Thursday, July 21, 2022

Whale of a time awaits in remote, breezy, gorgeous waters of Juneau


Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers aboard a Juneau Tours and Whale Watch vessel.
The well run company is family owned and prides itself in personalized service -- and whale viewing!

Juneau's harbor has a pastoral feel, almost painting-like.
The surrounding forest and scenery are spectacular.


Yes, it's in the distance, but it's a definite
whale sighting.  The boat will pull slowly closer.

SOME OF the best whale watching in the world happens off the North American continent in the chilly, lively waters of Juneau, Alaska. 
Alaska's capital city is thriving again and the whale business is back.  After a couple rough financial years -- without the usual tourism that feeds the year's economy during three busy summer months -- tours are booking and folks are cruising again. 
The scenery around Juneau is vast and varied.
A bird's eye view aboard Radiance of the Seas.

The best whale tour we've found in several trips is with Juneau Tours and Whale Watch. 
Veteran photographer Bruce
Keller is a regular on Alaska's
waters. This time he chose
Royal Caribbean's newly
renovated Radiance of the Seas. 

We sailed into the pretty port aboard  Royal Caribbean's graceful  Radiance of the Seas,  recently refurbished to the tune of multi-millions, and by far the spiffiest ship in the harbor. We like Royal for its well designed Alaska itinerary, which hits the high spots with ample port time: Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau and the Inside Passage for a spectacular day of viewing.  
Juneau Tours works with Royal Caribbean, which courts family-owned and operated businesses such as Juneau Tours. The
The boat is roomy, the windows large and perfect
for viewing.  Passengers may also go on deck.

 business was started  nearly two decades ago by an ambitious couple from Hawaii. Many of its employees have been with the company for years and everyone is pleasant and knowledgeable -- from the bus driver who greets you and gives commentary from the ship to the pier, to the deck hands and naturalist guides. 
We've met the same entertaining guides a couple years apart -- enthusiastic fellows who know and love the water and wildlife in it. We enjoyed their lively commentary as they pointed out dozens of beautiful, high-flying bald eagles and playful dolphins skipping along the boat. 
Plan to spend some time driving to the harbor because Juneau is a big place. Because of its vastness, it takes a while to get around. But you're guaranteed two-plus hours of on-the-water whale watching for humpbacks and orcas, sea lions, dolphins, bald eagles, and other wildlife.
We met several of the stars of Auke Bay, feasting in their summer feeding grounds –  whales Sacha, Flame and several others.  Our guides recognized  the whales because of the markings on their flukes -- each one unique to the individual whale.
The company's naturalist guides offer engaging
commentary and fascinating whale facts. 
WE WERE thrilled to see whales breaching. Scientists suspect humpback whales breach and slap their fins and flukes as a way of communicating. Our guides explained that the slapping sounds also send messages to other whales. 
The company's comfy, customized boats offer panoramic views for optimal whale watching even if you don't want to venture out on deck.  
BECAUSE YOU are so near one of the world's most famous glaciers, you have an opportunity to stop at  Mendenhall Glacier. The tour is arranged with  
Mendenhall Glacier is a wondrous sight. Even
with global warming, it is still miles long. 

several buses back to your ship or town center, allowing for as little or as much time one wants for glacier viewing.
If you haven't seen been face to face with Mendenhall Glacier, it's an easy add-on to the whale watch trip. The glacier is a a 1,500 square mile remnant of the last ice age, cradled high in the mountains and an extra hour's journey but well worth it. “Amazing!” We heard that over-worked adjective many times as we hiked with new friends to Nugget Falls, with its bird's eye views of the glacier.
Alaska has more bald eagles
than any other state in the
union -- up to 25,000. This
one performed for our boat.
A nicely designed visitor's center gives an overview of glaciers and this close-by one in particular. Mendenhall is perhaps the most accessible glaciers in North America, just 12 miles from downtown Juneau and a few minutes from the airport. It's large -- like everything in Juneau -- a half-mile wide, with ice as deep as 1,800 feet. And it's 13.6 miles long.
WE'RE PROUD to recommend Juneau Tours and Whale Watch, which has made a name for itself in southeast Alaska and around the globe. The hands-on approach and joy in their work is obvious, making the outfit a pleasure to travel with, share and enjoy.
And consider cruising -- the only way you'll see four distinct parts of this huge 49th state in a week's time.; 1 844-494-2537.; reservations 866 562-7625

Tuacahn Center for the Arts is a magical place
with a range of theater productions in a
state-of-the-art amphitheater in Padre Canyon.

UP NEXT: Utah's Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah, is a delightful discovery. We'd never been to this marvelous treasure of a performing arts center near St. George, Utah. So this year was our time for a visit. We were doing stories and taking photos near Zion National Park when we overheard fellow tourists talking about Tuacahn.  We went on line and found a gem of a theater set in a beautiful canyon near Ivins, in the mouth of Padre Canyon. A first-rate docket of Broadway shows is on tap, and there are activities year-round at this magical place.



  1. Alaska AficionadosJuly 22, 2022 at 7:38 AM

    We are in Alaska now -- and aboard Royal's Radiance, a truly lovely ship. Off to the train and whales! THANKS for your ideas. Cruin was fun in Skagway, too!

  2. Whale Watching NerdsJuly 22, 2022 at 7:42 AM

    We can't remember more enjoyable times than our many days of whale watching. There's something magical about spotting one of these gentle giants.

  3. This is the time of year we flee Florida. Happen to have a cruise booked in mid-August. Excited and will take you up on this wonderful sounding tour.