Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Family Cruise to Alaska

After almost 18 months of waiting and planning, at last the time had come. Our family was taking a cruise to Alaska! There were 14 of us...Jim and I, and four children with respective spouses and kids. Some of the siblings hadn't seen each other for a while, so we were looking forward to a fun reunion.

Our cruise was starting in Seattle, heading through the inside passage to Skagway and back to Seattle, with a stop in Victoria.

The modern family with cell phones in  hand...
Welcome to Seattle!

And to our ship, the Golden Princess...

The Seattle harbour...

Gathering on our balcony with the youngest grandchildren. Most of the family had not met Alex, the newest addition on the left...

And we were off! We had a suite for the first (and probably last) time. It was a bit of a splurge, but it worked out really well as there was room for everyone to gather on the balcony and in the cabin.

I think this was an NCL ship in our wake...

A bottle of champagne as a thank you from the family for planning the trip...

The whole family on the first formal night.

Here we are heading into Juneau, our first port of call. It was a cloudy day with a chance(!) of rain.

We were already loving the mountains...

Lots of water running down the mountains from the Juneau Icefield...

Juneau is the capital of Alaska, although many feel Anchorage would be a better choice. Juneau isn't accessible by road, only by boat or plane. The population is about 32,000.

I headed off for a whale watching tour with Stephanie, Randy and Erik, while Jim went with some of the others on a brewery tour. A photo of downtown Juneau taken from the bus...

We passed by this site where the bus driver told us to watch for bald eagles. He was right!

The whale watching boat was large, and it gave everyone lots of space to move about...

The scenery itself was to die for...


The first sign of a whale is the blow which can rise up to 10 feet. They blow 4 to10 times at 20-30 second intervals before you see their humped backs.

I had to circle the whale because you would have had to have known it was there, but look at the boats that come racing towards a sighting.

Another whale...we did see many whales that day.

And many beautiful mountains!

Here is the tail of a whale which you see when they start a deep dive. The dives can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, so once  you see the tail, you know that whale is gone for a while. And once again, the other boats come racing...

Ooh! A better tail!

Can you imagine waking up to this spectacular scenery every morning?

My best whale picture!

Or I thought so until this guy appeared. OK, they all look alike but it really was fun to try to capture them!

Another tail...

A lone bald eagle...

I love this picture! It was windy and it was cool, but we were loving every minute of it! Jim's daughter, Stephanie, with her hubby Randy, and her son Erik.

We came across some sea lions taking a break from the water. An average male will weigh up to 1250 lbs., while a female will be around 600 lbs. The sea lion population has decreased by about 80% in the last 20 years, perhaps due to overfishing of pollock, the main food source for young sea lions.

This guy looks like he wants someone to play with!

Our whale watching tour lasted about three hours and then it was on to the Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is one of 38 large glaciers that flow from the 1500 square mile expanse of snow and ice known as the Juneau Icefield.

The glacier is about 12 miles long and is retreating at a rate of about 6 inches a day!

Why are glaciers blue? The ice appears blue because it absorbs all colours of the visible light spectrum except blue, which it transmits.

Some bergy bits from the glacier...

It's really hard to get any perspective on how big this is. Try to picture a person standing on the point of land...

It was raining by this time, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm!

A close up showing all the peaks and valleys...and a cool cave.

Those are trees on that spit of land. The glacier is huge!

The "Last Frontier"...love it!

And then we were heading back to the ship.

Meanwhile, Jim was touring the town with his sons, Jeff and Patrick, and their families. The famous Red Dog Saloon...in earlier days owners would greet tour boats at the docks with a mule that had a sign saying "follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon."

Jeff and Patrick with the van took them to the Alaskan Brewing Company for a tour (and samples!).

 Looks like Patrick found something he liked!

They took the Mount Roberts Tramway up 1800 feet for a great view of Juneau.

Spectacular views from the top...

There were four cruise ships in town that day. Last one in gets to anchor and use the tenders to go ashore.

A wonderful view of the town and the inlet...

And then it was back to the ship. We had a great day in Juneau...

Tomorrow we'll be in Skagway.

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