The 2001 vintage Summit is a huge ship. With a capacity for 1950 passengers, it is 965 feet long and 12 stories tall (above ocean level, that is!). So we were constantly lost. By the end of the week, I could find the elevators without too much difficulty, remember what was on each floor, and I could usually tell which way was fore and which was aft – but that’s about the best I could do. Of course, early on I could find the food pretty easily, but thanks to Kathie’s making me walk everywhere and climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator (she had me walking up 7 flights of stairs to get to the dining room!), we didn’t put on the average 8 pounds the cruise director said we would. I wonder who got our 16 pounds…?
After boarding on Saturday afternoon, we spent all that night and the next day at sea. The water was somewhat rough and for the first little bit my stomach felt a tad queasy, but I very quickly got my sea legs and we had a great time exploring our ship and watching the wooded mountains of the Inside Passage sail by.
The Summit docked early on Monday morning in Juneau and we took a shuttle over to the tourist drag for a quick visit at Caribou Crossing, where Kathie bought a lovely silver pendant made by Lisa Anderson of Kodiak. While waiting, I discovered a display of Holly Yashi jewelry – all crafted with Swarovski crystals (a special love of mine). I took some time looking over the collection to get some ideas and then we set off to do a little sightseeing.
With a population of over 30,000 people, Juneau is the capital of Alaska, home to the Mendenhall Glacier (part of the 1800-square mile Juneau Icefield), and can only be reached by air or sea. I was a little surprised by how small a town it is. As we walked up the hill beyond the tourist area, we entered a neighborhood of older houses that had lots of flowers in their yards (another surprise!). Nestled amongst the houses was a small octagonally shaped Russian Orthodox church, built of wood in the 1890s and painted white on the outside with bright blue trim. The inside of the church was filled with brightly colored icons. The historical significance of the church is that it was started by Tlingit (pronounced “Klingit”) chiefs - with permission of the Russian Orthodox bishop, of course - so that their people could worship in their own language.
Back on ship after our jaunt, we ate lunch and then headed out for our big adventure of the day, an experience I will never forget. After a short trip to the airport, we dressed in parkas and ski boots and climbed onboard a six-passenger helicopter for a ride to the Mendenhall Glacier. Kathie and I got to sit up front, so the view was fantastic!
This being my first time seeing a glacier, I was totally awed by its size and eerie blue color. But there was no time for standing around with my mouth hanging open. Our nice young guides, Riley and Scott, greeted us, put cramp-ons on our boots for us, and then gave us a short walking tour, pointing out moulins and bottling some glacier water for us. Boy, was that good! Then Scott scooped up some glacial silt in his hand for us to feel. It was silky to the touch and would be great for a facial mask, the women in the group thought. It was also Scott who (finally) explained that glaciers are blue because their ice is so tightly packed that no light waves other than the short-waved blue ones can escape. Thanks, Scott! And Riley, I’ve got a daughter back home who would think you’re a hottie!
Dinner on the ship that evening was formal, so Kathie and I dressed up in our black Chico’s outfits and elegant jewelry. (Some might say that we "clean up good".) I was “entertained” by Marilyn and Bob, the couple seated next to me. Marilyn is 86 years old and lives in Cape Cod. I didn’t catch Bob’s age, but he lives in California. I don’t think they get to see each other very often. Anyway, the food was tasty but there was way too much – I was stuffed by the end of the meal. So Kathie rolled me back to the room, where we changed back into comfortable clothing and headed out to see the movie “Crash”. It was weird but excellent, so I didn’t fall asleep on it although I was dog-tired.
Later however, in our room, I drifted right off…
Stay tuned for the next installment – Skagway!