Cruising to Alaska – Juneau

Cruising to Alaska seems to be on a lot of people’s bucket list.

Back from a nice long two week vacation (I think the longest one I’ve ever had) where we flew from here to Seattle, rented a car and drove down to Portland, OR to hang out with some friends for a few days, then back to Seattle to begin the cruise with my sister, brother-in-law and one niece.

We set sail on Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas. It’s a pretty big boat ship, and the biggest that we’ve been on so far.

Royal Promenade on the Explorer of the Seas
Royal Promenade on the Explorer of the Seas

After a day of cruising, we arrived at Juneau, Alaska. We had about 8 hours in port here. Connie stayed behind to explore Juneau a bit and I went on a Bike and Brew excursion offered by Cycle Alaska that I really enjoyed. The bike ride was about 8.5 miles along fairly flat terrain. Got to ride at a pretty easy pace and rode through some nice areas. Much of the ride was on the road, but with wide shoulders and relatively light traffic, it was pretty easy going.

Heading to the start of the bike ride
Heading to the start of the bike ride
On the road
On the road

We rode out to a beach area on the west side of Mendenhall Lake where we got to see a fantastic view of the Mendenhall Glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Lake
Mendenhall Lake

The lake gets its colour from silt collected/produced by the glacier. The water is pretty cold too.

From there it was back onto the road with a brief detour onto a trail, and then finishing at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. We dropped the bikes off at a bus parking area a short distance from the visitor center and had some time to walk over, enjoy the views of the glacier and explore the visitor center.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center

There are trails that take you almost right up to the glacier, but I didn’t have time to wander down these. In the visitor center, there are displays and exhibits that tell you all about the glacier and surrounding area. Pretty cool place.

From here, it was back into the vans for the trip back to Juneau and the “Brew” part of the excursion. We ended the excursion at a place called Alaska Fish and Chips Company where we got to sample some beers from the Alaskan Brewing Company and one from Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka. We got to sample the Summer Ale (nice refreshing Kolsch style beer), White Ale (Belgian witbier style) and Oatmeal Stout (really liked this one) from Alaskan Brewing and a Spruce Tip beer from Baranof (this one had someĀ interesting flavours and notes).

Here’s a map of the route we took on the bike.

After this, it was off to meet Connie at the Catholic Cathedral in Juneau. Tiny little church. It’s the smallest Catholic Cathedral in the US. Because of time constraints, she stayed for Mass while I went to take the trip up the Mt. Roberts Tramway (she had already gone up there by now). From the bottom, you go up a couple thousand feet to Nature Center where you can wander the trails, enjoy the view and grab some food.

Mt Roberts Tramway
Mt Roberts Tramway
About halfway up the Mt Roberts Tramway
About halfway up the Mt Roberts Tramway
Juneau from the top of the tramway
Juneau from the top of the tramway

I wandered the trails up at the top for a bit, but didn’t have time to go too far.

Carved totem
Carved totem
Hiking the trail
Hiking the trail

There are several miles of trails that you can hike along. After exploring the gift shop a bit, it was time to head back down.

Heading back down the tramway
Heading back down the tramway

Met back up with Connie on her way back from Mass, and we headed back to the boat ship.

It was a pretty good day in the first port of call of the trip. I would have liked to explore Juneau a little bit more, but I’m glad I got to see what I did. I’ll just have to go back another time.

Next stop: Cruising to Skagway, Alaska.