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Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau On The Norris Glacier

An icy breeze blows against our faces and the high pitched sounds of excited dogs yipping fills the air. We’re racing at high speed through a snowy winter wonderland, pulled by a team of 12 strong, extremely enthusiastic dogs who live to race. High up on a glacier in remote Alaska, this remarkable experience is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that we can’t believe is actually happening.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

On this special day, we’re dog sledding with the mushers and sled dogs of the Iditarod, an annual race that sees teams of people and canines pitch themselves against each other in a race across an arctic landscape. It’s a battle of endurance, speed and survival.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

High up on the Norris Glacier we visit their training camp. It’s a chance to not only see natural beauty that is so spectacular that it makes your heart ache, but also an opportunity to get a glimpse at the unique way of life for the people who dedicate their entire lives to their dogs.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

The opportunity for this incredible experience comes while we are in Juneau, Alaska. We get picked up by staff from Era Helicopters at the dock where our ship, the Disney Wonder, had parked early that morning. A quick bus ride to the heliport and we are given a life vest, a weigh-in and watch a safety video. No bags, water bottles etc are allowed on the helicopter and must be placed in a locker before boarding. My daughter and I wear waterproof boots, but snow booties are supplied for those wearing sneakers.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Each group and their seating assignment is decided on weight to ensure an even distribution in the helicopter. In ours, my husband and our daughter, Cheese, sit up front and I get placed in the rear next to a window.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

It’s Cheese’s first helicopter flight and we aren’t sure how she will go. It’s an exhilarating (and potentially terrifying) experience for adults, so for a five-year-old, we have no idea what to expect. She’s really quiet when we board and while we are taking off, but, once we are in the air and she discovers the “talk” button, it’s game on and we have a running commentary of every amazing detail she spots out the window: mountains, glaciers and tiny buildings nestled into the ice.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

The flight from Juneau to the Norris Glacier lasts about 20 minutes. We get a bird’s-eye view of the glaciers and can see the vibrant blue of newly-calved ice. Our pilot, Ryan, talks us through the glaciers and points out which had receded and which advanced back to the same level each year. Most are receding more and more each year. It’s a confronting look at the effects of global warming.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

On the Norris Glacier we are met by the Alaska Heli Mush crew, who take us to meet the sled dogs, AKA the stars of the show. 20 people and almost 200 dogs live on top of this remote glacier during summer, with their entire lives devoted to training. As the only way to get to the glacier site is by helicopter, the entire camp must be flown up the same way that we did – via helicopter, with special dog boxes made to carry about 12 dogs per flight. In September the dogs and camp are all flown back off the glacier, with the camp being stored in a warehouse and the sled dogs continuing their training and racing in other homes.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

The dogs we have flown so far to meet are in training to run the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which is held every March in Alaska over a distance of 1,049 miles (1688 km). Mushers and a team of 16 dogs complete the race in 8–15 days, through the harshest of terrains – through forests, over hills and mountain passes, in the coldest conditions imaginable. The Iditarod race, which began in 1973, is highly competitive and a win is incredibly prestigious.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We learn that the sled dogs who run the Iditarod are “Alaskan huskies”, which is actually not a breed, but rather category of dog. An Alaskan Husky is generally a mix of many different breeds that each give the dogs various strengths, such as Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds and German Shorthaired Pointers. The dogs are selectively bred to create dogs that have the desired traits of speed, stamina, good feet, size, and coat type.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We are introduced to the dogs one at a time and learn their names, plus a bit about their personalities, then gave their coats a brush and assist giving the dogs a wellness check. They’re much friendlier than we had expected working dogs to be, and greet us with face licks if we’re not fast enough to get out of the way.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Next is strapping on their snow booties (only some of the dogs need them to protect their feet from the water, not the cold) and harness them up, ready for the ride. Our sled is led by two dogs both called “Otter”. One is bred for endurance and one for speed. As the racing dogs are around large groups of people and other animals when they race, it’s important for them to be well socialised, so the cuddle time we have with the dogs is beneficial to both dogs and visitors alike.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

