Cruise Talk Names Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter Tour Best All Time Excursion

Of all of our cruise excursions including Snorkeling at Trunk Bay in St Johns, Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, The Marigalante Pirate Boat in Mexico, Night Clubs in San Juan, Cliff Diving in Acapulco, etc, the winner of the best all time excursion goes to The Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter Tour in Juneau, Alaska.

We experienced this amazing excursion during our 1993 Rotterdam cruise from Vancouver to Seward. Our second port was Alaska’s capital, Juneau. We chose the Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter Tour because even back then the buzz was that this was a tour not to be missed. The actual tour is only about 2 or 3 hours from pick up to drop off at the dock area, so you have plenty of time to do some shopping or visit the State Museum in Juneau before or after your excursion.

The tour company picked us up in a converted school bus and drove us to the airport. During the ride a representative of the tour company took down our weights so that she could match us up in groups of 4 that would be evenly distributed and not over the helicopter weight limit. Once we arrived at the company’s facility at the airport, we were fitted with snow/ice boots and assigned to a waiting area for our helicopter. Once on board our helicopter we put on our headphones and lifted off. The enormous beauty of Alaska spread out in all directions. We could see the glacier lake, the inside passage, hundreds of mountains and islands in the distance, and of course the Mendenhall Glacier.

The helicopter takes passengers to a smooth spot on the glacier, lands, and then lets the passengers off to explore the glacier with a guide. They explained that a glacier is like very slow moving river of ice. Like a river that has waterfalls, rapids and smooth waters, so too does a glacier have similar areas of ice. The helicopter lands on of of those smooth areas of ice. The tour guides have marked the visitors areas with ropes so that they do not wander out of the safe areas. They also warn visitors that some of the cracks in the ice are over 100 feet deep and that they only have a 50 foot rope. Just a friendly reminder to stay safe and not venture to close to the crevices.

While exploring the glacier, we were struck by the beautiful deep blue color of the cracked ice. The surface of the ice is rough and less dense so it reflects the white light. However, in the cracks and crevices, the ice is very dense and thick and only reflects back the blue light. We peeked into a couple of the cracks and got to enjoy the details of some of the glacier that can only be seen by walking on the surface. The streams of melting water flowing across the glacier and then flowing down into deep crevices can really only be appreciated up close.

During our walk on the glacier, our helicopter went back to the airport and picked up another group of passengers. Upon the return of the helicopter to the glacier, we re-boarded our helicopter and got to see the more of the glacier from the air. We flew all the way up the valley down which the glacier travels. Along the way, we were treated to spectacular water falls flowing down the sides of the glacier and the surrounding mountains. We saw many small lakes formed along the sides of the glacier, sharp mountains, and even a few mountain goats seemingly hanging precariously on the cliffs. At the top of the mountain we saw the vast white horizon of the Juneau Ice Field. This was some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.

The only draw back of this excursion is the cost. Back in 1993 we paid about $190 per person. Prices for this excursion now run about $250 or more per person. We would have really liked to do this excursion again with our kids, but at over $1000 for our family of 4, the cost exceeded our entire excursion budget. However, if you can afford the price tag for this excursion, it is worth spending even your entire excursion budget on this one trip. This is a trip that every one should try to do once in a lifetime.