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Alaska Cruise: Day Three

June 23, 2010

I’m reposting the travel log I’ve been publishing on my Novel Writing blog, here on this blog, so that the few people I know read this blog can take a gander at the great photos Dave took on our Alaskan cruise.

Here’s Day 3: Juneau, Alaska

Dave and I got up early today and crept quietly out of our cabin for coffee and breakfast at Summer Place. We scored a table by the window. The scenery was amazing. The ship was sailing slowly through the Inside Passage, on course to our first port-of-call — the beautiful state capital of Juneau.

We roused the boys after breakfast and then Dave and I headed to Deck 7 for a friendly game of shuffleboard. Being a former curler (yes, curling…it’s a sport!), Dave clearly had an advantage over me. We played two games and I didn’t have a chance. Playing shuffleboard, with the Alaskan landscape towering in the distance, was surreal.

When the boys finally made their way downstairs to the deck, we teamed up and unfortunately for Nick, he got stuck with me as a teammate. Dylan and Dave kicked ass!

Hot chocolate and my Kindle kept me busy for another hour. I lounged on the deck until lunch time (feeding time). Anyone who’s cruised will agree that when you’re on the ship, you eat. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, midnight buffet.

We arrived in Juneau at  2 p.m. Our first experience with disembarkation on the Pearl was a little chaotic. Hoping that all of our “off boarding” experiences are not as crazy.

Once off the ship, we made our way to the shuttle that took us downtown to the Tramway, where Dolphin Tours was supposed to be waiting to take us on our “Mendenhall Glacier/ Whale Watching” combo. I had booked the tour directly with the company, and was more than a little surprised to find they did not have us on the list for the excursion, that the bus was full — the tour 0ver-booked. I tried to keep my cool — it’s not like I get to Juneau for whale watching with my family every day, so I was going on that damn tour! The very rude tour guide finally got confirmation from his office that we did indeed book and they offered us an alternative tour: City tour, with a trip to the glacier and the whale watching tour we signed up for. We agreed, knowing there was really no other alternative. The company rep was not at all apologetic for their blunder, and even when we returned at 3:25, he just hurried us to the bus and appeared very scattered.

After a brief detour from our original plan (didn’t sign up for City Tour), we made it to Mendenhall Glacier. The most famous of the glaciers in the Juneau Ice Field, the Mendenhall Glacier is 12 miles long and 1-1/2 miles wide where it stretches across the Mendenhall Valley. Its ice can be 400 to 800 feet deep. If you go, plan on being there at least an hour to 1 1/2 hours to give you time to hike to the beautiful waterfall alongside the glacier. We did not have that much time, but were able to get some great photos of the magnificent glacier.

Part two of our excursion was the whale watching tour, leaving from Auke Bay, Juneau. Captain Dan was extremely friendly and energetic and made the tour that much more enjoyable with his excitement about the whales we were seeing (although I know he sees them every day!).

We went in search for whales, and we found them: Humpback whales AND Orcas! Beautiful. It can be tough to spot a whale, and even more difficult to capture them in a photo. The first thing you see is the “blow,” then the whale. Their blow is a double stream of spray that rises 10-13 feet (3.1-4 m) above the surface of the water.

During our boat ride, we also saw masses of sea lions lounging on the rocks, and quite a few bald eagles.

“All aboard” on the Pearl was scheduled for 9:30 p.m., and as the tour company “forgot” to send a driver to Auke Bay to pick us up, we had to wait quite a while after docking for another driver to come and get us, so there was no time to explore Juneau.

Overall, it was a fabulous day. Weather was incredible. Scenery was unbelievable, and even with our botched tour, it turned out fine. Dave took lots of great photos and the boys were so thrilled to see all the whales in Auke Bay. A memorable experience for all.

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