Feed on

We arrived early this morning in Juneau (pop. 31,000), the state capitol of Alaska. As with other Alaskan cities, Juneau struck me as an aesthetically unremarkable city in an exceptionally remarkable location. Cut-off by the Juneau Icefield and sandwiched between mountains on the banks of the Gastineau Channel, the city remains accessible only by sea and air.

Our day began with the Juneau Highlights, Mendenhall Glacier, and Salmon Hatchery tour ($44/pp.). We boarded our bus for the short drive to the glacier. En route, we witnessed nearly a dozen bald eagles along the Gastineau Channel. Upon arrival at the glacier, I was also able to briefly spot one of the resident black bear cubs. Having seen a number of glaciers on this trip, the Mendenhall (which is nice) lost some of its impact. Nonetheless, the visit was pleasant and the information center informative.

Here’s a photo of Mendenhall Glacier:

Mendenhall Glacier

On the way back to town, we stopped at the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. This was a brief but informative visit that highlighted the “reproductive assistance” provided to all five kinds of salmon (to the tune of millions of fish) that helps to ensure a thriving and ongoing population of wild salmon. From the casual visitor’s perspective, the most impressive element was watching the salmon—who’d returned to their place of origin after 1-7 years at sea—attempting to swim “upstream” through the hatchery’s 450-foot long ladder.

As for downtown Juneau, I don’t really have a lot to favorably report. The area around the dock is very touristy… and, I generally hate tourists and “touristy” things. (Yes, I know there’s an irony in that… especially as I’m one of the thousands disembarking from a cruise ship). As it happened, there were four other (larger) cruise ships in port today: RCI’s Serenade of the Seas (sister ship to Brilliance of the Seas on which we traveled to Egypt), Princess’s Sea Princess and Island Princess (which we’d considered for a Panama Canal visit), and Celebrity’s Mercury. Like with airplane models, I’m also a bit of a cruise ship geek. So, this was fun for me.

Anyway, back to Juneau, the downtown area near the pier has a lot of the same shops as you’d find in cruise ports in the Caribbean. And, I do mean, literally, the same: Diamonds International, Venetian Jewelers, Del Sol, and so forth. You might as well have been in the Bahamas. Interspersed were the usual trinkets and trash shops for “Harry Otter” t-shirts and what not. Two thumbs down!

We had lunch as the well-reviewed Twisted Fish Company restaurant. This was pretty decent. We started with salmon crochettes (very good).Libby also has the clam chowder (excellent). For my main course, I enjoyed an Alaskan king crab “burger” (note: king crab at my mother’s suggestion – she was right, fresh king crab is excellent), while Libby enjoyed her rockfish and chips.

Back aboard the Veendam, we enjoyed an afternoon nap, which we followed up by pouring over cruise brochures to discuss where we might travel next (perhaps we could bring the baby to the Black Sea next year?). We’re both clearly naïve and/or just downright crazy. But, what the heck, I might book the trip anyway! After all, the kid has to start traveling sometime. (As an aside, we heard today of a passenger who’s spent more than 2000 days at sea with Holland America, as well as a couple who sold their home and most of their possessions to now, effectively, “live” on Holland America cruises ships. I don’t know what to make of such people: completely nuts or kindred spirits? I suppose time will tell.).

Tonight, we had room service for dinner, which was pretty good actually. We skipped the main dining room (formal night, again) and the Lido (limited menu and crowded seating as one side was reserved for officers and crew???… not to mention ongoing “no self-service” rules). The Lido buffet is a huge disappointment compared to other cruises.

All in all, a fine but unremarkable day.

Leave a Reply