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Alaska Shore Excursions -- Build your own or book with cruise line?


Denali723

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We're confirmed for the July 16 southbound sailing on the Vision of the Seas, Seward to Vancouver. Our 1st cruise on RCI and Alaska.

 

Am looking for advice on shore excursions -- should we research and book our own or go with RCI? For what it's worth I have already booked a salmon fishing excursion on my own in Ketchikan -- the message boards were very helpful and all advised book ASAP so I did. Ports I'm specifically looking for advice on include: Juneau, Skagway, abd Icy Strait. We are a group of four with three generations: one fairly lively grandparent, one fairly lively 11-year old and two you-want-to-do-what? parents....Thanks in advance for the input....

 

acamden

VOS, RCI, July 16-23

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With Icy Strait being new on the itineraries, you'll be better off going through the cruise line because researching is very difficult. Juneau and Skagway are easy to research and book on your own, though.

 

Murray

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Hello -

 

I'm not the one who asked the question, but would like to give some input for some answers - if possible.

 

We will be on the Summit for the June 4th sailing. Hubby would like to do anything that involves eating good seafood, I want to Whale Watch. Is Icy Strait the best for whale watching? Also, in one port there is a crab feast offered on the ship, is this available to book independently, does anyone know?

 

I'm a huge fan of not booking on the ship and doing my own thing - so am very interested in ANY suggestions here! Thanks so much in advance!

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We will be in Alaska on the Mercury and have booked shore trips onboard and privately.

Juneau is a private tour to Mendenhall Glacier.

Skagway is on the ship's train tour.

Hoonah is on a ship tour around the area.

Ketchikan-My friend Judy and I will be taking the ship's float plane trip because we will only be in port for 5 hours. Tight scheduling makes this a must. My husband, Rick, is taking a local tour to Saxman Village and will go on that tour as we get off the trip.

We cruise out of San Francisco May 17.

Good luck on your trip.

 

Carol

 

12/2004 Spirit(Mexico)

09/2004 Paradise(Panama Canal)

05/2004 Mercury(Alaska)

02/2004 Regal Princess(Hawaii)

01/2004 Ecstasy(Mexico)

12/2003 Ryndam(Sea of Cortez)

09/2003 Paradise(E. Carrib)

02/2003 Conquest(W. Carrib)

05/2002 Elation (Mex.Riviera)

http://www.gifs.net/animate/img/boat.gif/img

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Hi, I would suggest booking on your own. I know when we were on a cruise the cruise lines try and put the independant tour operators down (because they want you to book through them and they get a huge kickback) but we have found the independant operators to be very perfessional.

 

Our family booked with Southeast tours through Skagway, they offer a lot of tours. The one we went on was to the sunny side, which is the Yukon. The weather in /dkagway was socked in as the weather in the Yukon was 90% better than the coast. Our tour was the horseback with Southeast, which was famtastic. We toured around Emerald Lake and came backk to their rustic ranch for snacks...breathtaking.

 

I have heard older people take the White Pass but we found with the smaller vans we got to stop and take photos as well as we got a personal lowdown from the van guide on the history of the Klondike.

 

Hope this helps...Let us know what you decide...

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I'm the opposite of almost everyone on every message board, I think.

 

I like to book through the ship for many reasons.

 

First, you get the tried and true reliability. They're constantly rated for quality.

 

Second, you have the assurance of the ship, and not just the tour operator. If you can't make port, you don't pay. If you're late, etc.

 

And thrid, you go with people from the ship and form wonderful bonds. I suppose if you're just there for you, or aren't a very social person, that wouldn't be important. But talking with everyone during and afterwards, meeting afterwards to talk about it again, makes it even more special to me. You'd be amazed at how many times you run into the same people on a huge ship, and how the shore excursions bring you together.

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"I like to book through the ship for many reasons.

 

First, you get the tried and true reliability. They're constantly rated for quality"

 

 

 

However in Alaska this is not always true. The cruise tours are more often in large groups using seasonal guides. Flights are more shuttle like- again moving large amounts of people. I have been traveling Alaska for years and have YET to hear of anyone missing their ship due to an independent tour operator?? As for the Misty fjords flight- I wouldn't hesistate to book independent- better tour and they will get you back on time. I went with Southeast Aviation last Sept on a half port day- scheduled perfectly. icon_smile.gif

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Originally posted by CruiseIsGood:

 

 

I like to book through the ship for many reasons.

 

First, you get the tried and true reliability. They're constantly rated for quality.

 

------------------------------------

 

I would just like to say that this is not always the case! We had a horrible experience (in cancun) with a ship booked excursion! It was so bad that this cruise (Alaska - May 29) we are booking everything on our own - with a lot of good advise from the CC boards!

 

Good luck!

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We heard horrible things from fellow cruisers about ship tours. The people they use do not live there and tell the wrong stories or give false facts. We did the same tours-booked on our own- and paid half the price as dinner mates did. They were a little ticked!

 

Time for another Cruise!

