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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Our cruise to Alaska - Juneau

In the morning, the sea was so smooth that we felt like we were sailing on glass again. This time we went to the Rotterdam dining room to have breakfast, which is exclusively for suite guests so it was bound to be peaceful and quiet. What a difference with the madhouse we experienced in the Lido yesterday!

We met Tim again, who like most of the crew remembered our names the moment he saw us. After breakfast we went back to the room to wait for our first port, Juneau, where we planned to go on our pre-booked tour: the Whales & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari. But first, I wanted to make notes for my blog, on our private balcony:


Juneau!



Watching the dock employees tie up our ship:



Before we went on our cruise, we had checked the weather over and over again, and every time the report had shown the same: we were going to get showers! And it was going to be cold! This, combined with being near the ocean and so far up North, was going to be really wet and freezing, or so we thought. To be prepared for anything, I had brought gloves, a hat and a scarf, as well as several layers of clothing.

Great was our surprise that there wasn't a cloud to be found anywhere in Juneau, and it was well over 20 degrees, delightful weather in fact!

Dressed with just a t-shirt and a sweater in my tote bag, we were picked up by Cindy, our tour guide for the day. Cindy is a professional photographer, who went out of her way not only to make us feel comfortable and happy, but also to explain as much about cameras and photography as she could. She even helped us all find the best camera settings for our various missions of that day.

We drove for about half an hour through stunning mountain and glacier scenery. Then the two of us plus four other participants and Cindy boarded with Captain Jim, who was going to take us to see whales in his speedboat.


Cindy explains about humpback whales:


We hardly left the dock or captain Jim stopped again so we could take pictures of a bald eagle:



A few minutes later we saw some seals getting a suntan.




Continuing the boat ride, it wasn't long before one of us got to yell "WHALE!" The spout was visible from afar, but being in such a tiny boat, captain Jim managed to get quite close. At one point a whale got so close to us that I felt we'd only have to extend our hands to be able to stroke its back! We heard it snort and splash, until suddenly with a graceful bow it waved us goodbye with its tail and dove under again. You have never seen six busier cameras!






I was lucky enough to create a movie even:



We spotted several whales that afternoon, some from afar, some quite nearby, but none as close as that first creature!

After we came back to shore, the tour was not over - we were driven to yet another part of Juneau for a walk through the rainforest to the Mendenhall Glacier, which we had already seen from the boat. It was an amazing walk, because the sun really brought out all the different mosses we got to see. It felt like we were walking through an enchanted forest, almost unreal!





Suddenly there was a turn in the path and there it was... Taking our breath away... The Glacier! Equally spectacular were the icebergs floating in the water. They shone like precious jewels in white and pale blue, surrounded by dark blue water. It was a sight we'll never forget - there is no way pictures can do justice to the magnitude and beauty of it all.





As an unexpected bonus on our way back to the bus, we saw this porcupine high up in a tree - I had never seen one before. In fact I never saw it very well at all, with the sun right in our eyes, but the 35x zoom of the camera managed to capture the moment:


It had been a busy day, but after a late supper we were too excited to go to sleep yet. Our towel animal of the day:


Around 21:30 the ship left the port to set sail to Skagway... Where we would arrive 7 am the next morning. We stayed up for another two hours to watch the sunset on the water, and the fjords gliding by... Another perfect day on a perfect trip.



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