I have been visiting Juneau with the ships from 1982 onwards until now. It was never right to say that Juneau was a sleepy backwater as was and is the capital of Alaska with all the major offices located here, but outside the area which forms a sort of Government district things were still very much frontier like. When I walked up the main street for the first time 35 years ago, I had the feeling that I could expect Clint Eastwood to walk out of one of the Saloons at any moment. Most watering holes did indeed cater to the locals and some of the locals did leave their “home from home” flying out of the door or window or did not leave at all on occasion.
Tourism has been coming to the area since the late 1890’s as the Alaska Steam Ship company and the Canadian Pacific Rail road ferries sold excursion tickets to “The Great Land” as the nickname for Alaska has always been. But in 1982 Juneau it still did not look like a touristy town, apart from a few stores that sold T shirts, postcards and nick-nacks on the side of their regular business. Part of the focus of the crew in Juneau (as this was the port with a late departure) was the Alaskan Hotel with its steam baths, the Red Dog Saloon at that time still a real Saloon bar, and Bo ’winkles where they served carriage wheel size pizza’s. None of these places were very sophisticated and thus we loved them and “invested” a lot in the local economy there.
Fast forward 35 years and everything is tourism. Running all the way from the far out dock, to up the hill where in the past there was only regular housing. Bo ‘winkles has closed. A number of years ago they modernized and the crew stopped going as the atmosphere was gone (and everybody had to behave themselves), the Red Dog Saloon now makes more money on food and logo wear than on booze and a lot of the other Bars have quieted down as well. Last year the Alaska Hotel was still what it was, music and good beer but at that time the steam baths were closed so I have to check next cruise how the hotel is doing.
Although there is a lot of politicking going on, the city fathers have been wise enough to see that the cruise industry is a goose with a lot of golden eggs and they have plowed a lot of tax money back into the port. Latest addition is the extension of the Alaskan Steamship Dock and the Cruise Terminal (the old ferry dock) deeper into the harbor. The old docks are still there but a new one, able to take two 1000 foot ships has been put in front of it. With floating pontoons in the middle for the gangways, so the guests do not have to negotiate the steep gangway towers anymore which were needed to bridge the height during high water. Part of the old cruise terminal dock is now a smaller dock and today a USCG cutter was docked there. On the inside of our dock we had a small cruise vessel, the Sea Bird, which has been around since before 1982.
Today we had the Celebrity Infinity in, docked behind us an NCL ship, the Sea Bird and our good selves, altogether bringing about 8500 cruise guests ashore, which is just an average day for Juneau. Although it never became very sunny, it was mainly dry for the day which is not bad at all for sightseeing. A sunny day is nice but with sightseeing it gives glare and thus overcast weather has its advantages if you are planning to stand on top of a glacier.
We sailed at 18.00 hrs. and our next port of call will be Ketchikan. Due to the distance, we will not dock there until 11 am. in the morning so it is a short stop. We should be in port together with the Oosterdam which is on the seven day run from Seattle. It will be a very busy day there as apart from the two DAM ships, also the Norwegian Pearl is there, the Celebrity Infinity and the Seven Seas Mariner. That means about 12000 cruise guests will be running ashore to get the local T shirt.
Weather for Ketchikan: 51oF / 11oC overcast with a chance of showers. The guests should be very happy with that because Ketchikan is the rain capital of the world (with 332 days a year) and today it should be mainly dry.