It's a long way to Alaska but hey we ARE travellers we can do a long way.
Alaska held the charm for us of sparkling glaciers in Glacier Bay and a spectacular fjord called College where 5 large tidewater valley glaciers and dozens of smaller ones enter the fjord.
College Fjord is written about and photographed by Steve Davey in his book of "Unforgettable Places To See Before You Die". We have nearly worked our way through his book so it was VERY important to us to see this Fjord. Then Glacier Bay, further South is UNESCO World Heritage listed making that an important sight to see too.
So the long way to Alaska had good and exciting reasons. As these two sights are very difficult to get to, we had booked, back in March, a 7 day cruise, to take us to these amazing places. We were so looking forward to being amazed.
Amazed we weren't. Disappointed we were.
Our cruise was to have 5 stops between Anchorage and Vancouver including those two sights we had booked the cruise to see. Just one stop happened (in Juneau on day 4) and the rest of the week we rolled around in heavy seas with nothing to see but grey skies, rolling waves, fog and driving rain. For long periods the decks were closed as a precaution .
Our first inkling we were to be disappointed happened Sunday night just after we boarded. The Captain announced that a huge storm would prevent him from leaving as scheduled at 8pm. The sights we wanted to see were the first two, so we were immediately concerned about what was going to be dropped from the itinerary. Eventually we left port on Tuesday morning but the going was rough and we spent a day in our cabin a little unsteady and unbalanced, before finding our sea legs. The Captain announced cancellations of Ports of Call, one after the other until we made it to Juneau, the capital of Alaska, on Thursday morning and docked there.
Now, spending time on a luxurious cruise ship does make taking disappointments on the chin a little easier! Food, Service and entertainment were first class. We did some computer courses, Avan had a few shots at the basketball ring (before we left Port!) and we ate and ate and ate - as you do on cruise ships! Our cabin, although among the cheapest on the boat was lovely and the staff amazing. DVD's were freely available so we caught up on some movies and every night despite the physical rocking of the ship, we attended live shows of singing dancing and at one show, magic was performed.
So finally on Thursday after being on the boat for 4 nights and 3 days we headed down the gang plank onto terra firma and discovered Juneau. Whilst Anchorage is a bigger city, Juneau (only 30,000 people) is the capital of the state of Alaska. It has a bit of a "Wild North" feel about it (as opposed to a Wild West) and is squashed up hard against the large bulk of Mount Roberts. It's beginnings for white civilization was the Russians who hunted for furs and later the Americans for gold, however the Tlingit Indians have lived there for a very long time prior. There are no roads in and out. Everybody arrives in Juneau by boat or plane.
We enjoyed a full day of sightseeing by first taking a cable car (they call it a tramway?) straight up to Mount Roberts. This gave us a lovely view, well only at brief moments, between the rain and low clouds! We did a short hike around the top and viewed an excellent movie about the Tlingit Indians in a theatre on the mountain. In the afternoon we caught a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier, where the rain eased and we got a good view. Whilst signs warned to beware of bears on the paths, all we saw was some very "bear like" droppings. Our luck is just not in at the moment....!
As we dressed for dinner that night, the skies cleared a little and the one and only sunset of the whole cruise lit up the sky in pinks and mauve's. We braved the deck even though it was freezing cold, for a romantic moment.