By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 8, 2006
Q. I noticed that some Alaska cruise ships go to Glacier Bay National Park and some go to Tracy Arm and the Sawyer glaciers. What's the difference? Where do you see the best scenery and most wildlife?
Jean Turnbull, Clinton, Md.
A. When cruising around Alaska, go with the larger ice floe -- Glacier Bay National Park. "The glaciers at Glacier Bay are higher and bigger, and you can see more wildlife than at Tracy Arm," says George Reed, a cruise specialist with AlaskaCruises.com, an online travel agency. "The only difference is that not many cruise lines go to Tracy Arm."
Based on numbers alone, Glacier Bay covers 3.3 million acres, and its clear, icy waters are filled with humpback whales, harbor seals, sea otters and 200 species of fish. Black bear, moose and wolves prowl the forested land, and more than 25 percent of all North American bird species have been spotted there. By comparison, Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness comprises 653,179 acres in Tongass National Forest, and while it offers similar wildlife (bears, seals, etc.), its populations are much smaller. "You can see the same wildlife at Tracy Arm," says Reed, "but you will see more at Glacier Bay because its ocean view is larger."
One downside to Glacier Bay is its cruise-ship traffic. Most Inside Passage trips visit the park, which means a hulking liner might ruin your shot of a breaching humpback. However, Reed says the ships have scattered itineraries, so only one or two vessels will be sailing there per day. Another factor to consider is that the larger boats must keep a safe distance from the glacier, so "you're not really close, you can't touch the glacier," says Reed. However, smaller ships such as Cruise West, which accommodates 45 to 70 passengers, can edge closer and get an clear look at the ice form.
Since cruisers are forced to decide between the glaciers -- no one cruise visits both -- travelers with extra time can take a day trip from Juneau to Tracy Arm. Auknu Tours (800-820-2628, http://www.auknutours.com/ ), for one, offers an eight-hour excursion to the glacier for $148 per person, and the company says its captains steer the boats as close to the ice floes as possible.
We're looking for an atlas to help us with planning trips. Any suggestions?
Susan Green, Annapolis
Atlases are great for figuring out where in the world to go, but for taking the next step (planning, booking, touring), you'll need more than a book of maps. Candida Mannozzi, owner of Candida's World of Books (1541 14th St. NW, 202-667-4811, http://www.candidasworldofbooks.com/ ), suggests three titles to fit a traveler's needs.
Dorling Kindersley's "Traveler's Atlas" (October 2005, DK Publishing, $30). "It's meant specifically for people wanting to prepare for trip(s) and fishing for ideas and updated information on possible destinations," she writes in an e-mail. "It's not meant to substitute for more detailed travel guides to actual countries or cities."
Lonely Planet's "Travel Book" (September 2005, $30). "This is a book that lists 218 countries in the world in alphabetical order, gives each a two-page spread with several photos and a concise text-column describing the best time of the year to visit, key experience to have, key phrase, basic facts, surprise facts, etc. . . . great inspiration for travelers wanting to decide where to go next."
Lonely Planet's "Bluelist: 618 Things to Do & Places to Go 2006-2007" (2006, $19.99). "This is the first edition of an all-new annual volume that compiles the best things to see and do in 2006-07, offering a page-by-page profile of every country in the world, along with tips on recent travel trends, hip hotels, shopping, cities, off-the-beaten-path gems, beaches, and more. It's organized by continent, not in alphabetical order, and is smaller, more compact than its 'Travel Book.' Definitely meant more as a preparation resource than a pretty/impressive gift book."
For atlases with more heft, consider Green Map ( http://www.greenatlas.org/atlas.html ), whose atlases can be downloaded for free (they're also available on CD-ROM for $15). The publications have pages' worth of photographs and maps for cities including Toronto, Tokyo and New York.Postscript
Steve Rosenberg of Waynesboro, Va., offers additional suggestions on air travel to Yellowstone (Jan. 1). Rosenberg recommends flying into Jackson, Wyo. "My understanding is that [Jackson] is the only commercial airport in the United States located within the boundaries of a national park -- Grand Teton National Park," he says by e-mail. "When my wife and I traveled to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone a year ago, we landed in the park -- with an awesome view of the Teton Range -- headed north, away from Jackson, and did not encounter 'civilization' until the end of trip. . . . The fare was reasonable, too."
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.