Alaska’s Auke Bay – Yukon Wonderland

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Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau

While sailing aboard the Disney Wonder along the northwestern shoreline, we enjoyed a magical day in Juneau Alaska. Juneau is the capital city of Alaska since 1906 and the second largest city in the U.S. by area.  Located on the Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle, at the foot of Mount Juneau, more than 32,000 people make their year-round residence in this Yukon town.

Looking north up S Franklin St., Juneau, AK

Tourism is a major industry for Juneau. Several cruise ships dock there on the channel.  Many thrilling attractions are provided for tourists, including shopping for locally made trinkets.Mount Roberts Tramway

Mount Roberts Tramway departs from South Franklin Street close to downtown Juneau, from directly across the cruise ship piers. It transports excited passengers up the mountain for a picturesque view of Juneau and the cruise ship terminal.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier is a popular attraction in Juneau.

Alaskan Cruise Whale Watching in Stephens Passage

Whale Watching in Stevens Passage

Whale watching is also a favorite attraction. For our shore tour we enjoyed a thrilling afternoon aboard a narrated flat-bottom boat as our captain sailed us along Stevens Passage and into Auke Bay.

Auke Bay Alaska -2

Auke Bay

The scenery was dream-like, the vastness—incredible.  As our captain narrated it was difficult to comprehend how the shoreline and mountains could be so… far away. Many miles.

Whales in Auke Bay

There were numerous whale watching boats afloat on Auke Bay. The captains kept in contact by radio. When a humpback fluke was spotted, the captain reported the location and many other captains followed quickly with their tourists.

Whale Fluke in Auke Bay

Our captain received many reports then speeded across the enormous bay to give us the most opportunities for humpback sightings. We thought he did as excellent job as we saw numerous whales fluking, swimming, and puffs. From a distance, they look like logs floating on the water until the waterspouts. When they dive deep, that’s when they fluke.

Eagles in Auke Bay

On this tour, our captain also gave us numerous opportunities to observe eagles both nesting and soaring freely in the vast skies overhead.

We also saw countless sea otters in their communities. They are very social animals and cuddly, not to mention adorable.

Alaskan Seal

Along the waters, we also saw harbor seals, but many more sunbathing on the shore.

Our captain went above and beyond to make sure we saw the wildlife promised on this tour. And did we see humpback whales? We saw a lot of whales.

On the long, picturesque boat ride back to Juneau, he mentioned that under the surface of Auke Bay was mountainous just like above the lake.  That never occurred to me.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

We also sailed past the entrance of Glacier Bay both, going to Auke Bay and returning. Having spent a day inside Glacier Bay a few years previous, also on the Disney Wonder, we were fine with only a view of the entrance.

Our day visiting Auke Bay was one of the most memorial days in the Alaskan Yukon we’ve ever had. The scenery was so amazing it was dream-like. It was like being in another world, a place untamed, untouched by people.

Mendenhall Glacier-2

Mendenhall Glacier

 

Humpback Jumping close to boat

There were several times when the Humpback Whales rolled so close to the boat we could almost touch them.

Humpback Whales in Juneau

The next time we vacation in Alaska and visit Juneau, Auke Bay will be must see, again for more whale watching.

Auke-Bay-Alaska.10

Thanks for stopping by.

J.A. Ireland

ALASKA; Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord

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The Fjords Are Like Being In A Dream

Humpback Whale in Glacier Bay

Humpback Whale in Glacier Bay

When we booked our Alaska cruise, we didn’t know what to look for. Some people will choose to sail on their favorite cruise line.  Others say to book for the port adventures, or onboard adventures. For many the question will be, do I want to see Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord? Both are enchanting and dreamlike, but different experiences.

When we cruised through the Tracy Arm Fjord, the ice, mountains, nature, and waterfalls seemed close enough to touch with the stunning Sawyer Glacier as a conclusion.

Glacier Bay National Park,  with it’s vastness, huge bald eagles soaring high over the mountain tops,  glacier carved mountains, and streams ragging down the mountains.  After getting a wide perspective of Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm Fjord’s vastness, we were able to see more of the small details.

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park– Our day in Glacier Bay National Park on Holland America’s Zaandam was breathtaking. We were blessed with a nice sunny day, with temperatures in the mid 50’s. We cruised through the St. John’s Inlet, and viewed the magnificent John Hopkins Glacier. Even though it was partially dirt covered, its majesty and splendor were breathtaking.

We were approximately 6 miles from it, but due to its vast nature; it looked to be only a quarter-mile away. Imagine our amazement when we were informed that we were 6 miles away from this giant natural wonder. As we gazed upon her beauty and splendor, we could see the light blue ice, which marks her timeless journey that began on the Fairweather Range on the eastern slope of the Lituya Mountains. John Hopkins Glacier, like many others in Alaska takes a journey that requires several hundred years to complete. Also, during our dreamlike cruise, we were filled with the wonders of hundreds of smaller glacial formations and picturesque waterfalls.

