Oh, my my. The best laid plans sometimes go to heck. I’m not sure if that’s how the whole cliche goes, but that’s how it was for me.
My intention to blog while I was on vacation seriously went south for three good reasons…
Reason 1: As soon as we stepped onto the Royal Caribbean ship, the Jewel of the Seas, I decided not to write at all while we cruised to Alaska. Instead, I took a nearly complete digital break – no internet connection, no web surfing and no email. But I did have my tablet so I could read two books, one of which I actually started when we left Seattle and finished before we returned, in one week, which I haven’t done probably since college.
(Everyone should do that every so often, because you truly can clear your head and discover other ways to keep yourself entertained that don’t involve a screen. Plus I connected more with my family, when we were all together.)
Reason 2: More practically, the dang internet onboard the ship was a whopping $220 for the week, which they tried to advertise as a bargain. Passengers could either access the ship’s computers or use the wi-fi, but nobody was buying it. As the week progressed, more people showed up at the computer lounges, but only because the price went down with fewer days at sea.
Reason 3: I was playing catch-up with my copywriting and content writing these past two weeks I’ve been back. Of course, the plan was to write while I was in Seattle. Well, that didn’t happen. But the upside of my “laziness” is that I have plenty to write about here and with some articles I plan to submit for publication.
When we were in port in Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, BC, I was able to keep my inbox cleared so there wouldn’t be 1,000+ emails waiting for me to slog through. But I answered maybe two of them, as I should have.
Even though our family discovered that we are probably too active to enjoy cruising on a regular basis, we all thought Alaska was pretty spectacular. That’s why I’m not going to say much about the cruise itself, because the destination is the focus of these posts. But I will say that everyone should experience a cruise at least once in their lifetime. Just be prepared for the constant barrage of sell, sell, sell to upgraded drink packages, dinners, duty-free luxury items, booze and pretty much anything else you don’t need. If you can get past that, you can actually have a great time.
So this first post focuses on Juneau, day one of the cruise. I’ll also post on Skagway, Victoria and Seattle over the next month, plus a bonus Santa Fe entry from our short trip in late May.
Now, on to our Alaska adventure…
After one rainy and soupy day at sea, we arrived in Alaska’s state capital. It looks smaller than the population of 32,000 indicates, probably because it’s spread out over several shores and surrounding hills and valleys. Located right in the middle of the southeastern area called the Inside Passage, towering mountains rise abruptly against ocean seas that wind through an intricate network of channels and fjords. This is what makes the state’s geography so dramatic.
We took a five-hour excursion to view whales and other mammals that inhabit the region and the most accessible glacier in the area, Mendenhall. On the boat ride, we actually saw two other ones, Herbert and Eagle Glaciers, that are part of the massive (1,500 square mile) Juneau Icefield.
Soon enough, we saw a humpback female with its energetic offspring:
The juvenile whale put on quite a show, breaching (leaping) out of the water for a good 30 to 45 minutes:
Then the mama got in on the fun…unfortunately, I only got the splash at the end. Grrr….
The guides on the boat said this behavior for the humpback adult was unusual, so we witnessed something special. The company, Allen Marine, had also guaranteed that we would see whales, otherwise we would all get our money back. And did they deliver.
We also got to see these somnolent creatures – Steller sea lions sunning themselves on their very own island:
On the way, we also viewed some fleet-finned porpoises and bald eagles overhead. JRS and NLS really wanted to see orcas, but none could be found. I think we did well in our wildlife viewing trip, though.
After the boat docked, we returned to the bus and headed to Mendenhall Glacier, only viewing its tail end of a 13-mile-long ice river. Apparently you can also fly over it, helicopter to it and hike it and get very up close and personal with it, but for much more money than we wanted to spend. It was still quite magnificent to behold. Even our jaded teen daughters thought so.
As you can see from the top photo, part of the iceberg is blue. That’s because all of the other colors in the light spectrum become absorbed in the glacial ice, except blue. It’s almost as if someone dumped blue dye on these chunks of the glacier. But if you were to chip off a piece of one of those bergs, they’d lose their blueness right away.
Once we left the glacier, the bus dropped people off in central Juneau for another two hours until the ship would leave. I would’ve loved to have gone and looked around, but something told me all I’d find was jewelry, t-shirts, smoked salmon and kitschy tourist stuff. So I went back with NLS, who wanted to return to the ship anyway, and RAS and JRS departed. My older child did manage to find a pretty clever t-shirt for herself, and some mini-totem poles for friends. On the shirt was a large outline of the state, with the words, “Juneau what? I’ve been to Alaska.”
Well, I thought it was funny…
On to Skagway!