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Jimbo

Sitka - Alaska... Must Sees at this port

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Also what is in walking distance around the Pier to do. We have most of the other ports on this cruise booked with really neat excursions so this might be a more of a chill port and less expensive excursion. Any ideas?

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One of the more interesting things about Sitka for me is its Russian heritage.  Besides walking around downtown there is also the Sitka National Historic Park which has a lot of totem poles.  Here's a link which shows many more things to do there:  http://www.alaska.org/destination/sitka/things-to-do  When we were there Sitka was a tender port and I would assume it still is.  BTW, what ship will you be on?  We were there on a HAL ship and that line doesn't appear to stop there anymore.  Enjoy!

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11 minutes ago, BarbinMich said:

One of the more interesting things about Sitka for me is its Russian heritage.  Besides walking around downtown there is also the Sitka National Historic Park which has a lot of totem poles.  Here's a link which shows many more things to do there:  http://www.alaska.org/destination/sitka/things-to-do  When we were there Sitka was a tender port and I would assume it still is.  BTW, what ship will you be on?  We were there on a HAL ship and that line doesn't appear to stop there anymore.  Enjoy!

We are on Ovation of the Seas and I would assume now with a ship this large there would be no tenders on our itinerary but I may be wrong.

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47 minutes ago, Jimbo said:

We are on Ovation of the Seas and I would assume now with a ship this large there would be no tenders on our itinerary but I may be wrong.

 

The larger the ship the more likely it will have to tender at some ports, i.e. the ship is too large to dock at the port's pier.  I've never been on a RCCL ship, but on HAL, Celebrity and Princess they use the larger life boats as "tenders", when a ship can't dock.  Occasionally, a port will have its own boats that come out to a ship to pick up the pax, but I don't think that's the case in Sitka.  FYI, the town's population is 8,000+ and your ship can carry 4,100-5,000 pax.

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5 hours ago, BarbinMich said:

. . .  When we were there Sitka was a tender port and I would assume it still is.  BTW, what ship will you be on?  We were there on a HAL ship and that line doesn't appear to stop there anymore.  Enjoy!

 

This year four HAL ships will dock in Sitka:  Eurodam, Oosterdam, Amsterdam and Maasdam. 

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5 hours ago, BarbinMich said:

......... When we were there Sitka was a tender port and I would assume it still is.  BTW, what ship will you be on?  We were there on a HAL ship and that line doesn't appear to stop there anymore.  Enjoy!

 

 

A dock has been constructed north of downtown Sitka.  We docked there in 2013, and it had been in operation for several years prior.  We again docked there last fall while again on a Celebrity ship.  Celebrity runs no additional fee shuttles from the dock to the Isabelle Harrigan Centennial Center which is conveniently located downtown.  The Russian Bishops House (a National Historic Landmark operated by the NPS) is essentially "catty-corner" from the drop off location.  

 

For those who haven't visited Sitka, it is a lovely community and much less touristy than the standard cruise ports.  Easy walk along the seawall from the Harrigan center to the National Historical Park (at times referred to by locals as the  Totem Pole Park).  On that walk you will also pass the Alaska State Museum satellite location in Sitka.  

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We were there in 2017, 2 ships in port; we tendered off and the other ship was at the "new" dock just outside of town.  There was a shuttle, last call was about an hour before sailing time as it was about 15 minutes out of downtown.

 

St Michael's Cathedral is well worth the time to visit.  Lots of very interesting items from the early days of Sitka, many of which survived a fire.  We also checked out the Bishop's House and took a walk down the waterfront and for a lark went into the Aquatic center.

 

Very walkable city.

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Sitka is one of our favorite ports! Pretty much all the ships now dock outside of town and free shuttles run into the Convention Center. I have to say that the Sitka people have this down. My DH uses a mobility scooter and they are so accommodating. The scooter fits under the Greyline type buses and the drivers are very helpful. 


Our favorite route is to turn left as we come out of the Convention Center area and head out by the marina to the Totem Pole Park. The trails there are great and handicapped accessible. The visitor's center is small but very interesting. They will give you a guide to the totems so you know what you are looking at but you need to return it when you are done. 


