A day after our historic walk atop an Alaskan glacier our Disney Wonder cruise pit stopped in the surprisingly small state capital Juneau (population 31,262) where we disembarked for a special excursion aboard a nostalgic floatplane and went in search of elusive bears.
Floatplanes Are the Way to Fly
In Juneau, the only state capital that must be accessed by floatplane or boat, seaplanes are not a luxury but a necessity. Yes, you read right, in Juneau (and in much of Alaska) floatplanes are like cars and if you live there and you don’t own one to get around chances are you can probably hitch a ride with somebody who does.
I’m no fan of flying but after but after riding a floatplane in Alaska I can honestly say these are the types of planes you can actually enjoy traveling in. I rode shotgun to the Taku Glacier Lodge and what I found particularly cool about this flight was that these floatplanes fly about as slow as helicopters, which is perfect because it makes it easier to enjoy things and is better for picture-taking. The views I got aboard our floatplane seemed comparable to the awesome vistas we witnessed the day before aboard my favorite helicopter ride of all time to Skagway.
After a brief flight over several glaciers and mountains, our seabird made a smooth water landing in Taku Lake for the next part of our special journey: the Taku Glacier Lodge.
Taku Glacier Lodge Flight & Feast Tour
The Taku Glacier Lodge is nestled in the picturesque Taku River and faces the giant Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier (yes, that’s really it’s name). The historic lodge was built in 1923 and at one time used to be known for breeding champion sled dogs.
Today the lodge is a major excursion attraction. As part of our excursion we ate freshly caught King Salmon for lunch. The salmon was so outrageously good and moist that my wife, kids and I repeated our meal. Truly, this had to be the best salmon we’ve ever eaten.
Another special treat for me personally was that I drank lemonade with – get this – glacier ice. It sounds funny but it’s true because all of the ice served at the lodge is harvested by the Taku Glacier Lodge staff from the Hole-in-the-Wall glacier, which means that my ice was likely hundreds – if not thousands – of years old!
In Search of Bears, Part Deux
If you’ve been to any national park you know that bears are a hot topic because people have gotten killed or injured fooling around with them, trying to feed them or just for accidentally leaving food in their occupied vehicles. Being educated about what to do and not do around bears is what is called being Bear Aware.
In four summers of major family vacations we have driven more than 17,000 miles over 80 days but had not seen one single live bear anywhere.
That infamous bear watching drought finally ended for us today – and in PapiBlogger-style.
About an hour after we ate our delicious salmon meal, a black bear measuring about four feet climbed atop the outdoor grill where our fish was cooked and began to lick it.
If this bear sighting had happened at the national parks we’ve been to rangers would have removed us from the area but in this case the lodge staff, a Disney partner who says they have a 70% success rate with bear sightings at the lodge, simply told us to keep our distance, relax and enjoy the bear.
We were so thrilled about this bear we stood in rapt attention about 20 feet away snapping hundreds of bad photos of the bear licking the grill, pooping and then climbing a nearby tree.
A little while later we even spotted a second black bear. At long last we can finally take bears off our family road trip’s bucket list.
Toy Story the Musical
Following our excursion we literally had no time to do anything but get back to the ship and prepare for one of the most anticipated revues of the voyage, “Toy Story the Musical.”
The musical is based off the original “Toy Story” movie and as we expected it was standing room only. The production features several new songs as well as some of the classic songs from the movie. All around it was our favorite children’s musical since last year when we watched “Mary Poppins” in Broadway.
Disney Travel Advice of the Day
Plan your port excursions carefully long before you get on your cruise. One obvious reason is because many excursions, especially the best ones, often sell out far in advance. The other big reason has to do with properly managing the energy level of your family. Even though our Disney cruise is super relaxing, each of our port excursions have been major energy and time hogs. If that’s what you want, great but at least know that your port days are heavy traveling days.