2022 Alaska and the Inside Passage – Part 4 – Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier

August 26, 2022 – More overcast skies and rain greeted us as we docked in Juneau, Alaska’s capital city since 1906. We didn’t let the rain spoil our day.

There were several other cruise ships docked while we were there. The photo above was taken from our veranda early in the morning before most people ventured into town.

Our first order of business was lunch at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. We took our place in the line outside and quickly placed our order at the counter just inside the door. We grabbed two seats at a table and our food was brought to us after a few minutes. The menu is simple – crabs, crab cakes, and crab bisque. For $190 you could get a three pound bucket of Alaskan King Crab legs. We opted for a combination of Dungeness Crab, crab cakes and crab bisque.

Our meal was delicious and the crab bisque was to die for. By the time we finished lunch the streets and shops were filled with people. As we wandered around the waterfront we discovered some totems and watched several float planes take off and land.

It was pouring by the time we boarded our bus to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Our bus driver told us interesting facts about the city and pointed out places of interest along the way. There were a few eagle sightings.

The Visitor’s Center is managed by the by the United States Forest Service in the Tongass National Forest. We walked along trails to get a closer look at Mendenhall Glacier, Nugget Falls, and the floating chunks of ice.

On our way back to the ship we stopped at the Brotherhood Bridge for another look at the Mendenhall Glacier.

After a full day in Juneau we were ready for some relaxation when we returned to the ship.

If you are interested in reading about our 2013 visit to Juneau please visit A Day Cruise to Juneau

Next up – Wildlife in one of our favorite places in Alaska

2022 Alaska and the Inside Passage – Part 3 – Whale Watching and Brown Bear Search in Icy Strait Point

August 25, 2022 – We had a full day of wildlife excursions in a new to us location – Icy Strait Point, the only privately owned cruise ship destination in the United States. This former cannery and packing station is located near the town of Hoonah on Chichagof Island, the fifth largest island in the United States. The two cruise ship docks, a museum, restaurants, shops, and excursions are all owned and operated by the local Tlingit people.

We started our day with a whale watching expedition. Our Tlingit captain Drew sped through the water to get us to a good whale watching location. Everyone was on the lookout.

Thar she blows!

Our first sighting was a pod of about five humpback whales. I tried but I could never capture all five of them on the surface at once.

We witnessed a type of feeding behavior called bubble-net feeding. The whales all dive at once. When they all surface at the same time they are in a circle with their heads up and their mouths wide open. It’s hard to predict where they will surface and when they do, they only stay on the surface a few seconds. Sadly, I never could capture them all at once.

It was an amazing to see how the whales work together to feed this way. Captain Drew kept moving the boat so everyone could get a better look. The whales continued to feed the entire time we were there – almost two hours.

As these whales headed straight for our boat I heard the captain say “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

I could have stayed on the boat watching the whales all day but the captain had a schedule to keep and we had a bear search to get to. In the gallery below, the green walkway led us from the cruise ship dock to Icy Strait Point. We checked in for our bear search at the Adventure Center and had about an hour to explore before boarding a shuttle to take us to the trail. The Orca statue was the only Orca we saw the entire trip.

It was fun wandering through the museum and gift shops. I love the totems.

Our Tlingit bus driver told us about the area as he drove us through the beautiful Tongass National Forest and through the town of Hoonah. He was very knowledgeable and I really enjoyed hearing his stories about the Tlingit people.

He dropped us off at the trailhead where we met our guide for our trek through the forest. We stopped at the boardwalks beside the Spasski River where we hoped to see Coastal Brown Bears feeding on the salmon. There were salmon in the river, but no bears. Despite the fact that there were no bears I really enjoyed the walk through the forest.

After an exciting morning we arrived back at the ship with a big appetite for lunch. We just barely made it before they stopped serving hamburgers at the pool bar!

Up Next – Alaska’s capital city and the Mendenhall Glacier.

2022 Alaska and the Inside Passage – Part 2 – Valdez and Hubbard Glacier

August 23, 2022 – More rain greeted us in Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port in Alaska. The town is located at the tip of a deep fjord in Prince William Sound with spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains. The southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline carrying oil from Prudhoe Bay is in Valdez.

Our tour for the day was aptly named “Valdez on your own.” A shuttle bus picked us up at the cruise ship terminal to take us around the town. Our goal was to wander around the small boat harbor near where we had camped in our RV in August, 2013. We enjoyed wandering around looking at boats, browsing in some of the shops and eating a snack of garlic-rosemary fries at the Potato where we enjoyed talking to our server about the town. She told us the RV park is still there and told us where to find it.

