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Diamond 6/12 Review (Part 5 of 11)

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[b] Monday, June 14: Juneau [/b]

We decided to try the Horizon Court buffet for breakfast this morning. As has been often said, this is a little bit of a cluster. Basically there are several different stations, with different kinds of items on each. But they are so close together that the lines overlap, so if you arrive when there's any kind of crowd at all it's not clear if it's one big line or several overlapping ones. And even if you know that you're "supposed" to visit each station individually, the guy that's been waiting patiently to get close to the food he wants may think you're cutting in line in front of him. I finally adopted the "get at the end of the line and wait" approach. It seemed like slow going that way at times, but it never really took THAT long, and what the heck? I'm on vacation anyway, so what's the hurry?

When we got back to the cabin I turned on the TV to check the report from the bridge. According to my third grade math, the distance left to Juneau, divided by the speed we were traveling, would put us in late. Sure enough, an announcement was made that due to the "rough sea conditions" of the day before, we would be alongside our pier in Juneau at 12:30PM rather than our scheduled time of 11:00. Here is where I believe the propellers damaged when the Diamond hit the pier in Victoria came into play. In nominal conditions I think the Diamond still chugs along just fine. But the moderately rough seas and headwinds we encountered on our sea day exposed her inability to perform in all conditions she was designed for. The main reason I believe this is that all of the ships that we left Seattle ahead of beat us to Juneau.

Most everyone was out on their balconies enjoying our first look at the Alaskan coastline. It was mid-50s, mostly cloudy and breezy. We got our first glimpse of whales from the balcony! We saw what we're pretty sure was an orca, then a humpback. By now there were a good number of folks out on the balconies scanning the water with binoculars. I saw something and started screaming "WHALE! 2 O'CLOCK!" OK, so it was only a seal - oops!

We decided to order room service at 11:00 so that we'd have lunch taken care of when we got to port. The closer we got to Juneau the more mountainous the terrain became. Sooner than we expected, we saw cruise ships and signs of civilization up ahead - Juneau!

We waited and waited for an announcement to debark after we docked - big mistake! By the time we finally decided to go and get in line to get off the ship the line was HUGE! Looking back, that makes perfect sense. Arrival was late enough that everyone had time to be awake, fed, and ready to go. In addition, a lot of people were likely running behind schedule. We were supposed to meet our privately arranged excursion at 12:00 and it was after 1:00 by the time we got off of the ship. By the time we found our van from Coastal Helicopters, we had missed our dog sled excursion - we were SO bummed! They did offer us an ice field excursion, where we'd take a helicopter to a glacier and get out and walk around. We didn't come all this way to not see a glacier up close and personal, so we decided to make the best of it and go for it. While we waited in the van for them to pick up some other folks we heard on the radio that the dog sled excursion got scrubbed anyway due to poor visibility in the area where the dog camp is.

We rode in a van out to the Juneau airport, got briefed, got outfitted with glacier boots, got weighed, and then got on the helicopter. It was the first time either one of us, or the family of three that were with us, had even ridden in a helicopter and we all loved it. I was still just blown away by the scenery (being a lifetime resident of Florida) and it just got better and better. We landed on Herbert Glacier, then got out and walked around on it for a half hour or so, taking pictures, listening to our pilot/guide Bill as he told us some of the history of the area, and generally just being awed. And cold! Eventually we had to leave, but we got to fly around to get a closer look at some of the other glaciers in the area before we returned to the airport.

Since we were back in Juneau quite a bit earlier than scheduled we went to Orca Adventures to see if there was any way to get on an earlier whale watching expedition than the one we had scheduled for 6:00PM, but we JUST missed having space to do so. So we got to eat some local fare (salmon tacos and a local microbrew at The Twisted Fish) and do a little souvenir shopping up and down main street while we waited to meet up for our tour. We met Perry, a school teacher from Sacramento, who had a cabin two doors and one deck down from us, in the waiting room - he was fired up about this expedition. Perry was the first of our new friends we made on this cruise.

We gathered at the appointed time, and then took a bus out to the Marina where Captain Larry and the Awesome Orca awaited. Perhaps due to the fact that this trip ran a little later than most we only had 13 passengers onboard, along with Captain Larry and Randy, the young naturalist. We'd always heard that Captain Larry puts you on the whales, and he did nothing to disprove that - within minutes we were on a pod of humpbacks, and we chased them around watching them perform for a god while. As we motored about we saw some seals and sea lions, and before we finished we had seen a number of humpbacks (no orca that day) lunge feeding, diving, and breaching. One even came out of nowhere and lunged, belly facing us, not thirty feet from the boat. Larry and Randy were both very personable and informative. Randy in particular seemed to delight in teaching the kids on board as much as he could about whales. Since almost all of the passengers were from the Diamond, we had a snack of (what else?) salmon as we raced back to the marina. As we boarded the ship they were taking the Princess banners off of the gangway! We got to the room, got all of those layers of clothing off, and as Leslie went to Horizon Court to get a bite, I collapsed on the bed and went to sleep.

(End of Part 5)

Link to Part 6: [url]http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=48300[/url]

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[b]*Mental note, don't lie about weight to helicopter pilots, they check*[/b]

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