Cruising in Alaska is amazing. It is literally beautiful everywhere you go. It is one of my favorite places to cruise and visit. For lack of a better word, at some point in the last 10 years, it’s become comfortable. I suppose it’s like when you move to a new city. At the beginning everything is exciting and new and then at some point you realize that you don’t get lost going to this store or that store and the pizza place knows your order when they see your phone number pop up. This is what Alaska has become to me, while still never quite losing the wonder of it’s beauty.
Juneau, although it is one of the more touristy of the ports, is at the center of my comforts in Alaska. It’s routine but it’s also possibilities. Do you want to go out and explore? Great – you know how to get to the path to hike up Mount Roberts. How about an excursion? Zip-lining sounds nice. Want to get some great food? Pizza, wings, seafood, or how about some crab bisque? Need to send a postcard? The post office is just down the road.
This lovely city is the capital of Alaska. It is located in south east Alaska and is a stop on quite possibly every single Alaskan cruise itinerary that there is. That also means that (in a non-COVID-19 world) it is the busiest cruise port in Alaska. The city has a population of 32,113, and is the 5th smallest state capital by population. The smallest is Montpelier, Vermont with a population of 7,436.
Juneau offers you a great taste of Alaska – both literally and figuratively. Even sailing into Juneau you are awestruck by the natural beauty of Alaska, and Juneau makes a lot of that easily available to you. Located in the Tongass National Forest and near the Mendenhall Glacier you can experience so much of what Alaska has to offer. You can land a helicopter on a glacier in the morning and eat some amazing King Crab and salmon in the afternoon. You can go zip-lining through the rainforest and for a bike ride where you just might see some bears and some salmon. You can go hiking and whale-watching. You can take the day to go to the ice caves (still on my bucket list). You can go salmon fishing or mining for gold. Want a great view without the work of hiking? Head up the Mount Roberts Tramway and grab a bite to eat at the top. In essence, you can do as much as you want to do or as little as you want to do.
In addition to all the exploring you can do, they have an easy to use local bus system that can bring you to the grocery store or wherever else you need to go. There are great restaurants with all the local crab and salmon you could want – my personal favorite has long been Tracy’s King Crab Shack – although over the years she’s gotten kind of insanely popular, the crab bisque there is (and likely always will be) the best and worth every single penny. There is a post office, pharmacy, book store, Ben Franklin store (although I think Sitka’s is slightly better), and a few places with some great Wi-Fi. There are coffee shops and pubs and even some places for crew to escape to go get away from passengers (we love passengers, but sometimes it’s nice to just hide a little bit!)
It really has everything you need in an Alaskan port – great scenery, great wildlife, great shore-excursion opportunities, amazing food and drinks, plus the practical things.
In the past ten years Juneau has changed and adapted to the growing popularity of cruise travel in the region. New piers were installed that float and thus adjust to sea level. While this sometimes means it’s a bit of a steep walk from the ship up to the street level, at least you don’t have to change the location of the gangway every few hours throughout the day.
Everywhere I’ve been in Alaska is gorgeous. After having been to Juneau something like 40 times though, it has a very special place in my heart. Who knows when we will be able to go back there again, but I for one can’t wait. (And, it’s not just because of the crab bisque I swear…)