May 7th – Juneau – the capital of Alaska with over 220 days of rain each year. WOW! Disney Magical Wonder took place as we had an amazing day of blue skies and sunshine!
Excursions began early today so everyone was up and at em’. Arriving into port:
Previously in Juneau I have done the Helicopter Glacier tour and landed on the glacier to dog sled (one of my all-time favorite excursions anywhere). I have also done the Alaskan Wildlife Sanctuary Tour as well as visited Mendenhall Glacier twice.
Today I chose the Deluxe Tour of Juneau and traveled with AllEars Alaskan Cruisers Jack and Marilyn and Gary and Carol. Our 3 part tour included a visit to Maccaulay Salmon Hatchery, the Glacial Gardens and Mendenhall. Our tour did not follow in sequence with the description in the Port Adventures booklet which was too bad as bear were spotted early on at the Mendenhall Glacier (described in booklet as our first stop).
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I absolutely loved the Deluxe tour of the Salmon Hatchery. We had an approx. 45 minute tour of the outside and “backstage” areas which was just fascinating. We saw the juvenile stages of the salmon at 1 and 2 years of age. Our tour guide did an outstanding job in explaining the process of the salmon hatchery to us. We later learned that those on the Best of Juneau Excursion, only received a 5-10 minute talk on the Hatchery and did NOT get to visit the “backstage” areas that we did.
We visited the incubation room, saw the one and two year old tanks and much more!
The Visitor’s Center area is cool as well, with a vertical aquarium, a marketplace with some salmon samples and a hands on area complete with a guide. You could touch starfish, sea cucumbers and other sea life!
The grounds of the Hatchery were pretty cool as well with overlooks, statues and a photo fun op. I really enjoyed this part of our Deluxe Juneau Tour!
Next stop was the Glacial Gardens Rainforest Adventure. I wasn’t sure what to expect . The Gardens were described as " where botanical gardens meld with the natural temperate rainforest in a unique fashion. Ride a golf cart through the rain forest to an 800-ft scenic overlook of Douglas Island and Mendenhall Valley with the Chilkat and Admirality mountains off in the distance. Then complete your 80 minute tour with tea and pastry service in the Gardens Pavillion (included with your tour). "
The guides at the Gardens were very nice. We were given a history of the owners and how the gardens came to be. The most fascinating elements of the Gardens were the upside down trees. The owner decided to repurpose dead trees by replanting them upside down and covering the tops with flowering plants and vines.
Then it was time to embark on our golf cart tour.
The scenic overlook was quite beautiful and off to the left was the Disney Wonder in the distance.
Then back down the trail to the Gardens Pavilion:
The pavilion area (no idea why I neglected to take photos here), had beautiful colorful hanging baskets. The café was nice but we were a bit confused when no tea or pastry was set out for us. So, we got in line and purchased snacks and beverages from the café. Eventually, a blueberry pastry and tea was set out for us, but it was after the fact and most of us already had paid for goodies.
Even though we received a colorful calendar of the Gardens as we boarded the bus, overall I was a bit disappointed in this part of the tour. I had to remind myself it was VERY early in the season so trees were about all there was to see. The overlook was nice. Had the tea and pastry been set out when we arrived, I would have left feeling more positive.
Now to the last part of the tour and the one I was looking forward to most, Mendenhall Glacier! On my previous 2 visits I didn’t have time to take even the shortest, 45 minute tour, so was hoping that with a 90 minute stop, I would have been able to do that.
However, upon arriving, our bus driver really discouraged us from doing that trail saying most folks do it in a full 90 minutes and we would probably miss the bus back to the port. I think I could have done it in the 45 minutes decided against it so as not to miss the bus.
The great thing about Mendenhall Glacier is there are many viewing locations, including right at the Visitor’s Center.
I went into the the Visitor’s Center and decided to watch the movie which was quite informative with beautiful photographs.
Then it was time to walk around and at least do the short photo trail and walk along the “beach”. Lots of AllEars Alaskan Cruisers were also at the Glacier!
This is a 3d map of the entire Mendenhall Valley. The red arrow points to our location and the Mendenhall Glacier.
And here’s a fun one Carol Cruise and I took with my IPad 2 and the reverse camera feature:
We had a little time to explore town, however with a 6pm dinner, it was time to head back to the ship we went after a great day of touring.
At 6pm, some of the AllEars Alaskan Cruisers were treated to a group dinner in Palo’s private room.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening!
And to top it off, a few whale pods swam by.. we all rushed to the windows – it was quite exciting!
WOW - an amazing day - tomorrow our final port of call Ketchikan.
Here are links to 2 other All Ears Alaskan Adventure Cruisers who are also bloging.
Fellow AllEars cohort Laura Gilbreath and
My next cabin neighbor for this sailing, Gary and Carol Cruise!