Links to Tracy Arm/Juneau photos and videos from the cruise

5-31-08

When we got our Daily Passages last night, the schedule for today said “Whale Spotting” from 5am to 7am, followed by “Scenic Cruising of Tracy Arm” from 7am to 10am. So we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am and then dragged ourselves up 4 flights of stairs to the Observation deck (Lis actually climbed 4 flights twice because she forgot to bring her coat the first time – how studly is she!?!). There was a pretty good smattering of people for that hour, and we started seeing whales right away. We didn’t see a ton, and we didn’t see them up close, but about every 15-20 minutes or so one would appear. Sometimes we only saw blow spouts and bits of their dorsal fins, but a few times as they did the deeper dives to the bottom to feed we saw their flukes. Lis had the good fortune to have her binoculars trained on one as it did this, so she got to see it up close. I was only ever able to see it with my naked eye. Lis: I’m sad to report that if I did see one up close, I don’t remember, but I’m very tired now.

As the morning progressed, the room filled up (though was never crowded) and the mood became more convivial (there wasn’t really a mood at first because we were all still asleep). Anytime a whale was spotted, someone would point it out and then we’d all surge to that side, trying to see or get a camera shot. It’s fun to watch a room full of middle-aged to elderly people run around excited as children.

After a while (at about the time that the schedule said), we stopped seeing whales and started seeing icebergs, some white and some blue. At this point the ship’s destination specialist got on the PA system (only heard in the public spaces) and started telling us about the icebergs and the Tracy Arm Glacier from which they came, and the geology of the canyon we were in, and how glaciers form the landscape. His delivery was sort of monotone, and at first he didn’t really do much for me. But then it became apparent that he was just as excited as the rest of us, but trying to behave like a grown up about it, and I fell in love with him a little bit.

There was a good bit of ice, so we weren’t able to get very far in to Tracy Arm and therefore never saw the actual glacier. We saw lots of fantastic ice sculpture, though (including one that looked like a chicken), and several bald eagles perched on the ice, plus a couple seals and some porpoise, and the weather was gorgeous, so I felt satisfied.

After a wonderfully hearty breakfast on the aft deck of La Veranda, we went back to the room and found that it wasn’t made up – the room steward hadn’t been around when we left at 5, and so must have assumed that we weren’t up yet. So we decided to go drop off our menus with the maitre’d and then go back up to the observation lounge. Once we dropped off the menus, the full implication of our plan hit us – we were on deck 5, and the observation lounge was on deck 12. Ever stalwart, we hiked up, and it wasn’t even as bad as we expected – maybe our legs are finally adjusting.

We had a peaceful sail in to Juneau, then lunch in the Compass Rose (fish and chips – very yummy), then off to the Mendenhall Glacier. We took a local shuttle that ran every half hour. The driver tried to tell us interesting stories about Juneau on the way but only every third word or so was actually intelligible, so it was a bit of a trial. (Lis: On the drive back, when the driver was continuing to tell unintelligible stories AND the majority of the bus was speaking loudly in a foreign language in an attempt to be heard over the driver, Mary leaned over to me and said, “This must be what hell is like.”) The glacier was spectacular and the weather continued gorgeous. There are a bunch of trails around the glacier (and the lake into which it empties), including one that takes you right next to a giant roaring waterfall and within 500 feet of the glacier face. We took this one, which was pretty easy except that right before you got to the waterfall you had to scramble over this huge expanse of boulders and rocks – we weren’t expecting this, but it was great fun. I think I’m probably going to be pretty sore tomorrow, though.

Once there, we snapped lots of pics of the glacier, the icebergs, and the waterfall, and didn’t realize until we got back to the ship that our (somewhat elderly) camera had started to fail and that on some of the photos the lens shutter had only opened a fraction. The saddest thing is that this really cool shot of the waterfall in the foreground and the glacier in the background was one of the victims. Sadder still, enough of the shot was visible through the partially open shutter to indicate that the shot would have been really good:-(

We had decided yesterday that, what with getting up so early and all, it would be better to do room service than try to go to the dining room, where we would probably fall asleep between courses. Turned out to be a very excellent idea – we were very pooped by dinnertime, and were glad to retire for the evening. We had our room service dinner on the balcony, looking out over the sea – the temperature was perfect and the water was still, reflecting the snow-capped hill across the way – very beautiful. Dinner itself was good, but a bit unwieldy, as they brought us all the courses at once. We had read somewhere, long ago, that if you have room service dinner on Regent they will serve it to you in courses, but this has never been our experience. We have figured that: (a) it just isn’t true; (b) it was once true but is no longer; (c) you have to ask; or (d) you need to be in a room with a butler. Nevertheless, it was a lovely experience.