After a quick lesson in how to drive the sled, we jump on and are off, racing in the snow. The dogs know what’s coming and literally leap with excitement at the chance to run. It’s so hot for the dogs that they’ve been lying in the snow to cool off, while we’re so cold that we pull our beanies down over our ears and tuck chins into our fleeces.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

With the two Otters leading our team of dogs, we glide through the snow to the tune of our musher’s commands of “Hike!” “Gee!” and “Haw!”, and Cheese’s gleeful cry, “Mush, mush!”. We each take turns driving the sleds as we race through the snowy glacier top, with awe-inspiring scenery on every side. Snow-capped mountains reach high around us, as we glide through a winter wonderland that photographs can’t do justice.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

When our sled ride is complete, we feed the dogs a treat and thank them for the ride with hugs and pats. One of the Otters, we learn, is a particular softie who sleeps inside with the musher and does an incredible job as a heater. Running our hands through their thick, soft coats it’s easy to understand how these dogs thrive in cold climates.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We say a sad goodbye to our new canine friends and are taken on a tour of the rest of the camp, which consists of 10 living tents, a cook tent, vet clinic and community tent. No Internet, cell phones, or TV – the crew live completely off the grid on their remote glacier with the absolute basics. The life of a musher is a simple one that is 100% about the dogs they care for.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Our tour continues with puppies, who will in time be trained as sled dogs. They meet us with joyful licks and wiggling tails; 7-month-old babies who benefit from the socialisation visitors like us give them as much as it gives us joy to play with them.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Cheese merrily chases the puppies and tumbles with them in the snow in a pile of canine and human limbs and icy snowflakes flying in the air. Her dislike for the snow pants we made her wear is forgotten as she lies on her back and makes snow angels, and throw giant snowballs at our heads.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Just before the helicopters arrive to take us back to Juneau, we are served freshly baked cookies, snacks and hot drinks in a heated tent, which is exactly the thawing out we need after a few hours playing in the snow.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We arrive back in port after our return helicopter flight in awe of the experience we have just had. Have we really just flown to a glacier? Have we really just mushed dogs through the snow? When we say it out loud it sounds like a dream or a scene from a movie that doesn’t happen to regular people like us.

We flick through the photos and videos in disbelief that this magical day has been ours. It’s true, this memory is real and has left a snowy pawprint in our hearts that we will never forget.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Our whole experience lasted rough 2.5 hours and was an “extended” experience. We booked through Disney Cruise Line but you can also book this experience directly through Alaska Heli Mush, in partnership with Era Helicopters.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

What To Pack For An Alaska Cruise

What To Pack For An Alaskan Cruise

Wondering what should be on your Alaska cruise packing list? This is one of those trips where you need to take a lot of items as the weather might be reasonably warm, or incredibly cold and rainy. You might be walking around all day in the rain or even snow. We recently sailed the Inside Passage on the Disney Wonder and found that every day was a different temperature to dress for.

The daytime temperatures in Alaska from May to September range from 55-65˚F (12-18˚C). It can get to as hot as 80˚F (27˚C) on the odd occasion too. Evenings range between 40-50˚F (4-10˚C). Generally the inside of the ship will be warm but you will need to rug up on deck, particularly if your ship gets close to a glacier.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaska Cruise: What To Pack

The key is layers! Lots and lots of layers.

For both general cruise wear and excursions

– Two pairs of jeans
– Seven tees
– Two sweaters or hoodies of various weights
– One heavy fleece jacket (I love Kathmandu and North Face)
– Seven pairs of underwear
– Two bras
– Wind/rain jacket (Mine is this Gortex – find a similar one by Kathmandu or North Face)
– One dress for formal night (a second one for semi-formal night if you like to dress up)
– Cardigan for formal night
– Beanie
– Lightweight or medium scarf
– One pair warm socks
– Seven pairs of athletic/walking socks
– Sleep clothes
– Weatherproof pants for kids, particularly if you are planning a trip to a glacier.
– Gloves (weatherproof ones for kids)
– Princess dress for little girls sailing a Disney cruise – they are more expensive to buy on board. Many girls wear the princess dresses every day on board.

