View Full Version : What did you do in Skagway, Juneau or Ketchikan on your own?

May 31st, 2005, 02:12 PM
I think it would be nice to hear from some people about time well spent in these towns without booking ahead or thru the cruiseline. I wonder if there are people offering excursions when you leave the ship like many of the ports visited in the Caribbean etc. If not, was there plenty of diversions other than shopping and eating?

I am sure not everyone buys shore excursions so I hope this will be fun.

Thanks in advance,

May 31st, 2005, 02:36 PM
Hi Rita,

In Juneau we did whale watching with Capt Larry (Orca Adventures) WE did not book through the cruiseline but it is necessary to contact them ahead of time as they are very popular. WONDERFUL excursion, worth every penny, experience of a lifetime. We stopped at the Red Dog saloon afterwards (I think that was the name).

In Skagway we took the White Pass Railway excursion; you couldn't book it on your own, only through the cruiseline, and it was the same price anyway. Very cool train ride, worth the price. There are also lots of fun historical buildings and museums in Skagway if you truly want to just wander. We also had fun at the Red Onion saloon (I think that was the name, I might be mixing them up!)

In Ketchikan, we just wandered around and shopped by Creek Street. Very pretty town.

May 31st, 2005, 02:44 PM
We took a helicopter tour in Juneau that was great.

If you look in the ports of call forum you'll find a wealth of info on non cruise line tours in alaska.


Fla Folks
May 31st, 2005, 02:47 PM

I found Juneau an easy city to do on your own. The Tram up the mountain is just a few minutes walk from the ship and was a great way to see the port and ship down below. We also took the city bus out to Mendenhall Glacier park. We spent a couple of hours hiking a beautiful trail that goes up to the Glacier with great views. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

Have a great time!

May 31st, 2005, 09:14 PM
but surely there are more ideas out there. It seems like all of you Princess people have been to Alaska,,

May 31st, 2005, 09:29 PM
We rented a car in Skagway and drove to Emerald Lake. It is a similar trip to the train but much less expensive. We rented a full size (Camry) for four people. Total cost was about $100 including gas. We took about six hours for the trip and it was a very good road and very scenic. Bring passports or other ID as you will pass into Canada. Interestingly, that border crossing (which is in the middle of nowhere) included a much more detailed examination of our ID than crossing into Canada on the way to Vancouver. Highly recommended.

We also took the bus to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. $5 each way...buses leave every 30 minutes and you can buy your ticket on the bus. It was about a 25 minute ride and we spent about 45 minutes there. Lots of hiking around...if you like that allow more time.

Also did the tram in Juneau. About $24 for an all day pass. Kind of pricey but if it is a nice day worth the trip...also many hikes around the top.

May 31st, 2005, 09:39 PM
We took the Duck Tour in Ketchikan. We had a tour of the city narrated by a local youngman who lived there most of his life. He was very informative and personable. When we were in the water we were taken to an area with eagles perched all over the place. It was an enjoyable tour on a very warm and sunny June day...

May 31st, 2005, 09:55 PM
We also rented a car in Skagway. We did not arrange it ahead of time, we simply asked some locals where we could rent a car. It was through a local agency, and we drove up White Pass and into Yukon territory and saw caribou, a bear and many eagles.

Actually, the first time we went to Skagway we were able to rent mopeds, and we did this trip on mopeds. That was a hoot, but I don't believe that any place there rents them any longer.

In Ketchikan, I strongly recommend the float plane trip over Misty Fjords. It was one of the best excursions we ever did. We booked it through the cruise line, but you could possibly book it ahead of time on your own.

In Juneau, we hooked up with a local guy offering tours for about $15 per person, out to Mendenhall, where we hiked around. We also went to a bar and met some native Alaskans.

May 31st, 2005, 10:06 PM
and struck up conversations with the folks we encountered. It was great fun and nice way to see how the folks there live on a day to day basis. I used as my guide a "Walking Tours" guide and then we just branched out from there. My son made friends with a little girl in Skagway and we must have visited with her and her mom for about two hours. The husband was a guide and trapper and she showed us all of their furs and let Timmy peek at a frozen bears head!! It was great and if we go again we will most likely do the same thing. :)

May 31st, 2005, 10:12 PM
Alaska has gotten very popular, so some ports will be jam-packed. We are one of 4 ships in Skagway on 6/23. There is a port website for the Northwest ports that will tell you how busy port are. When there are several ships in port, it is more important to plan ahead.