Alaskan Mountain Goats in Glacier Bay

Alaskan Mountain Goats in Glacier Bay

We spotted, with our high-powered binoculars, many cream colored mountain goats that are living very happily on the rugged slopes of the snowy mountains. They are actually very easy to spot, high up on the mountainside due to their cream color. The cream color contrasts with the white snow and the green vegetation of the mountain side.

This very picturesque journey through the seemingly narrow channels of this unchallenged and vast ice wilderness will leave any traveler with perhaps the best memories of a lifetime. Glacier Bay National Park will live in our hearts. It was a glorious day.

Tracy Arm Fjord– During our day of sailing through the majestic Tracy Arm Fjord, the weather was more typically Alaskan. We were bundled in layers, as the cold drizzly rain fell from the overcast sky. Fog engulfed the ship at each turn along the fjord and gave us more unexpected surprises with it.

7935 Near Tracy arm fjord, Alaska

Tracy Arm Fjord

We sailed on this cruise with Disney Cruise Line on the Disney Wonder. As the Wonder turned into the vast entrance to the breathtaking Fjord, we were immediately taken in with her heavenly beauty. The vastness of her incredible size was unfathomable as we slowly sailed through her still waters.

The mountains appeared to be only one quarter mile high from the cruise ship deck even though we were told they were 4-6 miles high. Slowly sailing along, we saw more cream colored mountain goats walking on the sides of mountains and bald eagles soaring majestically above. Sea otters and seals were also plentiful. Seals were lying on the floating, blue ice chunks from the calving glaciers.

Seals on Glacial Ice

Seals on Glacial Ice

While standing on the cruise deck we felt as though we were experiencing another world.  A world that was untouched by man and by man measurements. Objects appeared a half mile away but were actually seven or eight miles away.  Alaska is so big. It’s vastness is something one must experience from a cruise deck or other means to understand.

We began to see large chunks of blue glacial ice, from a calving glacier, floating by in the calm water. Often times we could spot a seal lying on the floating ice, watching us curiously as we sailed by. With each turn of the fjord, we could feel that we were going to experience something very special.

While approaching Sawyer Glacier, we noticed that the ship was sailing even slower. As we were now approaching a large field of floating blue ice, we began to see more seals, moms and their pups. To determine safe passage, the captain had to very slowly navigate around these large chunks of blue ice. This is there home. We’re the intruders. The captain was very slow and cautious.

Sawyer Glacier

Sawyer Glacier With Humpback Whale Fluke

Reaching Sawyer Glacier at last, our cruise ship remained a safe distance, as to not disturb the hundreds of seals sunning themselves on the solid blue ice bergs that were calved from the glacier. As we viewed the awe inspiring creation of nature, we were captivated by the vast splendor of this famous glacier. We were stunned when we were informed that the face of Sawyer Glacier was over six miles wide, and 300 to 400 feet tall. To us, it seemed only a fraction of that size. This was a further testimony to the vastness of these incredible Fjords. We watched as Sawyer Glacier slowly calves many small and large pieces. We heard the crack, like thunder, and down the ice crashes into the freezing waters below. I remember standing there in awe as the calving continued. The journey these glaciers make down from high in the Alaskan mountains takes several hundred years concluding by slowly calving in the fjords.

The cold rain was still coming down. I had a coffee mug in my hands. But this moment was not to be missed. We realized that time and distance have no meaning to a glacier. One hundred years is merely an instant, and for this vast untamed wilderness, several feet can equal many miles. Our senses are rendered useless as we span this heavenly, unimaginable land. We were standing on the deck  watching, while taking it all in for about 45 minutes.  Our ship was just quiet. People were quietly captivated and immersed in their own reflective experiences.

Disney Wonder in Tracy Arm Fjord

Disney Wonder in Tracy Arm Fjord

Slowly, one by one, people started leaving the deck. The ship slowly swirled around and began the slow, still awe inspiring, journey back through the Tracy Arm Fjord. Even though the deck was practically empty, we stayed top side to enjoy the magnificent splendor even more. This is when life long memories are created. The deck was all but deserted when we finally went in to warm up. And regrettably. Sailing the Tracy Arm Fjord was truly another world that we sailed through. We remember staying on deck to soak in every possible moment of this heavenly, magical, mesmerizing sight. It too, was a glorious day that will live in our hearts.

Is a cruise inside Glacier Bay National Park or Tracy Arm Fjord in your future? Often times the decision of which fjord is decided by which cruise company a person chooses. If you shop Alaska Cruises you’ll see what I mean.

If you want my opinion, from the perspective of a Disney Castaway Cay Gold Club Member, experienced traveler, fantasy / fiction / spiritual author, chef, blogger, with a family. In my opinion, either choice will provide you with a heavenly vacation and fill your minds with awe and wonder. Alaska is a world of it’s own; it’s a place you can visit over and over again. As we have. If you are planning an Alaskan Cruise, and I hope you are, you will leave this Yukon paradise with memories that will last a lifetime. Guess what? Just as we have, you can always ad more. Thanks for stopping by. Ja