We go through most of the park then work our way out and follow city streets back to town. We've done the Raptor Center and it is interesting and walkable if you like to walk. In town there are no Diamonds International, etc. but there is a nice fabric shop for quilters, a Ben Franklin that has lots of souvenirs, some nice stores with Russian-themed souvenirs, and the St. Michaels church is right in the middle of the street. They were in a remodeling mode last year when we were there. The Russian BIshop's house is interesting as well as the walk up to the top of the Hill. 


Can you tell that we enjoy Sitka? Enjoy your stay there!


Karen

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Sitka was our favorite port when we sailed on the Westerdam, and it was the one port where we chose not to do any organized excursions. We tendered ashore and from there, we followed the path along the water into the Sitka National Forest. At the entrance we saw several totem poles. We hiked through the forest (fairly easy and we were even pushing a stroller).

 

Once on the other side, we visited the Raptor Center where we got a close up view of several bald eagles as well as other rescued birds of prey. From there we took a different route along one of the streets into downtown Sitka where we visited St. Michael’s Cathedral and various shops. All charming and void of the usual junk found at souvenir or chain stores. Some of the best photos I took on this cruise were of the downtown area with the beautiful mountains as a backdrop. We finished our walking circuit at the same spot where we started and then we tendered back to the ship. 

 

Other family members took a kayaking tour and they also agreed that it was one of their favorite ports of call as well. I can only hope that Sitka remains the way it is and doesn’t become overcrowded like other more frequently visited ports in Alaska. One of the biggest turnoffs about ports like Juneau and Ketchikan were the crowds and overcomercialized waterfronts. With several ships in port at the same time, they felt somewhat like Nassau on a busy day. 

 

 

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So there is a dock, that will be a real time saver. Free shuttle to downtown and sounds like a real walkable port where we will find plenty to see and do.

 

Thanks for all the great info.  We are the only ship in port that day so we are assured of using the pier and no tenders for us.

 

There is a  triathlon there the day after we are there, so there may be a few more people walking around town then on  a normal day with one ship in port.

Edited by Jimbo

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20 hours ago, Northern Aurora said:

A dock has been constructed north of downtown Sitka.  We docked there in 2013, and it had been in operation for several years prior.  . . .

Thanks for the update!  Although as other posters suggest, some ships still have to drop anchor--I guess when there's more than one ship there.

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20 hours ago, Cruise_More_Often said:

 

This year four HAL ships will dock in Sitka:  Eurodam, Oosterdam, Amsterdam and Maasdam. 

Thanks for correcting my erroneous post; don't know where I got the info re HAL not stopping there.  Thought I had gone to the HAL site, but just checked and they certainly have Sitka as a port.  Often I go to http://ports.cruisett.com/ to check on ships in port and they definitely show multiple HAL ships in Sitka, as well.

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The only reason I knew is that we're going there in June on the Amsterdam. :classic_biggrin: We've been be on five Alaska cruises (I think five), and I've always wanted to see Sitka. We're doing an excursion called Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest, and it will leave enough time afterwards to see some of the places everyone on this thread has recommended.

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Sitka also has some great art shops/galleries, if you want to pick up some hand-made souvenirs, whether it's jewelry or pieces of art.  There were some gorgeous paintings there when we were there in 2017, and it was the one time I've ever been truly tempted to pay for an original painting.  They've also got some great local sea salt that you can buy, and it's really worth the price.  

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Has anyone done either the Russian Folklore Dance or the Tribal Dance shows in town? Are they worth the time and money? It looks as if the tribal show is only available through the ship on our day in port. 

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We had a chill day in Sitka too, and really enjoyed it.  Wandered downtown and read historical markers.  Visited the Russian Cemetery.  Found a little touch tank and salmon hatchery where the water was boiling with little fins.  Walked around in Totem Park (National Historic Park).  Chatted with a noisy raven and a silent bald eagle.  Great day.

