Alaskan cruise end of August 2023

Old May 24th, 2023, 06:26 PM
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Alaskan cruise end of August 2023

Have booked a 7 day round trip Alaskan cruise starting and ending in Vancouver. Just wondering about a whale-watch excursion, or will you see whales close up from the cruise ship. We will will be on the Koningsdam Holland America line. I am a bit prone to sea-sickness so am a bit wary about a separate excursion but know my husband would love it. This would be in Juneau.

Also I realise a one way 7 day trip is probably better, but this was only booked yesterday so last minute, and suited our dates.
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Old May 26th, 2023, 11:47 AM
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I've not ever gone in August but have always seen lots of whales from the cruise ship itself (although I probably spend more time out on the promenade decks than most people)

. If you stay on the inside passage around Juneau, the water should be calm but no guarantees about rain.

Last edited by mlgb; May 26th, 2023 at 11:52 AM.
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Old May 26th, 2023, 06:45 PM
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That's good to know mlgb. Have you done a specific whale watching tour?

Also according to what I've been reading the train at Skagway is a must do, although I am leaning towards a van tour that covers more of the area, and ends up in Yukon for a short time. Don't think there is time to do both? Anyone done either of these trips.

Any experiences re Ketchikan also welcome.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 07:02 AM
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The only separate boat tours that I've done in Alaska were with Major Marine from Seward, they are larger boat glacier tours with random whales thrown in for good measure. The Resurection Bay one stays in calm waters.
However I've done lots of whale watch cruises at close range in California so that isn't a must do for me.

In Juneau I hike around Mendenhall Lake/Glacier which is a $45+tax ticket for transportation from either the blue or white bus (available to buy at the dock). I've not ever done the Mt. Roberts tramway.

In Skagway I recommend the company Chilkoot Charters for their van/rail combo so you can van up beyond the border to the Yukon with photo stops and on the return they drop you off at the train.. I took the van both ways but think it would be better to van up and then rail back (slightly different routing) if the schedule works for your cruise. I would recommend Yukon Rail & Bus Excursion. One problem they are having now in Skagway is that larger ships are using tenders to get passengers around the landslide. I was lucky in that the Grand Princess was at the Broadway Dock. You should be able to look up which berth you are at in Skagway. The link to the Chilkoot excursion page is here https://chilkootcharters.com/tours-reservations/. If you are not at Broadway dock I would look for a 9:30 am departure.

In Ketchikan I like to take the public bus ($2, hourly only) up to Totem Bight State Park ($5) and adjacent Potlack Park (free, don't miss) so I can spend as much time as I want, rather than being on a tour. Then I bus back and walk through town when I'm done. There are many other activities in downtown Ketchikan such as the Creek Street boardwalk, lumberjack show, museums. Most do not require a tour. There is a free shuttle around the downtown area. The Discovery Center is free if you have a US National Parks Pass otherwise $5.

Last edited by mlgb; May 27th, 2023 at 07:05 AM.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 07:16 AM
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I did the whale watching trip in Juneau. Of course it's never guaranteed that you will see whales, but the whale watching I did in Juneau is many times better than what you'll see from the ship. On the ship you will see whales from a distance but on the excursion the whales will be much closer.

I am also very prone to seasickness but I had no problems at all on the boat. I highly recommend it.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 09:14 AM
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SKG-Skagway-2023-1.pdf

If the above link posts, it looks like Koningsdam always gets the ORE dock in Skagway on Tuesdays, in which case you won't have to use the tenders or buses so you will be able to walk off the ship to the meeting area for tours.

"The Ore Dock has two points of entry. Passengers from the Ore Dock need only to walk across the foot bridge right beside the cruise ship and meet at the red weather shelter just beyond the foot bridge"

The landslide problems in Skagway affect the Railroad Dock. With the massive NCL ships not in Skagway on Tuesdays, it looks like there is availability for either time (7:30 or 9:30) on the Bus/Rail combo on the Chilkoot website. Our driver was really good about getting us to the photo spots to avoid the bigger bus tours in the morning. You want to sit on the right hand side of the bus if you do "bus first". Heading north the good scenery is mostly on that side.

