Alaskan Cruise: Part 2 (Juneau, AK)
After a solid day at sea, we woke up on Tuesday nearing the Alaskan capital of Juneau! Monday was Ray's birthday and we spent the day hanging out on the boat, bar/resturant hopping, and generally just enjoying some quality family time. There was not much to observe outside the boat since we were in dense fog the entire day! That did not slow us down one bit though! The day we spent in fog had started to set the tone of the weather we expected on an Alaskan cruise, but Tuesday morning, it was the most beautiful, sunny day. It was jaw dropping finally getting to see the mountains and vastness of the Alaskan waters. An occasional whale spout or tail were just cherries on the morning. We would occasionally get a visual teaser when our ship would pass through dense fog pockets. Fortunately, we would only spend 10-20 minutes before we would exit the cloud and feel the sun again! It was quite surreal to observe an entire cruise liner disappear into the fog ahead.
We were scheduled to be in the Juneau port from 1 pm to 9 pm on Tuesday. That first morning, with clear skies and beautiful landscape, you could not drag us off the top deck. Before we knew it, Juneau appeared in the distance. The plan once we got into town was that we did not have a plan. 1. Step off the boat. 2. Look around. 3. See what happens.
Juneau was a fun place to visit. Landlocked by the mountains behind, you can drive 5 miles south before finding the 'End of the Road' and 45 miles North before finding the other 'End of the Road.' The downtown area is composed of various tourist traps, vendors and resturants. Pretty much what you would expect in a cruise ship port, but there was still a charm to the city that was undeniable.
Ray and Teri, Britt's parents, had already planned a helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. Britt and I had recently gone on a similiar helicopter excursion in Maui, HI and decided to pass on this one. Big mistake! Every single person we met said the same thing, "The Mendenhall Glacier helicopter ride was the highlight of our entire trip." The pilot landed on the glacier and walked them right up to a crack in the ice hundreds of feet deep. My hands get clammy thinking about it. The deep blue color in the glacier is a real thing. We learned that the blue wavelength is the only color that can find its way out of the ice. The rest of the spectrum apparently gets 'trapped' inside. My main point, if your in-laws ask you to go on a helicopter ride, DO IT!
Remember a few minutes ago when I mentioned that the rest of our group did not have a plan going into port. Well, we found a guy in a small booth selling bus rides to see Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls. Naively, we all tossed $40 his way, got a little hand written receipt and he told us to go around that building over there and wait for the bus. Yep. My spider senses were tingling as well, but no one else seemed concerned so I didn't contend. It wasn't until we were around the building, waiting for a mystery bus, that I made a comment "Guys, you know, if I were to scam some tourists, I would do exactly what that guy just did to us." I proceeded to say, "I bet the guy is gone if I peak my head around the corner." On cue, I saw the guy walking away from his booth with all his stuff. Britt ran over there and proceeded to interogate this guy like watching a detective in 'The First 48.' He convinces us that he is legit and the bus will be there soon. Right on que, the bus he described pulled into the lot, we all run over, the bus driver steps out, we show him our receipt and... he tells us "Those aren't receipts for our tour." He let us soak in that for a solid 20 seconds before busting out laughing. We had a comedian bus driver. Such a relief that we were not scammed! On to the glacier!
We were dropped off about 1.5 miles from the view point and we had 45 minutes before the last bus left for the cruise ship. Thank goodness for getting in shape! We ran our asses the entire way, got a few great pictures and ran our asses back to the bus stop. It was a combination of having no expectations and the stress of time contraints, but when the glacier and waterfall came into sight, I was in awe! It was one of the most beautiful and powerful sights I've ever seen in nature. The waterfall was so loud and massive! The amount of water pouring down the cliff side was mind boggling.
I don't want to keep you in too much suspense, but we successfully made it to the bus and back on the ship. Juneau was a beautiful, fun and ultimately rewarding experience for everyone in our group. I can definitely see why it is usually the first stop on Alaskan cruises.
At the end of a perfect day, we all had dinner together and made our way to the balcony to watch us pull out of port and on to our next destination: Skagway, AK!