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What did you do in Skagway, Juneau or Ketchikan on your own?
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,
Last edited by Gypsea; May 31st, 2005 at 03:13 PM.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
856 days ~ 84 cruises ~ 27 ships ~ 16 years ~ 6 continents ~ 5 cruise lines
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.
"I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine"--Caskie Stinnett
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. :-)
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.)
Bahamas, Majesty of the Seas - 10/02
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W. Caribbean, Explorer of the Seas - 10/05
Barcelona to Venice, Regatta - 10/06
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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 $$ for these two combinded tours was about $40.00 pp. They pick up right out front and it took about 5 hours. Definitely a great package for the $$$.
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.
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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.
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
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.
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