We were tendered, and I'd read several things in here about bad tender experiences (as opposed to "Love me tender") so we decided not to get off the ship. It was really nice having some quiet time on board. Juneau is another great, scenic location.
Since there's no separate place to mention it, I want to talk about what we did the morning before getting to Juneau: Tracy Arm and the Sawyer glacier.
The word "awesome" is frequently overused, but it was really appropriate for this part - our favorite part - of the cruise. The ship entered the fjord early on the day we got to Juneau. It's about 90 minutes up this spectacular fjord with its steep rock walls, waterfalls, rapids, mountains, glaciers, and mini-icebergs ("bergelets" according to the ship's naturalist). And it's culminated by the Sawyer Glacier. It's a tidewater glacier which flows right into the end of the inlet. Spectacular! We spent most of the time on our verandah, gaping with open mouths. You have to see it for yourself, and you should do it in the next few years before it retreats farther up the valley.
Ketchikan is beautiful! We were docked (not tendered), and it was a snap getting on and off the ship. We walked down the gangplank and made a bee-line for the first coffee shop we could find, so my wife could have a latte that was bigger than 12oz and didn't cost $7.00.
My wife has a friend who lives in Ketchikan who met us at "the eagle" (you'll know it when you see it), and acted as our tour guide. At my request, she took us to Totem Bight State Park, a few miles north of town. It's a small park chock full of totem poles and a clan house (sometimes called a longhouse, I think). I'd lived in Ketchikan briefly when I was starting grade school, and had some old snapshots of me and my siblings in the park. It was great to revisit it and see that the same totem poles are still there 50+ years later. We wandered around the park admiring the native carvings, and briefly explored the (rocky and slippery) beach. When I showed the old snapshots to the park ranger, she insisted on copying them, and said she'd display them. So if you go to the park and see some black and white snapshots from 1957, those are mine.
After that, we went to Settlers Cover, a state park at the end of the road north of town. There's a nice set of trails, and we took a short one following the creek, which was full of spawning salmon. Spent a really nice hour or two there.
We docked at Skagway early in the morning. Another easy disembarkation - just walk sown the gangplank and into town. The location of Skagway is (as usual) spectacular. The town itself, not so much. I'd guess there are about 750 people living in Skagway year-round, but there were four cruise ships docked, with about 10,000 people, so the town was awash with tourists.
And what is it with all the jewelry stores? It seemed like two-thirds of the stores in town sold jewelry, and most of it was Tanzanite. Why would anyone want to go to Alaska to buy a semi-precious stone from Tanzania? I just don't get it.
We joined the tide of tourists into town and did all our tacky souvenir shopping that morning. We then staggered back to the ship under the weight of all that stuff and had lunch before our 12:30 excursion.
The White Pass & Yukon narrow-gauge railway was blasted out of the Coast Range mountainsides in just 26 months to carry supplies to the sourdoughs of the 1898 Yukon gold rush. The route follows the Skagway River, from sea level about 20 miles up to about 2,800 feet at White Pass (hence the name).
The narrow gauge tracks mean that the cars (and the seats) are also narrow, so be prepared to sit VERY close to someone. Or several someones. The trip to the pass takes about 90 minutes or so, and there's an on board guide who narrates what you're seeing, from historic places (like Soapy Smiths grave and the actual trail of the sourdoughs) to the scenery around you (spectacular!).
The train met us at the pier. Boarding is first-come, first served - there are no reserved seats. The round trip is three hours plus. There's no food on board, but they *do* provide water for everyone, and there are restrooms in each car. The scenery is wonderful, and the narration is both educational and entertaining. I highly recommend this excursion. It's the only one we took on our cruise, and it was definitely worth it.
Once again, we didn't get off the boat. We've been to Victoria several times. Instead, we enjoyed our last night on the ship. In fact, my wife told me after dinner that the next morning we should barricade ourselves into our cabin and refuse to leave. I *think* she was joking, but I'm not entirely sure.