M/V Malaspina

Juneau, AK to Skagway, AK

Jul 9, 2010

Our checkout time was at noon, but we did not need to check in for our ferry to Skagway until 2 p.m. We lounged around and worked on correspondence until about 11. We went ahead and checked out and left our luggage at the front desk.

We walked our blistered toes and aching shins to the Nugget Mall. The Nugget Mall was more vibrant than the Mendenhall Mall in the same way that the color gray is more vibrant than black. We strolled the length of the mall, which was anchored by a Jo-Ann Fabrics store. The only shop that was even a little bit interesting to us was Hearthside Books. We spent some time looking around and wished we had time to take advantage of their free board game rental.

We ate lunch at Vintage Fare, a small eclectic coffee and sandwich shop in the mall. The panini sandwiches turned out to be heavy on the onion. By the time we finished our repast, it was time to wander back to Grandma's to catch a shuttle to the ferry.

The shuttle arrived with a passenger and our familiar shuttle driver who put our luggage on board. He was very chatty, asking where we were from and telling us about having lived in California and Oregon and working in a veneer plant making plywood. He had worked there for twenty years before returning home to Alaska. He drove us to a vantage point on the University of Southeast Alaska campus that had a beautiful view of the Mendenhall Glacier.

The ferry station line was moving very slowly, but finally we got our tickets from a friendly and helpful clerk. We stacked our bags on the luggage cart and lined up next to the gangway to the M/V Malaspina. We were among the first passengers aboard and after a rushed survey of the vessel staked out deck chairs near the rail of the upper deck.

Shortly afterward, a group of apparent climbers boarded and stood at the rail directly in front of us. The temperature dropped quickly as we got under way, but we had smooth water. We saw groups of orcas a few times, to excited outcry from the other passengers. We had stunning views of mountains and glaciers.

When we got hungry, we went down to the cafeteria, but they were not open yet. Instead, we stepped into the lounge, where Katherine enjoyed a summer ale and we played Scrabble. When our game concluded, we walked outside a bit more and then were able to get in the dinner line at the cafeteria. The specialty of the house was anything deep fried. Still, the food was filling and we enjoyed our meals.

Shortly afterward, we put ashore at Haines. Following the ticket clerk's advice, we went ashore to check on our luggage and re-boarded the ship. The skies had been growing darker and it was beginning to sprinkle, but we headed up top again. We discovered two young girls running around and around spraying water over the top of the rail from squirt guns. Their mother was completely unfazed.

Finally, we were approaching Skagway. When we were told that we could go ashore, the message included instructions for passengers to remove any barriers on steps to the car deck. Throngs of passengers filled the stairwells, but were stymied for some reason. At last, we could hear a noisy argument between two unseen people, one of whom was refusing to remove the barrier and the other of whom was insisting, "but they said to in the announcement". Finally the announcement was repeated: "if you are standing at the top of some stairs, and there is a barrier, please remove it; we have arrived at Skagway."

Inside the station, a small, dark haired man was holding a "Sgt. Preston's" sign. We retrieved our baggage and joined him. We and a few fellow passengers crowded onto a tiny bus. We were squeezed into a seat that was perhaps designed for two small children. After we checked in at Sergeant Preston's Lodge, the driver, whose name happened to be Boris, showed us to our room.

The office looked a bit dodgy, but our room was bright and clean with beautiful varnished woodwork. The bathroom was miniscule with a corner sink that was barely big enough for two hands to be placed in the basin.