We sailing into Juneau early on a Saturday morning. We were already docked when we awoke. We had two tours scheduled for the day. First was to be the Mendenhall glacier and an evening tour with Captain Larry.
At the eveing show at the International Lounge the CD announced that we were going to be leaving Juneau at 9:30 PM. (instead of the 11 PM that was orginally posted on the Princess website). I thought that I didn't hear him right. So we checked our Platter when we got back to our room. Sure enough the time had been moved to 9:30 PM.
So we booked it to Orca Enterprises that morning to see how that was going to fit our evening whale watching adventure. Orca was sure that we had the time wrong so they called Princess office in Juneau. Princess told them that the Regal would not be sailing until 11 PM. Orce Enterprises informed us that we would be getting back at 9:30 PM from the whale watching. They then asked if we wanted to be moved to the morning tour because they had a few seats open. We decided that we were going on the morning expedition. The other group had already left we, so a driver raced over to one of their van packed us in and raced to meet the first group. We ended up beating them to the dock. Captain Larry was waiting for the group in the boat.
They explained the safety procedures and we were off. As we were heading for the whale feeding grounds Larry and the other crew members pointed out some of the glaciers and other landmarks of the Juneau area.
Someone asked Larry how he knew where to find the whales. Larry talked about them having their favorite resturants just like we do. They know where the food is and that is where they have a tendency to hang out.
We were provided with quite a show by a single female for about 15 to 20 minutes. Larry explained that they were to stay 100 yards away from the whales, but we were allowed to stay put even if the whale came closer. She was quite aware that we were there . She flipper her dosal flippers and showed off her tail numerous times before diving for food.
We then saw some Dall dolphins and some lazy seals that were hang around a channel marker. We saw some whales blowing in the distance but they disappeared before we got there. We saw lots of eagles, a few sea otters and lots of seals.
We never saw or had any other whale watching boats come near us when we were stopped and scouting for whales.
During the tour the crew set out snacks of coffee, bottled water, Capri Suns, good cheese, crackers, and smoked salmon. The kids inhaled the crackers and cheese but weren't thrilled about the smoked salmon.
We were the only passengers from the Regal on the tour. The rest of the passengers were from the Carnival Spirit. The were NOT happy cruisers. They gave us chapter and verse about their cruise. Apparently they were suppose to be in Sikta the same time we were, but they were having engine trouble. I'm sure that it didn't help that we were all happy about hearing about our fun day in Sitka.
They then went on to explain that they had missed their day at the glacier along with Sitka. They did end up spending most of one day and all of the next day in Juneau. Carnival compensated them by giving them a $50 on board credit per person.
Back at the pier Orca divided us up according to where we were heading. The took us out to the Mendenhall glacier after dropping off some others for their helicopter tour.
Mendenhall was fabulous. We spent more time outside then in the visitors center. We hiked to the falls that is within a quarter mile of the glacier. Since this was a no pay area, it appeared to be the local swimming hole. The local teens were swimming in the water that was shallow inlets of the main lake. The lnlets were surrounded by sandbars that were created from the silt and sand being washed down. Obviously the water in the inlets was much warmer than the water in the main lake since the main lake had icebergs floating in it.
The waterfall was really flowing heavy. I don't know if it slows down as it gets later in the season. The hike out to it took about 20-25 minutes. It is mostly level with a small rocky hill to climb at the end. There is a sandbar to stand on that will take you right up to the base of the falls. If it is a warm day I would recommend that you wear a swimsuit under your clothes and bring a towel in your backpack.
The visitor center encluded a model of the glacier with a park employee to answer questions. There was also a film about the glacier.
We took the shuttle back to Orca Enterprises office then walked the short distance back to the ship. I wanted to eat, but I also wanted to do some shopping. So we went back to the ship for a late lunch early dinner. I then grabbed a friend and we went back into town to do some shopping and left my DH back at the ship.
We did pull out of Juneau at 9:30 PM sharp. The next morning we were in Skagway at least an hour earlier than what we were orginally scheduled.
We scheduled the White Pass Railroad through the ship. The price difference was $10 pp. So I opted to just go through Princess. The Regal was docked at the Railroad dock and it is aptly named. When we were finished with breakfast the train was parked on the dock. We didn't even have to go through the security checkpoint to get to the train.
Princess had about 8 cars reserved, another ship had about 6, then there were another 4 for the general public. The scenery was pretty with views down in to the deep gorge and waterfalls off of the face of the mountainsides. Most of the views were real quick so you had to be fast with a camera to get the shot. The up and back on the train proved to me montonious. We had several opportunites to see mountain goats. I couldn't find them until the very last chance. They look like white speck on the side of the mountains. There are very hard to find since you need binoculars and with the train in constant movement you have to try and focus on them.
The train stops at the top just past the Canadian border. They then switch the engine around. You are not permitted to leave the train. They informed us that if we did, that Canadian custom officals
would arrest you.
The back of the seats flip so that you are able to face the front of the train going back down. We had so few passengers in our car that we didn't have to trade seats for everyone to get a chance to see the scenery.
I will hopefully finish this review on the next try.
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