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Alaska Local Knowledge Request

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Six of us are on a Princess Cruise in September to Alaska and we have reviewed the itinerary presented to us. Like many travelers we ask anyone we know, who has been to Alaska for their review and advice. We are getting mixed signals as to what is offered through Princess and what we might find locally. Some folks say book now through Princess to make sure we have reservations, while others say Princess is more expensive and the side trips are more crowded and rushed. Others chime in that if we wait until we get to port we can find better deals through locals, including costs and crowds.
We will be in Skagway, Juneau and Kitchikan on 3 successive days and want to use the knowledge that the members of this site can bring on these concerns. Oh, and did I mention that our travel agent has been a waste of time?
Thanks for your suggestions and if possible, names of locals that you have used that we should consider.

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