Juneau You're in AlaskaOpinion
OPINION — On the second day of our cruise I figured out how to take a shower onboard. Which was a good thing, according to my wife. She contends that this event occurred just before the ‘man overboard’ signal was about to be broadcast.
Not that I didn’t know how to shower. I’ve been doing it for years. But everything is different on a ship. It’s miniaturized, like on a plane. Small compartments, small doors, small bathrooms. Our head had a tub/shower, but it was just large enough to wash one body part at a time. Also, the water temperature constantly fluctuated between brrrr and yikes. The cycle took about thirty seconds, from just right to ‘scald the Texan’ back to just right to ‘polar bear’ and back to just right. The water temperature in our shower was like the weather in Texas. If you don’t like it, wait a minute. It’ll change.
But there was a gym on the ship, full of gym-type objects such as weights and ellipticals and yoga mats and sweaty towels. I suspect they put it there for those who didn’t really want to go on vacation, but couldn’t stand to stay home and save money. And when people use a gym they have to shower, and the vacation people really don’t care to have the sweaty people walking along the narrow passageways back to their cabins. So the captain conveniently located a changing room next to the gym.
For some reason, the gym and changing rooms were almost normal size, just like you’d find on land, if you looked. This was probably due to a major mistake by the boat manufacturers, and someone may have gotten fired over it. The men’s changing room was somewhat spacious, and featured showers with real, glass doors, and the showers were large enough that your elbows wouldn’t hit the walls. And the best thing about the gym showers was that you could set the water temperature and it would stay right where you wanted it. It was fantastic.
Above: Jocelynn found another llama. (K Hemphill)
Being able to shower like a human was a great good thing, especially since our third day was spent docked in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, and home to about 20,000 bald eagles and an almost equal number of humans, some of which also happen to be bald. We didn’t get to see all of Juneau, because the city has an agreement with the cruise lines, under which the cruisers are only allowed to infest the touristy section of town. And I don’t blame them one bit.
But I digress. My problem was that Alaska is supposed to be cold, and Juneau wasn’t cold. It wasn’t really Texas hot, either, but it was warm enough to work up a sweat trying to escape the jewelry stores without buying anything. Jewelry bought on cruises is not subject to the normal import taxes, or something, so it seems a lot of people want to buy jewelry on cruises, and the jewelry people know this, so they put a bunch of stores at every port the cruise ships stop at. And they hire Mixed Martial Arts contenders to work in them. If you try to get out without buying anything, you’d better be borderline Chuck Norris.
All of Alaska is unique, but Juneau is even uniquer, because it’s inaccessible by land vehicle. You have to get there by boat or plane, since there are too many mountains or glaciers or jewelry stores or something to get there in a vehicle. I suspect the first governor of Alaska chose to make Juneau the capital of Alaska for just that reason. It’s hard to seriously complain to your politicians when you have trouble getting to them. Or maybe the Alaskans chose to make the isolated city of Juneau the capital, so they could send their politicians to a place where they could cause the least trouble for everyone else.
Besides being unique, Juneau features Mt. Roberts, which is a mountain named after Roberts. It sticks up right beside the tourist section of town, about 1800 meters high, which probably translates to a certain number of feet. The thing to do is go up on Mt. Roberts and take pictures of Juneau, but the grade is almost vertical. So some enterprising Juneauans built a tram to the top, so they could charge tourons $35 a head to ride it. It works as advertised. The view from Mt. Roberts is breathtaking, according to a sign at the tram station. And I’d have to agree.
Whale watching and flightseeing tours are popular in Juneau, but you can also see whales from your cruise ship, particularly if you look. The humpbacks are scheduled for two and five o’clock on the port side, and three and seven o’clock on the starboard side. Otters and seals pop up at odd intervals between whale times, and orcas are by appointment only.
Those cruisers who managed to escape the Juneau jewelry stores reembarked for an overnight run to Skagway, the gateway to the Klondike gold fields back in the day. Most of the gold seekers lost everything they had. We didn’t have to worry about that. We were already broke . . .
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