Category Archives: Un-Cruise Alaska

Trip day 11 Juneau to Vancouver via Seattle

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and our Alaska adventure was over. We left the ship after fond goodbyes to crew and other guests, wandered around Juneau and then headed for the Baranoff hotel to catch our shuttle to the Airport.  The week on the Endeavour we were very blessed in the weather, far more than usual, so the pictures are perhaps false advertising for an area that is afterall rain forest. The incoming guests we chatted to while we waited may have embarked with high expectations as we told tales of whales, orca, Kayaks and other adventures (plus a great crew and great food).

The Air Alaska staff were very helpful, and we made it onto the plane no trouble, through Seattle and into Vancouver. We hit peak time at Vancouver airport, with an Chinese airline arriving about the same time – one very serious young customs officer stopped Charlie to demand what was in the Pelican Case, but ok after a brief explanation.

So to our new abode, Times square apartments, for the next four days. A lovely service apartment near Stanley Park, with a washer and dryer, kitchen and sitting room. With only one pair of underwear left and a shirt or two, we promptly turned it into a laundry, with underwear hanging from every available spot. On the doorstep were lots and lots of restaurants, with a Safeway across the road. Apart from the ever-present city noise, a perfect base for us.

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Trip Day 10 (Cruise day 7?) Fjords and Glacier

Last full day of the Cruise, along with the amazing scenery, only one thing on offer today, a small boat up to a calving glacier.

I open the curtains to seagulls floating by on icebergs, steep cliffs and waterfalls everywhere.

Sea gulls from the Cabin window
Sea gulls from the Cabin window

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Waterfalls everywhere
Waterfalls everywhere

The icebergs floating by are from a tidal glacier we will shortly see. The icebergs are in all shapes and sizes, some are very blue and others glassy sculptures.

Almost transparent
Almost transparent
Natural ice sculpture
Natural ice sculpture
So blue!
So blue!
Ice crystals
Ice crystals

As we motor in our inflatable boat up to the Glacier, a baby seal swims by, a curious Harbour seal keeps a watchful eye on us, while we keep our distance from the seals on icebergs who have come there to give birth.

Baby seal
Baby seal

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Next, the tidal glacier in all its glory (although the afternoon group got a calving enough to rock the boat, and for us to feel it back on the ship!) This is hard to see in the photos, but its probably the size of a small car.

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But wait there is more – but I only got the splash!

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Our time is up, back to the ship we go for the next lot to have their turn. On our way we pass a vintage motor yacht on its way to see the glacier.

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So we put the glacier behind us, and head towards our nights mooring and a final dinner with Captain. When I looked back over my photos I don’t seem to have taken any of our nights resting place – an oversight, as it was beautiful, nestled in a little bay with other vessels, fishing boats, yachts and another adventure ship.

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Trip Day 9 (Cruise day 5) Patersen River Meander, Open Kayaking, Whales, rainbows and Orca

This mornings outing of choice is a “meander” (as opposed to the other groups doing a fast walk or a six hour walk), time for a lesson in the flora and fauna from our guide, Kenneth, yet another of the highly qualified team who lead the onshore activities.

Small boat to shore, a wade through head high grass and then onto a track used by hunters and foresters.

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Along the way we spot a game trail (moose) and follow it – much more civilized than the bushwhack!

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We survive the boot-sucking mud and this time I make it into the boat without the water getting into my boots.

 

Boot sucking mud
Boot sucking mud

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After lunch its free kayak time (ie no guide). The scenery continues to be amazing (but we miss the Orca, which the people in the DIB (small boat) see – sigh, I understand the FOMO concept now (ie fear of missing out).

Prepping for the launch from the Kayak dock
Prepping for the launch from the Kayak dock

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Waterfall

The daytime activities end in a Polar Plunge for those who are brave enough, which I get no photos of, but Charlie has lots of film.

Moving on for the night, there is more majestic scenery.

