Exploring Juneau, Alaska! Why You Should Add this to Your Bucket List NOW!

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i could write for day and days about our adventures at sea and on our beautiful cruise ship but i have a new city calling to be explored so i don’t want to eat up all my time at this little internet café! excuse slight typos because my fingers are so excited! for starters…here is why exploring junea, alaska is amazing!

my husband and i are traveling on the m/s amsterdam with holland america on a 7 day alaskan cruise along with his parents-kathy and mark, his sister-ashley, and family friends including farah with her two offspring- sam and hannah-many of the same stirred up trouble traveling to Russia in the fall!

we usually look like this (family…don’t kill me for posting this because it’s hilarious)

us alaskan cruise crazy family

fine…we can be normal too. 2 of the 7 nights you have to get fancy so we all agree to shower and run a comb through our hair

alaskan cruise the whole groupi will do a recap of our adventures at sea for the first few days later (we all decided how thankful we are for dramamine) but for now i’m still reeling from the glory that is contained in junuea, alaska-our first port!

we had just over 9 hours in juneau yesterday and it was fantastic! it started out with getting brief cell phone service so i could text my parents that i was still alive and not thrown overboard AND to let my friend/social work mentor Naomi know we docked in her home town of juneau! she was my supervisor during my internship-turned-job at a native american family center in portland and she’s amazing!

1alaskan cruise juneau chelsea avery naomiit worked out that she lives not far from downtown so she strolled down to meet us-with her sweet 5 week old baby boy, beckett in tow! he may have upped my ‘baby fever’ a few degrees for a few minutes. so excellent to see you both! that’s our boat in the background!

when we booked our cruise, we received some credit towards excursions so we opted for a full-day package in juneau. it started off with about two hours of whale watching, followed by lunch on a secluded island and then a trip to a glacier. don’t worry, i pinched myself constantly throughout the day to make sure this wasn’t a dream (it still doesn’t feel like real life).

IMG_7634it was still very overcast with low hanging clouds in the morning and apparently the sun only shows itself for 44 days of the year or something ridiculous and we were lucky enough to get one! pay attention to how progressively sunnier it gets through the pictures!

let’s jump right into whale watching because it was phenomenal. neither myself or my husband have ever seen a whale in the wild so we were pretty pumped about this. we hopped on a tour bus (driven by a 78 year old woman who was sassy and hilarious and named marg) and she drove us out to board a catamaran to watch for whales.


i kid you not, within 10 minutes of being on the boat, WE SAW WHALES! series of whale photos and if you are a close friend or family member, get ready to look at all of my 428 pictures of this day and learn all about how they eat. the sound of this is incredible:

1 alaskan cruise whale spoutingas a reminder-all of these photos are “raw” meaning unedited and not enhanced- just exactly as we saw them with the slight caveat that i have cropped and zoomed in on a few whale ones so you can see them better!

1 juneau alaskan cruise front of humpback whalehere’s a factoid if you won’t be attending my slideshow presentation-the female humpback whale can weigh up to 35 tons and reach 50 feet! The male measures in around 25 tons and 46 feet. HUGE. their tongue weighs about 2 tons-can you believe that?! as a reminder, 1 ton=2,000 pounds. Do the math and say “daaang”

here’s why they are called “humpbacks”

1 juneau alaskan cruise humpback whale hump backand my personal favorite, a female whale the people on the boat call “flame” best believe i’m blowing this one up and framing it in front of my non-existent fire place!

1 alaskan cruise whale tail upclose!after also seeing bald eagles, sea lions and lots of birds, we continued cruising onto an island called “colt island” where orca point lodge is located. they had a decent lunch waiting for us of salmon, chicken (which i had), so-so sides but delicious, gooey brownies.

IMG_7861(yes, i do have a focused photo on the brownie but i decided the mountains deserved the focus because they are phenomenal)

brownie juneua

my husband and i decided this is the prettiest place we’ve ever eaten lunch on a wednesday (or probably any day):

1 lunch alaskan cruise juneau private islandafter my husband asked for another one of those decadent brownies for his wife, we loaded back up on the boat to head back to shore. i felt like i couldn’t drink in enough of the scenery:

alaskan cruise to orca point lodge ryan and chelsea averythat is a baby bald eagle perched on the top of the rock.

another fact for you: the feathers on bald eagles’ heads don’t turn white until they are at least 4-5 years old.