Included is admission to the Caribou Crossing Trading Post (Wild Adventure Yukon) with a reasonably good chicken lunch there. I enjoyed the mammal museum which is a taxidermy museum. Others on the bus said the RCMP/history exhibits were also good. Our guide (Jennie) was fantastic. She recommended spending 15 minutes at each spot (lunch), two museum(s) and dog area. I doubled my time at the mammal museum and skipped the RCMP one.

Last edited by mlgb; May 27th, 2023 at 09:17 AM.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 12:34 PM
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Thanks so much mlgb and PM for your suggestions. I booked this cruise really late, and tours are filling up so need to make some decisions.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 12:49 PM
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Don't worry about taking only ship's tours. The company I recommended for Skagway has never missed a boarding (and if they do, they promise to fly you to your next stop!)

The most important thing is to not fly in on the same day as your cruise. A lot goes wrong with airlines these days.

Getting from the Vancouver Airport to the Canada Place cruise port is easy but the lines at the port can be massive. Bring snacks and try to check in as soon as you can (try 10:30 am if you can). People who arrived later on the day I boarded said it took them 3 hours with the problem being customs and immigration. But it was early in the season and by August hopefully it will all be sorted.

BTW you picked the best cruise line for Alaska!

Last edited by mlgb; May 27th, 2023 at 12:54 PM.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 03:30 PM
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Mglb, I read that Holland America is a good cruise line, I didn't really choose it, it was the only one that fitted with the dates. I did the airline booking first as there was a sale on, then decided last minute to do a cruise. Paid over the top probably for a Verandah cabin but it's my 70th birthday in July so though you only live once. It's probably the only cruise we will ever do. I am booking the tours independently as they all work in with the cruise arrival and departure times. Any other tips feel free to give advice.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 08:26 PM
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Congrats on the birthday and picking the cruise line that has the best combination of service and itinerary. I haven't been on that class of HAL ship but a few of the smaller, older ones.
Holland America still provides FREE 24-hour service, which a lot of the other lines have cut back on. Some of their dining hours are rather short, so that's a good thing. If your order room service for breakfast, be there during the delivery window or they will be very unhappy. For dinner, I think they may still allow you to order off the regular menu if you call during the first hour.

Be sure to pack at least a warm cap, hat, gloves, jacket and bring a raincoat, daypack and even a bathing suit (for the hot tubs and a covered pool deck after a long day). My other tip is to bring an insulated mug of some sort because their coffee cups are tiny. They say no plastic bottles but I brought a plastic refillable water bottle through just fine.
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Old May 29th, 2023, 04:29 PM
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We took a HAL cruise to Alaska in 2019 and absolutely loved it! We try to avoid large group tours, and we do a combination of ship's excursions and DIY. In Juneau we took a HAL excursion called "Whales & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari: Small-Group Experience". I don't think we had any rough water on the boat, and I'd definitely recommend the excursion if it's still being offered. In Ketchikan we did the Misty Fjords float plane with Island Wings, which I booked myself. I'm a nervous flyer, but this was just a wonderful experience and another I'd recommend. We rented a car in Skagway and drove out to the Yukon; this gave us more flexibility than taking a tour, and it was another great day. We'd love to go back to Alaska sometime. Happy birthday and I hope you have a wonderful cruise!
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Old May 29th, 2023, 06:31 PM
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While a rental car would have been nice for the drive into the Yukon, it would have been over $200 (with Affordable Car Rental) for the day. Plus I would not have had the great narration by our guide.

Of course if you rent a car, there is no option to do the train oneway.

The longest train journey available is the one that goes to Bennett Lake. It is available through the cruise line or the company I recommended earlier, and probably others. The other train rides only go as far as Fraser.

Last edited by mlgb; May 29th, 2023 at 07:02 PM.
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Old Jul 10th, 2023, 02:56 PM
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Interesting article I read recently, that the tourist numbers on Mendenhall glacier have nearly reached the number allowed for the tourist season, and the $ 45 blue and white shuttles will be stopped from taking cruise passengers there. This is what we were intending to do. We have now booked a HAL tour hoping that they are still allowed to take trips there at the end of August.
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Old Jul 13th, 2023, 11:24 PM
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Plan what to do in Juneau if HAL has to cancel Mendenhall tours due to those capacity limits. I wasn't aware of the issue and wonder if cruise tours are exempt! Cruise lines do cancel tours for various reasons and refund you but by then few alternatives may be available.

The public bus lets you off a long way from the visitor center, 3 miles RT!
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