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Alaskan Cruise
Old 04-22-2015, 10:54 AM   #1
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Alaskan Cruise

I'm going on an Alaskan cruise this summer and have been reviewing my excursion options. Holy cow, they are expensive! I've only ever been on one other cruise to Mexico and it was paid for by my employer at the time.

Are these excursions worth it? Wondering if I'd be better off just wandering the towns and checking it out that way, but then get concerned that I'll be missing out on amazing stuff potentially.

Stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait. Any advice?


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Old 04-22-2015, 11:02 AM   #2
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We went a couple of years ago and chose one boat excursion to see some whales, orcas, sea lions and eagles. Other than that we walked most places and enjoyed it thoroughly. Bring a raincoat.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:08 AM   #3
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We just walked around town in both locations. In Juneau you can take the Mt. Roberts Tram which is near the cruise ship dock in Juneau. There are also shops and restaurants to walk to in Juneau and Ketchikan. In one of the towns we found some nice locally made t-shirts in a local drug store. A caveat: one thing that makes walking around town for us more fun is we like to bar hop, although I'm sure there are museums that are nice also.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:25 AM   #4
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You could also book an excursion not associated with the cruise. The cruise lines will point out that their excursions are guaranteed to match the ships uncertain schedule, meaning that if the ship is late, the excursion will wait; and if the excursion is delayed getting back, the ship will wait. But the excursion companies know this too. We did a whale watching trip followed by a glacier helicopter ride in Juneau, partly because I don't think the cruise had a way to do both, and partly due to price. We were almost 2 hours late coming in but they did hold the boat trip for us. We also had plenty of time to get back from the helicopter before the ship left, but I'm sure something could've gone wrong and prevented us from getting back on time. I wouldn't cut anything tight.

For the other ones we just went through the ship's excursions. I don't know if I'll ever get up there again, and had already spent a lot of time and money getting there, so spending a bit more to see the special sights was worth it to me, over wandering among the tourist shops in town.

In Ketchikan we did a kayak tour which was really neat. Looking back, that seems like something we could've booked on our own as well, or even just found when we got there.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:26 AM   #5
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Whale watching is worth it, although we arranged our own trip rather than taking the cruise line excursion. Other than that we just walked around in Juneau and Ketchikan. We did take the train excursion in Skagway which was totally worth it.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:30 AM   #6
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I would strongly recommend you consider a sea/land arrangement. I'm not sure what's currently available but we cruised from Vancouver (a pleasant city to explore, by the way) up the inside passage. Then flew from Anchorage to Fairbanks and took the Alaskan Railroad back to Anchorage, stopping for a couple days at Denali before returning to Anchorage. We didn't do much in the way of optional excursions, although I remember taking a boat tour out of Ketchikan. We were on Holland-America, which has pretty comprehensive Alaska offerings (the rail cars were Holland-America cars, for example). I think Princess offered something similar.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:42 AM   #7
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I have done one Alaskan cruise and have taken all the excursions already mentioned except for whalewatching. (We saw many whales along the Sunshine Coast). I have also done rafting. My two favourite excursions were the helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier and the White Pass and Yukon Railway (which I travelled for the second time, having travelled it previously from the Yukon).

IMHO these were all totally worth the money paid for them. After all, operating helicopter tours is more expensive than operating bus tours. They were experiences that I may never have again and I would not have missed them. I organized them through the cruise line, but you might save a few bucks by going independently. OTOH, if you feel you cannot spend beyond the cruise itself, as I recall, the cruise dock in Skagway is right in town and you can just walk to all the local attractions. I found Skagway to be very contrived, with many jewelry and souvenir shops. I canoed around Ketchikan but the people who walked around the town said it was similar.

For me, budgeting for a good travel experience is what I LBYMed for all those years. YMMV.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:06 PM   #8
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Y We were almost 2 hours late coming in but they did hold the boat trip for us. .
At the Alaskan ports, it seemed circumstantially that they seem not to be able to leave passengers behind. People like you were late at every Alaskan port we stopped at, holding up the departure of the ship. At the Mexican and Caribbean ports, the ships regularly leave people behind, but not in Alaska.

We did do the train out of Skagway, and that was worthwhile. The reason we didn't do the excursions in the other ports is we used to live in Anchorage, and had already been on glacier tours and helicopter tours. If you can afford the excursions, do them, because it really is a once in a lifetime thing.

Of the three ports we went to, Skagway was the most fake touristy, Juneau the least, and Ketchikan was just about right.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:17 PM   #9
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My two favourite excursions were the helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier and the White Pass and Yukon Railway (which I travelled for the second time, having travelled it previously from the Yukon).

