My husband and I are taking our FIRST cruise very soon. We leave Vancouver on 8/30/02 for a 7 night Alaska Inside Passage cruise on Celebrity's Infinity. I'm in the process of selecting and booking shore trips. I've looked at those offered on Celebrity's website, Shoretrips.com and Shorexcursions.com and we've pretty much decided what we want to do together (and individually) at Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway.
Here's my question. Since you've had so many trips to Alaska - which vendor has the best price vs. service (they are all pretty close in price it seems)? What would you recommend or NOT recommend? How close to the scheduled arrival time at the town's indicated would you recommend booking a tour? I appreciate all tips and advice!! We are VERY excited.
Have fun in Alaska! I've booked tours with both the ship and on my own, and each has advantages and disadvantages. In Alaska lots of stuff is avialable shoreside, usually cheaper than aboard ship. Here are a couple of tips.
Lots to do here. I have not done a helicpoter tour but they are highly recommended by almost everyone. I have done a flightseeing tour and felt it was a great value for the dollar. I was actually booked thru the ship but weather forced a cancellatiion. I then booked a later time directly with the operator and saved quite a bit. As I was traveling alone I got a seat, but if you have a family I would not count on being able to get a last minute seat. Seaplane base is very close to the ships location, right downtown. I have also done the Taku Lodge trip and enjoyed it very much although the flight only went directly there, IMHO they could have detoured slightly and given us a much better view.
Mendenhall Glacier can be booked directly on the pier with several different companies at 1/2 the price of aboard ship. I've even taken the city bus. Mt Roberts is also nice if a bit pricey. Don't buy tickets for this aboard ship, if the weather is bad when you arrive you're stuck with the ticket. Instead buy directly at the Tram if the weather looks good.
Next trip I'm booked with Orca/Capt Larry for a whale watch tour, I've heard lots of good stuff about this trip.
Everyone does the Yukon and White Pass railway here it seems. I did it on my first trip and did enjoy it, sit on the left side as you leave the ship. Book directly thru the ship for thsi one, they discurage direct booking and the one time I tried it they were sold out.
My suggestion also would be to take a combo tour, the train up and a bus back. You'll see more and the ride back down on the train gets old fast.
I did the Yukon trip and thought it was great but I had perfect weather. If you have several people I'd rent a car and do it on my own. By driving you will save time and can stop where you want. Be sure and hook up with one of the National Park Ranger led walks around town, they tell great stories and give you a real taste of what life was like.
Haven't done a flightseeing here but this is the spot to try this if you missed it in Juneau.
There are sevearl Totem park tours here, I wasn't thrilled with the one I did. If I had booked ashore rather than thru the cruise line I would probably have felt it was better worth the cost. I've also tried the Misty Fjords flightseeeing but we had to turn around because of fog. Celebrity refuned the full cost even though we had almost 1 hour in the air. Another time I booked with Island Wings but I cancelled at the last minute as I was also doing the Taku Lodge in Juneau. They were very nice and I've heard very good things about them. Usually I just wander around town here, be sure and visit Creek Street.
Haven't taken any tour here, again I usually just wander around. The Totem State park is within walking distance and has a nice trail thru the woods. Close by is the Raptor center and this is worth a visit. By walking yourself you can save big bucks over the ships tour to the same spots, total walk is proabably only 3-4 miles tops.
Take along binoculars. I also bring a knit ski cap, gloves and a scarf for glacier viewing on the open decks. The cruise into/out of Skagway is very scenic, and I like the area around Seward a lot. Be sure to get outside on deck to really experience Alaska. Try to get up for a sunrise and I really really enjoy the long twlight evenings. I find that when at Glacier bay, College Fjord or Hubbard as soon as the ship starts to leave the area everyone heads inside. Instead I head for the aft deck, bundle up in a blanket and lie on a deck chair out of the wind and enjoy the spectacular scenery virtually alone.
Doug, Sounds fantastic, We are taking the Whale Watch Tour with Captain Larry on our cruise, Will post here and let you know how we like it. This is our first ever cruise and our first time to Alaska, leaving in 29 days. Can't wait. Pat
Great Post about your Alaska cruise..We just returned from a 12 day August Alaska cruise..........Weather was great!!!!!!!!!!!! Good advice about the aft deck ..........we enjoyed also sitting out there snuggled in a blanket watching our sail away unfold from beautiful Galcier Bay !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We have a problem you might be able to help us with. We leave for an inside passage cruise on Sept. 11th We arrive in Juneau at 2pm until 11pm. We would like to go on Capt Larrys tour but we would have to go on the 3pm trip which leaves us with no time for much else. We wouldn't get to tour the city or see the glacier. Is there any other city that has a whale tour?WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO?
Just returned from the Infinity Inside Passage cruise and it was beyond wonderful.. I am trying to add my shore excursion review to my previously posted review but no luck yet. I'll see if I can copy it here.
Just returned from the Infinity Inside Passage cruise and it was beyond wonderful.. I am trying to add my shore excursion review to my previously posted review but no luck yet. I'll see if I can copy it here. By going in August you have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights. You can send a note to the purser (or ask Guest Relations) to notify the Bridge to call you any time of night if they see the Aurora Borealis since it has to be totallly dark. August may still be too early but late in the month definitely gives you a better chance.
