This week the Willamette Intl Travel blog is following our agent Wailana as she sails on Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity up to Alaska. Read on for her day-to-day schedule, trip insights, and insider details. Today, we take a look at Juneau, the Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier and Skagway.
Monday, 3 September 2012 – Juneau, AK
The morning of Labor Day, the ship’s navigational team took us on a detour through Tracy Arm Fjord. Their progress was slow and cautious, as the ship glided past bits of glacier and ice officially known as “bergie bits” and growlers. Fog clung to the summits of the surrounding mountains like ghosts, and the air was silent and still.
Most of the passengers rose early to watch the advance, stationing themselves in the Constellation Lounge or outside on Deck 11. The crew stood on standby with blankets, hot chocolate and Bailey’s. Brent Nixon, the onboard naturalist, spoke through the ship’s speaker on glaciers, fjords, and the proper use of the word gull.
At the end of this long corridor, we finally arrived at Sawyer Glacier. It looked like a massive, pouring river had just frozen in the middle of its course. I recommend heading down to Trellis Restaurant for brunch for magnificent views of the glacier and the ship’s departure with your coffee.
Disembarkation Time: 4.00pm
We arrived on land in Juneau around 4pm, later than scheduled due to some technical difficulties with some of the tender boats. The ship parked in the Taiya Inlet—at 1 mile down, the Taiya is the deepest fjord in North America.
Alaska’s capital is larger than it first appears, curving around shores and stretching from a modest downtown into countryside, farmland and fields. As there was limited daylight and the clouds were attempting to rid us of more, we ran over to the shuttle terminal and caught a bus to Mendenhall Glacier (16$ and 30 minutes roundtrip). A quiet and muted tow due to her heavy rain, the main draw of Juneau is definitely her radiant and stunning glaciers—and conveniently, Mendenhall is not too far from the cruise ship dock.
More than a mile across, dramatically flowing into a dark, silted lake, Mendenhall is just at the very edge of Juneau’s enormous ice field. If you have time, definitely take the 15-minute hike in to see the nearby waterfall. This path takes you to a peaceful sandbar, with splendid views of the lake, berg babies in the shape of a wolf’s head, and the glacier’s teeth itself. Stand below the roar of the falls, caress the waters and gray sand in your palm, and if you have binoculars, you can just make out the jagged, cobalt crystals in Mendenhall’s slopes.
Cast off time: 10.00 PM
Tuesday, 4 September 2012 – Skagway, AK
Disembarkation Time: 9.30am
The ship arrived in Skagway very early, but most guests disembarked after breakfast. The town is gorgeous and charming with its encircling mountains, ample sunlight, and a delightful shady heritage. As a major town on the edge of Alaska’s gold fields, Skagway was for years the final resting home for pioneers seeking to strike rich and sluice their way out of poverty and misery. With the gold gone, the town now thrives on tourism and the colorful stories and backgrounds of their ancestors. Skagway is very proud of its rough history, a fact readily apparent in its ubiquitous retail stores and historical landmarks.
The first strip of town is mostly shopping—jewelry, taffy, postcards, smoked salmon, popcorn, fur robes, and whatnot curiosities. I recommend picking up a few maps from the visitor’s center to orient yourself. We enjoyed lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company, pretty decent fare, but for a real delicious bagel and smoothie pop into the tasty Glacier coffeehouse on 3rd street.
If you need to stretch your legs a bit, get a little farther out of town, where there’s an array of nature hikes and historical sights. For long-distance adventures, take the White Pass and Yukon Railroad up for spectacular views into the Yukon, and glimpse the old railroad bridge that is still one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels.
For day hikers, there are plenty of trails just outside of town—one will take you to Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls, another to Sturgill’s Landing and the remains of an ancient sawmill, and yet another to one of Skagway’s token graveyards. Gold Rush Cemetery is more than 100 years old and burial home to the town’s star villain and hero—Jefferson Smith and Frank Reid, respectively.
It was early afternoon when we finally boarded the ship. Just before dinner, we curled up on the veranda to watch sun set on the Chilkat Range as we sailed on. I would heartily recommend this to anyone who loves the sight of soaring mountains, glaciers, clusters of forests, and snow-capped, auburn peaks.
Cast off time: 5.45 PM
Willamette Intl Travel regularly books clients on Celebrity and other cruises. Join us on Friday to hear more about Wailana’s experiences onboard the Infinity, or call WIT at 503.224.0180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a cruise today!