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Rocky of London

Alaska...shore excursions to go or not to go, that’s is the Question

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Hi....

On the inside passage (Alaska) cruise, could anyone recommend a good excursion to go ?

Would it be best to book excursions independently or with the cruise line ?

 

We sail June 2020...Would it be best to book early or wait and see what the weather will be like nearer the date.

 

Appreciate any good tips and advice from anyone who has experience of sailing along the Inside passage of Alaska.....

 

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2 hours ago, Rocky of London said:

Hi....

On the inside passage (Alaska) cruise, could anyone recommend a good excursion to go ?

Would it be best to book excursions independently or with the cruise line ?

 

Independently if possible

 

2 hours ago, Rocky of London said:

 

We sail June 2020...Would it be best to book early or wait and see what the weather will be like nearer the date.

 

If you want to be sure that you get what you want - ASAP.

 

2 hours ago, Rocky of London said:

 

Appreciate any good tips and advice from anyone who has experience of sailing along the Inside passage of Alaska.....

 

 

DON

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We had a wonderful day in Skagway - rented a car and drove the Canadian/Yukon Highway, stopping whenever we wanted.  Startling views along the way made for a special day.

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On 1/4/2020 at 8:16 AM, Rocky of London said:

Hi....

On the inside passage (Alaska) cruise, could anyone recommend a good excursion to go ?

Would it be best to book excursions independently or with the cruise line ?

Rocky,

If the question is whether to go on ShoreX or not, the answer is YES GO. You've already spent so much money to get there, you need to get away from the dock or even what's walkable, to experience Alaska.

 

Have been on Alaska cruise 3x, although Sitka and Victoria only once. Booked again in June, and going to book July 2021 tomorrow! We did all of the suggested excursions with ship's SXs, except Victoria, which see.

 

Juneau: Go whale watching. If you are trekkers, do a combo tour that takes you to Mendenhall Glacier as well. Walk one of two trails to either a good view across the pond, or to the waterfall which is much nearer the ice.

 

Skagway: Take the White Pass Railway. You can go up and back on the train, or up on train back on a bus -- we liked the latter better because the bus stops a couple places for photo ops. Our SX also included a light lunch at a Gold Camp; you may prefer more time in town. There is a good brew-pub and a yarn shop if either of those interest you!

 

Sitka: We did the triple SX -- Otters, Eagles, and Bears! It was very good. Everyone's favorite, in fact. At the Eagle Rescue, take the time at the end of the program to walk up into the woods (forest) just to experience it.

 

Prince Rupert: Have not been there, although the 2021 cruise calls there.

 

Victoria: June is not too early to go to Butchart Gardens! Have seen pics from then. We were there in August, but they plant things so there is always something of interest. We did this one privately (rented two cars for nine people), but with only five of us this year will probably go for the ship's offering.

 

We keep saying we will spend a few days in Vancouver, but haven't yet! 

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Brilliant....that’s very helpful, we will now book trips....and your so right, it’s a long way to go and not see as much as possible from land and sea...

We have 3 days in Vancouver, so we will head for Stanley Park....not sure after that ?

 

 

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Posted (edited)
22 hours ago, Rocky of London said:

 

We have 3 days in Vancouver, so we will head for Stanley Park....not sure after that ?

 

Vancouver is a destination itself.....so much to see and do ... personally I love the mountains sooo...   if you have a car take a 2 hour drive north to Whistler.... the drive/scenery is breathtaking....have lunch in the village... stay there a night if you have time.      

 

Closer to Vancouver take the Skyride up Grouse Mountain.... amazing views from up there

Edited by sr71_1

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Vancouver has the largest/most authentic Chinese garden ("Scholar's Garden") outside of China. I believe it is named for Dr.Sun Yatsen. This is a particular interest of mine and dr'spin's. But I'm liking the suggestions for scenic drives as well.

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Alaska's fairly well set up for DIY adventures too, if you want to try a port on your own.  If you like walking in nature, you can see some of Alaska's stunning beauty completely at your own pace.  Literally.  🙂 

 

As for tours, if you think it's the only time you'll go to Alaska, I'd recommend a wildlife tour of some sort, with whale-watching being one of the best options.  But once you get to Alaska, you might realize it won't be the last time.     

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We have booked a return sea-plane trip to Victoria for a day from Vancouver. Aiming to see Butchart gardens there (it's not on our cruise itinerary). I am planning to book, in the next couple of weeks, a whale watching half day from Vancouver (Granville Island) as well as Alaska whale watching, which we have already booked with local providers mentioned in other people's trip reports. 

