Greetings from the starboard side of the Oosterdam and our grand obstructed view. Yes, the floor to ceiling windows in the stateroom are on the same deck as the emergency life boats. But no fear, our priority was to have the means of seeing the most of Alaska, not necessarily to partake in the usual cruise ship shenanigans, though as I write this I am feeling a pang of regret for not heading to the Vista Lounge to watch the illusionist show. We skimped on the stateroom but booked pretty high budget tour options. And though I am a savvy, self-sufficient travel, it’d be a bit irresponsible to not to take advantage of expert guides with tremendous local knowledge, especially when dealing with the Alaskan wild. And we have lucked out with amazing tours and guides. Sure, tourism is an important industry in these ports. But the guides are naturalists and educators that are passionate about what they do. They love Alaska. And their job is to show others why.
This trip has been chockfull of spectacular experiences. (I haven’t been writing much because, unfortunately, the ship’s internet pricing options are pretty darn high and I am so pooped by the end the day.) I’ve sailed through the pristine waters of Glacier Bay National Park–a place of unparalleled beauty–with a front row to several gorgeous glaciers. I’ve seen eagles, hawks, and other wild life. I’ve paddled to Glacier Point to walk to the gaping mouth of the Davidson Glacier in Haines, hearing the dramatic (and kind of heartbreaking) thunder of its calving. And today, I witnessed two Humpback Whale breaches in Juneau, and a variety of other Humpback Whale behaviors (bubble net feeding, chin slapping) from a group of 5-8 Humpbacks. And though our helicopter tour was cancelled due to weather conditions and I’m set to complete my final excursion in Ketchikan tomorrow (snorkeling in Alaska!), I am already fully satisfied by all this trip has shown me. And I am convinced that a one-way cruise is the best way to see Alaska for the first time. Now, where should I go the next time in Alaska? Perhaps back to Juneau.
Though Juneau was home to the Tlingit tribe for hundreds of years, Juneau’s Gold Rush roots boomed the area, beginning its history as Juneau; it has only been a state of the United States since 1959; it’s an island, for all intents and purposes, as it is not accessible by vehicle in any direction; it’s a rain forest (!), and it’s the current capital city of the state of Alaska. Today, we arrived in the mist and fog to see just a tiny slither of what the city has to offer.
The Humpback Whales are star attractions in Juneau, with thousands of visitors watching them in their mostly summer home. Starting in May, these beautiful mammals swim back to Juneau’ s waters after birthing their calves in the warm waters of Hawaii. They come to Alaska to eat a lot, like me kind of. Here are the better shots I took on my afternoon with the whales. Pardon the low resolution, these have been cropped significantly.
Then there were these two handsome eagles. They are too cool for school.
Since the helicopter tour was cancelled, I had some time to fill. I was delighted to learn that there were a couple of vegan options available in Juneau, one being a pecan and raisin French toast. Yes! And this dish was only a short walk away from where the big boat was docked. I headed out in the pouring rain to arrive at Sandpiper Café drenched. No biggie. All’s fair in vegan option reporting.
The delicious all-vegan pecan and raisin French Toast. Great service and a damn good vegan option. Thanks, Juneau!
Next, I walked back across to downtown. It is important to note that there are two downtowns in Juneau, Alaska. One that is open during the summer months that caters to cruise shippers. This one is a ghost town during the year, though GPS-tracked wolves have been recorded to hang about the port. This next vegan option, a falafel burger, is in one of the real downtown eateries called Rockwell. But, alas, what would have been my to-go order was unavailable at the time of my visit. Phooey!
Well, I had my vegan meal order already on the boat. So I might as well dine on the boat. First course was a repeat: The Mezze Plate, garlic-packed Baba ghanoush, garlic-packed chickpea hummus, stuffed grape leaves and tabouleh salad, served with warm Pita bread. This is my favorite appetizer on the boat. Next, the Spicy Lentil and Garbanzo Salad, served over Boston leaf lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onion rings, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. Followed by an entrée salad of avocado, citrus and mixed greens with a sherry vinaigrette. And that ol’ plate of fruit. Though I appreciate vegan considerations on board, each dish seems to be a few tweaks away from being really good. I’ll be honest when I say that I expected more.