Saturday morning found us arriving in the capital of Alaska, Juneau. Juneau is a much bigger city than Skagway was----but was still had a very Alaska feel---especially because the city of Juneau apparently has no roads into or out of it. There are roads within and throughout Juneau (I think our tour guide told us there are less than 200 miles of paved roads in the entire city)----but all of those roads dead end at the edge of the city or just beyond it. So it is impossible to drive to or from this city. You must get there by boat or plane. It's a little odd to think about as a "lower 48-er" where it feels like every city is connected to every other city in some way....but Juneau is kind of an island on land!
As was becoming the norm in Alaska, the views were picturesque. As you can see from the picture here, taken out the window of our cabin, this city (and the entire state of Alaska it would seem) is one giant postcard----and it's AMAZING! You can't really tell it from this picture either (it was taken pretty early)....
...but the weather was not bad at all. In fact, it was cloudy in the morning when we first woke up but we could already see that the sun would probably come out. This was a pretty spectacular feat because we had been constantly told that Alaska would be very wet and rainy.....and our tour guides throughout the day told us that Juneau regularly gets almost 100 inches of rain a year and that this was not only the first sunny day of 2011 just about----but that there would probably only be about dozen more days without rain before the end of the year! Score one for Disney pixie dust!!! LOL
Later that evening when we got back on the ship, we knew it was pirate night, so we started our morning by putting out our pirate magnet on our door. This is an old magnet from 2007 with our very first pirate costumes on it....but it's still cute and goes with the theme, so we decided to use it:
Then we hustled to get some breakfast and get off the ship. Our excursion for the day was an all day affair and we had to meet our group at 10:45am...so that left us precious little time to get into town and get a magnet and stroll about a bit. As soon as we got off the ship, though, we saw a tramway that went to the top of the mountain and realized we had almost 2 hours to kill so thought it would be fun to ride up there and see the sights from high above. We were super glad we decided to do this. We could have spent hours up there...but having about 90 minutes to explore was a nice flavor for it. The tram ride up was nice, the views from the top were AMAZING, we saw a bald eagle in a rescue program (named "Lady Baltimore") as well as some wild eagles and hawks flying about, and we went on a little nature hike up the hill-----in the snow!! Here are some pics of our hour exploration of the top of the mountain:
We got to the bottom of the mountain just in time to catch a shuttle back to the ship, change our clothes quickly (we had on too many layers----in the 2 hours we were walking around up on the mountain, the temperature had risen, the sun had come out and it had turned out to be a beautiful day----plus our socks were wet from trudging through the snow! LOL) and then get down to the meeting area for our excursion. When we got there, there were lots of different tour groups meeting----each with a specific disney character sticker and sign to follow. We though this line-up of all the character signs by color was kind of pretty:
We were in the Pocohontas group and once everyone had checked in, we were taking out to meet our bus:
Our tour was to take us to see another glacier---the Mendenhall Glacier---for about an hour and then on a 3 hour whale watching boat tour (YIPPEE). The glacier park was amazing, of course. So picturesque and very, very cool. There was a discovery center there where you could learn more about glaciers and the wildlife in the area, but we didn't have time to do both that AND walk out close to the glacier and to "Nugget Falls" which was right near the glacier----and the mini-hike was more appealing to us. So we ventured off for some great photos with this wonder of nature:
As you can see from these pictures, this glacier park was breathtaking. I think glaciers might be my favorite thing to look at now...they're gorgeous...and I have to say I especially like them when the sun is out and it's warm enough to see all that frozen-ness while just walking around in a windbreaker!! LOL (And I should add that the weather just got better and better....in fact our tour guide told us that she had rarely seen a day so gorgeous here and that we were so lucky to be able to see the top and back into the glacier because usually the clouds are hanging so low that you can really only see the part closer to the ground!
Once we got back to our bus, we were taken to a dock where we boarded a boat for whale watching. You can imagine this was going to be the highlight of my day! The boat was big enough to easily accomodate over 100 guests (maybe 150) but there were about 35 of us total....so it was awesome. Jason and I opted to stay on the inside first deck because it was warm and bright and close to the water so you could see really well----and we were 2 of only 6 people who stayed down there...so it was super comfortable from a weather AND space standpoint and it was almost like having a private whale tour!! We got to see some amazing views while sailing around in the boat:
Then we also got to see some great wildlife. We saw several nesting bald eagles on the islands. Then we came upon an entire group of stellar sea lions:
Seeing these sea lions in the wild was very cool. Even though we'd seen the ones on Pier 39 in San Francisco, these were a slightly different species and these were slightly "wilder" because the Pier 39 sea lions live in very close proximity to humans and even spent most of their time on floating docks created/maintained by people-----these Alaskan cousins live in the open sea and on this rocky island away from mankind so it was a bit more "National Geographic" feeling! :)
After the sea lions, we were able to see and observe the first of two humpback whales that we saw that afternoon. Each of them we were able to follow and observe for about 30 minutes and saw them come up and dive several times each. Our camera is really not that great for taking landscape and wildlife photography...but we did get some decent whale pictures:
We then had to get back to the ship and get right on as our tour ended and delivered us right at sail away time. We hung out for a bit in our room and then it was time to get ready for pirate night. Once in our costumes (different costumes than we wore on the last pirate night in San Francisco, you'll notice!), we took pictures with a bunch of our character friends:
We decided to skip the deck party for pirates tonight because we knew it would be cold, we did it the last cruise, and there were no fireworks tonight (they are not allowed according to Alaskan environmental/maritime laws). We we headed back to our room where our towel animal greeted us...
...and we turned in for the night!!