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Juneau Mendenhall Glacier/ Whale excursions?

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First Alaska cruise... we want to see Glacier and Whales so we are comparing... Mendenhall glacier and Whale Quest (says they go to Visitors center for an hour then on catamaran for whales)  vs. Alaska's Whales and Mendenhall Glacier Trail ( says guided forest hike then boat for whales but limited to 20 people)  Same price .   We really would like to walk to Nugget Water Fall but it doesn't mention this in either one.   Usually when people discuss the center it doesn't seem like an hour is enough to make it to the WAterfall.  Anyone can clarify this for us or have suggestions for other tours?     In Skagway ... its the best deal with the sled dogs?   

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I’d suggest checking the Alaska board. There is a lot of detailed info there on all of the tour options.  You may be better off booking independently.   Key question is how much time do you have that day? We were able to do two separate excursions in Juneau: 3 hour whale watch on the MV Scania which was excellent (max 9 people just google it) then the flight tour tour to Taku lodge.  I do remember when I was researching that a lot of the whale watch trips had the option of being dropped off at Mendenhall instead of the port. You’d then just have to take the bus back from Mendenhall (lots of details about this on the Alaska board). You’d be on your schedule that way instead of tied to a group.  In my opinion large group tours  are not the way to go in Alaska.

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Most whale watching tours no longer are allowed to drop off at Mendenhall (or choose not to do to changes). The way around it is to call a taxi from the whale watching pier.

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If you're doing a whale watching tour with Mendenhall glacier involved, odds are you'll just be driving by the glacier on the way to or back from the tour in order for you to take pictures. They'll stop for a short time and let people get off the bus.

 

The 3 cruises I've done to Alaska (Granted none were with Princess, but all the cruise lines spend about the same amount of time in each port)  there was only a short amount of time in Juneau.  Just enough time to do a whale watching tour and nothing else OR Mendenhall glacier and maybe some sightseeing downtown or taking the sky tram up to Mount Roberts.  I've actually done all of those, so it would be hard for me to pick which one to do.

 

Our first trip there was whale watching and it was perfect!  Numerous whales, plus a breach by an orca!  Second time there, it was too foggy to fly, so we did Mt. Roberts.  Our third cruise there, I finally got to Mendenahll!  Flew out there on helicopter and it was glorious!  One of the best excursions I've ever had.

 

So what it comes down to is this:  Which do you want to do more?  I don't know what cruise you're on, but if there's an option for another whale watching tour along the way other than Juneau, you may want to consider doing it then.  If not, you cannot go wrong with your decision in terms of the glacier or whales.

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I agree with knbcruisers -- you will get better suggestions and/or answers on the ALASKA Board.

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We did the Princess Mendenhall Glacier and whale tour about 2 weeks ago.  The bus takes you to the glacier view area.  The driver gave us about 45 minutes.  We went down to Nugget Falls and the beach.  We spent about 15 minutes there and headed back.  We hustled and were the last people back on the bus.  It was a brisk hike about 1 mile each way.  The return is all uphill!! Be advised!!

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We booked Marc & Harv on our two Alaska cruises for great whale watching. Both times we stopped briefly at the glacier for photo ops.

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2 hours ago, BigGuy25 said:

We booked Marc & Harv on our two Alaska cruises for great whale watching. Both times we stopped briefly at the glacier for photo ops.

I have also used Harv & Marv and willl do again in September - but I thought their info now states they don't stop at the glacier anymore?

 

To be honest, we see so many beautiful glaciers on the itinerary, I never felt compelled to see Mendenhall.

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately, the Mendenhall Glacier has been actively retreating for some time.  Believe it or not, the Mendenhall Glacier came out to the nearby highway back in the 1920s per the photos my great aunt took on her trip there.  On the path towards the lake there is a sign which shows the glacier's retreat over time.

 

From the US Forest Service, which oversees the glacier since it's located in the Tongass National Forest:  "From satellite measurements taken by NASA's Landsat 5 satellite in 1984 and Landsat 8 in 2013, Mendenhall retreated almost 4,000 feet, or three-quarters of a mile in under 20 years.  Mendenhall Lake, which sits right at the terminus, has grown by roughly the same amount."  Source:  https://glacierhub.org/2019/06/26/us-forest-service-plans-to-overhaul-tourism-at-mendenhall-glacier. 

 

We first visited that area in 1996 and last in 2014 (and several times in between) so the retreat was quite obvious.

Edited by BarbinMich

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We've done the one that goes whale watching and the glacier visitor center twice....both times, we had very limited time at the glacier....not enough for us to hike to the waterfall.  Last week we were there again and did the smaller tour that does the  guided hike.  While it didn't go to Nugget Falls, it was a very nice walk that went to the edge of the lake with an amazing view of the glacier (much better than the view from the visitor's center).  As an added bonus, we even saw a bear with her two cubs at the end of the hike.

 

One thing to note that could possibly effect your choice.....the boats on these two tours are very different.   The boat they use on the smaller excursion (20 people) is small and on level with the water.  The boats they use on the other excursions are larger, two story boats.  There are pros and cons to each.  After experiencing both, my personal preference is the larger boat, but I can easily see how others might prefer the smaller boat.

