August 6th we arrived in our next port, Juneau on our Alaskan Cruise. Juneau the capital of Alaska, which is only accessible by boat or plane, proved to be the perfect place for a float plane adventure. Before Jay and his dad boarded the plane, the four of us spent the morning exploring the Glacier Gardens. This amazing fifty acre garden and forest featured upside down trees. The owner has placed downed trees upside down in the ground and planted amazing flowers up top in the roots. It was really a sight to see! We hopped onto a tram and made our way up from sea level to 600 feet, watching the scenery and climate change as we made our way to the top. From the view-point at the top we saw a bald eagle and learned a little more about the city. The tram took us back down and our driver explained the area, local plants and the gardens history. Once we made it down to the bottom we called a taxi to head back into the city. On our way to the gardens we were told to take the 10 minute city bus, which ended up taking 45 minutes, the taxi ride back ended up being much more direct!
We grabbed a quick lunch at the Red Dog Saloon, which is one of the oldest running establishments in Juneau, dating back to the early mining days. The food was nothing to write home about, but they had cold beer and an interesting onslaught of old time decor to look at like funny signs, old guns and animals hanging on the wall. It didn’t matter if you spilled your drink because the two inches of sawdust that lined the floor would soak up any liquid before it reached the wood. After lunch, Simone and Jay’s mom walked through town like most other tourists in search of souvenirs they just couldn’t live without, while Jay and his father went on a much anticipated float plane trip. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day to fly over some of the most majestic landscape either one of them had ever seen. Like every other part of this trip, words nor pictures can do justice, this is something you have to experience first hand. If the taking off and landing on the water wasn’t cool enough, flying over five different glaciers and through a mountain range covered in snow as your face is plastered to your own window was. Jay’s dad said he wanted to do it because he thought Jay would like it. Jay said he wanted to do it because he thought his dad wanted to do it. In reality, it was just two boys wanting to play with a new toy. Now they’re both trying to find one for sale in the classifieds.
The next stop was Skagway and as we pulled into port looking out from our balconies, we spotted more whales working the shoreline on the far side directly across from the ship. Skagway was a port that if you didn’t have something planned or maybe just wanted to walk around, this was probably not the port for you. Other than the train going up into the mountains, which we passed on since we were going on one to anchorage, there wasn’t a lot to do or see there. Correction, there were a ton of Sara Palin signs to see. We did walk by the stream and watch the salmon swimming up to spawn and walked around the town, which had the same stores as every other port. The fishing sounded good, but a line was never cast. If we really wanted a fish we could have reached down and grabbed one in the stream, it was loaded. We decided to head back on board, eat lunch, play some cards and throw back a couple of drinks.
Our next destination was one of great anticipation all across the ship. Hubbard Glacier was not a destination that we would stop at, but was one that we would cruise by in route to Seward, our final destination. We were told we may not get too close depending on the ice. Turns out the ship would get within one mile of the glacier despite a foggy and rain soaked day, the closest they had gotten all season! A mile might sound like a long way, but not when you’re talking about something the size of a Glacier. We were able to witness the calving off of ice and see the immense wave it created. Yet another part of this trip where you felt like you were on a National Geographic show.
The ship would spend the remainder of the day and night cruising to our final port, Seward, where we would catch the Alaskan Railroad to anchorage. That evening, we enjoyed a final dinner with the staff at Blu and a show in the theatre to end our wonderful time on the ship. We pulled into a drenched Seward and prepared to disembark, which in cruising terms means get all of your stuff ready and wait, then wait, and finally wait some more. After being cleared to leave, we headed over to the very small train depot to get our tickets to anchorage. We needed to get on the internet and would have to eat lunch at some point. One of the baggage handlers pointed us in the direction of the Breeze Inn Restaurant because we would have most of the day to wait around until the train departed. At the Breeze Inn we were able to relax for as long as we wanted, use the wi-fi, eat, throw back some fine Alaskan beers and Jay and his dad even got to play some pool, something they hadn’t done in years but used to do all the time. If you like craft beers and ever get a chance to try some Moose Tooth Raspberry Wheat, don’t pass it up. With its location so close to the Kenai Peninsula and Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward is a place that we definitely want to come back and explore.
We boarded the train at 5pm for a departure up to Anchorage at 6pm. We were lucky enough to be seated in a quiet car with just 16 seats! The other cars appeared to have many more seats and were quite a bit noisier. The 4 hour journey passed through amazing scenery including waterfalls, lakes, and rivers. It was a nice way to see more of Alaska and much better than driving ourselves. Since it didn’t get dark until around 10pm we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife. Although bears had been spotted just days earlier, we only had the pleasure of seeing a few bald eagles. Quick tip: bring your own food onboard! Other than some good kettle corn there wasn’t much to eat in the meal car.