It was a foggy arrival and is another typical morning for the family with less urgency than expected for today.
Originally, we booked a port adventure to Mendenhall Glacier for the afternoon. However, after we had the realization the previous day that we booked an expensive taxi, we tried to cancel it. However, at this point, we could only change to a different port adventure pending manager approval. We changed from JU11 to JU12, which is the same excursion to Mendenhall Glacier with the addition of the Mount Roberts Tramway. Our JU11 had a scheduled departure of 12:15 and we planned to be off the ship to explore Juneau on our own before having to return to the ship for the excursions. With the change to JU12, our excursion’s meet time was now 8:30am.
After breakfast in Cabanas, we returned to the stateroom to get our rain coats and day bags before heading down to the Walt Disney Theatre for our excursion. The morning weather was typical with misting spray and thick fog. In fact, the fog horns were blowing as we were docking. The berth was about a mile walk from shopping area and there was a shuttle to town for those who didn’t want to walk.
We left the ship with our Port Adventure group of just less than 30 people and met our bus driver and guide, Robert. Robert has been a Juneau resident for over 20 years and had some great stories to share as he drove us through town on our way to Mendenhall Glacier.
This excursion gave us 90 minutes at Mendenhall. Knowing that we would not have enough time to walk all the trails and causally enjoy the beauty, we quickly prioritized our agenda.
One of the big boxes unchecked on our list of things we wanted to see on this trip were bears. We checked with the Ranger and she did not hear of any bear sightings yet this morning.
However, she confirmed Doug’s suggestion to take a trip down the Steep Creek Trail where we were pretty much guaranteed to see salmon, which we did. As we turned the corner on the boardwalk we saw it… Bear #25 – NIKKI, the bear Doug told us about during his nature talks earlier in the voyage. Prime viewing spots were gone and #25 was done. Short and sweet bear sighting…..or so we thought. As we continued down the boardwalk, Nicky appeared at the perfect time giving us an awesome view. This is going to be another one of those here is a boring photo with the promise of video when we get home.
For almost 10 minutes, she devoured a fresh salmon. We were so close we could smell the fish. It was amazing.
Thankfully, Nicky finished her snack and walked back into the woods. I say this because I could have stood there and watched her all day. Near the end of the trail we spotted a some salmon in the stream.
We spotted signs for Wild Alaska Live being filmed and airing on the BBC and PBS. My mom said she has been watching the series – I hope to catch it on demand when we get home.
The clock was ticking and we still needed to see the glacier. The viewing area was not as crowed as I would have expected on a Saturday so it was rather easy to take a family photo.
Along the path we spotted a bald eagle high up in the trees.
We had just enough time left to walk Nugget trail OR take Photo Point trail & explore the visitors center and see the film. Taking the trail would have cut it extremely close and frankly we would have been walking it just to walk without any time to stop and enjoy anything of interest.
These time crunches are my biggest pet peeve with Disney’s port adventures. There is NEVER enough time to see it all, yet if you book with a third party or a just take a taxi, you can have all the time in the world. We were in port for 12 hours and we were only given 90 minutes for the glacier. To be clear, we knew this upfront so it was not a surprise. I’m just relaying that it is important to look at the port adventure description. We have already decided that when we return to Alaska, in Juneau, we will return to Mendenhall Glacier and take our own transportation there & back.
Upon returning to the Juneau port area, we were giving card to redeem for our Mount Roberts Tramway from our driver Robert — who was not related to Roberts of the mount. The tram ride up was really cool except for the fact you are packed in like sardines which prevents you from moving around the tram to see the different views going up. Obviously, this will vary based on when you get in line. One thing to note, your ticked is good all day and you can make multiple trips up and down if desired. Also, you can hike up the mountain and take the tram down for $10.
Once at the top of the mountain, we worked our way through the gift shop and restaurant to get to the trails. We learned the hard way that the direct path is to go straight down the stairs you can see when you exit the tram. Our first stop was to see Lady Baltimore, an adult bald eagle that was found shot in 2006.
She is blind in one eye and is unable to fly do to trauma to her left wrist suffered from the incident. The Juneau Raptor Center looks after Lady Baltimore along with treating and rehabilitation wild birds in Southeastern Alaska. Sadly, due to Lady Baltimore’s injuries, she is unable to be returned to the wild. It was a bittersweet moment getting to see a Bald Eagle and at the same time learning about she came to be in this situation.
The day started out on the edge of yucky, the rain was on the edge of annoying, especially for someone like me who wears glasses and takes photos. Anyway, we opted to hike a path at the top of Mount Roberts. The hike is defiantly not wheelchair friendly and was a bit slick in the rain. It was the Alpine Trail and was about 0.5 miles round trip.
At one point along the hike, I heard this strange noise like a hive of bees. As I walked further I discovered it was a drone and spotted the pilot. Not 10 seconds later, the drone clipped a pine tree and tumbled out of control down the slope of Mount Roberts. I felt bad for the guy and his wife started to poke the proverbial bear, but he never took the bait. I told him about a trail that was closed off near said tree. The staff allowed him to go into the area at his own risk, but he determined it was too risky to get even with the GPS coordinates. Good news for him is that he was able to get the footage from the drone to his phone.
After some shopping in the gift shop, we took the tram back to the bottom and promptly headed over to Tracy’s King Crab Shack, which has been recommended to us on a number of occasions, including in the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line.
The line was out the door and did not really slow down. The way it works is that you order at the counter, then find a place to eat and they will call your name. The menu features crab and a daily special of other Alaskan seafood.
