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Which land excursions to take on Alaska cruise ship?

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Mar 6th, 2010, 09:30 AM
  #1
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Which land excursions to take on Alaska cruise ship?

We are cruising from Whittier to Vancouver the first week in August on the Princess Coral.
Need to sign up for land excursions in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Should we opt to do these destinations on our own or sign up for whale watching, city tours, etc., offered by the cruise line?
This will be our first cruise and first time to Alaska.
Guidance appreciated.
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Mar 6th, 2010, 10:22 AM
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It is almost essential that you take some land excursions to appreciate Alaska as there is almost nothing in the port cities other than t-shirt shops and jewelry stores. Juneau is a bit more interesting. And these excursions involve additional transportation - air, rail, bus - so they get expensive.

We took the same cruise in 2008. In Juneau we did the "helicopter to the glacier and walk around and helicopter back" trip - it was an experience of a lifetime, although expensive. In Skagway DH and adult son did an independent hike, using maps from the ranger station downtown. Almost adult dtr and I did a garden tour and cooking demonstration at Skagway Inn, which we enjoyed - but mostly because the owner/chef told wonderful stories about living in Alaska.

In Ketchikan DS and DH did zipline tour and saw bears from the air. I think August is salmon running season, so I think there is a bear/salmon expedition that sounded fun (we went in June).

Basically you want a balance of ice/glaciers, wildlilfe and "Alaska experience". If you are spending anytime on land prior to the cruise, some of this could be done then.

It is often cheaper to book independently. the usual reason for booking thru cruiseline is that you are guaranteed they will not leave without you if something goes wrong. Depends on how nervous you are about that - I might consider that option if you were flying any distance on a small plane - but others would differ.

If you have an option of staying a day or 2 in Vancouver upon return, I would highly recommend it - we loved Vancouver.
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Mar 6th, 2010, 12:17 PM
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In Skagway, we enjoyed the White Pass & Yukon RR, as well as the exhibits and walking tour from the National Park Service, the City Hall Museum, the Corrington Museum.

In Ketchikan, we liked Totem Bight Park, the SE Alaska Discovery Center, the Deer Mountain Hatchery and Eagle Center, and the Totem Historical Center.

In Juneau, we liked Mendenhall Glacier and hiking the trails there, the State of Alaska Museum, the State Capitol, the Juneau Douglas City Museum, Tracy Arm boat trip to see the glaciers. We ran out of time before we could take the tram up Mt. Roberts and hike there.
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Mar 6th, 2010, 12:59 PM
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Also highly recommend the White Pass & Yukon train trip in Skagway. We did a whale watch in Juneau. Our cruise went to Sitka, not Ketchikan so no suggestions there.
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Mar 6th, 2010, 08:17 PM
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As has been said, excursions are a "must" if you want to really experience Alaska. However, there is no "one-size-fits-all" excursion - everyone has their own interests and there are about 90 in Skagway alone. The "standard" excursions, though are whale watching, Mendenhall Glacier and Mt Roberts tramway in Juneau; fishing, flightseeing Misty Fiords and anything to do with totems in Ketchikan; and the railway or renting a car and heading north into the Yukon in Skagway. We're sailing on Alaska cruise #5 on May 10th - and we live just north of Skagway!
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Mar 7th, 2010, 08:17 AM
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Do your homework, and find out what these specific ports can offer you. Each is very different. Then narrow down your interests, determine your budget. There is no point in getting rave recomemndations on tours of no interest or out of budget.

I definately only recommend having all plans and reservations in place before you leave. It's up to you how you book.
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Mar 7th, 2010, 09:00 AM
  #7
cd
 
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Land tours IMO are a must in order to appreciate the beauty of Alaska. In Ketchikan we took a float plane tour, landing and taking off on the water was a great experience. Our all time favorite tour, in our 7 cruises to different parts of our world is the one mentioned above, "In Juneau we did the helicopter to the glacier and walk around and helicopter back trip" We tried to make up the expense of that trip by renting a car in Skagway and driving the Yukon.
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Mar 7th, 2010, 11:08 AM
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We loved the totems in Ketchikan, watched them carving one, really great. We also did the wildlife hike in Ketchikan. Went to Mendenhall glacier and and whale watching in Juneau. We all loved the Yukon train in Skagway and we did another hike and river float trip also. Be sure to allow time to just roam around these little towns too as they are special. None of these broke our budget. No matter what you do you will come away just loving Alaska...soooooooooo beautiful.
Michele
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Mar 7th, 2010, 04:00 PM
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We went on our first and only cruise in June 2002, to Alaska and loved it. We did not book any excursions through the cruise line in advance.

The cruise line would not book the helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier becuse we were about 15 minutes late (for booking) and although they had the room on the helicopter, the booking agent did not feel like taking reservation and re-sending the passenger list. Albiet, we were 15 minutes late.

We did take the tram up to Mt. Roberts and hiked .. it was cool.

