|The ports on this trip are great! As we had been to all of them many times before, we looked for activities that were a little different from the most popular tours. Ketchikan was the first port. We had a leisurely breakfast from the Horizon Court and ate it in the Solarium. It made a great way to start the day.
||Here Renée choose the Orca Bay Hike. She had a good ride in the Zodiac craft to this scenic bay, seeing lots of seals and eagles on the way, and then a great hike through the rain forest.
||This eagle totem greets visitors to Ketchikan. It was drizzly and gray weather, but that didn't stop us from having a great time. It is only steps from the port to the Visitor Center and the main shopping streets. The tour buses load right at the port and it is very convenient.
||In the afternoon we had booked independently on the Ketchikan Ducks. These amphibious vehicles give a wonderful tour, starting out with all the sights on land in Ketchikan, including the infamous Creek Street, the Totem Heritage Center and the salmon creeks. Then they plunge into the water!
||The ducks are fantastic craft. Our guide Nina (that's her in the window!) was a member of the Haida tribe and gave us some interesting information about native customs, as well as a language lesson! She kept up a fascinating commentary throughout the tour.
||Then we plunged into the harbor. Our Skipper described the different kinds of fishing boats as we passed them and gave us some idea of the hard life of an Alaskan fisher. We crossed to the other side and saw a nesting pair of eagles and the juvenile, just learning to fly. (I had to blow it up a lot in the picture!)
||Then the ship cruised Tracy Arm. This is a beautiful deep fjord cut by the glaciers. The scenery all the way up the narrow fjord is wonderful, and chunks of the deep blue glacier ice float in the water. Because the glacier ice is so pure, and compressed so deeply that all the bubbles are pressed out, it has that beautuful blue color.
||At the end of Tracy arm are the twin Sawyer Glaciers. They are an impressive sight. It is also impressive as the Captain manuevers the ship so everyone has a good view of the glaciers, turning that massive ship literally around on its own axis.
||The Solarium is the perfect viewing spot for the glaciers and the fjord, and a steaming cup of hot chocolate (with a bit of peppermint schnapps) from the bar is a great accompaniament.
||Then in the afternoon we arrived in Juneau. Sapphire Princess anchored in the bay and we were tendered in to port. Her tenders are very large and comfortable. Then later when Coral Princess left, Sapphire pulled up to the dock. We found this beautiful lookout point on the way to the AJ Gold Mine.
||We donned our hard hats and met Ziggy, the miner. Although he looks sort of rough-hewn, he is actually a professor of mining engineering at the University of Alaska. He showed us how the miners drilled a pattern of holes in the rock face, placed the dynamite charges in the proper position and timed them to cause the rock to fall in the right direction. Then he showed us how the miners spent the rest of the shift mucking up all rock and putting it into the rail cars.
||From there the rock fell down an 800 foot shaft to the crusher. Only the skeleton of the crusher building remains. This mine crushed 16 tons of ore to yield an ounce of gold, and operated for only 8 years.
||Then we got to pan for real gold in the tailings left over from the mining operation. Renée worked very hard to get that tiny bit of gold! This excursion was a very interesting one, combing great scenic views with Gold Rush history. We found in every port that the ship offered very good excursions, often things that were not available from the numerous vendors at every dock. The shore excursion staff were excellent, helping us find our buses and looking out for us on the dock.
||Of course the ship's photographer was everywhere. They did some very nice pictures. The ship docked in Skagway in a beautiful spot with the mountains in the background. It is a long walk down the pier in Skagway to the buses. There is a shuttle into town, and many different tour operators jostling for business.
||In Skagway we toured on the "Original Street Car"! These bright yellow street cars have been famous in Skagway since 1924, and their costumed drivers provide a great tour of the famous Gold Rush town, including the cemetary where the notorious Soapy Smith and his killer, town hero Frank Reid are both buried.||On the road to the ghost town of Dyea is this panoramic viewpoint, with a great view of the Lynn Canal and the ships at anchor in the harbor.
||The absolute high point of our visit to Skagway was the "Dog Musher's Camp"! Here an Iditarod racer is training his teams for next year. He came in 22nd out of 87 teams last year and is determined to do better over the 1100 mile route next year. He has about 50 dogs in the camp, each with their own little house. They are extremely friendly and we got to meet many of them including the mother and her litter. The six and a half week old pups are already in training, going out to run with a bicycle rider every morning!
||When he hitches the dogs up they want to do nothing but run! His hardest job is standing on the brake. Sixteen dogs were hitched for our ride, and immediately began straining at the harness, jumping up and down and barking impatiently! There is no snow so six passengers mounted a wheeled cart, which meant the dogs were pulling almost a ton. As soon as the brake was released we went whizzing through the woods. It was an exhilarating ride.
||The stop in Victoria is from 6:00 to 10:00 in the evening. As we had been to Victoria many times before, we just stayed aboard. This was a great cruise, and the shore excursions really made the trip. We had a wonderful time in every port, and in cruising Tracy Arm.