Our cruise stopped in three Alaskan ports, which were Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, and we spent a day cruising Glacier Bay National Park. We also stopped in Victoria, British Columbia. None of the stops seemed long enough, but I guess that is the nature of the cruise! You’re on the captain’s time, not your own.
Juneau was first. To be honest, the town was very touristy with t-shirt shops, and, strangely, a ton of jewelry shops. Lots of stores wanted to give us a ‘free crystal pendant.’ Barf.
Getting off the boat:
We determined we had just enough time to ride the Mt. Roberts Tram up the side of the hill to get some nice views. Or rainy views.
We saw Lady Baltimore, an eagle that lives up on the mountain. She was a non-releasable eagle due to the fact that she had been shot and severely injured. She’s doing okay now.
Kris pretended to be an eagle.
Nice view at the top:
We raced back down the mountain and were the last ones to get in our van to head over to Mendenhall Lake for a glacier hike adventure. We put on tour supplied rain jackets, rain pants, boots, and grabbed helmets before we got in a giant canoe with about 20 people and two guides. The two guys I was positioned between whacked my paddle on every other stroke, so it was an exercise in patience for me. At some points, to save my knuckles, I had to sit back and not paddle.
The scenery mostly made up for the irritating boat ride.
We eventually made it to shore, and dragged the canoe up. The first stop was the ice caves. Our guides went in to make sure everything was reasonably safe, and then we went inside. It was wet and surreal and very blue.
Environmental sidebar: One disturbing theme of the glacier hike was our guides repeated and repeated how much the glacier was receding. They mentioned several times what the area looked like last summer, and how far back the glacier was moving. Yes, glaciers do have natural recession cycles, but nothing like what has been going on in the past few years. Global warming is real. Humans are the likely cause. Alaska’s receding glaciers are canaries in the coal mine.
After the ice caves, they gave us crampons (spikes) to put on our boots and we hiked on the glacier. It was pretty easy to walk on, but parts were steep. The ice looked incredible.
Apparently one complaint from past tourists was that the glacier was ‘too dirty.’ Ha!
Kris refused to go down this ice hole to see what was at the bottom. Rude.
After we paddled back (another exercise in patience for me), we walked around downtown Juneau a little more before getting back on the ship.
We cruised Glacier Bay the next day and got some good photos. We also heard ‘white thunder’ as the Margerie Glacier calved.
The next city we stopped in was Sitka. This was probably my favorite city since it was the least touristy.
If you know me, you know I’m always interested in a good cemetery. The Sitka Russian Cemetery didn’t disappoint. We were the only (living) people there. It was a so, so beautiful.
Kris dragged me away from the cemetery to check out some history. Sitka was once owned by the Russians. It was the site of the Alaska Purchase ($7.2 million for the whole state!). I suppose it’d have been pretty cool to see the Russian flag lowered and the American flag raised. If you’re some sort of history nerd.
Sitka had some fun totem poles:
One main attraction at Sitka is its Raptor Center, which rehabilitates and releases birds, or keeps them safe if they can’t be released again. This owl, Boris, was my favorite. Kris was creeped out by Boris.
The list of eagle health problems:
It was a fun stop, but the birds weren’t as entertaining as the bears! Sitka is home to Fortress of the Bear, a bear rescue. Unlike Canada and some other U.S. states, bears that are rehabilitated in Alaska can’t be released again, so Fortress of the Bear is signing on to take care of these bears for 40-some years. Most of the bears here were abandoned cubs whose mothers had been injured or killed.
The black bears were much more lively and they chased each other around.
Also enjoyed in Sitka: a stop at a thrift store, a sushi lunch, and the free wifi at the public library. We also stopped at the public library in Juneau and enjoyed their free wifi. Wifi on cruises is ridiculously expensive. As usual, the local libraries came through for us and, as a nice bonus, we have some bookmarks from Alaska now.
Ketchikan was the last Alaskan port. Again, there were a lot of shops and tourist traps.
We wandered over to Creek Street. I guess this is where prostitutes used to set up shop.
There was a handy back entrance for attached men.
We took a float plane tour of the Misty Fjords. The scenery was amazing, but, I’ll admit, I was a little nervous on the tiny plane!
We stopped halfway, got out, and took some pictures. It was quiet and serene, and made me feel very small to be out in the middle of nowhere.
I had mixed feelings about the float plane. I think I would actually recommend to skip it if you find yourself in Ketchikan. Maybe it’s because our pilot wasn’t that personable or the duration of the trip was pretty short. It was one of those things that doesn’t match up with what I thought it would be in my head. It was on the pricey side, too, so I’m sure that added to my mixed feelings.
We said goodbye to Alaska (or until next time), and arrived in Victoria the next day. The Victoria port was typical Canada: a clean and pretty city. We ventured out to Butchart Gardens. We had trouble pronouncing the name, so it became Butch Fart Gardens for the duration because we are mature adults.
The gardens were something else.
We got sidetracked by the merry-go-round. I rode the zebra (the best animal to ride). Kris rode an orca.
Kris is actually very short. Proof:
The downside to this tour was that we finished up with the gardens about an hour early, so it was kind of frustrating to be ready to go back into Victoria, but not able to do so. I’d recommend hiring a taxi rather than a hopping on a tour bus for anyone in a similar time crunch.
We did get to see the parliament during the day and at night, though. Canadians do it right.
After Victoria, we came back to the ship. I was sad that we didn’t have an itinerary for the next day. Our vacation was over!
It was a good one, though.