 

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In Vic seaplane landing is likely right downtown and ask pilot to point gardens out if you fly over B/G gardens. B/G is 30-45 drive from there so make sure you plan bus, taxi something to get you there without wasting a lot of time. Also Vic is capital of BC so government buildings may be of interest and look at free gardens in Vic and Van.  In Ketch look into crab boat tour.  We loved your city by the way. sightcrr 

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Thank you SightCRR, glad you had a good time in London!  I am assuming there will be a taxi rank where Harbour Air lands, for us to take to the Gardens? Is there a taxi rank there to get back?

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There will be many taxis at Empress Hotel which is very near landing point. It looks like it runs about $45C one way. I cant help with getting back. Maybe contact cab driver on way out for later pick up or contact garden guest services when you arrive for info. There are buses/tours that are cheaper but charge per person and take longer and flood the gardens with people all at the same time. It has been a long time since we were there and we either drove ourselves or took cruise sponsored tour. sightcrr

ps. You can check the weather the day of but to change plans based on day or more forecasts is not worthwhile. There is never bad weather just bad coats, jackets, shoes & outerwear. sightcrr 

Edited by SightCRR
weather

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Thank you - we will look for a taxi at the Empress if not at the landing station, and ask Guest Services re getting back. I have booked the seaplane already, so we are going whatever the weather! (Assuming it flies?)

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On 1/10/2020 at 11:02 AM, worldtraveller99 said:

Thank you - we will look for a taxi at the Empress if not at the landing station, and ask Guest Services re getting back. I have booked the seaplane already, so we are going whatever the weather! (Assuming it flies?)

A few hopefully-useful tidbits - first, cabs should be lurking as close as they can get to the floatplanes (there's a loop road around the outside of the Wharf St parking lot that runs right in front of the walkway down to the planes) and if there isn't one when you walk out, wait a couple of minutes and one should turn up (my wife flies to Vic on business regularly and has never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a cab to show up after any chopper or floatplane ride - local cabbies know the schedules and also that many fliers want to go to offices further out in the 'burbs of Victoria so it's a reliable income stream for them).

 

Second, if you want to optimise efficiency of your trip consider whalewatching from Victoria instead of Vancouver - the latter either requires a longer trip or a lengthy shuttle, depending on whether you book with Wild Whales (Granville Island - they stay out up to 7 hours so have the best possible chance of seeing whales on a single trip of any provider in Vic or Van, but only a few % better chance than a 3 hour trip out of Victoria), Prince of Whales (Westin Bayshore - an interesting combo is available where they sail to Victoria, detouring for whales on the way, then fly you back or vice versa), or any other 'Vancouver' company (shuttle buses from downtown leave 90mins before departure from Steveston, at southern tip of Richmond, so a three hour tour actually sucks up closer to 6hrs with any other vendor).

 

Third, you could also contact HarbourAir about a flight direct to Butchart's private dock (both boats and floatplanes can land here). You'd need to charter a whole plane - others on your roll call might be interested in sharing? - so could get very ka-ching, but it's the single most efficient method in terms of time spent 😉

 

HAs policies on change fees vary by ticket type, but are usually free on all but the cheapest category as long as you give them just 4 hours notice - so if you do try and alter your plans you should have a good chance of incurring no penalties at all (especially if you offer to charter a plane!) When cancelled by weather they offer rebookings at no charge or full refunds, your choice - lack of visibility (fog) as well as high wind/waves are what tends to have them cancel their flights, as floatplanes need to be able to see the water to safely land and can't land on water that's too rough. In peak cruise season they're still pretty reliable, unless we have a major weather system roll in which is very rare in summer - if you're visiting early or late in the season the risks climb.

 

If you're really keen to maximize the chance of getting to the island, change over to HeliJet which gives you a significantly lower chance of cancellations as they are all fully instrument-capable and not generally impacted by fog or wave height - and on the rare occasion that CXH is closed completely will fly to YVR instead and give you a free limo ride to anywhere in Vancouver. The missus always tries to book Helijet, but sometimes a short-notice meeting means no seats so she has no choice but to use HarbourAir.

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Thank you martincath. I will probably stay with our booking as no guarantees re a roll call on our Silver Muse ship. The reason we will not whale watch from Victoria is that we only have the day there and want to see Butchart Gardens and the Royal BC Museum & Empress Hotel, so we will have the whale watching from Vancouver on a different day (we have 5 nights in Vancouver before our cruise).

 

Interestingly I have not yet booked that. I intend to book with Prince of Whales, but when I looked a few days ago they seem to go only from Granville Island now (another early morning taxi!) and not from Coal Harbour, huh. Maybe they have merged with Wild Whales (which I hadn't heard of)?

