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Alaska excursions (Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan)


Jan 13th, 2012, 09:55 AM
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Alaska excursions (Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan)


With prior help (thanks again) we've booked our first cruise to Alaska and are now thinking about excursions. We'll visit Juneau and Sitka for a day each, Ketchikan for a morning, and Victoria for an evening. We are reasonably active, like nature and are travelling with an elementary school-aged child (which rules in and out a number of excursions), and we are thinking of splurging on one flightseeing tour.

Right now for Juneau, we're thinking about trying to fit in gold panning and a whale watch. The gold panning seems to mostly be offered through the cruise lines-- is that right? The timing is ok but not great-- we could then do a whale watch with Capt. Larry from 11:30-3:00. Should we try to see the Mendenhall Glacier on the way back too?

For Ketchikan, we were thinking of Misty Fjords flightseeing (Island Air?) which will take most of the morning. (If it's a matter a little more time flightseeing vs. in town I'm assuming we should we go with the plane?)

For Sitka we were thinking of a hike and maybe some of the wildlife tours (otters, raptors). Does anyone have suggestions or comments about cruise or independent options? (Looks as though there are a couple of hikes that you can pick up in town, but I am not sure if it's worth going with a group to get further out of town).

For Victoria I think we'll probably just walk around the harbor area and probably find someplace for dinner.

If anyone has advice for alternative excursions, or operators, or other tips, I'd appreciate it hearing it.
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Jan 13th, 2012, 01:06 PM
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We basically had the same iteniary, except we had Skagway instead of Sitka.

In Juneau, we did the whale watching/Mendenhall Glacier tour with Princess. The boat was full, but not crowded and I liked that we could sit inside and still see out the huge windows. It was cold/windy and no way would I have sat outside and been comfortable. We have been on many whale watching cruises in various destinations and this was by far the best, most active whale sighting we have ever seen. We then went to Mendenhall Glacier. It was nice, but from reviews, I guess I was expecting more. Afterward, we went to the Red Dog Saloon and then walked through all the tourist shops.

In Ketchikan, we did the morning flight over the Misty Fjords with Princess. We enjoyed it, but I was kinda disappointed when we landed on the water that we didn't get good pictures like I have seen from other people. Afterward, we went to Creek Street and walked around town. We didn't have much time in this port. It was like 7am to 12 noon.

In Victoria, we had from 7pm to midnight. We ate dinner on the ship and then grab a cab to the harbor area. We walked around and took pictures. Since it was so late, many attractions were closed. There were only a few tours that could have been taken. It was really a nice city and I wished we could have seen more of it including the Gardens.

We did the train/bus in Skagway with Chilkoot Charters that included the dog sled ride. It was great.

I found that booking tours through Princess vs. Independant, that there wasn't much of a price difference. We didn't find the tours overly crowded either like when we have taken Caribbean cruises. One of our main reasons we preferred to book through Princess is because we didn't have to pay upfront at the time of booking like with an Independant. The excursions were very pricey, so we needed the extra time to save up for them.

If you're interested, I have our pictures posted at:

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Jan 13th, 2012, 01:09 PM
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We loved seeing the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau--I'd pick that over gold panning.
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Jan 13th, 2012, 03:56 PM
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Juneau - Mendenhall Glacier (2 hrs), whale watching (3 hrs), Mount Roberts (1 hr), You can fit everything in but it would be rushed. Stop in the Red Dog Salon. Gold panning is for tourists. If you want real gold panning, I knew a few spots that you can go and pan for real gold. provided you knew how to do it to begin with. I knew a few who do gold panning as a retirement hobby along the river banks.

Ketchikan - The Misty Fjord for sure, but have a back up plan. It maybe clouded over or the fog is so thick that they cannot safely get you there (or back) and may cancel, which happened to us once. Ketchikan is also the best souvenir port. Best price.

Sitka - Visit the old Russian Church (St Michaels), hike through the Sitka national historical park. There are a few loops so you have to pick one as you can't finish them all. Bring a rain poncho as the Sitka National Park is a rain forest. Castle Hill is close to the tender facility and it is worth a quick visit.

Sicne Sitka is a tender port, if the water is rough, you may not get ashore. On our last visit, we get ashore okay but I heard later that subsequent groups were not tender ashored for safety reasons. (It was on a Celebrity ship) They were given refunds to the excursions and port charges. I guess we were lucky and were on the earlier groups. To partially compensate, the ship also had a big elaborate brunch completed with whole roast pig etc, whcih of course, we missed, we saw pictures form our friends who couldn't go ashore.

Bring rain gear for all the ports. you will have about two third chance of getting some sort of cloud or rain activity throughout the trip. I have been through Alaska a few times and I have yet had a trip that is rain free. It might drizzle for a bit in the morning or afternoon or whenever, but you can almost count on it. It would be rare that you have 7 days of sunshine.

Good luck and enjoy your triP!
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Jan 14th, 2012, 01:15 PM
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Ports and Excursions
Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center and Hiking
Whalewatching Tour
Mount Roberts Tram and Activiites, independent

Ketchikan Suggestions
Misty Fjords Flightseeing National Monument Tour
Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour
Anan Creek Bear Viewing

Sitka Suggestions:
All day bus pass $10pp to get around
Chillkatt Bald Eagle Preserve Float Tour
Allen Marine Wild Life View Excursion
Sitka Sound Tours

If you skip the gold panning you can fit both Whale watching & Mendenhall into a day.
If it is clear and there is time remaining before boarding, you could go up Mt Roberts.

Ketchikan: If Misty Fjords is your only flying activity during your trip then I'd keep that idea.
If not then I'd do a non-flight activity on land up and close with nature.

Sitka: Google Sitka and you will see you can get your family to and from many locations by the local bus.
Check local trail hiking on Sitka website for locations.
Listed are three popular nature tours.

Try Cruisecritic excursion reviews, Trip Advisor, and Alaskatourism sites for names and details of tours and independent activities.

It has been 3.5 years and I can relive our entire time in Alaska, can't wait to return.

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Jan 17th, 2012, 08:44 PM
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Doh is offline  
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 06:24 AM
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So many Alaskan tours do not include Denali. Isn't that a must see?
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 07:59 AM
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I would say yes if you have the extra time and $$$. We didn't. You can add on a pre or post cruise land tour in Denali. We hope to do just a land tour sometime in the future.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 08:34 AM
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Well in Victoria try getting a boat trip to see the Orcas. Amazing sights we will never forget.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 05:15 PM
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Yes, we'll just hope to do another trip in the future. Jacketwatch, the cruises from Seattle stop in Victoria so they qualify as "international" (and Jones Act does not apply, so the boat/cruise line/crew do not have to be American) but it seems they don't stop for very long (just an evening in our case).
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 07:56 PM
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Time is an issue. Too bad if you don't have the time to see the orcas. It was amazing. Anyway have fun.
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