainer Vlad. Aerobics Room (10)
- 6:30 – Our pianist Willy plays your favorite melodies. The Bar (5)
- 6:45 – The Silver Shadow Quartet plays for your dancing and listening pleasure. Panorama Lounge (8)
- 8:00 – Kids Corner with Christy (until 10 pm). Conference Room (7).
- 9:30 – Our duo Willy and Angie sing and play for your dancing and listening pleasure. Panorama Lounge (8)
- 10:00 – Movie on the Big Screen: Philomena. PG-13, 98 minutes. Athenian Lounge (6)
- 10:00 – The Liar’s Club Game Show. Panorama Lounge (8)
- 10:30 – Our duo Willy and Angie sing and play for your dancing and listening pleasure. The Bar (5)
Last week, I got my hair cut in The Spa at Silversea on Deck 10 forward. It was the first time I’d ever gotten my hair cut aboard a cruise ship, and I was very pleased with the experience – so much so that I decided to try another new treatment. So, today at 3 p.m., I went back to the Spa and saw Joanna for a Fire and Ice Pedicure.
Now, I’ve never had a pedicure before, but I am told more and more men do get them. But, I am a huge fan of the Hot Stone Massage that Silversea offers, and the Fire and Ice treatment works in a similar fashion – for your legs.
First, cooling gels are applied to your legs while your feet rest in a bath of hot water which, after a chilly morning spent out on deck, was just what the doctor ordered. Then, your nails are cut, clipped and filed. If you’re female, you can probably have your nails painted. To be honest, I’m not sure how it works – I felt that I didn’t need to add a little dramatic flair to my evening onboard by finding out.
Your feet are then scrubbed to remove dead skin, which actually felt surprisingly good. Finally, your legs and feet are massaged traditionally and with the hot stones, which are volcanic rocks from Bali, Indonesia. They’re supposed to aid in circulation and reduce stress, which they actually did. In fact, after 60 minutes in the chair, I felt as relaxed as if I’d had a traditional full-body massage. Total cost: $92.
Silversea offers the Fire and Ice treatment with a duration of 50 to 60 minutes, and it can be enjoyed as a manicure, pedicure, or both. Would I do it again? Definitely. No one’s ever going to see my toenails except for me, but I’d repeat the Fire and Ice Pedicure for the relaxing and, frankly, rejuvenating feeling.
This next part is directed at any men that might be reading this: don’t be afraid of the spa! The spa landscape of today is very different than in the past; nearly all treatments are suitable for men, and that includes treatments outside of the more male-centric menu of beard trims and haircuts. So give it a shot; you might be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it.
I actually talked to two guests today who were already planning for their next Silversea cruise. For what it’s worth, I just received an email last night stating that Silversea is still offering its Silver Select Program on two of Silver Shadow’s Alaska sailings this year. Silver Select is an incentive that Silversea began offering earlier this year. It offers the choice of a two-category suite upgrade, a $500 per person credit towards the purchase of Silversea’s air program, or a $500 per person onboard credit.
Silversea is offering it on two of Silver Shadow’s upcoming Alaskan cruises, provided that the booking is made before August 31 – which, considering the departure dates of the voyages, doesn’t seem too difficult to adhere to:
Voyage 3426: Seward to Vancouver, 7 Days, August 28 – September 4
Voyage 3428: Vancouver to San Francisco, 11 Days, September 13 – 24
Tonight as we sail on to Wrangell, I thought it would be appropriate to post some images of Silver Shadow in the prolonged dusk we’re enjoying onboard this evening. With the rain chased away and the faintest rays of colour poking through the clouds in the sky, it’s a beautiful evening to be sailing the waters of Alaska.
I’ve been lots of places in this world, but there’s still nothing that can match the beauty of dusk in Southeast Alaska.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Shadow continues tomorrow as we arrive in the town of Wrangell, Alaska! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
Follow along with our entire journey!
Silver Shadow, Alaska
|Thursday, June 19, 2014
|Vancouver, British Columbia
|Embark Silver Shadow
|Friday, June 20
|Cruising the Inside Passage
|Saturday, June 21
|Sunday, June 22
|Monday, June 23
|Tuesday, June 24
|Wednesday, June 25
|Cruising Tracy Arm / Sawyer Glacier
|Thursday, June 26
|Friday, June 27
|Prince Rupert, British Columbia
|Saturday, June 28
|Sunday, June 29
|Victoria, British Columbia
|Monday, June 30
|Vancouver, British Columbia