Glacier

Glacier

Dinner is interrupted by more whales (which never gets old), a rainbow and Orca! No one knows which way to look, and I miss the Orca breaching.  I do capture the rainbow.

Rainbow
Rainbow

The big whales are out, and the tail slapping can be seen from miles away.

This is how the big whales tail slap - this whale is a long way away, and its tail is very long
This is how the big whales tail slap – this whale is a long way away, and its tail is very long

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However, the Orca steal the show.

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So ends our second to last day.

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Trip Day 8 (cruise day 4) Sleep in, yoga with the whales and a bush “whack”

Brunch day, with a sleep in while the ship made its way up the longest fjord in the world. Charlie stayed in bed, worn out by so much fresh air and exercise. I got up to do the 8.30am yoga (the yoga offered each day at 6.30am was just a little too extreme for a holiday) facing Alaskan mountains, while whale watching – the most unique yoga experience ever. Standing on one foot doing warrior poses while watching a whale was over the top!

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From that point on we seemed to be surrounded by whales as we moved down the Fjord.

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Robert Island – After the crew finally shepherded us in from the distraction of whales, we had an enormous brunch and then off for the afternoons excursion – a bush whack (aka a “scramble”) through the rain forest.

So Green!!!
So Green!!!

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This involved breaking through the first line of vegetation along the shore, high grass as tall as I am, ducking under the first layer of trees and then using the game/bear trails. The scrambling part involved over and under fallen logs, through bogs and across a salmon stream (no salmon yet). All this while calling “hey bear” to let the locals know we were coming. Evidence of bears everywhere, but no bear sightings.

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Whether because of our “hey bear” calls or just naturally, the forest was almost silent, with only the occasional sound of a bird – very unlike the Australian Bush. Everything was growing something, the forest floor, trunks of fallen and standing trees, and rocks.

Bonsai Alaskan style
Bonsai Alaskan style

The company was good, cheerful and willing to lend a hand. A walking pole turned out to be an essential tool for navigating sometimes rotten logs, and for helping one over and under trees and pushing aside the rather nasty “devils club” bush that is full of little thorns.

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Charlie demoing the use of the walking pole

Everywhere we looked there were edible berries – including blue, salmon berries, elderberries.

To our delight, hidden in the forest we found a cabin.

Mysterious Cabin
Mysterious Cabin

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The salmon stream (no salmon yet) provided a welcome place to take a break.

Salmon stream sans salmon
Salmon stream sans salmon
Our guide tells tall story
Our guide tells tall story

After wandering in essentially a circle we return to the shore for a pick up and back to the ship for cocktail hour, with only slightly wet feet from having to wade out to the zodiac.

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The whales were still providing the entertainment as we settled in for the night.

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Humpbacks can be told apart by their tail markings, the one above has a tail almost like a butterflies markings, where as the tail below is almost all white underneath.

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Trip Day 7 (cruise day 3) Exploring the bays and beaches.

Time to explore the beach, with our amazingly knowledgeable and talkative marine biologist. The tide was unusually low, exposing a whole lot of “critters”, including starfish, sunstars, anemone, and one baby pacific octopus. Charlie had fun videoing the rock pools with his Go Pro and produced some nice stuff. I didn’t expect cold water to produce such vivid colours.

Sunstar

Sunstar

Two star fish and an anemone
Two star fish and an anemone
Baby octopus
Baby octopus

A curious harbor seal kept cruising by, and the whales were fishing in the bay, as well as porpoise.

Harbour Seal & the paddle borders
Harbour seal & the paddle boarders
Harbour seal
Harbour seal

The paddle boarders were out braving the cold waters.

Something I'd like to try - but maybe in warmer seas
Something I’d like to try – but maybe in warmer seas

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On the way back to the ship, we watched as a whale rose right next to the kayakers  (I was too hemmed in on the small boat to get a camera around in time).

Back for lunch and repositioning of the ship.

After lunch – out for a guided kayak along the edges of the bay. On the way back toward the ship a whale surfaced and dove in front of us way down the bay multiple times leading us home to the ship.