Skagway -- Several hikes as well as the free town walking tours through the National Park Service.

Juneau -- Alaska State Capitol, City Museum, Russian Orthodox Church, Alaska State Museum all within walking distance in the downtown area. Or catch a trolley around town. Easy to catch a shuttle to Mendenhall ($10 r/t) or to take the tram up to Mt. Roberts (near the dock) if the weather is clear. No reason to buy in advance onboard. Last time we were in Juneau, my dad rode the trolley over to the State Museum, then rode the trolley at least one more complete circuit just to listen to the driver.

Ketchikan -- Walking tours of the area. Check the visitor's center for maps. Also likely to be some tours for Saxman or Totem Bight at the dock. I have no experience with these tours, though.

There is so much information (and very knowledgeable people) over on the Ports of Call -> Alaska forum. If you are looking for adventurous tours, I suspect they will require planning ahead. However, you'd get much more accurate info from BudgetQueen, Host Caroline, and Yukon who frequent the Alaska forum. See ya there. :-)

May 31st, 2005, 10:16 PM
I would highly recommend in Juneau, to get on the city bus and have them drop you off at Glacier Gardens.....this is on the way to Mendenhall Glacier.
It is a great stop!!!

Ketchikan, just walk around town...real easy to walk around, get a map of the walking tours in the Tour Office right off the ship.

Skagway, you can take a walk to the cemetary, about a mile from town..nice walk.


June 1st, 2005, 11:52 AM
In Juneau, we did everything on our own without prebooking anything. We took one of the shuttles to the Mendenhall Glacier. I had planned for us to hike one of the trails that gets closer to the glacier, but it was a drizzly day. We ended up enjoying the exhibits in the visitors center and seeing the glacier from the photo point trail.

After riding the shuttle back to town, we walked up to the capitol building. They give free tours of it. We learned a lot about Alaskan state government. From there, we went to the Alaska State Museum. It has lots of interesting exhibits. And we shopped in a few stores on our way back.

June 1st, 2005, 01:28 PM
We also rented a car in Skagway and drove up to Emerald lake. The drive was beautiful and it was nice being able to stop where we wanted.

We did reserve it online ahead of time, we weren't willing to take a chance there wouldn't be any cars left when we got there.

June 1st, 2005, 02:13 PM
In Ketchikan, we did a kayaking trip through Southeast Sea Kayaks. This was the only time in 2 weeks that the camera stayed put away. There was just too much to see that I didn't want to dig to get the camera out. They limit the trips to 6 or 8 kayakers. We were the only paying guests on our trip... with 5 guides! It was simply amazing to be out on the bay and we did see a good bit of wildlife. The sound of a humpback up close without any motors is awe-inspiring.

My parents just got back this morning. This was the one excursion we insisted they had to do while in Alaska. (They also have a toursaver coupon this year, making it a fairly good deal.)

June 1st, 2005, 02:28 PM
In Juneau last June we used Mighty Great Trips (they have a website) which did a bus tour of town, Mendenhall Glacier and a salmon bake. The $$ for these two combinded tours was about $40.00 pp. They pick up right out front and it took about 5 hours. Definitely a great package for the $$$.

June 1st, 2005, 02:50 PM
Our 1st stop was Ketchikan: Rented fishing gear got a license and fished off the Creek Street Bridge - kids caught 6 fish. When they got tired of fishing, we just walked around the town, shopped and ate. Fishing cost $35 w/lic.

2nd stop was Juneau: I had reserved a van with "Rent a Wreck" they met us at pier, got us set up, and off we went. First dropped off 10 rolls of film at Wal-Mart for 1 Hr (3hr) developing. Drove north on the only road. stopped at Mendenhall, hiked around, continued north. Stopped at eagle beach - saw lots of eagles there. Basically saw all to be seen North to end of road 50 miles. Then drove back to Juneau (saw bear on way back) Had lunch and continued South and then drove through the town, very beautiful homes on the hills. Went back to get film. Left Van in parking lot at pier. Took tram up the mountain - great views
We were back on ship with 30 min to spare. Kids loved the scenery, animals and bear. Cost $100.00 for 6 of us for van, plus lunch. and the tram.

3rd stop Sitka: took cab to Bird/Eagle Home and then on way back to ship saw a boat leaving soon for whale watch tour. Went ahead and took it, just 4 of us, boys went back to ship. Cost $300 for whole day. boat was expensive. But we saw just about every type of animal, mammal or bird in Alaska. Saw humpback and grey whales, seals, sea lions, eagles, puffins, plus more. good tour.
So you can have a very good time, save money over ship tour costs, and probably see more on your own. We did meet some very nice Alaskan along the way and wouldn't have had we been on a tour.