Disney Wonder, Alaska Cruise

Footwear

– Sneakers/trainers for walking in (I wear lightweight Skechers)
– Ballet flats or sandals/heels for evening attire
– Waterproof shoes – I wore these L.L. Bean Boots in the rain and snow.

Alaska, USA

Toiletries and other items

– Toothbrush
– Toothpaste
– Body wash (the cruise we were on has soap but no wash)
– Shampoo and conditioner (unless you are happy to use the generic cruise one)
– Sunscreen (for the rare chance there is sun)

Disney Wonder, Alaska Cruise

Other items

– Sun hats
– Sunglasses
– Medications including seasickness meds
– Backpack for port adventures (I use this foldable backpack by New Outlander)
– Refillable water bottle
– Binoculars (optional if you don’t have much room)

Disney Wonder, Alaska Cruise

Cameras

– DSLR (Mine is a Canon 5D)
– Point and shoot for around the ship (Mine is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100)
GoPro HERO5 for video
– Chargers for all electronics plus power converters. The cruise ship has North American power outlets.

That’s it! You’re ready for Alaska! Note: If you’re travelling in August it might be a bit colder, so add an extra fleece layer into your packing.

This blog post contains affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through this page I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Adventure, baby!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Royal Court Royal Tea: Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

For little girls who dream of princesses, there is no experience more magical than the Royal Court Royal Tea aboard the Disney Cruise Line fleet. The tea is available on all four ships – we experienced our tea aboard the Disney Wonder on our 7-night Alaska cruise.

During Royal Court Royal Tea, children are crowned young princesses or dubbed royal knights, in a special celebration that is full of songs, gifts, food and royal guests. It’s a truly special experience that is unforgettable for kids and their parents alike.

The Royal Court Royal Tea is offered just once during the cruises to a small group, making it an intimate setting. We tried to book the tea last year on our Caribbean cruise and weren’t able to secure spots. This year on the Wonder I was a silver Castaway Club member thanks to my previous sailing, so was able to book it with my early booking window.

When we boarded the Disney Wonder, a special invitation was waiting for us on our bed, with the request to call and let the staff know which princess we would like on our specially designed cupcake. Belle is the favourite in our family, so a Belle cupcake was requested.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

Our tea took place at 3pm in Triton’s, the main dining room on the ship. We joined the other guests outside and checked in with the cast members who were from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that we had visited the previous day. Many girls visited the same day as the tea so had perfectly coiffed princess hair.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

At 3pm, the Royal Tea experience began with a royal greeting from Lady Chamomile, the host of the event. Each child was escorted by a Royal Page into the dining room, with a special individual announcement and crowning (or knighting) before being taken to their dining spot at the tables.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

Each dining spot was filled with beautiful gifts for the kids. A large Aurora doll, Cinderella jewellery box with a charm bracelet and necklace, large autograph book and fancy princess pen was ready for each “princess”.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

Lady Chamomile was joined by Chef Brule, and the two entertained the kids throughout the tea with singing and stories. The pair were immensely fun and had excellent singing voices.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

Tea was served to all guests – apple juice to the kids, real tea for the adults, and tiered platters of sweets and sandwiches. We had a lot of mix ups with the food after letting them know we were vegetarian, but really there was no need for any trouble over the food – with the exception of one sandwich (which had salmon), the entire tea was vegetarian.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

The staff did their best to cater to all dietary requirements, including vegan and allergy-friendly options which were given to us by mistake, but which were happily received by other vegan diners.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

During the tea, three princesses joined us for the celebration – Cinderella, Ariel and Tiana. Each princess made their way around the room, spending quite a lot of time with each child for autographs and photos, and leaving them with an additional charm for their bracelets.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

The children had a magical experience at the tea – so much special pampering and entertainment made this tea party an incredible highlight for the cruise.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

A few days after the tea party we receive a luxe folio with the photo taken from the tea inside as a special take-home gift. It was a very thoughtful way to end the royal experience.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

Pricing for Royal High Tea is currently $270 for one adult and child. Each additional child is $210 and an adult is $69.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

More information on the Royal Court Royal Tea.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!