Well, today, they were fresh out of fresh catch resulting in a menu that was 100% crab entrees. I really didn’t mind because they had a bar with local Alaskan beers.
Emily and Isabelle each had a king crab leg while I sampled two of the local beers. Emily also enjoyed a wine made especially for the crab shack.
Emily commented that this was without a doubt the best crab leg that she had every had. Isabelle enjoyed watching them cook the massive crab.
We walked down the street to Red Dog Saloon so we could get two Duck Fart shots and lunch for me. I ordered a Ninilchik Wrap, which was an amazing wrap. The salmon was beer battered and packed with their coleslaw loaded into a tomato basil tortilla.
While in the Red Dog Saloon, my social media manager took it upon herself to extend the brand and add to her signature to the wall.
The timing was also right as we met up with a crew member (name withheld because I do not know if that person wants their name mentioned), who joined our table while we both ate our lunch. The girls stepped out to buy some fudge at the Alaska Fudge Co. (suggested by the Unofficial Guide) while we finished our lunch.
As we continued our walk around town, I spotted the Alaska Liquor Cache.
Emily and Isabelle had fudge for dessert so it would only seem logical that I investigate the Alaskan beer offerings. I was looking for a beer that I’ve yet to try in a port and one that is not available on the ship.
By the way, the Disney Wonder does have nice selection of Alaskan Brewing Co beers available in bottles and draft. DCL’s current guest alcohol policy allows you to bring 2 bottles of wine or a 6 pack of beer on at embarkation and at each port of call. I found a 12-pack sampler that would have worked with Emily accounting for half of the box, but I’ve already tried two of the varieties.
Had it been earlier in the trip (say, at Ketchikan), I might have been bought this anyways. I decided to go with the Alaskan Hopothermia double IPA and it is awesome.
If the Wonder had this available on draft, I’d be all over the beer mug deal. Just a note, for the wine drinkers out there, the prices are NOT good. At all. Keep this in mind if this is something you are interested in.
Following up the beer purchase, we made our way to the Alaskan Brewing Co store. As we walked in, we were told the next brewery tour was leaving in 5 minutes. It was only $20, which included transportation to and from the brewery, and samples. My buddy Dave will be so disappointed as he told me I had to go to the brewery, but by this time of day, I was running out of steam after the gym, walking & hiking, even though the ship was in port until 7:45pm. I did pick up a shirt in the store for my first Alaskan cruise souvenir.
They also were selling this hilarious book.
We poked our head in the Alaskan Hotel & Bar which celebrated it’s centennial anniversary in 2013. The place looked really cool. Without knowing much about the place, it would be a place I’d consider staying at in the future. I’m glad Emily remembered that my Dad told us to check it out.
The day ashore was coming to a close and we stopped in a few touristy souvenir shops were Isabelle picked up a few trinkets. We met up with our table mates as we were leaving the last shop. They were contemplating heading up the tram so we gave them our tickets from earlier in the day since they were good until the tram closed, but they too were ready to call it a day. The shuttle bus was waiting so we hitched a ride back to the ship.
It just so happened that the Pixar character meet & greets were underway when we go back onboard. We jumped into the nearly empty line for Sully.
We stopped in the Promenade Lounge to get Isabelle an Espresso Chiller and one of those fancy ice teas for Em on our way back to the stateroom.
Since we ate lunch late, we were not hungry for dinner, which was the Vista menu. Instead of dinner, we attended the early Michael Harrison ventriloquism show in the Walt Disney Theatre. The show was very entertaining and captivating. I am already expecting to slice a tennis ball along the seam so Isabelle can stick on two googly eyes to make her first puppet.
Around 7:30, the Pixar Pals Party started in the atrium. The show runs about 25 minutes with many of the Pixar characters interacting with guests on deck 3 during the dance party. I have some video and I’m sorry for sounding like a broken record, but it will not be posted until after we get home.
Towards the end of the party, Em ran up to the Cove Cafe to grab a plate of parmesan cheese, crackers, and carrot & cucumber sticks for Isabelle to eat, as she knew that she would be hungry. I split off to go get some water from the drink station only to discover an amazing view on deck 10. By the time I returned, Isabelle was already in the Oceaneer Club. Emily & I used this opportunity to visit the Cadillac Lounge.
One of the greatest discoveries is the Sommelier Bin in the lounge. For $10 you can pick from a white, red, or sparkling and the bartender will select a bottle for the server. It is really a win win. DCL avoids having to dispose of old wine and flat sparkling while we benefit with the savings. Emily jumped at the opportunity for a sparkling. The server presented Emily with the flute and almost immediately she was grinning from ear to ear. She was confident that it was a Taittinger Prestige Rośe, normally $19 a glass, and sure enough she was spot on!
Em told our server that Taittinger was our favorite Champagne. The time came to cash out or double down. Em chose to double down and when it was presented to her our server said there is a funny story about his one… Bam! Em guessed it just by the smell. The second sparking from the sommelier bin was Taittinger Brut la Française, normally $16/glass!
As I mentioned, the server cannot tell you what you will get as it depends on what is available in the ‘bin.’ With luck like this, we should consider a trip to Vegas. Currently, there is only 1 sparkling on the menu that is less than $10, the rest run up to $59 a glass so your odds are pretty good at scoring a deal on sparkling which has a shorter shelf life once opened. If you get the Chandon which is $9/glass, they will charge you the $9 vs. the sommelier bin price of $10.
I was running on empty and I think I fell asleep by 9PM.