 

I like the larger boat because it has lots of room to move around...you can be in the downstairs part that is heated, or go up on the top deck to be outside.  It has two regular bathrooms, and a concession area that sells warm drinks, snacks, etc...and binoculars are also provided for everyone.  You also do not feel the motion as much, which is better is you are prone to sea sickness.

 

The smaller boat....I didn't like it because it didn't have a normal bathroom.....it did have a very tiny "head", but you were not allowed to use it if the boat is in motion.   Three hours is a bit outside my comfort zone to not have access to a bathroom, especially when I have my kids with me!  The main issue for us though was the sea sickness.  I have been on many cruises, and my kids have been on four cruises....and none of us have never experienced sea sickness and have never had to take preventive meds for it....so I wasn't concerned about the smaller boat.  Ended up after about the first 30 minutes, my 17 year old son was very sick for the remainder of the time.  My daughter and myself started feeling really sick during the last 45 minutes.  My husband was perfectly fine, as were most of the other 14 people on board, but I did notice a couple of other people who didn't seem to feel well.  So, If you have never been on a smaller boat, you might want to take motion sickness meds as a precaution.

 

An advantage to the smaller boat is that they seem to get a bit closer to the whales...they can also go much faster.  However....on this particular day, we only saw two humpback whales.  The other two tours we did on the larger boats....we saw many, many humpback whales, Orcas, and seals....I feel like they went farther and to more places than the small boat did.  The smaller boat seemed to stay in a smaller area.

 

Just my two cents!  Honestly you can't go wrong with either choice.  Juneau is beautiful! 

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We used Juneau Whale Watch for a whale watch/Mendenhall Glacier tour and was very happy with it.  Went out on the water for 3 hours, saw a bunch of whales and then their bus dropped us off at Mendenhall to spend as much time as we wanted - we left after a couple of hours to take their last bus back into town.  We did hike to Nugget Falls.  They charged less than most other outfits and an online discount code saved us even more......

Whales1.jpg

Whales2.jpg

Nugget.jpg

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On 8/15/2019 at 7:56 AM, Herfnerd said:

We used Juneau Whale Watch for a whale watch/Mendenhall Glacier tour and was very happy with it.  Went out on the water for 3 hours, saw a bunch of whales and then their bus dropped us off at Mendenhall to spend as much time as we wanted - we left after a couple of hours to take their last bus back into town.  We did hike to Nugget Falls.  They charged less than most other outfits and an online discount code saved us even more......

Whales1.jpg

Whales2.jpg

Nugget.jpg

Where did you find the online discount code?  Were you on the bigger (49 person) boat or the smaller (25 person) boat?  We are thinking of doing this combined tour next June... Thanks!

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1 minute ago, puppymama1 said:

Where did you find the online discount code?  Were you on the bigger (49 person) boat or the smaller (25 person) boat?  We are thinking of doing this combined tour next June... Thanks!

It was actually on their website www.juneauwhalewatch.com.  I just took a look and they have a couple of promotion codes on their homepage now

 

We were actually on the bigger boat but as it was in early September, it wasn't full - maybe two dozen people  which was fine with us

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21 minutes ago, Herfnerd said:

It was actually on their website www.juneauwhalewatch.com.  I just took a look and they have a couple of promotion codes on their homepage now

 

We were actually on the bigger boat but as it was in early September, it wasn't full - maybe two dozen people  which was fine with us

Did anyone have any problems with motion sickness?  I will be wearing my Seabands and take a Dramamine before we board the ship, but that's why I will be requesting the bigger boat.... Thanks!

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14 minutes ago, puppymama1 said:

Did anyone have any problems with motion sickness?  I will be wearing my Seabands and take a Dramamine before we board the ship, but that's why I will be requesting the bigger boat.... Thanks!

Not to my knowledge.  Auke Bay is pretty sheltered.  

 

I am very prone to motion sickness and prefer Meclizine HCL (aka Bonine) to Dramamine.  It lasts longer and makes you less drowsy

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As noted, many of the whale watch tour vendors no longer go to Mendenhall Glacier. Some pay the concession fee and will spend a limited time there after the whale watch.  One poster said Jayleen’s Alaska dropped them a short distance from the parking area which basically avoids the fee. Not sure they do that on a regular basis.

 

There is an area called the Brotherhood Bridge where some of the tours stop as an alternative to going to the glacier/visitor center area. It gives you a view of the glacier from several miles away. There are several photos of this area with fireweed in the foreground which are very nice.

Read the tour details carefully, even though some stop for a view of the glacier, you may be quite a ways away from it.

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We had about 12 hours in port so were able to split up these experiences. We rented a car to drive out to the glacier, spent about 1.5 to 2 hours there, then drive back for an evening whale watching excursion booked through Celebrity on Allen Marine Tours. 

We were really happy with this. The Nugget Falls hike is beautiful, and we spent a lot of time at the falls looking around. I would recommend trying to fit that in.

It was also nice to have the car to get away from the hustle and bustle of Juneau. The whale watching tour was also excellent. 

We used Avis for the car rental, and it cost $114. The evening whale watch tour was part of a bundle Celebrity offered, so I don't know the exact price except that the bundle seemed to be a pretty good deal. 

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