Budget Queen
June 1st, 2005, 03:29 PM
Bottom line, you will no longer have much in the way of booking tours at the dock. My recommendation is to always have PLANS and reservations in place before you leave. If the plan includes the city bus tours fine, but you are making a big mistake just walking off the ship, then deciding what to do. For clairfication, it is VERY unlikely you will have any options for rental cars, flights etc with walk up space. So consider doing some homework and making plans for the too short port times.

There also is NO WALMART in Juneau, only Ketchikan on the Inside Passage. They probably stopped at Fred Meyer.

Pam in CA
June 1st, 2005, 03:34 PM
We did the Duck Tour in Ketchikan and thought it was great. The guides were knowledgeable and we got a tour of the city as well as the harbour. It's also a fun thing for kids to do.

June 1st, 2005, 04:25 PM
In Ketchikan, two years ago at least, there was a large building at the dock where tours were sold. That way, depending on the weather, you might choose a different plan than booking ahead. Ketchikan also has an excellent exhibit run by the Forest Service - large building not too far from the lumberjack show. Free for seniors with Golden Age pass (so far, the only advantage I've seen for getting old!) Also an excellent quilt shop on the second floor of a large building at the end of the pier, and good internet service there too. Nancy

June 1st, 2005, 05:20 PM
There also is NO WALMART in Juneau, only Ketchikan on the Inside Passage. They probably stopped at Fred Meyer.

The Evil Empire is descending upon the one of last great Walmart free zones.

That's right. The new 24/7/365 supersweatshop opens in the previously vacated KMart location in 2006. Lucky Juneau!

Enjoy Fred Meyer while its still there...

Back to the topic at hand: In Juneau, we took the city bus to Mendenhall Glacier and hiked around. It was a stunning day. Lake Mendenhall was a smooth as glass until the glacier calved. What a site!

Also, Arctic Terns nest in the sand on the shoreline by Photo Point. The US Forest Service ranger/guide warned everyone to stay behind the fence, but someone let their children run wild near the sand. They got dive-bombed by the Terns! It was hilarious. I wish I had my camcorder with us. $10,000.00 for sure.

If you're on a budget, the bus trip to Mendenhall Lake/Glacier is very few dollars very well spent.

This time, we can afford a little more and will be doing a helicopter tour, which sounds amazing.

June 1st, 2005, 06:26 PM
In Ketchican we took a tour of the town that we found on the website classictours.com. This tour is done in a classic 1955 car by someone who has lived in the town for many years and seems to know everyone. It was an enjoyable couple of hours taking us around to see the totem poles, fish hatchery, residential part of town, with lots of local lore thrown in. Lowkey and interesting.

June 1st, 2005, 06:44 PM
Skagway.. "Dangerous Days of 98" show and the Red Onion Saloon.
Juneau.. Red Dog Saloon
Ketchikan.. Dolly's

June 1st, 2005, 06:53 PM
We don't usually book tours, so all of these suggestions are appreciated. Many thanks.

June 1st, 2005, 07:19 PM
We took the film to a store near Mendalhall in a shopping mall. I don't remember name for sure but it was one of those big got everything stores.

I only shop at Costco so I don't know all the names. sorry,
I just know we dropped off film picked up snacks and soda/bottled water all at the same store. It also had a good souvenier shop/area.

Cruisin' Chick
June 1st, 2005, 11:13 PM
Most of the time when we get off the ship, we just plan to walk around if town is nearby or get a taxi into town. A couple of times we felt comfortable enough to negotiate a tour with driver and get a feel of the local area (Matzalan and Ochos Rios come to mind).

On our trip through the Inside Passage last summer:
Ketchikan: went to that building on the pier and booked a tour there. Hubby felt the bus was uncomfortable. Totems were high point (and it seems good timing, my daughter may be studying Indians this next year and she can say she saw some in person). The last stop was Dolly's which was the one item on my list for that town. It was rainy, daughter was whiny, so after Dolly's, we walked back to the ship and stay there.

Juneau: walked into town, walked around (didn't go as far as the capital building), and shopped for a few souvenirs (not at recommended stores, mind you) and some bottled water for hubby and Pepsi for me.

