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DESTINATION FEATURE Any traveler visiting Alaska probably has a similar itinerary: Glacier Bay National Park is also home to stunning icy fjords observe the wildlife in its natural habitat, hear the crack of a and incredible glaciers. Lucky for us, one of the major benefits calving glacier, and fly high over the Arctic Circle in an 8-seat- of being on a small ship is the ability to travel alongside these er plane. With 3 million lakes, an estimated 100,000 glaciers sensational natural wonders. And, even better, guests get to (covering 5 percent of the state), and 3.2 acres of State Park take dingy boats to shore and traipse up to the glaciers. The lands, the "Great Land" state is an explorer's paradise. And massive block of ice is surprisingly colorful with a range of what better way to cover this tranquil territory than a 7-day beautiful blue hues, and the quiet rush of the water falling from luxury adventure cruise through the Inside Passageway fol- the ice is peaceful. lowed by five days stomping around on shore? Close Encounter Onboard The Yacht The next morning I awake to an announcement from the bridge The benefits of booking with a small cruise ship are obvious to about a bear blob up ahead. Scrambling out of bed, I layer up me the moment I step on board the Safari Endeavor (InnerSea and head out to the bow for a glimpse. Blissfully unaware of Discoveries; www.innerseadiscoveries.com; 888.862.8881). the camera clicks, the brown bear peacefully searches for his Crew members welcome me around every corner as I am ush- breakfast in the small stream. This is what we were all waiting ered to my elegant and spacious stateroom. A quick tour of for and we crave a closer look. the 86-guest yacht uncovers two bubbling hot tubs, a toasty dry sauna, a gourmet dining hall, a full bar complete with smil¬ Later that morning as I climb into my kayak, I am hoping the ing bartender, fitness equipment, a yoga class schedule, and a bear is still around. We paddle up slowly to see he has only massage room with a complimentary massage sign-up sheet. traveled around the bend to a nearby grassy area. Sitting still on the glassy water, we spy on the bear from only a few feet Glacier Bay National Park away —which is close enough to hear his grumbles and the sound of his teeth gathering the grass. Most of the land within the Glacier Bay National Park, a 3.3-million-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site, is mountainous Polar Bear Plunge and covered in dense rain forest, all without roads or trails. The forest is well-preserved and perfect for an early morning hike. Travel is all about experiences. That's why I decided it was time to join the famed Polar Bear Plunge club. Sure, I have my Before venturing out, we are prepped with the "Hey Bear" reservations but you only live once! I watch as fellow cruis¬ safety speech from the naturalists onboard. "The most impor¬ ers take their turns. There were swan dives, cannon balls, and tant thing is not to startle the animals," says Matthew Szy- even a belly flop. Then it's my turn. As my toes hang over the manowicz, the expedition leader. "Remember, we are invading deck I think, "There better be space in the hot tub," and I hurl their home and we need to respect their space." I make sure to myself into the water. The cold water rushes over my skin as take mental notes as the main safety tips are rattled off: keep my head sinks below the surface. I pop right back out to the talking so the animals know you are there, keep your distance, sound of cheers. The water is almost too chilly for the pain and always explore in a group of three or more. receptors in my skin to acknowledge, and pretty soon I feel delightfully warm. Wandering through the forest minutes later, I am absorbed by the vibrant neon green moss creeping across the forest floor Glacier Gazing and the massive spruce and hemlock trees towering over¬ head. The air is crisp and the only noise for miles is the melody of our voices. The silence of the forest is enchanting, but I On the last day, we cruise into Tracy Arm, which houses two make sure I'm still gabbing so we don't have any surprise bear 30-mile-long fjords covered in ice. We hop into our dingy, encounters. which is headed straight for Sawyer Glacier. The boat navi¬ gates through the ice bobbing in the water. Some of the pieces are 2-stories tall while others are only the size of a basketball. On that note, it's not uncommon for a bear or moose to choose the same hiking path as you, so knowing how to react I notice the temperature steadily dropping as we approach the is key. Contrary to popular belief, moose are the ones to be massive glacier. afraid of since they can be quite aggressive if they feel threat¬ ened, while bears prefer to mind their own business. On the Mere yards from the spectacular river of ice, harbor seals enjoy off chance that a bear does attack, then running is not your a dip. Curious about us, they slide onto the ice for a better look best option. Bears can run up to approximately 40 mph and and almost appear to be posing for the cameras. the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt, has only been clocked at roughly 24 mph Instead, stand tall and try to appear larger than As I take in the blissful surroundings, I am grateful for my ex¬ the bear. On the other hand, you should run from moose, but perience. And then the trusted bartender uncovers a crate of quickly dash behind a tree. Since they have horrible eyesight, hot apple cider. Ahhh. Just a normal afternoon in the midst of they will quickly lose track of you. a glacier. 84 J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2013 S O U T H F L O R I D A L U X U R Y G U I D E . C O M


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