Juneau and Skagway in May

Apr 12th, 2008, 07:04 PM
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Juneau and Skagway in May

We'll be taking the Norwegian Pearl RT from Seattle May 18-25. I've seen many recommendations for Captain Larry with Orca Enterprises but one post by BQ mentioned something about the Seattle cruises hitting whale migration in May. Does that mean that there is a decent chance of seeing whales from the cruise ships? We went on a whale watching tour out of Monterey Bay and pair of whales swim right alongside our boat for 30-40 minutes so I'm thinking about putting that money toward a floatplane or dog sled trip instead. If there was a good chance of seeing them from the ship (and I understand that it takes perserverance) I'd be more willing to take the chance.

Also, I see many recs for the White Pass Railway in Skagway but renting a car and driving to Emerald Lake sounds very nice too. I've been on trains before so that's not a big attraction for me. The railroad bike combo sounds kind of interesting too. Would we be missing out on too much if we did the drive and went to the National Park Tour instead of the railroad?

mdod is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 05:06 AM
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You may hit the end of the migration but ir will be mostly over by late May.

Cruise ships do their best to avoid whales to prevent injuries. Whales don't want to get up close and personal either though you may see whales some distance off. Out from Juneau is one of the best whale watching spots in the world. You get chance to see lots of different feeding behaviors. And Capt Larry is one of the best guides in the business.

The White Pass Railway is a narrow gauge railroad that is cut right into the mountain. So you get really up close and personal...look out your window at a 500+ ft drop. In May, you're liable to run thru some really deep snow canyons carved out by huge snow blowers. Coming from North Texas where we may get an inch or two of snow per year, this was fascinating.

So take your choice. It's really hard to go wrong.

JimM is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 05:35 AM
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You are probably too late, the earlier May sailings hit the end of the migration which starts in April. So, in my opinion, IF you want to see humpbacks, you need to consider a tour. It is likely out of Monterey you saw Grays??

Only you can decide what you wish to do in Skagway. The White Pass RR is a top attraction, with superior scenery compared to the Klondike Highway and loaded with history. It isn't for everyone. The drive to Emerald Lake does get you into the Yukon and with www.murraysguide.com certainly a great trip too.

IF you truely are WILLING to spend your time whale watching from the cruiseship, I suggest you be out on deck 30 mins. before your posted dawn time- first sea day and again day of Juneau and STAY out. Necessary is a GOOD pair of WIDE angle binoculars. You are wasting your time without them in my opinion. Be satified with hours of waiting and a couple minutes of viewing. You need to be in the front and track from ahead. Forget about side viewing, you cut your sightings by over 50% since you haven't seen them coming. I do this all the time and know the areas, you won't and unfortunately you don't have a ship naturalist.

Decide for yourself what is your priority and go with it. There are many fantastic experiences in Alaska to enjoy.

Glacier Bay day, it also pays to be up VERY early, but usually the ship is already at Glacier Bay at light, but consider an early day here anyway. I've just about always seen humpbacks.

Be forewarned, the Pearl has crappy front deck viewing. Full high wind screens and front side viewing obstructed. For the glaciers, you are far better off, heading down to your port side open deck and getting a spot at the rail.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 06:29 PM
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Thanks for the advice. I had already found Murray's milepost guide but I haven't had a chance to look at it in detail yet. Is the timing (end of May) a advantage/disadvantage for driving the Yukon?

I'll have to think about the whale excursion some more. I know we didn't see Humpbacks before but I can't remember if we saw blue or grey whales. It sounds like anything we might see from the cruiseship wouldn't

The other alternative in Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier. We went to the Canadian Rockies in 06 and drove the Icefieds Parkway and took the Snocoach out onto the glacier there. Any idea how that compares to the Mendehall Glacier? We loved the Icefields Parkway and went on many hikes there but I was rather unimpressed with the Snocoach tour.

mdod is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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mdod - the whale watchers in Juneau can probably drop you off at Mendenhall after your tour, so you can do both. Then you can just take the $6 bus back.

We are doing this in July with Harv and Marv (although in reverse - we are taking the bus to Mendenhall, hiking a bit, and then they are picking us up at the Glacier in the afternoon).
kaudrey is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 04:41 PM
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Kaudrey- thanks for the suggestion. We'll only be in Juneau from 2-10 PM (and sunset is at 9:30) so I'm not sure we can fit both in. Larry's whale tour is from 3-6:30. Would that leave enough time to see the glacier too?
mdod is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 07:04 PM
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It will be rushed but is very doable. Depending on what you want to sacrifice (not see) and have you seen that type of glacier and formation before.

We did it last year in less than 2 hours. The trails were closed due to bear activities (it was Sept) so all we did was a very short walk on the trails, took a look at the exhibit, skipped the "show" and head back. I heard there are tours that scheduled for 90 minutes stop or less. I don't know, going all that way there and spend only an hour or so seems a waste.

Personally, I think it is over-rated. But then, I spent over 30 years living at the Rockies and I didn't have the chance on the trails as it was closed.

Eschew is offline  
Apr 20th, 2008, 07:29 AM
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Mendenhall Glacier is OK, but the shuttle buses stop running about 6-7pm, so it's not worth a costly cab ride back in my opinion. With your other glacier experience, you can probably skip Mendenhall.

On the other hand, I strongly recommend you be out 1/2 hour before your posted dawn time and maybe get a chance for some humpback action in Icy Strait, on your Glacier Bay day. Then consider staying out all day. Front of the ship is a must. BUT do be aware, the Pearl has the crappiest front deck viewing I have sailed in Alaska. It will take 2 hours++ to get to the glaciers after they are excorted in. At that point I would head to the port side open lower deck, of your port side balcony- if you have one.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Apr 20th, 2008, 08:19 PM
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Thanks for the glacier viewing tip BQ. We're booked with Captain Larry's whale watching. They said they'd drop us off at the glacier afterward but they didn;t think we'd have enough time and the shuttle stops at ~6. They said you can see it from the boat so that will probably have to do for this trip.

We got our cabin assignments yesterday and we're on deck 4, cabin 4504. That's the bottom passenger deck. That doesn't sound very good. My husband said that where the people on the Titanic bought it. Great!
mdod is offline  
Apr 21st, 2008, 06:24 AM
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I go with guarantee cabins all the time. You won't have any issue with your assignment, and the savings you got, more than made up for it- I'm sure.

If you want some more potential humpback viewing. I am always out on deck, again that 30 min. before dawn window on the way to Juneau. I always see humpbacks here and it's a most scenic area as well. Well worth the time, if of interest.
BudgetQueen is offline  

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