Skagway: again, walked into town (there's a little shuttle at the pier, too) and walked around. We ran into a tour group and listened in. Turned out to be the US Forest Service tour mentioned by someone above. Really interesting lecture. Followed it back to the Moore House. He founded the town and there's a little museum there that I recommend if you're into history. Later on we caught the one excursion we had booked ahead of time (thru the ship which was good because we got back after the departure time and the ship has to wait for anyone on a tour booked through the ship). We went on a comfy bus up through the Pass (parallel to the train). Even with all the fog, it was scenic as the driver went a bit further.

June 1st, 2005, 11:27 PM
Dangerous Days of 98..is that the theater play I read about somewhere?

The classic car sounds good, expensive? I do like the local guides and have found this a good way to see what the other side wants us to see

No Wal-Mart in Walpole, not that they haven't tried!

Nancy, I hear you. Last think I want to do is end up being miserable because I booked something for a rotten day.

Duck tours, will that leave us time for other things? Are these booked ashore?

So, what ports are we unlikely to find people offering tours on shore? Is everyone renting these cars ahead of time?

How much is a wreck?

I saw tha salmon bake and I am intrigued. Since everyone says you must do the glacier this sounds like a winner all around.

But I am wondering why is Mendenhall so great. Won't we be seeing lots of glaciers? Tell me what is special here?

Kayaking, hmm, Ive never done that. Capt Larry sure is well loved. Emerald Lake, only if you rent a car? The tram and walking tours sound more affordable. Remember, we catch the ship after spending 5 nights on land (Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage). I am afraid I will feel a bit tapped out by the time we get to these ports. Still, if I take your (everyone) advice I should enjoy a fairly well rounded week.

Thanks for the two web addresses. I plan to check those.

What about the float plane. Sounds like it would be fun. Book onshore? Web address, price?

Same with the railway, at $89 each is this really great? I mean, what would I see that I haven't seen by then? I would expect to be wowwed for that. Trains are fun for about a half hour then I can get bored. What is so special?

Thanks for responding. I want to support the local population and see the sights while doing it. With so much of Alaska owned by Princess and HAL I think that it is important. I don't mind spending but I want to benefit the right people when doing it...

June 2nd, 2005, 09:03 AM
Joy2Day mentioned a web site that tells which ships are in port at specific times. Does anyone know what that site is? Also, how did you find the best way to find the best rate to rent a vehicle at each port?

Thanks for the help.


June 2nd, 2005, 09:14 AM
Today, I tried some different search criteria and found the port schedule website. Actually, I found 2 sites.



June 3rd, 2005, 08:39 AM
Don't quit now. We need answers people!!

June 3rd, 2005, 10:04 AM
Below is a website for visit Juneau and the Rent a Wreck. We got a van for about $90 a day it fit 8 or more. there is only 50 miles or so of road in Juneau so in a long day you can see most of it. We made lots of stops along the way and still saw it all in about 5 hrs.


As for Mendenhall - It is fantastic as you can get up close to a glacier with out the cost of flying on to one. Plus it is a beautiful site with the lake, waterfall and glacier.

There are a lot of web sites for Juneau and Ketchikan with tours not done by cruise co. So Google the city and look them up.

June 3rd, 2005, 11:15 AM

Did the "Duck." This bus/boat is strange looking but very interesting. It was inexpensive and fun. Where else can you get a brief tour of the town, hear local lore from the native guide and then glide into the bay area and see the various ships/boats close up? We boated across the bay and saw several eagles in their nesting areas. The crew met us near the ship (Island Princess, 9/2004) and were very nice people. They have a web page with photos and videos.

A good time.:)

Island Princess--Alaska north bound cruisetour, 9/05/04
Disney Wonder--land and sea, 5/26/05
Coral Princess--Panama canal--10/05/05

June 4th, 2005, 08:33 AM
Does anyone know who is on the Dawn as CD? Was he/she great fun? Also, my favorite entertainment is the stand-up comedians, anyone have any comments on the ones who might be currnetly on-board? That would be fun to know.
Does Princess do the theme nights, sock hops, etc.?

This is going to be a great reference while planning each day. Problem is I won't be able to do it all. Isn't that always the problem, trying to decide what and what not to do?

June 7th, 2005, 08:09 PM
How far was the walk to the Glacier? We want to do this but are not sure if we will have enough time, should we book in advance or do the city bus?

June 7th, 2005, 09:31 PM
In Ketchikan, we attended the supremely touristy Lumberjack Show and had a blast! Would never have gone, except some friends had recommended it, and we're so glad they did. Lots of fun, especially if you have kids with you.

