October 24th 2017

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Alaska Greatest Journey

 

Continent: North America. Country: Alaska. City: Juneau.

Alaska Greatest Journey

By Nick Oldfield

About 10 years ago I was lucky enough to work on-board the Celebrity Summit. The ship covered the typical ports in the Caribbean from October-April and this was fantastic in itself but the one place that sticks out to me is Alaska. I worked onboard in the gift shops for one full season in Alaska and I have to say it was probably one of the most amazing places I have ever been (I have been around a bit).

I didn’t want to do a blog on Alaska in general I wanted to keep to one place which is Juneau. A common joke to guests on the ship was “Juneau the capital of Alaska” more often than not the joke was wasted and the passenger said “No, go on”? Juneau features on nearly all Alaska cruises obviously due to it being the capital and one of the largest cities (which is still relatively small compared to what most of us perceive as a city) but also because Juneau cannot be accessed by road only air or sea. 

The main focus in Juneau is quite clearly tourism as soon as you set foot off the ship. That said the whole of Juneau still feels very unspoilt by modern life and has a real feel of stepping back in time. It doesn’t take long to walk through the shops of the town if you're just shopping for gifts the centre is a few streets  that are about a mile long and are easily accessible as soon as you set foot off your ship. Shops are not expensive and you can pick up some good souvenirs.

One thing you will notice as soon as you step off your ship is a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain just behind the town. This doesn’t take long and gives you a fantastic view of the bay. Again not expensive and worth doing if you have nothing bigger planned. Once up at the top you can also walk through the woods but watch out for bears. Seriously don’t be surprised to see a bear. I accidently approached one once while he/she rummaged through a bin in the town. Had I not been armed with chicken nuggets I might not be here to tell the story (fortunately the bear was quite keen on the chicken nuggets I dropped). There are notices all around telling you what to do should you run into one.

For those wanting to travel just outside of the centre there is an opportunity to visit the local glacier. Trips to the Mendenhall glacier can be booked form the ship and this might be your only opportunity to get this close to a glacier in your life so it’s definitely up there in things to do in Juneau. There is a lot of walking involved so be prepared and wrap up. There are many ways to see the glacier but the best way by far is by helicopter followed by a Husky ride on the glacier. Not something you do every day.

I still haven’t covered my most memorable time in Juneau which by far has to be whale watching. I have been on many whale watching tours in my time only to be disappointed by the odd flick of a tail but in Juneau it was the real thing and will stay with me for the rest of my life. About 10 of the crew and I booked a tour in the town there was us and a hand full of other crew from another ship docked that day. We went out about 0800 as soon as the Summit had lowered the gangway. We boarded a minibus that took us about 1 hour out of town where we picked up a small Catamaran equipped with sonar for the sole purpose of locating whales. It was only about half an hour into the trip before we saw the first 4 or 5 whales leaping out of the water what seemed like meters from the side of the craft (I’m sure they were probably miles away).  It really was something and nothing I could ever put into words to describe how it felt to literally be in the middle of nowhere seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. We were out for a few hours, had a bit of lunch and came back along the coast line where we must have seen about 10 bears who seemed like they had come out of the woods to see the boat pass. We were back in time for a quick hot toddy in the Viking (A bar frequented mostly by crew) and back on the Summit for another amazing sail away from what has to be my favourite port in the world.

 

Nick Oldfield
Cruise Specialist 
cruise1st.co.uk
Tel 0844 493 3470
Fax 0161 877 7222
www.cruise1st.co.uk

Keywords: Alaska, Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier