DAY 3 MONDAY: JUNEAU
21.05.2012 - 21.05.2012 50 °F
I get up at 7am so I can get my workout in before BF. I get up to the gym, lift, stomach, shower, BF. I choose fruit, french toast, juice. Mike finds me and we plan our day. Linda, our shore excursion expert is showing a film & talk at 10am in the showroom. We head over to learn more about Juneau and glaciers. Of course they want you to sign up for shore excursions, but we are going to wing it. I have a book on Alaska and all shore excursions are cheaper once on land. We head up to the Observation Deck and take photos as we are approaching Juneau. Then we have lunch in the buffet: build a sandwich, salad, fruit, juice. Mike and I decide to let the most of the passengers get off before we do. We will be in Juneau from 1 until 10pm, so no hurry. We head back up to the Observation deck and take photos of Juneau. There is another cruise ship already docked and I get plenty of photos. At around 2pm, I get my day bag ready. Camera, binoculars, water and head for Deck 1. The crew scan your cruise card as you depart and will scan it again when you return. They will know if someone does not return to the ship.
Juneau was named after a gold miner, Joe Juneau. In 1880, Chief Kowee showed Juneau and Richard Harris where they could find gold nuggets. The Tlingits had a fishing camp here for thousands of years, but with the discovery of gold, Juneau become a boom town. Sitka had been the capital of Alaska Territory, but in 1906, the capital was moved to Juneau. In 1931 the Alaska State Capitol was built and now houses the legislature & the Governor. 31,000 residents now call Juneau home making it the third largest city after Anchorage & Fairbanks. There is a tourist office on the dock and we get maps of Juneau and what to see/do while ashore. There is plenty to do: whale watching, salmon bake, helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier (MG), float plane, zip line, sea kayaking, rafting, etc. We want to visit MG, but don't want to spend very much. Both of us are cheap charlies so there is no conflict on trying to save a few bucks. There is a city bus that takes you 1.3 miles from MG, but we agree our knees won't hold up to that plus the hiking to get close to MG. There is a guy selling tours right on the dock and he is touting the last few seats on his whale watching tour: $130. That is cheaper than ship's price, but we pass. He does sell us bus tickets to MG for $8 each way. We pay up and get on the bus. About 20 minutes later we are at MG Visitors Center. Photos, then we hike to a hill that gives a better view. You cannot actually walk on MG unless you go via helicopter. For $250 each, that is not in our budget. The Mikes decide to hike as close to the waterfall as we can. It is not that far, but we both have sore knees. We get as close as we can, good photo ops of MG and Nugget Creek Waterfall.
We hike back to the Visitors Center and wait for our return bus. Same driver and off we go to downtown Juneau. I am limping when we get back and don't have much leg left. The Internet is expensive on the Westerdam, they use satellite connect and claim it is costly. Whatever, we both passed on using the Internet while on-board. The Juneau Library is right by the bus stop and we go in. They have a 15 minute computer available and I send my mom and nephew Kevin an update. My mobile works in Juneau, but bad reception. Mike and I consult our town map and head off for a bit of sightseeing. The famous (infamous?) Red Dog Saloon is right across from the Library. I peek inside and decide it is not worth 30 seconds of my time. Another bar packed with cruise passengers, sawdust floors. Neither us like beer, food is free on the ship, why linger? We do see that St. Nichols Russian Orthodox Church is a few blocks away. Uphill blocks however! Juneau is squeezed into a small area between the Gastineau Channel and mountains. Not much level ground in Juneau. We are both hurting by the time we get to St. Nichols. It is a beauty and we get out our cameras. $2 donation and we have the place to ourselves. Services are held each Sunday and the congregation stand for the entire service! No thanks, my knee would not accept that ordeal. The reason is space. It is just too small to have enough seats for all the parishioners. Songs are sung in English, Tlingit & Slavic. Very diverse congregation attending St. Nichols I guess. Photos and then out the door.
After the uphill trudge, my knee needs a rest. There is a small park next to the church and I gratefully sit down while Mike looks at another church. My cell works pretty well up here and I chat with my mom, nephew Kevin, friend Mark and my neighbor Jean. We are both tired of walking, but need to get back to the ship. It is all downhill from the church, but downhill is tough on the knees as well. Back down Franklin St. we spot a statue claiming to be Manila Square. In Juneau? A bust of Jose Rizal and a plaque honoring the Philippine people's contribution to Juneau. Many Filipinos came over to work on the whaling ships, gold mines and then the fish canneries. There have been Filipinos in the Juneau area since the 1800s. Close by is an active Filipino Community Center and this is where cruise ship workers from the Philippines head to speak Tagalog with their countrymen. Or get a home cooked meal from the Filipino Restaurants nearby. There are over 2,000 Filipinos in Juneau today. A couple photos of Manila Square and we get back on-board. A crew member scans your cruise card, then a quick trip through a metal detector and we are officially back on-board.
I am going to try the dining room tonight: 7:45 seating. Mike raved about the food and service so I decided to give it a try. Good decision. Beautiful room, attentive waiters, plenty of choices. The table seats 6, but we are the only ones there. They serve salmon every night and Mike orders that plus another entree. I get the onion soup, salad and their veggie option. All very nicely done and now we have many dessert choices. I get the blueberry crisp and Mike chooses 2 other desserts. After seeing & tasting my choice, Mike decides he does not want to miss out on the blueberries, so he orders that as well. The waiters might privately think you are a glutton, but they just smile and bring it anyway. It is now almost showtime in the Vista Lounge so we head for the showroom. Paul Pappas is on tonight, a remarkable piano player. Paul has played Vegas, but now plays for several cruise lines. Paul knows his crowd and plays show tunes and songs an older crowd will recognize. Wonderful show and everyone afterwards was chatting about what a great showman he is. Of course he is selling his CDs afterwards, but that is what all entertainers do. I stop by to tell him how much I enjoyed the show, but refrained from purchasing his CD. I just don't listen to music in the house very often. I stop by the casino, but it is closed. We are late leaving Juneau and the casino cannot open until we are out to sea. It will be midnight until they can open and I am not going to wait that long. Back to the cabin, read, journal and bed about midnight. Day 3 of our cruise is over.