1 alaskan cruise eagle on rockafter this, we got back on the bus and headed to mendenhall glacier, the most accessible glacier in alaska!

here’s a view of the glacier from our boat

1menengall glacier juneau alaskan with trees

in the above photo, the glacier is the white, frozen, flat part of ice and there are mountains behind it. the glacier is 12 miles long from it’s origin on the juneau icefield.

after we arrived:

(sidenote: DO NOT bring food with you-leave it on the bus. there were 3 bears sited on the hiking trail the day before we got there and there are bear warning signs everywhere!)

1 mendenhall glacier juneau alaska chelsea avery

once you get there, you will see and hear a glorious waterfall that is about a 2 mile walk and takes about 45 minutes to get there. This is important because we only had 60 minutes total there before our bus left so we hustled and made it in 35 minutes-gotta burn off all the cruise food!

1 mendenhall glacier hike to waterfall

it’s absolutely worth it and unreal beauty

1 mendenhall glacier ryan and chelsea averythey have a visitor center and i ran half the way because our ticket included admission to it (it’s $3 unless included in your excursion package) and since i paid for it-i have to do it!

IMG_7972they have stairs and an elevator to get to the top and they give you lots of information about the glacier (all of which i didn’t hear because i could only spend 7 minutes in here) but i got to the best part:

touching 200 year old ice!

1 mendenhall glacier ice juneau alaska

photographic evidence of touching the ice:

IMG_7980fact: glacier ice lasts a lot longer than ice we make because it doesn’t have the air pockets that form when we make ice!

our bus driver said the locals will come here and grab chunks that are floating and use them for their coolers because it lasts longer-but it could have just been her sass and she was yanking my chain.

we had a few minutes when we got back into town (and i mean 10 minutes before our ship left) so my husband literally ran to a store we saw earlier that had a piece of artwork we wanted for our wall. we decided to start collecting small pieces of local art to create a collage of different places we travel on one of our walls!

1 juneau alaska as we are leaving clear mountaintip: look for stores that say they are owned by an Alaskan family and support them. Many of the cruise lines buy up stores and then profit heavily off of them while not paying fairly. We support local and especially native local any time we can

1 juneau alaskan native owned places

now we are off to go explore sitka, alaska! please take out your bucket list and add “alaskan cruise” to it RIGHT NOW. you will not be disappointed. the beauty is outstanding and chances are it’s like nothing most people have experienced.

we have had multiple people tell us they’ve waited their whole lives to take this trip and we are being very conscious and present about how it is that we get to do it when we are 27. i will happily go back with anyone who wants to go!

juneau alaskan cruise whale watching ryan and chelsea avery

the new wifestyle: never stop exploring and be conscious of your opportunities!

leave me a comment and show me some love or answer a question!

1) do you get motion sickness (i’m usually okay but those first few days were rough!)
2) what place is on your bucket list?
3) have you been to alaska before?


  1. Mariel

    June 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Skita is my favorite alaskan town. i love it there so much!

    • chelsea

      June 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      awww i LOVED sitka, mariel! photos from that coming up next (after my one on tracy arm fjord)! i already want to go back!

  2. Carissadunlap@gmail.com

    June 5, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Beautiful pictures Chelsea! I don’t know if I have a bucket list location. I just want to ride in a helicopter…so I’ll keep thinking on that one. Visited Alaska last summer with my parents to see Jess. A++ trip. Would love to go back.

    • chelsea

      June 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      thanks so much for your comment and sweetness carissa! jess sure does know how to show people a grand time in alaska and SO glad you got to go there with your family! ohhh you should go on a ride in a helicopter in alaska! that’s on ravery’s bucket list too 🙂

  3. Pingback: Visiting Sita & Ketchikan, Alaska! | the new wifestyle

  4. Vivien

    June 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Hi again chelsea! Feverishly trying to catch up on entries to your blog 🙂
    1) YES
    2) and 3) always wanted to take the Alaskan cruise but so far have not. Someday soon hopefully 🙂