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Ketchikan ? did not book any shore excursions, did a walking tour from the book ?Walking Tours of Alaska?. Starting at the Cultural Center where you can start to appreciate the local art and traditions of the indigenous Indian tribes. Saw most of the highlights of Ketchikan. Viewed from the outside but did not go in due to price the Tibal Fish Hatchery or the Totem Pole Heritage Center. Headed to the Tourist shops (Just Salmon?) shipped a gift of Salmon and native ulu knife to Susan?s brother for his birthday, reasonably shipping cost and personal gifts arrived when promised.
Tourists overwhelm all of the ports when 4 or 5 cruise ships were there on the same day, hard to even walk down the sidewalks due to crowds. Not much anyone can do about it due to supply and demand but would certainly prefer days when less cruise ships were in port.
Skagway ? a preserved Klondike, gold-rush town with some buildings dating to the 1890s. I booked the White Pass and Yukon train excursion through Celebrity, and the train came down to the Summit dock to pick us up. They ran 3 sections for this tour, the Summit?s train was at least 12 cars, ran 3 times day. As a schooled civil engineer I enjoyed the train that climbs 3000 feet in 20 miles and has steep grades and cliff hanging turns. The train ride also included breathtaking views of glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels and trestles along with a knowledgeable narrative guide.
Juneau ? I had booked directly with Captain Larry for whalewatching and Coastal Helicopters for the Glacier excursion. Captain Larry?s office was right across the street from the wharf the Summit was docked on; they took us to the boat in a bus. Saw several whales including a mother humpback whale and her calf. Did not see any Orca?s. Captain Larry?s boat only takes 23 passengers so more attentive service then the big boats the cruise lines use for the whale watching.
Coastal helicopters picked us up at the ship as promised. 6 passengers per helicopter, 2 in the front and 4 in the back, certainly not the room of a first class airline seat or even a coach seat but as the ride is short, under 15 minutes each way, no problem. We did rotate seats on the way back so everyone had an opportunity to have a window seat. The glacier flight was probably the highlight of the trip. Susan in particular was enjoying it very much, she was like a little kid on the glacier, running around, wanting to see it all. Our pilot was very good in pointing out things on the glacier I would have missed such as a hole in the ice that started when the sun heated some moose dung, he said the hole started about a week ago and was maybe 6 feet deep now. After the flight the pilot outlined on a map the route we took and signed the map for Susan; turns out we only saw about 10% of the glacier field?an amazing place. Coastal runs a lot of people threw their operation, didn?t even shut the engine down between flights, land offload the old passengers, load the new passengers and takeoff, Southwest can learn a thing or two about quick turnarounds by Coastal.
Icy Straight Point ? a new cruise ship port. We were on the 7th cruise to stop at Icy Straight Point. We took the tender over to the island and toured the Cannery and other museum points of interest, did the nature trail and the beach walk. This took about an hour and a half or so. The nicest touch was the piece of wood and the Native Alaska poem they gave us to toss in the fire. We had varied opinions about Icy Straight Point. Thoughts about the museum were nice and liked the fact that most of the shops were selling goods made in Alaska instead of the standard ?Made in China? trinkets but not sure if it was worth the stop. We did not do any of the other shore excursions but people we met afterwards complained bitterly about the bear watching tour, never saw a bear and a boring tour. We also did not take the shuttle into Hoonah but went back to the ship for lunch and relaxing by the pool.
Hubbard Glacier ? spectacular; enormous proportions/beautiful scenery. As our cabin was on the starboard side of the ship we could see the glacier during the passage to the face. We stayed in our stateroom, had breakfast on the veranda while at the glacier. Once at the face of the glacier the Captain spun the ship around a couple of times so everyone had a look. Two Native Alaskans boarded the ship and gave a commentary during the glacier viewing, which was transmitted on the loudspeakers in the public areas and the close circuit TV in the staterooms. Speaking with others who went to the Revelations Lounge (Disco) and other public viewing areas, people were jockeying for space as early as 5:30 am.
They advertised two hours 8 am to 10 am but I believe it was less, we got to the Glacier about 7:30 am and went up to the face, the ship did 2 or 3 360 degree spins of the ship and then we left. I thought it was enough time as you can see the glacier on the way in and on the way out so actual viewing time was longer.