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Alaska Cruise Excursions -- quick question

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We are planning to take a cruise to Alaska with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. Wondering if anyone can advise regarding excursions, bearing the following in mind: we don't like small planes/helicopters and love wildlife (hiking, kayaking, etc.). Any suggestions on what specific trips and tour operators you would recommend are most appreciated. Thank you!

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    All 3 areas has lots of great hiking trails, some, you can even go on your own without spending on excursions.

    Juneau: It is walking disatnce from the dock to the Gondola/tram to Mt Roberts. You can spent hours there. You can also take the "bus" to vist Mendanhall Glacier. There are lots of trails there as well. However, be aware that the trails maybe clsoed due to bear sightings. Depending on how much time you ahev in port, you can spend half a day on each of the two location. If y9u book a shore excursion to Mendanhall, you will be lucky if youget 2 to 3 hours there which is not enough. We had spent almost an entire day (8 hours) at Mendanhall and had spent at least 4 to 5 hours at Mt. Roberts (separate trips) adn we feel we didn;t explore all the areas.

    For Skagway, there is a bicycle excursion available which would be interesting for you. We have not taken the bike tours oursleves as DW is not a "biker". :) I can't recommend anyone but our friend who took the ship's bike excursions loved it. He claimed that they were well atken care of, and the biking wasn't all that hard.

    For Ketchikan, it would be a great stop for sea kayak, and wildlife spotting. Lots of whale, balck bear, bald eagle etc. You can book the ship's excursion or Orcas Cove Sea Kayaking Adventure.

    Good luck!

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    In Juneau, whale watching is popular if you don't want to helicopter to a glacier. In Skagway, the White Horse Rail is a nice excursion. It Ketchikan, we took a small plane for a mountain lake landing and walked around the town, which had a lot of nice shops. We lucked out and it was a non-rainy day in Ketchikan.

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    In Juneau we did the whale watching and Mendanhall Glacier through Princess. We have done whale watching tours in other destinations and this was by far the most active whales sightings that we have done. I'm sorry, but I don't see how someone could spend hours at Mendanhall Glaicer. I guess because we don't hike and wasn't interested in walking all around it. We visited the Glacier, took some pictures and then went to the vistor center. Plenty of time for our needs.

    In Skagway, we did the train/bus with Chilkoot Charters. We took the train up and the bus back. It was a very long day, but so worth it. We also got to do a 15 minute dog sled ride at one of the bus stops.

    In Ketchikan we did the float plane through Princess. It was OK. We didn't see any wildlife. Afterward, we walked to Creek Street and then did some shopping.

    Have you looked on your ship's web-site for their list of tours/excursions? It will give you a good idea of what is offered. We found that the ship prices and the indpendant's prices were only a few dollars different. The independant's booked up quick, so if you want to use one, book early. The closer to the sail date, Princess raised the prices of their excursions by $50 to $100 p/p.

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    Alaskan excursions are expensive in nature as it is run by American companies, employing Americans, paying American wages.

    The price difference in Alaskan tours between Ship's excursions and private excusriosn are not big, but there are a few differences you have to be aware of:

    1. The ship's excursions will be more expensive than indepedent

    2. If you take the ship's excursions, you are guaranateed a return to the ship before sailing. The ship will wait for you or pay to get you to meet up with the ship. If you are not on a ship's excursion and you are late, you literally missed the boat. We came close to missing the boat a couple of times, one time was too close for comfort, and it was entirely our own fault for losing track of time at the markert place outside the port facility. On another time, there was an accident on the highway and we were almost an hour late. Good thing it was a ship's excursion. They hold the ferry and waited for our bus.

    3. The independents may charge simialr amount, but you get more bang for the same bucks. Example: Float plane to Misty Fjord. Ship charges $500 and so do the indepedent operators. Ship's excursion is about 2 hours. Private tour typically offers around 2 and a half to 3.

    4. The ship also offers you a losely defined satisfaction guarantee as they want to keep the customers happy. They typically use larger and reputable operators. On a private tour, you go by the reputation you heard from people who had used them. With the ship's excursions, their cruise desk staff typically would have been on the tour before, or they may even have someone from the ship on the tour. If things go badly, and I mean really badly, the ship may offer a refund. We received a refund from Princess on an Egyptian excursions 2 years ago as the experience (on our bus anyway) wasn't optimal. To make a long story short, more than half of the people on that bus complaint to the excursion desk and we received a note and a credit to our ship board account. I think it was $300 per person so it wasn't cheap. And to be honest, it wasn't that bad. It was a long day and the tour guide fell asleep on the return leg of the trip. She also locked the washroom on the bus claiming it was out of order when it wasn't. The truth probably was she didn't want to clean it. In the end, it was unlocked and people used it. There were also a couple incident along the way which was very much avoidable. It affected some people greatly but not us, but we all received the refund just the same.

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