This location is awesome. The beauty of the boreal rain forest, the tranquility of the cove and nearby bay, the wildlife viewing and, of course, all the glaciers, is the reason to come here. The Lodge itself has magnificent architecture, designed to become part of the surrounding environment. It is all wood and glass, has a majestic view of the cove, and the rooms are away from the main dining hall and fireplace. A very relaxing base of operations from which you can venture out and do whatever you're interested in doing. I personally am a wildlife photographer and spent the days out on boats absorbing the whales, otters, sea lions, puffins, harbor seals, kittiwakes, and so forth...unlike anything else in the world.
BUT, the Lodge is run by Aramark Corp, an international company that works under the auspices of the National Park Service at Glacier Bay. It hires staff from all over the US, mostly oddball personalities that had nothing going for themselves in their home towns, and decided to ship out for the summer and pack away their earnings, since there is not much to divert your salary up here. Many Aramark employees were over-the-top in their customer service. We found the restaurant manager to be extremely helpful, one of the young women at the front desk always came through for us, and one of the shuttle van drivers was also very personable and professional. But just as many Aramark employees acted as if they were brain dead.
The problems started when we booked our rooms and glacier tours and connecting flight from Juneau through the toll-free Aramark phones. They double-billed my MasterCard for the trip package, and when I called them up to get the charges reversed, I got no where. I had to file a complaint with MasterCard who took action against Aramark. Aramark, I would come to see, is very good at draining money from your wallet, but very bad at refunds, especially when they make mistakes. I SUGGEST YOU BUY TRIP INSURANCE JUST IN CASE SOMETHING CHANGES AND YOU CANNOT GO TO THIS ARAMARK LODGE. IT IS THE ONLY RECOURSE YOU WILL HAVE FOR A REFUND IF YOU GET SICK, OR MISS A CONNECTING FLIGHT OR WHATEVER. Their 14-day no refund policy is carved deep into the stone tablets of the Aramark policy book.
Now to clarify what I meant by some employees being "brain dead," let me give a few examples that may serve as a "heads-up" to others who may choose this fabulous natural wonder as their destination. Again, employees like those mentioned at the top of this discussion were very helpful, but their compadres were not. I'll divide my examples of employee cluelessness into two areas: shuttle transportation and Lodge restaurant.
First thing you need to know is that the Lodge is 9 or 10 miles away from everything. And this is one of its features...away from the hustle and bustle, and nestled in the National Park. But should you need to go to and from anywhere: the whale watch boats or airport in Gustavus, or another dining establishment or gallery, you should expect that you might be left stranded for a long time until a shuttle driver happens to get around to picking you up. We were told a shuttle van would meet us at the airport when we arrived. Almost 2 hours later a big green school bus finally got us. On a whale watch trip from the Gustavus docks, the van dropped us of on the seaward end of the long pier, where the boats are, confirmed our return pick-up time, then did not show up when we got back from the trip. I used my cell phone and called the front desk and was told a van was "on the way!" An hour later I called again and was told not to worry, the van would be there soon. Not long after my 2nd call, the 4 of us spotted that big green school bus again, but it was 1/4-mile away on the landward end of the long pier where we were dropped off and where we were expecting, naturally, to be picked up. The bus paused for a moment, then turned around and left us stranded on the opposite end of the pier. I called the front desk a 3rd time upon seeing the bus leave, and was rudely scolded by the woman on the front desk phones for not being on the correct end of the pier. Of course, nobody told the 4 of us we'd be picked up at a different spot than we were dropped of. No apologies from the bus driver. Instead, the bus driver, annoyed at having to come back for us, floored the accelerator and sped down the roads back to the Lodge at about 65 miles an hour. The spruce trees flew by in a blur. We had white knuckles.
Second, lets discuss brain dead employees in the Lodge restaurant. The food here is not bad, but the menu is fairly limited and never changes. After a few days, you will get bored. And if you are a vegetarian, or on a low cholesterol diet as I am, you will probably come close to starving to death. One night we arrived and the host put our name on the waiting list of about 4 other parties. The place was full. We did not mind the expected 20-minute wait for a table, but when the host left the front desk for a few minutes, some of the "helpful" waiters began seating newcomers right and left, as if the waiting list did not exist. Well it did not exist, at least for him! This added another 40 minutes to the wait. Almost every time we ate at the Lodge, the waiter or waitress would "forget" things. That's why I used the term "brain dead" when describing some of the Aramark employees. I ordered the fresh halibut for dinner one night, then asked the waiter for some lemon and tartar sauce as it came with nothing. I waited 20 minutes to catch his attention and remind him again about my request as the halibut sat on my plate and cold stone cold. On another occasion I asked the waitress about the fish and chips special...how many pieces of fish? 4 or 5 was her reply. When the food was served it was 3. Another: may I have a refill on my coffee please? 15 minutes later...no coffee. I'd like some dinner rolls with my salad please. Rolls are served with entrees only, I was told, but could buy some for my salad for an extra $2. Okay, go ahead. 20 minutes later the salad has been eaten and still no rolls. I could blather on even more about some of the servers in the restaurant, but in the interests of time and out of consideration for anyone who has actually read all the way down to this point, I'll suffice it to say that service at the Lodge is spotty, mostly not so good.
In summary, Glacier Bay Lodge: one of the best facilities and locations in the natural world, but the Aramark money-grubbing, iron-fisted, and often zomboidial employees are a definite down side.
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- Also Known As:
- Glacier Bay Hotel Gustavus
- Glacier Bay Lodge Gustavus, Alaska