 

Pic of Russian Cemetery   :  https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/russian-cemetery-sitka/

Pics of Totem Park:   https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/sitka-national-historic-park/

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On 2/17/2019 at 10:51 AM, BarbinMich said:

Thanks for the update!  Although as other posters suggest, some ships still have to drop anchor--I guess when there's more than one ship there.

 

 

Barb:  I was in Sitka for a conference a number of years ago (Alaska Historical Society/Museums Alaska), and at the time the community was losing port calls from ships.  While many of the citizens didn't want Sitka to become another Skagway, there was an effort to attract a dock.  The argument was that a dock would attract more port calls.  It seems to me that the dock, which is located several miles north of downtown Sitka, was privately constructed.  It is located in a shipyard.  When we were there in 2013 it had been in operation two or three years.  And I have no idea if it is attracting more port calls, but Sitka certainly has retained its charm.

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On 2/17/2019 at 3:30 PM, Sunny AZ Girl said:

Has anyone done either the Russian Folklore Dance or the Tribal Dance shows in town? Are they worth the time and money? It looks as if the tribal show is only available through the ship on our day in port. 

 

Is the "Russian Folklore Dance" offered by the New Archangel dancers?  If so it has been a number of years since I have seen them.  The members of the dance troupe change through the years, but the performance I saw was rather underwhelming at best.

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Was in Sika for the first time in August of 2018. We got lucky and had some really good weather. We docked north of the town and were bused into Sika. We will be on Ovation of the Seas in mid May but I see where Royal Caribbean will be tendering. I would consider the weather when deciding what to do. There are several hiking trails to the backside of the town and easily accessible. We enjoyed a three mile hike which is very scenic considering the weather was good. Will be going back to do some more hiking this year if the weather is decent. DSC07946.thumb.JPG.1f9e2203b6241702e17f820d2558a767.JPG 

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16 hours ago, Northern Aurora said:

 

 

Barb:  I was in Sitka for a conference a number of years ago (Alaska Historical Society/Museums Alaska), and at the time the community was losing port calls from ships.  While many of the citizens didn't want Sitka to become another Skagway, there was an effort to attract a dock.  The argument was that a dock would attract more port calls.  It seems to me that the dock, which is located several miles north of downtown Sitka, was privately constructed.  It is located in a shipyard.  When we were there in 2013 it had been in operation two or three years.  And I have no idea if it is attracting more port calls, but Sitka certainly has retained its charm.

Thanks for the info.  Looks like the dock in the Halibut Point Shipyard (http://halibutpointmarine.com/cruise-terminal.html) is a big success for Sitka.  As for the number of ships calling at Sitka, I went to one of my favorite websites,:  http://ports.cruisett.com/.  Looks like the 2019 season will be very busy for Sitka:  16 ship visits in May (28,000+ pax), 23 visits/month in Jun, Jul, Aug (37,000+ pax in both Jun, Jul; 33,300 in Aug); 17 visits in Sep. (23,500 pax).  The largest ship to visit will be the Ovation of the Seas (4,000+ pax) in May (only ship to visit Sitka in May, presumably because it's so big that Sitka couldn't accommodate another ship on the same day).

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We spent a couple of days in Sitka before our cruise in May of last year.  Many of the highlights have already been mentioned. Within walking distance of downtown, we visited the Sheldon Jackson Museum, the Science Center (or aquarium), the totem poles, and in general, wandered around the waterfront.  Depending on the day of the week you are there, you can take the local bus from downtown, out to the Raptor Center or the Fortress of the Bear. 

 

Riding on the local bus (not really meant for tourists but for locals to get around) was a fantastic introduction to the town.  The driver of the bus gave us the highlights of the town. He stopped at every stop along the route, announcing every stop (there were four of us on the bus at the time, all tourists going to specific places.) He gave us tips of things to see, a history of the town and the area.  Any time a local boarded the bus, he greeted them by first name, they asked about each other's families, etc. The locals gave us tips of things to see/do. It was an experience in and of itself.  It only runs during the week; no weekend route. 

 

Sitka was a great introduction to Alaska and our cruise. Have fun.

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