Kayak dock - a wonderful invention which not many of the adventure cruise ships have
Kayak dock – a wonderful invention which not many of the adventure cruise ships have

Heading out again, watching the world go by.

Who is watching who here?
Who is watching who here?

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The whale tale is not over for the day – and the wildlife delayed dinner yet again! As we headed out into the Fjords again the floor show was a juvenile Humpback whale  showing off to his friends with tail slapping that went on, and on, and  on….but, wait, there he goes again, and again.

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Ringside seat for the tail slapping games
Juvenile tail slapping competition - 1st prize
Juvenile tail slapping competition – 1st prize
up
up
up
up
now comes the slap...
now comes the slap…
and splash
and splash

Trip Day 6 (cruise day 3) Mountains from the bedroom, Reid and Lamplugh Glaciers

Amazing to wake up and open the curtains to the most incredible view of still water and snow covered mountains.

Good morning Glacier National Park
Good morning Glacier Bay National Park

Playtime among the glaciers, with options to Kayak, do a small boat ride around the area or walks ranging from easy apart from the risks of boot sucking mud to what was described as a “scramble”. Apparently there is a syndrome that people suffer on these adventures called “FOMO” (fear of missing out), which I really appreciate given you could only choose two things to do and …. what if we missed out?  Of course, as we were to discover, the other group or individuals saw things we did not and vice versa (I still haven’t seen a wolf, and the camera was always pointing the wrong way when the whales or orca leapt from the water).

We were not alone in our enjoyment of the park – but there is a requirement to keep your distance from any other users of the park.

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We chose up first a walk along a beach next to the Reid Glacier, one of the numerous tidal glaciers that dot Glacier National Park.

Reid Glacier beach walk
Reid Glacier beach walk
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Reid Glacier
Reid Glacier

Most of the parks glaciers, including Reid, are sadly receding and, according to our guide, will no longer meet the sea this generation.  The implications of climate change are ever present in conversations around glaciers.

Back to the boat for yet another excellent lunch.

Safari Endeavour from a DIB
Safari Endeavour from a DIB (Demaree Inflatable Boat, made in Friendsville MD)

Next up a small boat tour.

DIB
DIB
Bosun
Bosun

After a little wandering along the cliff face, the guide, Bosun, took us to the Lamplugh Glacier. The tide being high he was able to move us close to the wall of the Glacier (but not too close given the potential to “calve”).

Lamplugh Glacier
Lamplugh Glacier

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Playtime over for the day, time for cookies, happy hour and more excellent dinner (any hope of losing weight from the unaccustomed activity shattered).

Day 5 (Cruise Day 2)  Bartlett Cove to Margerie Glacier, Glacier National Park

Awake to another stunning day, with fog burning off by the time we hit Bartlett Cove, and whales feeding along the edges of the Cove.

Raft of otters as the fog burns away
Raft of otters as the fog burns away

The Cove is the headquarters for the Glacier National park Rangers, a tiny, mostly summer based community, with a jetty, a lodge and one road leading to a small town out of sight down the way. While we picked up Ranger Faye, who was to be the expeditions guide and interpreter in the national park, we were invited to walk through the post glacier temperate rain forest.

Welcome to Bartlett Cove
Welcome to Bartlett Cove

The safety briefing encouraged us not run from the bears (otherwise they think of you as prey), and make oneself big and speak in soothing voices. Not to be confused with bears, the suggestion was to run like hell from moose and once out of sight they will forget you – as the consensus was they are not very bright. Later in the trip one of our other guides suggested running in bear country, even from a moose, was not ideal and to quietly get yourself behind a tree.  The walk was beautiful, but no bears or moose crossed our paths.

Whales in Bartlett Cove
Whales in Bartlett Cove

However, while we were walking through the forest we could hear the whales coming up to breath and diving to hunt fish along the foreshore. Very distracting when trying to listen to our guide talk about how post glacial rainforest is formed etc.