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We had a horrible experience 10/03 booking Jeep 4x4 tour in Martinique through NCL. EVERYONE on the tour (20+ people) complained about the quality of the tour. The ship staff heard everyone's complaints & shrugged their shoulders. I'm sure the tour still goes on.

 

We are also on the Alaska 5/29 cruise from Seattle. We are interested in a Glacier Helicopter tour and possibly dogsledding. Any suggestions on where (which port) to book this tour and with what Tour Company when booking independently?

 

Thanks.

 

Ingrid

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We booked a kayaking excursion independently in Haines. We requested individual kayaks and were able to get them. (We don't like paddling tandem kayaks.) There was a cruise ship excursion at Chilkoot Lake at the same time. They had many more passengers (probably 20+ per guide). We went farther on the lake and had a more personalized excursion. They were also in tandem and triple kayaks. Our excursion cost less even after giving our guide a great tip.

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Hello! I am sure you are going to get many varied opinions and in the end, probably equal pros and cons for both! I personnaly do both! I have been on quite a few cruises (didn't list them all) and have booked independent tours, have totally done my own thing AND have booked through the ship. We are doing a mix as well for our Alaskan cruise at the end of this month. I looked into many independent tours for this trip and first off have to say that Southeast Tours out of Skagway are very accomodating, were willing to wait for our us if we chose to book (an hour due to a helicopter ride) and they were very friendly and responsive. Dealing with the helicopter operators was also very simple and they were responsive as well! In the end, some decisions were made based on availability and times of tours offered through the ship and the independent groups! I have never (knock on wood) had a problem going either route. You do have the guarantee of booking through the ship that they will wait for you or get you back to the ship...honestly, I can only recall hearing of this happening to someone on one of my previous cruises.....a small group missed the ship having gone out to venture on their own and had to make their way to the next port. I don't think this happens very often and from what I have read, very rare to non-existant in Alaska. Having reserved alot on my own for various trips, there are some price difference but overall, I haven't found the cruise lines to charge much more (often the same or +10-20) than independent tour operators but you must compare apples to apples.....often when you see large price differences, there's something different! You often can find the cruise tours offered independently, sometime not, but you may find independent tours which are very different from those offered by the ship.

 

I would suggest researching your various options and choose based on WHAT you want to do and WHEN you want to do it! Coordinating multiple tours in a day might be a little easier through the ship. This board is very helpful in getting info on tours, names of tour operators and their links! But remember for every someone who loved it, there will always be someone with a negative - weed the info out and go with your instincts!

 

Good luck and have a great trip!

 

NCL 11/96

Windjammer 6/98

Splendour of the Seas 8/02

Radiance of the Seas 5/04

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I beleive while ship excursions are usually good, it is still worth it to book your own. People who provide local excursions usually worked for the ships before but since they were VERY GOOD and could count on getting their own clientele, they went independent. So, those are usually better tour operators and smaller tours. Plus it is much better karma to pay money to people who actually do the work. I booked salmon fishing with Ken from Northern Lights in Ketchikan and he told me that he used to work for the cruise lines and they took 40% !!!! of his fee. It is cheaper for us to book with him and better for him. We paid enough money to the cruise company already - let's keep the local guys in business.

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Well, I'm going to come to the support of "CruiseIsGood" here...

 

I've done all sorts of things in port on numerous cruises--I've done private excursions, I've ventured completely "on my own" and I've done many a ship's shore excursion...

 

And I do think "CruiseIsGood" is correct in many ways...there are many benefits to doing the ship's excursions--You're not giving your credit card to some local two months before sailing and having to trust they'll be there--or they'll allow you to cancel without a charge or whatever...

 

Local private tours do vary in quality, reliability, price...Some are very good...others are not...

 

We've also seen variables in the quality of ships' excursions...but less of a variance...and the dependability is always there--and backed by the cruise line...We've had ships excursions with big buses...but we've also had them with small groups...

 

And I HAVE met people who have MISSED the boat doing or hiring their own!!

 

And I agree with CruiseIsGood on the camraderie aspect...We have had many wonderful experiences doing shore excursions with the same folks at different ports and running into them onboard ship...

 

As to the money difference, the truth is that it isn't all that great...For example, we priced Capt. Larry in Juneau and the ship's offering of a small jet boat whale watch...and they are within $5 of each other...

 

Of course, there are also many good reasons to deviate from the ship's excursions...For example, this cruise, we are taking Southeast Tours Horseback trip in the Yukon...Why? Because the ship doesn't offer the equivalent.

 

I also believe in doing private tours for personalized itineraries or to squeeze in more time with less time spent unloading people off buses and waiting for stragglers...but that's a reason for PRIVATE guides, not for alternative bus trips with 30-40 others...For those, I'll take the cruise lines' offerings thank you...

 

For many excursions, the ship's offerings are just fine...and, after many cruises of doing things both ways, I have come to realize that the Ship's excursions are typically a quality product for what they are...

