Friday – 2nd September, Cruise day 4
Wow, we have had an amazing day with an experience that was very special. It’s also been a very long day and once again we’re rather tired.
Our day started at 6.30am when the alarm went off. We got up fairly quickly and were up on deck nine having breakfast in Beach Blanket. I had sausage and pancakes with maple syrup followed by a big bowl of fruit. Lovely.
Then we had a walk round deck ten to take some photos of the scenery, the ships that were docked, and Skagway itself. We also took a few of the ship as there weren’t many people about. Then we went back to our stateroom, grabbed what we’d need and walked off the ship and down to Skagway.
There’s not a lot of Skagway to explore, it’s only a small town with a local population of around 800. It’s mainly a tourist town with lots of diamond and gold shops. We ignored those and looked at t-shirts and interesting souvenirs. We came away with a couple of t-shirts and I got a cute hat, plus a couple of other things. I did eye up the Alaska scrap booking stuff that was in a lot of the shops but it wasn’t really my style. We did enjoy walking round the town, and we even went into a brothel, The Red Onion Saloon. Not something I can say I’ve ever done before to be honest.
We got back to the ship at about 11.30 which just gave us time for a quick sandwich and then to get our excursion tickets and make our way to the meeting point on deck four. We were quite impressed with the organisation of the tours and we were following one of the cast members off the ship in no time. We were loaded onto our tour bus and handed over to Susan and the fun began.
Susan gave us a brief talk about what to expect and then we were driven to the other side of the dock where we were taken to a fast ferry for the trip to Haines. This was a brand new boat and was very fast indeed. We were the only tour group on it as it was just large enough for all of us. There were 25 of us. We were given information as we sped along, and it really did speed. Apparently it’s 14 miles to Haines by sea but over 300 miles by road. We were glad we were taking the ferry and not the bus.
Once in Haines, we had a brief tour and then lunch, which was quite nice. It was a very fast lunch as we had a lot to do and a way to go yet. Back on our bus we went out to Chilkoot lake, driving slowly past the areas where we might see bears. We didn’t see any but pulled in at one spot to see if anything could be seen. After a while we carried on to the lake and went for a walk into the rainforest with our driver, who gave us a nature talk. It was really interesting but halfway into the walk we were interrupted by three blasts on the bus horn. That was the signal to tell us that bears had been spotted and we were to return immediately. You’ve never seen 25 people exit a forest so quickly.
Back on the bus and we went back along the road until we got to the bear sighting. There were three of them. A female and her two cubs. We were on the right side of the bus to view them so we stayed there as we had a good height to take photos from but they allowed people off the bus as long as they stayed together and close to the bus. The windows dropped down from the top so we were getting some good shots of the bears catching fish.
The bus moved up a couple of times to keep up with them as they moved and then we lost them as there were a lot of trees between the river and the road. Then, the female ran across the road behind the bus so all the traffic stopped and we watched and waited. Then the cubs peeked out from the bushes and then ran across to join their mom. They were just a couple of feet from the back of our bus.
We drove on a bit further, turned and went back to the lake and then came back again in the hopes of seeing more bears. We were lucky and found another female with three cubs. This time they were even closer. So close that people were having to take the zoom lenses off their cameras. Again we watched as they caught salmon. The cubs were having to catch their own as their mom wasn’t sharing but they were doing a grand job.
Eventually we had to move on and we did the journey in reverse. Bus back to Haines, ferry to Skagway and bus round to the ship. We were on board for just after 7pm and we sailed about 20 minutes later. We knew we were cutting it a bit fine with this tour but as it was booked through Disney they’d wait for us. Either that or fly us to the next port at their expense, so we weren’t worried.
The day was quite cold and it rained from about 11.00am onwards. It was very overcast. That didn’t spoil the day at all though. We wrapped up well and my ears were toasty due to my new hat. We were very tired when we got back, mainly due to the early start I expect but also partly due to being cold. A decision was made to do room service again as we were a bit concerned that one of us might nod off in the middle of dinner and also we thought that the constant yawning might be a bit rude.
I could get used to having someone bring my dinner right to me. I had a BLT again and Stephen had a steak sandwich. We both had some rather tasty tomato soup to start with. And a nice big flask of coffee.
Then Stephen watched TV for about ten minutes – Castle was on – and then gave up and went to sleep. I attempted to read for a while but woke up twenty minutes later with a cricked neck and my book still firmly clutched in my hand. I took that as my cue to put the light out and go to sleep.
So that was our first day spent on shore in Alaska and it was every bit as good as we’d hoped it would be. We’re still struggling with the fact that we’re actually here. In Alaska. Standing in places that we’ve been reading about for the past two years and looking up on the internet. And now we’re here. Yes, I know I keep saying it, but it's just not sinking in, if you know what I mean.
We were so close to those Grizzly bears today. Just a few feet at one point. The fast ferry was terrific and we learnt a lot about the fiord we were travelling along during the journey. All the tour guides we had were excellent and very informative. What can I say? We’ve had the most amazing day.
Tomorrow is Juneau, the state capital of Alaska, and yet more rain is due. Hey, this is a rainforest after all.