What’s new in Juneau for 2015?
Having just returned from a 12 night Alaska cruise onboard Celebrity Infinity, it was an amazing trip. The weather was perfect and the adventures around every corner.
I am not a huge fan of shore excursions through the cruise lines. While many are great, I’m just not a fan. I prefer to explore on my own and get away from the touristy activities. I don’t like being stuck in a group of people on a bus, stopping only where the tour allows or not giving enough time to experience the destination.
With that said, I try to keep up with what the cruise lines offer and was exploring Celebrity’s excursions for our upcoming trip. I came across an excursion in Juneau that peaked my curiosity as I recognized it as being a new adventure. The Taku Glacier by Hovercraft, sounded exciting and unique, so I booked it for my family.
The excursion is offered through Allen Marine and can be booked through many of the cruise lines that are sailing Alaska this year.
This is not your typical excursion. At this time they are operating 2 hovercraft, one seats 6, the other 2, so this is a unique and very personal excursion. You must book it early.
Your cruise line will advise you of your meeting place whether it is onboard the ship or right on the dock. You will be transferred by bus to the dock where you will meet your power Catamaran, Captain and crew. The ride on the Catamaran will take you about 50 minutes to get to the base for the hovercraft. You will travel down the Gastineau Channel into Stephens Passage before heading up the Taku River. The boat ties up to the “Glacier”, a WWII anti-submarine boat and you transfer directly to your hovercraft.
Once onboard the Hovercraft, you meet your Captain and guide. Each seat has a headset that allows communication with the Captain, binoculars and a Taku River/Glacier guide.
Our Captain, Jeremy and guide Taylor were awesome. They explained the hovercraft, how it works, the eco-system of the area and the living, breathing Taku Glacier. They answered every question asked to them.
Scootin’ up the Taku River over land, sandbars, and water, this is an area that not many boats can go. The scenery is breathtaking and the hovercraft is so cool. We cover land to the base of a river flowing into the Taku River, a river that in a few weeks after we are there will be full of Salmon running and an active bear area.
Continuing up the river, the glacier is in sight and Captain Jeremy maneuvers the craft onto land, close to the base of the glacier. Climbing out, we have 20 to 30 minutes to walk around the area. This glacier is alive and the only advancing glacier in Alaska. The landscape changes moment by moment. The Taku Glacier chews everything in it’s path, including giant boulders. As pieces of the glacier calve off, the landscape changes. As the ice melts water flows carve new ways to the main river. Standing at the base of this giant is awe-inspiring.
Climbing back into the hovercraft, we head further up the river to another landing spot close to the glacier. At this spot, we learn how the glacier creates its own weather system. The wind blowing from this side is strong, it feels as though the glacier is breathing down on us. Walking at the base we find a wolf paw print and a large bear print. They were fresh, with the water flows and changes constantly happening, these prints will be washed away by morning.
Back in the craft, Captain Jeremy explains that as he starts to pull away, the winds will be a bit rough. The hovercraft won’t flip, but it is an exciting rough ride. As he pulls away, the winds push us, then pull us back as though we are in it’s arms being pulled back. The winds attempt to flip us, spin us around and eventually let us go. Headed back down river, we all are in awe of the power of this unique eco-system and river.
Back at the “Glacier”, we bid our Captain and guide good-bye, thanking them for a trip of a lifetime.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget to tip them. They work hard and strive to give you, the guest a truly memorable experience. If you are happy with the service show them your appreciation.
Back on the Catamaran, we have a 50 minute ride back to Juneau. You will have a bathroom on the Catamaran each direction. The crew has put out smoked Salmon, dill dip, crackers, water, coffee, and Hot Chocolate to enjoy on the ride back.
The entire Allen Marine staff was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. The excursion can be booked through most cruise lines sailing Alaska. While the tour is a bit pricey, if you can swing it, this adventure is so worth every penny.
If you have someone with you that has mobility issues, I would question their ability to take this tour. You have to be able to transfer from the Catamaran directly to the hovercraft. Climbing in and out of the hovercraft is tricky. You don’t have to get out of the hovercraft at the 2 stops once you are at the glacier, but need to be able to climb off and on.
I am thrilled with our choice, this was an amazing experience and one we will not soon forget.