Walked around Skagway and Ketchikan. What ever you do ..DO NOT do the jeep and canoe tour (we think it was Ketchikan) ... it was horrible. Bascially you took a jeep up a old logging road, took a canoe about 30 feet across a lake, "hiked", walked for 5 minutes in the woods and had an "authentic" lunch of smoked salmon, which in reality it was a leftover half eaten buffet from the earlier tour.

The cruise and Alaska were WONDERFUL. The Fjords, the calving of the glaciers, the scenery ... was well worth every minute. Get up early (sometimes REALLY early)and see the otters, eagles,, whales, orcas and the like .. take warm clothes for that purpose .. it gets windy as you approach the glaciers. A must is really good binoculars.

We went a few days early and stayed in Anchorage. We took a flight seeing tour of Denali with Rust's Flying Service. It was an experience of a lifetime. Especially because the other 2 people on the flight did not speak English and the girl in their party fell asleep .. so it was like a private tour. Back in the day . it was about 300 pp for about a 4 hour tour. Twice that for longer trips but you could see the Alusian islands, bears (eating Salmon in August) and volcanos. We think the tour was called the Land of 10 Thousand Smokes.

A few days walking around anchorage was nice and the Price Fix menu at the Captian Cook Restaurant also could be considered pricey at $120+ for a meal including wine, was unforgettable, go for some meal if possible.

Otherwise . have fun .. we did.
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Mar 7th, 2010, 06:01 PM
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We did the same cruise and loved it.

We rented a car in Skagway instead of taking the train ride. We drove north as far as Carcross. The car, holding 4 people, cost the same as one train ticket. We didn't feel we missed a thing and enjoyed being on our own and doing as we pleased.

In Juneau, most go to outdoor locations. We were too but it was completely fogged in, as happens often. We walked around town and enjoyed a really good Alaskan history museum--don't remember the name.
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Mar 8th, 2010, 08:14 PM
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Connie, We're thinking of renting a car in Skagway. How did you get from the ship to the rental agency? Was there a long wait for the car? Thanks.
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Mar 8th, 2010, 08:26 PM
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Both car rental offices (Avis and independent Sourdough) are walkable from the docks. There can be a wait when they open but both are very efficient. Don't go just to Carcross as Connie did, though - Emerald Lake 8 miles further on is the magnet for most folks ( http://www.explorenorth.com/library/..._lake-pan.html )
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Mar 8th, 2010, 08:59 PM
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We did many tours on our own, booked well in advance of leaving home. Whale watching in Juneau with Capt. Larry; helicopter to a glacier in Juneau ($$$ but worth it) and seaplane to Anan Creek to see the bears feed on Salmon. Oh, took the train in Skagway as well.

Check CruiseCritics and become familiar with their QandA format. You can also "meet" some of the folks you will be cruising with.

Enjoy this beautiful place.
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Mar 9th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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And if driving the Klondike Highway out of Skagway to Emerald, be sure to purchase "Murray's Guide". Available on line and An absolute must!!!

Written by the above Explorenorth.
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Mar 9th, 2010, 07:38 AM
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rpowell, We drove to Emerald and recommend that, and as BudgetQueen suggests, we downloaded Murray's Guide....We expected to have a nice little lunch in Carcross but were disappointed in no restaurants, so don't go hungry.. We did enjoy the Red Onion? Red Garter? when we returned back in town.
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Mar 9th, 2010, 04:57 PM
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Thanks for the info. about car rentals and Murray's Guide. Our cruise will arrive in Skagway around 6am and leave at 3:00pm. I was told to plan on around 5 hours for the trip to Emerald Lake. In case we have car trouble, is the road well traveled enough to get help? We will plan to be back in Skagway in plenty of time, but we don't want to miss the ship.
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Mar 10th, 2010, 06:33 AM
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cd
 
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rpowell, We mostly had the road to ourselves. I remember some traffic but not much. Be sure to take your passport as you will past a border check between Alaska and Canada. Actually, the day we were there the train was blocked by a snowslide so they put the people on a bus that we passed.
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Mar 13th, 2010, 06:53 PM
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Actually we did go all the way to Emerald Lake. It was just a few miles further and it was okay. I didn't think it was that big a deal.

We walked to the Avis place but we had to ask directions. When we went a few years ago, it was in a hotel a couple of blocks east of the main street--not visible at all and no signs. I bet you could find it on Google Maps to help you get there quicker. We didn't wait in line at all.
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Feb 24th, 2011, 04:46 PM
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My best girlfriend cruised Alaska in September and booked independently with a company called Liquid Alaska Tours. She highly recommended them and so we just booked all of our excursions for June with them (http://alaska-shoreexcursions.com). They raved about the dogsledding!! I am really excited, but unfortunately my kids can't sleep now. It's worse than xmas!
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Feb 24th, 2011, 05:59 PM
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Ummmmm advertisement ??
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