In Skagway, we loved the White Pass and Yukon Railroad trip. Can't remember if we booked it directly, or through the ship. I do remember looking at their website beforehand.

Mendenhall Glacier was great. We purchased a round-trip bus ticket from the kiosk in town (or it may have been near the ship's dock -- I can't remember -- but it was easy to find). We lucked out and got a talkative bus driver who pointed out lots of interesting things along the way.

June 8th, 2005, 09:15 PM
That sounds like fun. Did you book that after you were off the ship?

The Rail trip may not be in the cards but I was thinking of the salmon bbq w/ Mendenhall.

June 9th, 2005, 12:34 AM
What is the trolley that someone mentioned they took in Juneau? Anyone have more info on this?

Do we need to pre-purchase the tickets to the Lumberjack Show or can we just buy them there?

How much is a taxi to the Mendenhall Glacier?

June 9th, 2005, 09:14 AM
Trolley website -- www.juneautrolley.com

June 9th, 2005, 11:20 AM
How far was the walk to the Glacier? We want to do this but are not sure if we will have enough time, should we book in advance or do the city bus?There are shuttle buses near the ships that will cost you $5 per person each way. My understanding is that the city bus costs less but doesn't take you all the way to the visitors center like the shuttle buses do.

Here is a map (http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/mendenhall/map.html) of the visitors center and the trails. We had planned to walk the East Glacier Loop Trail, but the drizzly weather kept us from doing the hike. It's a 3.5 mile hike to get closer to the glacier. We ended up walking to the Photo Point and a little bit along the Trail of Time before deciding not to continue on the East Glacier Loop Trail.

Admission to the visitors center is $3. We enjoyed looking at the exhibits. Some of the folks ahead of us were griping about the cost.

June 9th, 2005, 02:54 PM
Thanks for the websites. I'll check them out.

June 9th, 2005, 06:28 PM
that means if you are a senior or disabled you can get a National Park Pass that lets you in for less or free. I used mine for my whole family - 6 of us and we all got in free.
Just one more bit of info.

June 10th, 2005, 08:51 AM
The tickets for the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan can be purcased in advance, or at the show itself. It's within easy walking distance of the ship. Our ship docked early, so we were able to attend the first show of the morning. No long lines or huge crowds. The website for the show is www.lumberjackshows.com (http://www.lumberjackshows.com/).

June 10th, 2005, 10:22 AM
In Juneau I did the X-Trek 4 hour Hike on the Mendenhall Glacier.. It was incredible....

In Skagway we did the dog sledding and helicopter ride, which was lots of fun.

In Juneau we went kayaking in Orcas cove... It was ok...

We booked all the excursions on our own...

June 14th, 2005, 09:45 PM
We will go ahead and look for the shuttle buses. Our ship seems to be a bit tardy coming into Juneau each time so I want to be flexable.


June 14th, 2005, 09:56 PM
If you really want to learn lots about Alaska, you should go to the specific ports of call board for ALASKA. These types of questions are asked and answered in depth daily.

Alaska, it is great!

June 17th, 2005, 12:24 AM
Please give me more info on the ship's floatplane tour How many people on a plane? Does everyone get a window seat? Is there a taped narration or does the pilot do it?
We'll be on Island Princess next week.

June 20th, 2005, 07:20 PM
Hello. My family and I just returned last nite from Alaska. Let me tell u, we had an "awesome" time! I want to go back again. Next time we will go to other ports of call.

In Skagway: We rented a car and drove up the mountains to Emerald Lake. Parts of the ride were quite foggy and it reminded us of the snow blizzards we get in Chicago. Once we were high above the clouds, WOW! The weather was warm and we saw such beautiful scenery. There were lakes, waterfalls and beautiful trees. At a suggestion that I read in the threads, we stopped off at the Cinnamon eatery that was along the highway. Yum! We also did a bit of driving through the town.

In Juneau: We went whale watching with Captain Larry. He is great at spotting the whales. We were fortunate to have a "naturalist" aboard that told us about whales. We saw whales, sea lions and bald eagles. His tour company dropped us off after the sailing at the Mendenhall Glacier and we walked around there. We then hopped on the $5 bus that took us back to the dock. We also did some walking through the shops.

In Ketchikan: We walked the town. The town is loaded with jewelry shops. We watched the boats docking there and watched the float planes taking off and landing nearby.

This trip was AWSOME!