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Alaska cruise excursions tips & logistics help

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Hi guys!

I'm hoping to get some advice for an upcoming trip to Alaska. My family (of 4 - with a 20 yr old girl & 25 yr old boy) are going on a northbound cruise departing from Vancouver. I have been put in charge of planning our days off of the ship.

A little bit about my family - we enjoy low-moderate level hikes. We are not looking to bike, kayak or fish. I have been whale watching before and found it rather boring. However, I would be excited to see some bears. I would loveeeee to go dog sledding, except I've read that it's pretty disappointing in the summer, unless you fly to a glacier.

Ideally I would like to divide our day between exploring the town and partaking in a special activity. I am running into two main issues: 1. I am on a budget. I've cruised the Caribbean before and am aware that excursions through the cruise, although convenient, are rather expensive. I'm open to booking things from the vendors off-ship, but I want to ensure they are licensed & not scams, and research ahead of time to see which are the most enjoyable and the best bang for your buck. My second issue...there is so much to see in just a few short hours! I've read some trip reports, blogs and looked at the ships excursions to get an idea of the typical tourist attractions. Although I do like going off the beaten path for most trips, the time factor is limiting here. I have listed below our tour route & a list of rough ideas of what to do in each place.

The advice I'm mainly looking for...is it possible to do this on your own? If so, do you recommend certain transportation? If logistics are too much of a hassle I'm not completely opposed to booking things through our ship. A rough estimate on how long activities will take. Anything that's a must-see I'm missing out? Also- authentic restaurant suggestions for lunch (can't forget that! Ha. One of us is a vegetarian though, and only one eats fish. Guess that crosses off salmon bake and crab fishing!) Any help & advice is greatly appreciated!
Depart Vancouver
(We will be getting here 3 days early - haven't researched anything yet)

Cruising the Inside Passage
(Day at Sea)

Ketchikan (7am-4pm)
-Misty fjords (I've read about sea plane trips here. Due to budget restraints, most helicopter excursions are not possible, however I'm thinking it may be fun to splurge on one extravagant adventure.)
-Saxman native village
-Totem brite state park
-Explore town

Juneau (10am-8pm)
-Mendenhall Glacier & gardens
-Mount Roberts tram
-Explore town

Skagway (7am-8pm)
-White pass railway (having a hard time understanding this one. I'll admit I haven't looked that much into it, but many people have said its gorgeous and some said its way too long. I'm looking at the 3 hr or 4 hr one, but having a hard time justifying spending 1/3 of my time on a train.)
-Mushers camp and dog sled (see above concerns, is it worth it?)
-Chilkat Eagle Preserve
-Klondike gold fields (I think our kids might be too old for gold panning, but it seems like a big attraction. Is it more historical?)
-Original street car
**definitely not doing all of this

Glacier Bay
(Day at Sea)

Hubbard Glacier
(Day at Sea)

Whittier --> train to Anchorage

(We will have approximately 1.5 days in Anchorage before our flight home. We made reservations to rent a car. I haven't looked up things to do here yet, but I did see that Denali Park is rather far and probably not possible in this time frame :()

Speaking of renting a car - I something called rent a wreck - a company that brings rental cars to the cruise ship dock, do you think this is useful in any of the ports?

Again we are concerned with trying to do this on the more DIY style, minimum costs incurred, but we definitely want to make this a trip to remember and would like to see as much as possible, without trying to shove in too much, fine line. Any specific or general tips - greatly appreciated :) Thank you in advance!!

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