Our shuttle ride back to the cruise ship dock took us near the RV park. As we drove through town our driver pointed out points of interest. Back at the cruise ship dock we wandered around the to see a monument dedicated to the men and women who built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from 1969 to 1977. Another interesting sculpture has a giant octopus attacking a lighthouse.

Back on board ship we returned to our stateroom to find a bottle of champagne to celebrate our 52nd anniversary courtesy of the Viking Orion crew. We took the champagne with us to dinner to enjoy with our meal. We were surprised after dinner when our server brought us a cake to add to our celebration!

We had limited time to spend in Valdez because of the cruise ship schedule. There is a lot more see and do there. If you would like to read about our 2013 Valdez adventures please visit these posts: Waterfalls, Glaciers and Salmon in Valdez , Wildlife and Glacier Cruise from Valdez , and Bear Sighting on our last day in Valdez.

August 24, 2022 – The weather didn’t cooperate for our scenic cruising day. Rain and fog kept us from seeing much scenery so we mostly relaxed and enjoyed being on the ship. When the fog lifted for a few minutes I was able to capture a few pictures.

We were sailing through Yakatat Bay towards the Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America. The glacier is more that six miles wide where it meets the ocean and up to 400 feet tall.

As we approached the glacier we ventured out on the deck in the rain hoping for a better look. We were cold and wet but when we finally got close enough for a good view the weather cleared for a few minutes.

Hubbard Glacier

Next up – A new port and more wildlife sightings.

2022 Alaska and the Inside Passage – Part 1 – Anchorage and Seward

August 19, 2022 – Our latest Alaska adventure began when we flew from Savannah to Atlanta and then to Anchorage for a two night stay in Anchorage. We made it to Atlanta on time but sadly the flight to Anchorage was delayed for 7 hours. We landed at the Anchorage airport about 2:00 am, took an Uber to our hotel and tried to get some sleep.

View of Anchorage from our hotel room on the 13th floor

August 20, 2022 – After a few hours sleep we spent our day in Anchorage exploring the downtown area and enjoying two delicious meals of fresh Alaska seafood. The Aurora Show with fantastic photographs and narration about Aaska’s Great Northern Lights was wonderful. There was a park with a beautiful garden nearby. A grilled cheese and King Crab sandwich at 49th Street Brewery and dinner of Alaskan halibut and chips at Humpy’s satisfied our longing for some fresh Alaska seafood. Alaskan beer went great with both meals. Did I mention it was raining most of the day and night?

August 21, 2022 – We woke up to another rainy day. After breakfast we boarded a tour bus for the scenic drive to Seward where we would board our ship the Viking Orion.

Along the way we stopped to see some bears, musk ox, and other wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Seward. From their website: “The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research and quality animal care.”

Once aboard the ship in Seward we enjoyed the first of many delicious meals, unpacked and wandered around the ship before dinner.

August 22, 2022 – After a leisurely breakfast we sat on our balcony enjoying the scenery. A bald eagle was perched on a light post close by. If you look closely at the header photo at the top of the page you can see the eagle on top of the light pole.

Bald Eagle perched on lamp post in Seward Harbor

Later we rode a shuttle bus to the Alaska Sea Life Center, a nonprofit organization that has an aquarium and also does marine research, education, and marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation. This stellar sea lion was as interested in us as we were of him.

Stellar Sea Lion – Alaska Sea Life Center, Seward

If you are interested in reading about our 2013 stay in Seward please visit Glaciers and Wildlife in Seward.

Next up – exploring another port and a day of scenic sailing.

Wandering in the Last Frontier

We fell in love with Alaska nine years ago when we traveled from Georgia to Alaska and back towing our fifth wheel trailer. We’ve been wanting to return to the Last Frontier ever since.

Our wish finally came true at the end of August this year. This time we flew to Anchorage, took a tour bus to Seward and boarded the Viking Orion for a 10 day cruise ending in Vancouver. We returned to a few places we had visited by RV and saw some amazing new places. The scenery was stunning and there were many wildlife sightings.

These are just a few highlights of our journey.

Turnagain Arm between Seward and Anchorage
Brown Bear at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on the Seward Highway in Portage, Alaska

Seward, Alaska
Leaving Valdez
Hubbard Glacier, Yakatat Bay
Humpback Whales bubble net feeding – Icy Strait Point, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau
Coastal Brown Bear, Haines
Sea Otter Cub on Mama’s stomach – Sitka, Alaska
Bald Eagle – Sitka, Alaska
Black Bear in Eagle Creek – Ketchikan
Inside Passage somewhere between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia