My morning began bright and early around 7 am as we continued to sail towards Alaska’s capital city. The morning was filled with slow sailing and expansive, snowy vistas. Around 10 am, a few fellow guests boarded a tender in Tracy Arm that would allow them to meet up with the ship later in Juneau. After disembarking that shore excursion group, we continued to sail towards Juneau.
Finally, around 1 pm, we were greeted by the U.S. Coast Guard as we entered the waters of Juneau, Alaska. Soon we were tied up alongside Star Princess, Celebrity Solstice, and Westerdam. After the ship had been cleared by customs, we made our way ashore to meet up for our shore excursion. Today we would be attending Sled Dog Discovery & Musher’s Camp in the alpine forests of Juneau.
After a quick delay due to a broken air conditioner on our bus (on account of the 90 degree heat) we were off riding into the tall alpine forest. Soon we entered a windy and hilly road that eventually opened up into a clearing with little buildings and teams of dogs jumping wildly up and down. It was obvious that these dogs were excited to get mushing and we were soon boarded into little golf cart like carts attached to the dogs. Since these dogs were in training, we would be riding through the woods on dirt paths.
As soon as the musher gave the command, the dogs took off and the cart jolted forward, almost knocking us out of our seats. We were suddenly flying through the woods, banking around steep turns, and riding up and down sloped hills. It was an exhilarating rush for both us and the dogs! We continued to ride through the woods for another mile before coming to a stop to allow the dogs to rest. After exiting the cart, we were able to have a “meet and greet” with our sled team. This encounter included a lot of kisses from the dogs as well as petting. This shore excursion fit my family and I well, as we are all dogs lovers and have three Jack Russels waiting at home for us. The day of dogs of was not yet over, as the best had yet to come.
After saying goodbye to our sled teams, we met Emily and Shy, our experienced racer guide and her retired racing dog. Emily taught us all about mushing, racing, the Iditarod, and the art of raising racing dogs. Emily has raced for years and has 4 dogs of her own and around 40 “co-owned” dogs with other mushers. It was great to receive insight and thought from a current musher who obviously has a love for racing and dogs.
Finally, the puppies arrived. We had the chance (and took full opportunity) to hold and pet 3 baby puppies who would soon begin training to become racing dogs. The 3 puppies were only a few weeks old and were named Spinach, Twinkle Toes, and Big Rock. For the next several minutes, our entire group fawned over these 3 puppies. Soon, sadly, it was time for the puppies to return to their mother and time for us to head back to the Zuiderdam. We said our goodbyes to the puppies, Emily, Shy, and our mushing team. The mushing camp was definitely a great and fun experience that I, along with dog lovers, thoroughly enjoyed.
Once back aboard the Zuiderdam, we ate dinner in the Lido Restaurant, as were too tired from the day to dress up for the Vista Dining Room. I enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner with a side a baked salmon. Since tonight was our first night in Alaska, the menu was tailored towards a “lumberjack” theme. Even the crew joined in on the theme by wearing jeans and flannel shirts. It was a cool way to celebrate our cruise to the 49th state.
Finally, around 10 pm, our ropes were drawn in and we cast off from the Juneau pier. We are currently sailing towards our next port of call, Skagway. We are scheduled for arrival around 7 am and will be docked in port until 8 pm. A full day in another beautiful Alaska port, what more could I ask for!