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Help, I'm late planning August 10, Cruise!


TMJJS
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I know, I know, but to my defense, we just got done with a great high school graduation NCL Pride of America cruise for my son.  This upcoming Alaskan cruise is just for my wife and I.

 

We are on the NCL Joy August 10-17 in a few weeks.

 

What are the not to miss highlights we should try to get scheduled?  What non-NCL tour operators should we check out?  We are stopping in the following ports:

 

Ketchikan (7am-3pm)

Juneau (7am-1:30pm)

Skagway (7am-5pm)

Victoria (4-11:59pm)

 

I'm fairly out of shape, so nothing too active, but I can scuba dive and did some hiking in Hawaii during excursions.

 

Thank you all in advance for any and all suggestions!

 

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Here would be my suggestions:

 

Ketchikan (7am-3pm) - Visit Creek Street first before it gets really crowded. We like to get off the ship as soon as they clear us and take the Funicular up to Cape Fox Lodge at the top of the hill for breakfast. Great view and great food - the sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage are my favorites. There are some very interesting totems at the top of the hill. Then you can walk down via Married Man's Trail. It's very easy - especially since you are going down - there are some stairs, but again down. It's really scenic and you finish walking over the creek which should have plenty of salmon while you are there. Then you can explore the shops and visit Dolly's House on Creek Street. After that you might want to call a taxi and ask for a ride out to Saxman Village to see the totem poles there and then take you on to Herring Cove as it will be a good time to see bears possibly now that the salmon are there. I would finish my day up exploring in town, doing a little shopping and then head back to the ship.

 

Juneau (7am-1:30pm) - My first priority would be to take a taxi out to Mendenhall Glacier and spend some time there. Do the hike to Nugget Falls - it's super easy. Then maybe get them to drop you off at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake for early lunch - if you drive up and buy at the desk it is much cheaper - they give you the local rate. I think the cost of a taxi for Mendenhall and this would be much less then booking a ship excursion that includes both. We really like the Salmon Bake - we are usually plenty hungry after hiking at Mendenhall and the food is very good and plentiful. Even though it is just off the road, it is like another world. It is a lovely setting - you can roast marshmellows at the fire pits and take a short hike back to the waterfall at the top of the creek there. And they have some enjoyable entertainment while you eat. Lastly, when the taxi drops you back in town if time remains and the weather is clear, take the Tram, which is right at the dock area, up to the top of Mount Roberts and take a walk up there - gorgeous views. And there are also some cute shops near the pier as well.

 

Skagway (7am-5pm) Here I would look at booking a private tour with Dyea Dave or Chilkoot Charters if they are not already completely booked to take the train/bus combo into the Yukon and back. If they are booked, consider renting a car and doing the drive yourself. Google Murray's Guide for the Yukon Highway and it will give you guidance. Other options in Skagway are visiting the Gold Rush Cemetery for the history and a short hike to some waterfalls there. Also fun in town is the Days of 98 show and the historical museums - there are a couple of good ones, one at the National Park Visitors Center which also can provide good information and does walking tours. You can also do a tour at the Red Onion Saloon to get a glimpse of what the brothel life was like back in the day - you might see a ghost. We caught one in a photo that we discovered after we got home. For real! Skagway is very walkable and there are some unique stores there so you can get a little shopping in as well if you like.

 

Victoria (4-11:59pm) - You could do an evening whale watching trip - we did one once and saw orcas at sunset. It was beautiful. There is no guarantee you will see whales though. We were lucky. Victoria is really pretty after dark - you might just want to explore at the Inner Harbour and on Government Street. Just seeing the Empress Hotel and Government Building lit up is really beautiful. 

 

Those are just suggestions based on things I like to do - I'm sure other people will weigh in with ideas! Have an amazing time!

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Adding on to the above post, the Totem heritage center in Ketchikan we felt was much more educational than either of the 'totem pole villages' - but it's not as scenic a display since most of them are indoors and many are in poor repair, so it does work best in conjunction unless your interest is much more on the academic side.

 

Continuing on the 'learning stuff' side, the Alaska State Museum is totally worth the walk from the docks in Juneau - we were super-excited to finally get inside it (prior trips it was either not open Sundays yet and we of course arrive on a Sunday, or was closed for renovation, so it's been nine years from when we first wanted to visit until we finally got to do so). $12 (discounts for seniors/kids/some other museum pass holders) was well worth it for a couple of hours of well-presented displays covering the history of Alaska.

 

Skagway you can try to get onto the park ranger walk (free), the town museum is small but nice, I second Chilkoot for out-of-town excursions (just came back from one to Emerald Lake, it was even better than the last one we took with them) and the new larger Skagway Brewing premises means it's much easier to get a seat and have a beer or three than it used to be.

 

Victoria, with a 4pm arrival, actually means you should be able to go see at least one actual indoor ticketed site - much better than the typical 'arrive when the sidewalks are already rolled up for the night' stops. If it's a Fri/Sat, you have late opening hours at the Royal BC Museum which is superb, if it's a weekday then the last Parliament tour might be just within your grasp - that leaves at 4:30pm each weekday so if you dock on time and jump right in a cab (<10mins drive) you should just make it. Otherwise Victoria is all about the beer in the evenings - try Swans or Spinnakers for some very old-school cask ales made on-site, and even served at the correct temperature (they both have two cellars, one at 4C and the other at 9C).

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You're not late planning. I didn't book my cruise until three weeks before I left, so you still have plenty of time. Since you mention scuba, look to see if NCL offers snorkeling in Ketchikan. It's one of our all-time favorite excursions. If you do that, you'll should still have a little time left to walk to Creek Street.

 

In Juneau last month, I took one of the shuttle buses to Mendenhall and enjoyed it. The path to Nugget Falls is paved, so it's more of a stroll than a hike. I took back-to-back cruises, and on my second stop in Juneau, I went to the State Museum. It's a new building since I was there last (in 2002). Lots of great exhibits. 

 

In Skagway, I walked to the Gold Rush cemetery and Lower Reid Falls. There's a shuttle bus that does a loop around the town for those who don't want to walk all the way. On my second stop there, I rented a bike to go toward the Chilkoot Trail. I also took a guided tour of Soapy Smith's parlor that the National Park Service offers.

 

In Ketchikan, I walked to the hatchery, Totem Heritage Center, and down to Creek Street. If you don't do the snorkeling excursion, then you could catch a public bus to Totem Bight or Saxman Village to see the totem poles. We've done that on a past cruise.

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