Shore Excursions...Whittier to Vancouver

Jun 2nd, 2009, 10:27 AM
  #1  
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Shore Excursions...Whittier to Vancouver

Sailingon the Island Princess from Whittier Aug. 24 and looking for helpful hints, mainly on shore, but also on the ship. There appear to be an endless number of excursions in all three port stops -- Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau -- many of them very expensive. We're (four adults, one 12-year old) not traveling on the cheap, but there will be some budget constraints. Is there one in particular that shouldn't be missed at each stop while still leaving some time to tour the towns? Self driving into the Yukon looks like a natural, but the size of our party makes that a little tricky (they say four to a vehicle).

Also any on board advice greatly appreciated. Does coat and tie suffice for Formal nights -- and is it worth going to two of them? We are first time cruisers, so any advice most welcome.
writerhenn is offline  
Jun 6th, 2009, 04:54 AM
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We just completed a cruise tour on the Coral Princess. We, too, were first time cruisers. Two thoughts:

1. You can often times save money by booking excursions yourself rather than booking through Princess. The highlight of our shore excursions was Harv and Marv's whale watching expedition in J
http://www.harvandmarvs.com/. Harv and Marv (not their real names) each have small, six passenger boats...these guys know their stuff....Jay (Marv, I think) lives on a remote island and commutes to Juneau. We saw more whales and calves than we imagined, along with sea lions and eagles....our tour also included about an hour at the Mendenhall glacier and a tour of the city (not a part of the listed itinerary...but the driver wanted to be certain we saw the area.

2. You do not have to book any excursion at all to enjoy yourselves. In Ketchikan there are several totem pole expeditions....we took a city bus (1 dollar) to the Totem Heritage Center...a fascinating look at the history of totems and their significance in native culture....

3. about onboard dining.....Yes, a coat and tie will suffice for formal nights.Very few men wore tuxes...yes, it is worth going to them in our experience....we did the anytime dining, which we enjoyed...
drdawggy is offline  
Jun 6th, 2009, 04:55 AM
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oops..three thoughts, not two...
drdawggy is offline  
Jun 6th, 2009, 06:57 AM
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drdawggy....very good info...thanks...the coral is the island's sister ship, so my guess is everything will be the same...one question: how did you spend that hour at the glacier? it seems there's a few different ways to explore it and yours seems be the most economical in terms of both time and money...thanks again...we'll keep checking if you have any additional thoughts.
writerhenn is offline  
Jun 6th, 2009, 11:09 AM
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We spent an hour at the glacier and explored via one of the several trails that run alongside. Ours was an add on related to a whale watching excursion...
drdawggy is offline  
Jun 8th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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My top recommendation for Whittier is a boat tour of Prince William Sound, FAR superior to anything seen from your cruiseship and a good use of time. Don't be in a rush to get on your ship, or head out of Whittier on a northbound.

Do your homework. Narrow down your interests on shore tours. There are hundreds of excellent tours to consider, not any single highlights.

I had 5 in a mid size rental out of Skagway with no problem, last week. Reserve your car NOW, they are in very short supply with Avis the only major company.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Jun 8th, 2009, 02:45 PM
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BudgetQueen (lover that handle) -- I have made a car reservation for Skagway. What would you estimate would be
normal travel time to see as much as possible. Also, is it possible to combine some other side trips with car rental -- and how difficult a drive is it? Many thanks for your input.
writerhenn is offline  
Jun 8th, 2009, 04:56 PM
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There is ONLY ONE road, so you don't "combine" it with other trips. Allow 4-5 hours for a round trip to Emerald Lake- 150 miles. Purchase and print out www.murraysguide.com and take it with you. Regular well maintained road, two lanes.

After Emerald Lake it becomes a boring road with trees and more trees, not scenic at all for another 30 miles one way to Whitehorse. Most often people don't have much time for Whitehorse.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 05:33 PM
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We were on Coral Princess last June - same cruise. The helicopter landing on glacier from Juneau was the highlight of our trip (2 adults, 2 almost-adult kids). Driving by Governor Palin's residence in Juneau before she was even nominated to run for VP also made for a good story later - since even the Alaska-natives on the bus could not remember the governonr's name.

In Skagway DH and 22 year old son did a hike with map from ranger station in town.

All but me did zipline thru rainforest in Ketchikan. But the main point was that it was a zipline, not that there was anything all that unique to see.

Everyone enjoyed all 3 of these activities. I was grateful to not have to do the zipline since I hate heights.

With exception of Juneau, there is little to see in other 2 towns except jewelery and t-shirt shops - so don't plan on finding that time too interesting.

Coat and tie is fine for "Formal Nights" - we found dress at any time on the ship far less formal than on warm water cruises we have taken.

Don't forget binoculars, hat and gloves, waterproof jacket and passport. Bring money - Alaska turned out to be even more expensive than we had expected - but worth it.
gail is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 09:05 PM
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Nice scouting report...my thinking was that Juneau might be the place for the helicopter landing...and taking the drive to Emerald Lake while in Skagway...thanks.
writerhenn is offline  
Jun 10th, 2009, 04:55 AM
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I disagree- there is PLENTY to see and do in the towns, you just have to do your homework and get beyond the shopping. Walking tours can be very worthwhile and informative. Walking tours listed in Fodor's Alaska and Frommer's Alaska.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Jun 26th, 2009, 08:24 PM
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Budget Queen...we're still plotting here because there's some reservation about five in a car (which I understnd), but we might split up...as for the "other trips" I actually meant tours....can we make the drive ourselves and still have time on our return to take in some other attractions in Skagway...thanks to all for the helpful input.
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