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Again, a good time to stay on deck. We ended up next to a large pod (according to Brent Nixon, estimated at over 600) of Orcas.
Visited: Aug 26, 2016
Beautiful day at sea, the captain even let everyone know a pod of whales were near and kept us up updated on how to see them. Would absoutely do this cruise again!
Got to see some mountain goats with our binoculars on the cliffs. Also saw sealions, sea otters, and other cool views. Nice relaxing day even if the movement of the ship was rough at times.
beautiful.... just sit and watch the scenery. Freshest air you will ever breathe.
Visited: Aug 19, 2016
Our Alaska Self-Planned Excursions KETCHIKAN: Walked Rainbird Trail (https://www.experienceketchikan.com/alaska-hiking.html) we did the longer version by walking from the cruise ship to the trail head located at the University of Alaska Southeast, this was not a short walk and it was uphill! We were told this was the “easy” route to get to the trailhead. The other one also is a steep hill but brings you out closer to the trailhead near Schoenbar St. I really can’t say if the way we went was easier but it was nice finishing outlet hike closer to the ship. Also they say there is no Uber, we saw people take Uber to the trail head then hike from there, so if you are short on time or energy that is one way to do it. I loved this hike! The AllTrails App marked it as “Easy” go to the app and read my review. I would label it as moderate. It is a fun hike but it is a hike and there is some light climbing involved! My 9 and 14 year old loved it! Following our hike, we visited their new library (it is the closest restroom). They are very excited about this and the librarians were thrilled with our visit, our 9 years old they gave a book to and our 14 year old collected an Alaskan Library card! Following our rest stop we walked downhill to the Main Street to do a bit of shopping and then took an Uber lto daily Mass (we are Catholic) at Holy Name they have a 12:10 PM Mon-Thurs. They took us back to the Main Street following and we did some more shopping before boarding the boat. Shopping around the boat is all touristy, if you are looking for cheap souvenirs of Alaska this is your port! Prices only went up from here and most ports had the same things. JUNEAU: We ended up docking at 3, this dock is a bit away from the main drag. They have a free shuttle that will take you to it. Again we were told no Uber or Lyft. Once we were able to talk with the local tourist office we realized the best and fastest way to get to Mendenhall Glacier was an Uber- they tell you an Uber can not get you into the park entrance! THEY CAN!! The cost for the Lyft to Mendenhall (a 30 minute ride apx) was $36.73. Once at Mendenhall we decided to do the “hike” to the “Photo Point Trail” and “Nugget Falls”. These are Easy!! They are paved with little to no elevation change, you get fairly close to the glacier and right at the waterfall. It is a beautiful beach to (however to chilly to swim). The maps for these trails - https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd604841.pdf . After our walk we visited the visitors center where our 9 year old was able to complete the Junior Ranger Program and received a patch. we also were able to listen to the ranger who was giving talks on local wildlife. There is also wonderful view from the center. We did not pay to visit the museum, but under stand it had a nice video. We had to take Uber back ($47.71) into Juneau from Mendenhall. According to our driver Lyft can only be accessed in Juneau and Uber can only be accessed in Mendenhall! All drivers work for both app based companies, there is about 15 drivers currently in Juneau. Our driver on the way back stopped at the Whale that spots water and then we had her drop us off at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the Cathedral for the Diocese of Juneau. We spent some time I. Prayer and walked back (downhill) to the main drag of shops. We did a little shopping, if you look for whops toward the hill there are some great local artist shops, a bookstore and gift shops that are not touristy but serve the community and carry nice local merchandise. It is a little pricing but worth it if you are looking for a nice keepsake or gift. We walked back to the shuttle after shopping, there was a lot of shuttle buses running but the line was long. However they were able to get everyone back in time. ICY STRAIGHT POINT: This was the only port my cell phone would not work in (Verizon). They said they have an AT&T tower but the amount of visitors to this tiny town eats all their bandwidth. ISP, is different, it is owners by the local community, however they are trying to make it a tourist destination. They local community spent 19 million on their dock and are getting ready to spend 25 million on their second! So as you can imagine it is focused on what they have to offer, they have a very nice and new “Adventure Center” which is a welcome center that caters to there excursions. Because ISP is their own city, they only offer their options, and are priced high. I like the fact you can support this local community of native Alaskans, however it is not budget friendly. It reminds me of if Disney was to own a piece of Alaska. Good news is you can walk (for free) or take a shuttle ($5 per person) into Hoonah the next small town over. I like Hoonah as it is a traditional Alaskan town, nothing fancy, nothing at all touristy, the fishing boats are not yachts but real working boats. It’s a community of hardworking locals. With that said there is one small grocery store that serves most of the island that ISP and Hoonah are on. There is also o booths out selling excursions and no phone or internet service! There is not much to do in Hoonah other then admire the small town. the biggest tourist attraction is not an attraction but the local “Carver” who is working on an amazing Totem pole by hand, it tells the story of the local community, he is an excellent story teller and was very willing to share about what he was doing- he does accept tips (there is a small wood box), to talk with him was the most educational experience we had! I would pay the money to talk with him again. He also pointed out an Eagles nest and told us if were patient we may see wildlife including bear and whales from the dock in Hoonah. We also stopped at the fishing store which also serves as the local coffee shop, we asked for some help on excursions, their phone was also down! They told us most people book excursions in advance with the locals via email or phone. They do not have store fronts. There was one company with a small tent selling whale watching excursions, these were cheaper then the ones at ISP (https://hoonahtraveladventures.com) as they offered us a day of discount if we paid in cash. We were off season so there was not a lot of whales, we did see a mom and baby and another whale during our 2.5 boat time. We also saw otters and a porpoise. They crew was very knowledgeable, and share with us a lot about the marine life and local community. Our “tour guide” on the boat family dated back to the original Tlingit tribe and share with us about how they loved in Glacier Bay before they were forced out by nature. His story paired up with the Carvers giving us a beautiful history of the people. Following the Whale watching they took us back to ISP, where we did shop is their nice gift shop- this was the most expensive but I imagine getting shipments out to ISP is not cheap shipping. We also walked by their restaurants they smelled great and one made said it was the best fish and chips, but it was $22!! We opted to eat our late lunch on the boat. VICTORIA: Victoria port is not close to the city- they do not have Uber or Lyft. we took a cab for $10 US into town and was dropped off at the Parliament building. they have some free shows but we wanted to have High Tea. we stopped for High Tea at the Fairmont (https://m.fairmont.com/empress-victoria/?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F) this was our one time we ate off the boat- and while very pricey it was well worth it for those who love high tea! We spent a long time enjoying this experience. We did not make reservation and did walk in, note men must have pants! Following high tea we walked up the street to the tourists shops, the higher up the street you begin to run into local shops. This was neat. They also had a small local arts market open on one side street. Following our walk up hill, we walked down the other side and took a cab back for another $10 US. They will accept US dollars but round up! So I would plan to use a credit card if your company doesn’t charge an exchange fee, or pick up some Canadian Dollars. This is another good port for cheap souvenirs.
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