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2 hours ago, worldtraveller99 said:

Thank you martincath. I will probably stay with our booking as no guarantees re a roll call on our Silver Muse ship. The reason we will not whale watch from Victoria is that we only have the day there and want to see Butchart Gardens and the Royal BC Museum & Empress Hotel, so we will have the whale watching from Vancouver on a different day (we have 5 nights in Vancouver before our cruise).

 

Interestingly I have not yet booked that. I intend to book with Prince of Whales, but when I looked a few days ago they seem to go only from Granville Island now (another early morning taxi!) and not from Coal Harbour, huh. Maybe they have merged with Wild Whales (which I hadn't heard of)?

re: PoW, no merger I'm aware of - there are tons of docks at Granville Island, an entire fishing fleet operates out of it as well as many pleasure craft, so they may just have cut ties with the Westin or even be temporarily using it while repairs are made (the Bowen Island Water Taxi used to also dock pretty close to Westin but had to give up their dock as it was falling apart). Whatever happened to cause the change wasn't exciting enough to make the news anyway 😉

 

Timing-wise, long before we moved here we came on vacation and did what you're planning - floatplane both ways to Victoria. We had enough time to see the Royal BC, a couple of galleries, the Empress (just walked around, no tea - it was overpriced enough 20 years ago and now it's horrendously so), Craigdarroch, and the CVS shuttlebus to & from Butchart with 4 hours on site (including lunch), plus a whalewatch (PoW zodiac, 3 hours) so it's definitely possible though it does make for a long, busy day!

 

With 5 days in Vancouver I can see why you'd feel you have more time to whalewatch here though - and unless PoW have started doing the same as Wild Whales (1 trip per boat per day) I'd recommend the latter, purely because of the extra time on the water which maximizes your chance of success if the orcas are further out. Either that or schedule your whalewatch for the first day, so that if you are not lucky you can wait until the end of your stay to take your freebie ride - if the orcas are too distant to reach the odds of them being seen the day after are reduced, as they may get even further or not enough closer, so giving it a few days improves your odds.

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Interesting - just looked on the Wild Whales website - much more dated than the snazzy Prince of Whales one, and still only showing rates etc for 2019, whereas PoW has book now online for 2020. So I will probably stay with that, and get round to it soon!

 

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fyi two things to know. 1) Alaska whale watches short run out and 100% chance to see humpback whales, 25% chance to see orcas. Canada whale watch longer runs and almost 0% to see humpback, 50% to see orcas. 

2) Don't expect the BC museums to be anywhere near the quality, size and cost of the Many free London museums. 

sightcrr

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Thank you! We have already booked 2 whale watching excursions on the Alaska cruise part of our holiday. But my husband really likes whales, so I shall also book the Vancouver whale morning.

I am sure the BC museums will be interesting. We have loved the museums in Toronto, Quebec and Winnipeg - but this may be much smaller?

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For whales from the ship be on deck facing forward with warm clothes and long lens camera or binocs when transiting Jump to search

220px-Stephens_Passage_and_Admiralty_Isl
 
Stephens Passage and Admiralty Island from Douglas Island

Stephens Passage and or near the entrance to Glacier Bay in the area of ISP. Many ships will have gps maps to let you know where you are. Whales from whale watch tour will be close but from the ship a whale is a whale and if it is a small ship the watch crew may make an announcement however by the time a person hears then reacts it might be to late. Also watch other people and find out what they are running to see. Many times when driving you will see cars lined up on the roads long before you see the bear that everyone is watching. I am sure you will enjoy the BC museum for $11 c (senior) but it won't be like the at least 10 free ones in London. My wife likes dollhouses and the Toy Museum has 3 floors of toys and one whole floor of dollhouses. V&A, London, Fire, Tate, are just a few on long list and almost all free. Enjoy BC but don't compare them to London's or you may be let down. 

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On 1/4/2020 at 2:31 PM, SbbquilterUT said:

We had a wonderful day in Skagway - rented a car and drove the Canadian/Yukon Highway, stopping whenever we wanted.  Startling views along the way made for a special day.

 

Did you rent through DIY Jeep Tours or just the local rental place i.e Avis? Thanks in advance!

Edited by BrandFam4

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We rented through Avis - walking distance from the pier.  Do remember your passports to cross into Canada.  Wonderful drive.

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Try to book as many as possible independently. In Skagway we didn't have enough time to take the train and then rent something to drive to Emerald lake so we chose to rent a car instead and do the Yukon trail by car. It was so gorgeous but nothing compared to the beauty of Emerald Lake. This was probably my favorite time on the whole cruise. We stopped and saw sled dog puppies, went through a museum and stopped for so many photos on the way. Here is one of Emerald Lake and the photos don't even do it justice.

6Skagway18.jpg

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