We felt we did very well doing everything on our own though I do wish we could have taken a glacier flight with landing. Instead we took the $5 Mendenhall Glacier Express bus out of Juneau (not actively touted at the dock though that is where you take the shuttle bus to get to it). The shuttle is $1. We hiked along the East Glacier Trail as close as we could get to the face of the Glacier at the point where a mammoth waterfall cascaded into the lake. The lupine, which you usually see in photos of the scene were just starting to bloom in mid June. At the Express bus ticket kiosk we saw a sign offering a heli-tour with glacier landing discounted $100 off the regular price.
The Mt.Roberts tramway was well worthwhile also and not frightening at all compared to one I took in Switzerland . It's only 1800 feet to the top with some great hiking along alpine meadows. There were steep dropoffs along the trail we took which I found a bit disconcerting at first but I got used to the terrain after awhile and the scenery was breathtaking. All morning bears had been sighted along the trail but we didn't see any on our hike. We looked directly down on our ship from Father Roberts Cross.
Our favorite outing was renting a van in Skagway for our party of 5 (months in advance since Avis has only 2 vans) and driving the Klondike Highway parrallel to the White Pass/Yukon railroad as far as Emerald Lake. There are many turnouts for photo taking and picnics. We stopped when we saw a bear by the roadside busy eating only 20 feet away. The panoramic vistas were breathtaking. Alpine flowers by the side of the road added to the beauty. Later I learned in the wonderful magazine/book "Mileposts" which I found in our local library that there is a fabulous loop drive from near Emerald and Spirit Lakes to Tagish and Jakes Corner. The area is called the Yukon Southern Lakes district and they have a website. If you have time locals recommended driving south from Jakes Corner to Atlin which has been described as a Shangri-la. It may be a gravel road to Atlin, though, so you may want to check first.
Got a good tip from a local in Ketchikan and walked about 10 minutes along the water to a floatplane dock where Steve, of SeaWind was about to leave for Misty Fjords National Monument. Landed on a lake and got out onto the pontoons for photo taking. It's good to ask about current weather conditions before arranging for one of these trips as you wouldn't see much if the weather is too bad and the turbulence could make flying in such a small plane an unpleasant experience. Steve told us often the weather in Misty Fjords is better than in Ketchikan and he actually flew us to a sunny spot for our landing so don't be immediately put off if it is raining in Ketchikan.
We had thought about kayaking in Ketchikan but Pennock Island , the shorter of the trips offered, is adjacent to the cruise ship dock and I'd heard you don't generally see any wildlife there. There are supposed to be some great longer trips out of Ketchikan, though. Given how often it rains there I wouldn't want to lock in such a trip in advance unless they have a good cancellation provision based on bad weather but I don't think any of the tour operators offer this.
Hope this helps with your decisions about what to do and where to go on your trip. Have a wonderful time!
We are cruising to AK from Vancouver to Seward on the Coral Princess on August 16th. The excursions we have planned are:
Ketchican -- just the Horse Drawn Trolley. To be honest, there was not much else that appealed to us. We are not big fish/fishing people. Not really into totem poles.
Juneau -- Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest and the 4 Glacier & Dog Sled Adventure
Skagway -- Glacier LakeKayak & Scenic Rail. We have heard conflicting opinions regarding the White Pass Yukon Railway. Most thought it was boring and some did not have good weather and could not see anything. Our train trip starts at 7:40AM. We have heard that it is very foggy at that time in the morning and we will not see anything. However, we are not going to let that distract us from doing it. My husband and I discussed not doing it, but we really want to do the kayaking at the top at the lake. I told him we are going to keep it the way it is. If all we see is fog, then fine (we do have the motorcoach trip back down and may see things that way). If we don't have any fog - Great!
The way I look at it is - we have picked our excursions. It's up to us to make it fun. I am not going to be spending my vacation worrying if I'm going to have fun. If I don't then the only person I can blame is myself. If it's boring - well at least we tried something new and have the experience and memories of it.
I went whale watching in Monterey, CA once. It was freezing on the water (35-40 degrees), the water was rough, I kept getting banged and flung all over the boat (had bumps & bruises from it too), got sea sick, "tossed my cookies". But you know what? I had the best time of my life!! I got to see 30 Humpback Whales - one of them even breached 7 times!! and tons of White Sided Pacific Dolphins that swam right next to the boat. They were even jumping out of the water . I would do it again in a heart beat and I am in Juneau!
Hi Kelly and all. All your info has been very helpful. I wish I had read them before we booked all our excursions via our Princess cruise ship. We are taking a bus tour to the Mendhall glacier and city tour in Juneau, the White Rail train in Skagway and the Sawman village in Ketchican. I am thinking that the Juneau choice is not the most econcomical. But I like your attitude of making it fun no matter what! Live and Learn I always say. We have always taken the excursions except in Bermuda where we felt confident enougth to take the town bus and ferries. I always fret about getting back on time.
We leave on the Northern route in one week. Getting psyched.