IMHO these were all totally worth the money paid for them. After all, operating helicopter tours is more expensive than operating bus tours. They were experiences that I may never have again and I would not have missed them.
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We took the helicopter tour up to land on the Mendenhall Glacier and walk around on it for 20 minutes or so. Ridiculously expensive, but absolutely worth it. Not something easily forgotten. When we went, it was a drizzly, foggy day, but that didn't matter a bit.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:23 PM   #10
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it's been a very long time since I was on my Alaska cruise, so things may have changed, but I'd strongly recommend at least one excursion that takes you out of the port town and into more of "mainland" Alaska. With the exception of Juneau, I found most of the port towns pretty touristy. It was fascinating to be able to leave the shops and see more of the roads and houses where people really lived and some of the scenery up close. The Glacier itself wasn't as impressive to me, but the trip there and back was interesting. Of course everyone has different interests, and there were certainly shops and places to stroll if you wanted to stay in town.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:37 PM   #11
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At the Alaskan ports, it seemed circumstantially that they seem not to be able to leave passengers behind. People like you were late at every Alaskan port we stopped at, holding up the departure of the ship. At the Mexican and Caribbean ports, the ships regularly leave people behind, but not in Alaska.

We did do the train out of Skagway, and that was worthwhile. The reason we didn't do the excursions in the other ports is we used to live in Anchorage, and had already been on glacier tours and helicopter tours. If you can afford the excursions, do them, because it really is a once in a lifetime thing.

Of the three ports we went to, Skagway was the most fake touristy, Juneau the least, and Ketchikan was just about right.
We didn't hold up the cruise ship at all. We held up the independent whale watching boat trip, very slightly. We were supposed to have a couple hours or so before the trip, but since the cruise ship was late getting into Juneau, we made sure we were on the first transport to the dock, and ran down to the tour office.

If your cruise ship waited for "people like me" it's more likely because their official tours were late getting back. It would just be wrong for a ship to leave before one of it's own sponsored tours returned. When we were on our own, whether a different tour or just ambling through the town, we had no expectation the ship would wait for us. Maybe they would've.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:47 PM   #12
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Another vote for the expensive Mendenhall glacier trip. Also did a bike trip but otherwise walked around.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:55 PM   #13
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If your cruise ship waited for "people like me" it's more likely because their official tours were late getting back. It would just be wrong for a ship to leave before one of it's own sponsored tours returned. When we were on our own, whether a different tour or just ambling through the town, we had no expectation the ship would wait for us. Maybe they would've.
I misunderstood which ship they were holding for you. sorry about that.
We take a lot of cruises, have seen more than several people left behind in ports, and it was obvious that in Alaska they were not leaving the stray individuals behind. Nothing to do with ship sponsored excursions, as we have also been on ships held for those.
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Old 04-22-2015, 01:28 PM   #14
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I'm going on an Alaskan cruise this summer and have been reviewing my excursion options. Holy cow, they are expensive! I've only ever been on one other cruise to Mexico and it was paid for by my employer at the time.

Are these excursions worth it? Wondering if I'd be better off just wandering the towns and checking it out that way, but then get concerned that I'll be missing out on amazing stuff potentially.

Stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait. Any advice?


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Alaskan Cruise
Old 04-22-2015, 01:50 PM   #15
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Alaskan Cruise

We did the white pass rail tour. It takes you into the interior a ways, and DW and I enjoyed it. On our second cruise there, we did the land sea package. I would recommend that.

Excursions are expensive, but not near as expensive as going back because you think you missed too much. I am reminded of advise given before digital photography. Take lots of pictures, it's the cheapest part of the vacation!
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Old 04-22-2015, 06:48 PM   #16
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We took the helicopter tour up to land on the Mendenhall Glacier and walk around on it for 20 minutes or so. Ridiculously expensive, but absolutely worth it. Not something easily forgotten. When we went, it was a drizzly, foggy day, but that didn't matter a bit.
I did that. Loved it. Same weather conditions. Really recommend the Mendenhall excursion.

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Old 04-22-2015, 07:00 PM   #17
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If you do land-sea combo, do the land part first. The reason is we had to be up with bag(s) in the hall, ready to get on the bus or the train each morning. We flew to Anchorage to start the land part. When we got to Whittier and boarded the cruise ship, we could relax. This cruise is well worth the money.

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Old 04-22-2015, 07:08 PM   #18
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The excursions are more expensive in Alaska than in the Caribbean, but the biggest cost is if you choose an excursion that requires either a helicopter or small plane. Its totally a personal choice but for me, I chose to pay for a balcony room to enjoy the view and did other tours while in port.
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Old 04-22-2015, 07:23 PM   #19
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We're also doing Alaska cruise, this July. Based on reviews we've read, along with one friend's recommendation, we're doing: Adventure Kart (Ketchikan), Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter (Juneau) and Glacier Point Wilderness Safari (Skagway).
DW and I cruise every year. Generally, we do shore excursions through the ship. Yes, it does cost more. But I found the difference isn't that large, and of course it removes any concerns about the ship leaving without us. This cruise is expensive anyway; the small extra money for booking through the ship becomes small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.
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Old 04-22-2015, 07:32 PM   #20
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Last year I did a river cruise on the Danube. I packed in as many excursions as I could. One of them was an all day trip through the Austrian alps and Bavaria, with stops in Mondsee and Salzburg. While we were out, our ship was cruising upstream towards Passau. We made it back to the ship just in time to sail. Had we missed the boat, they would have bussed us up the Autobahn to the next dock rather than delay departure. That's not quite so easy in Alaska, which is why they are willing to wait for you.
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