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What would you do?

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2 adults visiting Juneau in Mid-August, which would you pick and why?  
 
1) 2 hours of whale watching with 25-50 people on the boat, then visit Mendenhall Glacier (visitor center, hike to Nugget Falls, would only get views of the glacier), cost: $150pp
 
2) 1 hour canoe paddle across Lake Mendenhall, 1-1.5 hours hiking on the glacier, then 1 hour canoe paddle back, about 15 people on the tour, cost: $350pp
 
Both companies get excellent reviews online, both are about 5 hours long, both have flexible cancellation policies, and both would be booked privately (not through the cruise line).  We will also go whale watching in another port, and will hopefully see whales from the cruise ship, but this would be our only port to stand on a glacier.  
 
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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I have not been on the canoe paddle excursion, but are you positive that you get to walk on the glacier?  I have only seen glacier walks from helicopter excursions.  You might want to ask the tour operator directly how much time you have to walk ON the glacier.

 

There are smaller group whale watch/Mendenhall combo options. 

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27 minutes ago, katrina915 said:

I have not been on the canoe paddle excursion, but are you positive that you get to walk on the glacier?  I have only seen glacier walks from helicopter excursions.  You might want to ask the tour operator directly how much time you have to walk ON the glacier.

 

There are smaller group whale watch/Mendenhall combo options. 

There are several canoe/kayak ex cursions that walk the glacier. Different point of the glacier, which is still pretty big.

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I'd do the whale watching but only with a smaller operator. There are many whale watching companies out of Juneau. We really enjoy our time with Jayleen https://jayleensalaska.com/ Then stop off at Mendenhall on the way back into town. 

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I would never do a whale watching trip on a 25-50 passenger boat.  We did one on an 8 passenger boat.

 

DON

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Thanks for all of your replies.

 

Yes, I am positive the canoe tour takes us to hike ON the glacier.  It specifically says so in the tour description, plus I've read lots of reviews with photos online.  The same company also offers a similar tour for half the price which only does the canoe and does not walk on the glacier.  

 

I agree that 25-50 people on the whale watching boat is not ideal.  What I like about that tour is they give us as much time at Mendenhall Glacier as we want because there are shuttles running back to the cruise port every hour.  That would give us time to hike out to Nugget Falls and take our time taking photos and exploring the visitor center, and we can return to the ship whenever we are ready.  All of the other tours I found give you a set time at Mendenhall (45 minutes or so) and the reviews said it wasn't really enough time for all they wanted to do there.

 

I am just so torn between the two tours... On the one hand, we are doing whale watching in a different port, but what if we don't see whales that day? or what if the weather forces that tour to get cancelled?  Is it a mistake to only book one whale watching trip on the cruise?  I thought maybe this Juneau tour could be our back up, and if we get to see whales on both tours, that would be a bonus.

 

On the other hand, this would be our only chance to walk on a glacier and that sounds like an incredible experience.  Is walking on a glacier worth an extra $200pp?  And what if we have rainy weather that day?  Will it be miserable to be out paddling in a canoe in the rain?

 

I keep going back and forth and can't decide what to do!

 

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I would do the canoe and glacier walk.  While most Juneau whale watching operators guarantee seeing a whale or your money back, you might only see one whale and only his back as he comes up for air.  Also the larger tour boats stay quite a distance away from the whales.  Canoe and trek for sure, that's what I would do.

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We did an independent kayaking excursion on Mendenhall Lake in 2012. It was a drizzly day, but we still had a great time. There were lots of icebergs floating in the water then. I was shocked at how few there were when I was there this past summer. The glacier has retreated 4,000 feet in 20 years. They say it won't even be visible from the current visitors' center in another 30 years.

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Without question I would do the canoe and glacier trek.

 

Make no mistake, it absolutely has the potential to be slightly miserable rowing across the lake if the wind is blowing. If it's just raining, that's no big deal IMO. It was raining in Juneau when we were there...on and off...but the rain wasn't a driving rain...not a gully washer type rain...and the rain was very sporadic. We had rented a car and while it was raining at the ship...it wasn't raining on Douglas Island...then it wasn't raining over by the glacier. I drove in and out of rain all day.

 

There are only so many opportunities to walk on a glacier. Most of them involve a rather expensive air flight...at $350 pp...that's a bargain for a "glacier landing." You'll be working harder than a helicopter ride, but it will also add to the experience in a different way. The fact that your glacier trek will be 1-1.5 hours is great. Some of the helicopter rides can be much shorter on a glacier.

 

Also...I've seen photos that show Mendenhall from the viewpoint that others have gotten from hiking up to it on the West Glacier trail and also from a helicopter landing. It's much more impressive that anything that you will be able to see from the visitor center area. The glacier is receding but it is still quite long...you just can't see it. I think I read that there is a proposal to relocate a visitor center to get it closer to the glacier again because the view is getting worse and worse as time goes by.

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6 hours ago, Anita Latte said:

Without question I would do the canoe and glacier trek.

 

Make no mistake, it absolutely has the potential to be slightly miserable rowing across the lake if the wind is blowing. If it's just raining, that's no big deal IMO. It was raining in Juneau when we were there...on and off...but the rain wasn't a driving rain...not a gully washer type rain...and the rain was very sporadic. We had rented a car and while it was raining at the ship...it wasn't raining on Douglas Island...then it wasn't raining over by the glacier. I drove in and out of rain all day.

 

There are only so many opportunities to walk on a glacier. Most of them involve a rather expensive air flight...at $350 pp...that's a bargain for a "glacier landing." You'll be working harder than a helicopter ride, but it will also add to the experience in a different way. The fact that your glacier trek will be 1-1.5 hours is great. Some of the helicopter rides can be much shorter on a glacier.

 

Also...I've seen photos that show Mendenhall from the viewpoint that others have gotten from hiking up to it on the West Glacier trail and also from a helicopter landing. It's much more impressive that anything that you will be able to see from the visitor center area. The glacier is receding but it is still quite long...you just can't see it. I think I read that there is a proposal to relocate a visitor center to get it closer to the glacier again because the view is getting worse and worse as time goes by.

 

Wow, crazy!  I have been re-reading your Alaska review (since when I read it a year and a half ago, I never imagined I'd actually be going to Alaska, and now I need to re-read it and take notes! lol) and here you are, replying to my question!  Thanks so much for all of your advice, it is greatly appreciated!

 

You have all convinced me... we booked the canoe tour!  I was able to book on Viator for the same price as booking directly through the tour company, but Viator lets you cancel up to 24 hours in advance with no penalty versus the tour company who charges a fee to cancel.  Thanks again for everyone's replies!

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