Stephanie (collacentaur) wrote,

CFV2003 - Day 5 (Tuesday 6/24)

The short version: Tenders to the dock. Shopped, saw a glacier, watched whales on my feet. Room service.

Juneau is Alaska's capital. It's one of the only state capitals that cannot be reached by road. Juneau is a city of approximately 35,000. They have more than 20,000 automobiles. And only 45 miles of road. (all numbers to the best of my recollection, not exact figures)

We were one of the late ships into Juneau, and Juneau only has dock space for two cruise ships. We ended up halfway across the harbor, just sitting at anchor, and using the tenders to get to shore. People with morning activities had to go sit in the theater and wait for their allotted time, since there was a big rush. However, our shore expedition wasn't until early afternoon. We took a big, late breakfast, and went to the tenders about noon, after they announced open tenders.

We had an hour to kill, so we went into some of the shops around. We figured we owed presents to the people who were kind enough to give us rides, and on top of that Bryan's birthday was Thursday. We wandered into an Irish shop, and a pretentious local art shop. Then we found another local art shop, which was much more crowded and had some spectacular carvings in the window. There were some beautiful carved knives in a corner cabinet, and when the saleswoman offered us a substantial discount on the one we looked at, it didn't take much thought to decide it would make an excellent present for Bryan. We had it shipped, due to the problems with transporting knives.

Then we headed back to find our bus, which once again was running very late. About the time it showed up, the light drizzle turned to a harder rain. The busdriver was a very cranky woman. She drove us out to the Mendenhall Glacier, with a stern warning to be back in 55 minutes or she would leave without us. We followed a little trail down near the water's edge, and out to a viewing post, so we got some very nice pictures of the glacier and the waterfall. I felt sorry for the park ranger whose job was to stand there and take pictures for the tourists. Then we went in and watched their movie on glaciers. After a quick trip through the gift store for a little bit of chocolate, we made it back down to the bus in exactly 53 minutes. The driver was scowling at us as if we'd committed some horrible crime, but I am absolutely positive we hadn't gone over. She then radioed back to her base to let them know she was leaving without the ten people who weren't back yet! They all ran for the bus and made it, though.

She drove us out to the small boat dock, where we boarded a 150-person boat for a whale watch. Unfortunately, the buses that had been there ahead of us had pretty much spread out to fill the space available, and Jeff and I couldn't get seats. This was very irritating for a while, especially in anticipation of a three-hour whale watch. However, we found a nice space to wedge ourselves on the upper deck, right by the doors to the outside observation area. Once we got out far enough to really see things, we ended up spending a lot of the trip outside. And after a while the rain got lighter and went away.

We saw lots and lots of eagles, of course - by now it was hardly anything to take note of. And there were porpoises playing in the wake of our boat, although I didn't quite manage to see them. The first whale we saw was a beached gray whale. While it was interesting, we were all hoping it wouldn't be the whale they used to justify not giving us our money back! Then there were some seals or sea lions, I don't recall which, sleeping on a buoy. About an hour and a half in, we finally spotted a humpback whale. It didn't stick around for too long, but it counts. However, just after going through a narrow channel between two islands, we saw three whales together! Apparently this was unusual for this place and time; humpback travel in pods near Hawaii in the winter, but in Alaska in the summers they generally travel on their own. One of them took off right away, but the other two went past the boat and stayed for a while on the other side. We got a spectacular view. The weather and waves were calm enough that they could open the very top observation platform as well, which was a treat.

We got back to the ship just too late for dinner again. This time we decided to order the restaurant dinner from room service. It would have worked very well if there had been just a little more table space. We watched "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" which was entertaining, but painful. Of course, a typo had it listed in the order screen as "How to Lose a Gay in Ten Days" which would have been a very different movie!
Tags: vacation

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