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Alaska - The Last Frontier

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Part 5 - Juneau

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Part 5 - Juneau
 

Juneau, Alaska’s capital, greeted us with pleasant weather. The Radiance was the first ship to dock that morning. Gradually others joined under continuously clearing skies.

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For this day in Juneau we had booked online tickets from home for the Mendenhall Glacier shuttle bus ($ 16.00/person). Since we had planned a hike around the glacier, the weather was perfect. The shuttle bus left directly from the ship at 9.30 am. By the way, various tour operators had their stalls directly in front of the berths of the ships and offered their tours at much lower rates than those advertised in the brochures of the cruise line.

The bus took us to the visitor center of the glacier some 20 km away. Thanks to the beautiful landscape and some explanations given by the driver, the ride was quite entertaining. Upon arrival at the parking lot of the visitor center, we first went to a boardwalk built on stilts from where, according to the guidebook, you could see bears quite often. We didn’t see any, but the landscape and vegetation were also very appealing.

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At the visitor center we picked up a map of the different hiking trails and decided to go on the East Glacier Trail, which was marked to take approximately 2.5 hours. At first the trail led up the mountain through what seemed like an enchanted forest with a small waterfall and a little lake.

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For us, there was no danger – or hope – of meeting a bear. They were more likely to be found by the rivers with their wealth of salmon. But after going down some wooden stairs we came across another little fellow, who watched us perkily.

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I later found out that it was a Steller Jay. I liked him...

At the end of the trail we reached another viewpoint. Besides a few panels with photographs from different years showing the retreat of the glacier, we also got many beautiful views.

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When we returned to the parking lot, a shuttle bus was just about to leave. We took it to return to town but got off before the cruise terminal to explore the streets.

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One of Juneau’s praised attractions is the Red Dog Saloon, which must have been a real people magnet during the Gold Rush. With its original decor inside it’s actually really quaint.

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We just had a look inside and returned to the ship to have a salad at the Park Cafe.
After this refreshment we boarded the Mount Roberts Tramway, which left directly from the pier and took us all the way up to the top station at about 530 m (1740 ft.) altitude.

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Besides a restaurant and the obligatory gift shop there is also a small enclosure, which is home to an eagle that was found shot and has been nursed back to health. Since he or rather she is blind on one eye and cannot fly due to the wings shattered by the bullet, the animal wouldn’t survive if it were released.

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As the weather was gorgeous and with it the view from the top gigantic, we decided to hike at least part of the path up here.

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Finally we took the cable car back down. On the descent, we had a beautiful view of our floating hotel, behind which a HAL had anchored in the meantime.

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After all this walking we thought we had honestly earned a decent dinner. So in the evening we rewarded ourselves with a dinner at the Samba Grill.

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The Brazilian steakhouse is located at the spot where the Seaview Cafe used to be before the modernization. For an additional charge of $ 30.00/person you can return to the starter buffet as often as you like, and then, gradually and comfortably, you are served 9 different kinds of meat directly from the skewer. We used our onboard credit to indulge in this pleasure.

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You can influence the process with an illuminated sign on the table which you can switch to either green or red. Since I had walked a lot and the meat was excellent, I don’t need to mention that my sign wasn’t red until I had tried all 9 meats.

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This dinner was a nice ending of another great day.

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