Juneau, AK

Our cruise with the Ruby Princess took us for a week through the inside passage along the Alaska coast from Seattle, WA, USA. On this great cruise adventure around the northernmost state of the USA we visited the cities of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. We also took a Scenic Cruise in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord with breathtaking views of the glaciers of Alaska.

Overview of Juneau, the capital of Alaska

Juneau, having a total land mass of 3,255 square miles, is the largest capital city in the USA and is the only state capital that is not accessible by road. Apart from air travel, the only road that connects to Juneau is the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Juneau’s history starts with the discovery of the gold-bearing quartz in the1880s and the mining history is still waiting for you to discover it. Visitors can sign up for the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining and Gastineau Mill Tour to learn different mining methods and the mining history.

Juneau is walkable and has public transport taking passengers around the city. The state government buildings, shops, and museums can be easily found downtown. Its remote location and a strong sense of community make it perfect for visitors to disconnect from their daily routines.

After exploring the city of Juneau on our own in the morning, we had booked a trip with Princess Cruises to Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier in the afternoon.

In search of Killer Whales … or any whale

Juneau Whale Watch boat.

Our first excursion of the day was a Whale Watching Tour. A short bus ride along the Glacier Highway in the northwest to a boat dock. Here our excursion boat was already waiting for the whale watching tour. The boat was two-storey – both up and down there were possibilities to sit in the warm from the wind. On the upper deck you could also stand very well outside, so we could see the water perfectly. We were mostly outside because we wanted to see the whales as best we could.

As we cruised, an onboard naturalist was ready explain the habits and habitats of the wildlife we may encounter – the naturalist had an easy day. I kept our camera ready for when we might spot a whale, or perhaps spot Steller sea lions, harbor seals, Dall’s porpoises, bald eagles, Sitka blacktail deer, or bear. Hopefully you will have better luck than we did – we saw the back of a humpback whale … nothing else.

At the completion of our whale watching cruise, we stopped at the lovely Orca Point Lodge on Colt Island to enjoy a deluxe salmon bake buffet. We feast on grilled wild Alaska salmon, chicken kabobs, vegetable medley, rice pilaf, coleslaw, fresh-hot rolls and desserts. We had a little free time to watch for wildlife through deck-mounted spotting scopes and visit the souvenir shop before re-boarding our catamaran for the return cruise to Auke Bay.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

A narrated motorcoach ride to the world-famous Mendenhall Glacier was the third event in our day. Formed during the Little Ice Age, Mendenhall Glacier is fed from an ice-field high above Juneau. From across an iceberg-dotted lake we could see the dynamic flowing force, carving its way seaward. Sustained by the geography and unique climate of the area, Mendenhall Glacier has been able to survive much longer than other glaciers in North America. Its existence continues to provide us with new insights into past, present, and future climatic conditions.

The glacier’s visitor’s center is built into a cliff above the valley. Here we found interactive displays and U.S. Forest Service professionals who offered history and insight to this breathtaking, natural wonder. We had uninterrupted views of the glacier and the lovely walking trails through the visitor center’s large picture windows.

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