Cruise Day 4: Juneau - Whales & Glaciers

Trip Start May 09, 2008
Trip End May 19, 2008

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Where I stayed
Diamond Princess
What I did
Red Dog Saloon
Mt. Roberts Tramway
Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching Tour

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today was another early day since we had several excursions planned. We went outside and took pictures while the ship docked in Juneau. We went to the breakfast buffet on the ship before heading to the dock.

We shopped in a few local shops before we had to meet at the pier for our first excursion. The sky was very gray and overcast, we were hoping it wouldn't rain because we knew one of our excursions might be cancelled if it did.
Our first excursion was the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Quest. We were taken by mini-van to Auke Bay where the whale quest began. We boarded a catamaran and were taken out into Auke Bay. An onboard naturalist talked about the area and its wildlife throughout the tour and kept an eye out for wildlife. We saw several glaciers, we even saw seals, eagles, and a few whales came up far from our boat. Unfortunately they weren't just leaping out of the water the way you see on the commercials but it was nice to see them anyway. Your were free to walk around the boat and go outside and take pictures when you wanted. It was cold outside and it was great to be able to go back inside and warm up before going back out to take pictures. The boat tour lasted about 2 hours.

Next we were driven to Mendenhall Glacier where we spent about an hour. We saw a film in the visitor's center and talked with the park rangers before going outside to take pictures of the glacier. You can't walk on the glacier but there is a viewing platform across a small lake from the glacier that you can get good views from. You'll see lots of helicopters flying around the area. I assume its another shore excursion.

After our tour we returned to our ship to have lunch at the buffet. We then went to the dock to wait for our next excursion to begin. The sky was still gray and cloudy but so far it hadn't rained so we were able to do this excursion. We booked a Glacier Flight-seeing Float-plane tour! I was very excited to do this. We walked to end of the pier with our guide where we were introduced to our pilots. While everyone was sorted out and filled out waivers we were free to walk around the Merchants' Wharf Mall and a brewery called Hangar on the Wharf. We took a look in a few of the shops before returning to the wharf at our meeting time.

Once the guides decided who was going on each plane our tour began. Our pilot was very friendly and everyone had a window seat. We went up over the Gastineau Channel and flew to the Juneau Ice-fields where we saw Norris, Taku, Hole-in-the-Wall, and East and West Twin Glaciers. It was the best excursion. We got very close to the glaciers and it was very easy to take pictures through the plane's windows. Taku Glacier was my favorite, it looked as if the glacial ice was just spilling out of heaven. We passed very close over Norris Glacier and you were really able to see all the layers upon layers of ice that compose a glacier. There were wonderful spots of aqua marine blue that appeared to be embedded in the ice but the truth is that the color is just reflected. The tour of the glaciers lasted about 40 minutes. I got some wonderful pictures from the plane and was very happy with the trip.

Next we walked into downtown Juneau and went into the Red Dog Saloon. The Red Dog is a famous location and the inside looks as if it hasn't changed since the days of Alaska's gold miners. There is stuff all over the walls in this place. When we went in it was crowded and we barely got a seat. There was a funny guy playing a piano and singing song and telling jokes.

We walked in a few shops downtown and looked around before heading back toward the pier. On our way we came across the Mt. Roberts Tramway which takes you to the top of Mt. Roberts where you can get great views of Juneau, the Gastineau Channel and the Chilkat Mountains. There is a lodge, bar and grill at the top of the mountain. There is also a gift shop with local native art and a raptor center. The view from the top is great and you also get unlimited rides to the top throughout the day. We took alot of pictures up here and I found a great totem carved into a tree. Unfortunately the amount of snow at the top of the mountain kept several of the trails you could have walked closed.

After the Tramway we headed back to our cruise ship and had dinner at the buffet. We walked around the ship some outside looking at the sun set before we went into Crooner's Bar and had a few drinks. I got a great strawberry daiquiri made with Captain Morgan Rum before returning to our state room for the night.

Things Learned on Day 4 of my Cruise:

1. The whales don't always just leap high out of the water like you see on commercials. You need to really look for them.

2. Glacial Ice appears blue because that is the color that isn't absorbed by the ice and is reflected back.

3. Go into the Red Dog Saloon early if you want to get a seat.

4. Go up the Mt. Robert's Tramway for great views of Juneau.

5. There are some great murals painted in downtown Juneau.

6. A Glacier float-plane trip is an awesome excursion to do.

7. You can not see the Northern Lights at this time of the year.
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