As part of the walk, we were shown a reconstructed skeleton of Snow, a humpback that had an unfortunate run in with a big cruise liner travelling too fast. Part of the compensation money was used to reconstruct Snow, including sending her to Seattle to a specialist. Our guide had worked on her reconstruction.

Snow - mother and grandmother
Snow – mother and grandmother

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Once back aboard we headed on out into the National Park with the aim of making the Margerie Glacier for dessert. The first destination was a Seal haul-out island on South Marble Islands, which they share with a range of birds, including puffins.

South Marble Island Seal Haul-out
South Marble Island Seal Haul-out
Puffin tip toeing on the water with beak full of fish
Puffin tip toeing on the water with beak full of fish

Next in our wildlife count – mountain goat and eagles, and finally bears along the edges of the fjord. The Captain angled the boat towards shore and the whole boat turned out to watch them until they disappeared. About this stage I decided I needed a longer lens on the camera!

Mountain Goat
Mountain Goat
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Yes, the small brown object is a bear
Headed into the Park
Headed into the Park

The Margerie Glacier was interesting, but it was the backdrop of snow peaks and sky that made the day – Charlie’s comment was that no one would believe it was real!

Margerie Glacier
Margerie Glacier

and so ends another spectacular day.

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Day 4 Juneau – Embarkation on the Safari Endeavour

Day 4 Juneau – Embarkation Safari Endeavour

Embarkation day and it is still raining in Juneau, normal for Juneau.

After dropping our bags with Uncruise (with Keli) we ventured out to find breakfast. We met some more of the locals – the ravens, whose voices and behaviour are so unlike the Australian raven (i.e. crows), so much more melodic – all the native American influenced stories featuring  ravens I’ve read now need to be read again in a different light.

Juneau Ravens

 

Breakfast was only achieved after circumnavigating the town, having one of those “go past where the old mill burnt down” conversations with a helpful local and we ended up next door to the hotel for a very American breakfast – Charlie, ever adventurous, tried the Chicken fried steak (essentially schnitzel) with scratch gravy (white lard based gravy, not very appetising to look at because of the chunks!), he lived but won’t repeat.

As embarkation wasn’t until late in the day, we took a Glacier “express” shuttle ($20 round trip per person) out to the Mendenhall Glacier. Fortunately the rain cleared briefly, and the Glacier just got bluer and bluer. Unfortunately, the rain clearing brought in the hordes, so we headed back to town.Mendenhall Glacier

Glacier in the rain

 

Lunch at the Fish and Chipery, watching the flying boats land and listening to 20s something angst at the next table. I’d like to walk around with a recorder as so often the snippets of overheard conversation have been fascinating. We will never know if he got her to leave his mate, who was a really nice guy but also a womanizer?

Float Planes in the fog

So, to the ship. Much more personalized than a big cruise, and the guests and crew were unfailingly friendly, helpful, gregarious and interesting. On the BIG cruise liner around NZ we distained sitting with people to eat. However, I wonder if we missed an opportunity, everyone we met on the Endeavour were so interesting .

Before even embarking we met two fellow Uncruises from the UK in the street, and it was to them we owed the intel about the glacier. In the line up to get on the ship we met our next two interesting people, well travelled, with a large interesting family and business. Then at dinner we sat with the editor of the Alaskan Magazine and her partner (who works in Solar energy), as well as two travel writers. There were two other Australians on board, a smattering of Brits, some Europeans, a couple from Israel. While as might be expected the guests were mostly Americans, they came from all over.

Safari Endeavour

 

While we were eating (first in a long line of excellent meals) the Ship began to move out towards the Glacier National park, and so to bed. The cabins were comfy, albeit space restricted by the size of the ship (especially the bathroom) and the amount of camera gear we  brought with us ………………..

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but the view  from the bedroom window each day amazing!

view from the bedroom window

 

Who would want to stay in ones cabin with so much going on outside?