 

I am always surprised by how many "Excursion Snobs" one finds on these boards...the folks who look down their noses at those prefering the ship's tours while claiming to be saving heaps of money by booking basically the same tour with someone else (and often those savings are illusory--the difference being transportation to the tour's office, admission charges to sites which were included in the ship's tour or some other hidden charge) while forgoing the convenience of having the ship handle all the logistics and take you directly from and to the ship...

 

I once compared detailed notes with a shipmate on the private tour he took in Athens versus the Ship's excursion I took...It turns out that we went to all the same places, spent the same amount of time and had similar experiences...but mine included lunch and admission to the sites...he paid twice as much, had to pay separate admission charges and buy his own lunch and treat his driver as well!!

 

Guess who was ticked at that one?

 

Really, it comes down to preference, but most folks seem to have their minds set and have never even tried the other options...

 

Summit, July 3, 2004: Alaska: 13 night cruisetour

 

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May I make a suggestion. Post a question on Celebrity and Carnival regular boards asking for horror stories about booking shore tours through the ship or with private companies.

You have heard from people who supposedly are successful with both ways.

I suggest Carnival because there are so many more people reading its threads.

 

Rick

 

12/2004 Spirit(S.Mexico)

09/2004 Paradise(Panama Canal)

05/2004 Mercury(Alaska)

02/2004 Regal Princess(Hawaii)

01/2004 Ecstasy(N.Mexico)

12/2003 Ryndam(Sea of Cortez)

09/2003 Paradise(E. Carrib)

02/2003 Conquest(W. Carrib)

05/2002 Elation (Mex.Riviera)

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I've posted several times on the pros and cons of ship tours vs. independent and you guys have pretty much said it all so I won't re-post it. And I thank you for presenting both sides of the picture! It is completely up to the individual -- in terms of budget, amount of research you want to put into it, comfort level with independents. As with anything whether it be a tour, restaurant, hotel, cruise ship, we all take our own impressions away from the experience and if you travel much at all, will always hear "horror stories" about experiences on land and sea.

 

One of my main goals as a host is to ensure (hopefully) that no one is "put down" or made to feel that they have planned less than what they want for their "perfect trip" simply bec. they have made choices that others don't agree with. There is no right or wrong here...

 

Host Caroline

<font SIZE="1">One can never have too many days at sea...</font> icon_smile.gif

 

Sept 04-Royal Hounds Mariner of the Seas

Feb 05-Partae Pirates Carnival Miracle

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Thank you, Steve, Caroline and Mooshele. I've never been backed up about my choice before.

 

They are all valid points, and even the independent gang has totally valid points.

 

Perhaps when I'm an Alaskan veteran (next is the third), I'll feel more comfortable trying out independents. And most who are adamant about independents are veteran Alaska cruisers/vacationers. You know where things are, how to get there, who's trustworthy. First timers aren't as confident, and I think the ships give excellent tours for the prices, in my experience.

 

Pros and cons on both sides, definitely. Although I think the cons are being inflated on the ship excursion side, just a little bit.

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I too, wanted to thank everyone for their input - since I sort of jumped on acamden's ship (so to speak ;-).

 

I've decided to do a mixture - on and off ship. Those things I want to do and either can't find it off ship, or just have a feeling about, I'm booking through the ship. So, 2 out of 4 ports we'll be booked through the ship and the other 2 off. How's that for walking the fence? LOL

 

I'm a first timer to Alaska, but not to cruising and have had my share of 'bad experiences' from excursions booked on the ship, sooooo...I can definitely see both sides of the boat!!

 

Thanks again...

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Hi Luv,

We are on the 5/17 cruise. we are packing and will be leaving monday

Rick and Carol

 

Carol

 

12/2004 Spirit(Mexico)

09/2004 Paradise(Panama Canal)

05/2004 Mercury(Alaska)

02/2004 Regal Princess(Hawaii)

01/2004 Ecstasy(Mexico)

12/2003 Ryndam(Sea of Cortez)

09/2003 Paradise(E. Carrib)

02/2003 Conquest(W. Carrib)

05/2002 Elation (Mex.Riviera)

http://www.gifs.net/animate/img/boat.gif/img

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CruiseisGood,

You have to be comfortable with what you are doing. If dealing with the ship is what you need to do to make your cruise more comfortable, so be it.

Another thought, the private companies in Alaska are fellow Americans and have to make their living in a very short time of the year. The cruise season only lasts for a few months and they can't afford to goof around with their customers. We are comfortable dealing with them in most circumstances. In other parts of the world, we are really careful.

 

Carol

 

12/2004 Spirit(Mexico)

09/2004 Paradise(Panama Canal)

05/2004 Mercury(Alaska)

02/2004 Regal Princess(Hawaii)

01/2004 Ecstasy(Mexico)

12/2003 Ryndam(Sea of Cortez)

09/2003 Paradise(E. Carrib)

02/2003 Conquest(W. Carrib)

05/2002 Elation (Mex.Riviera)

http://www.gifs.net/animate/img/boat.gif/img

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CruiseIsGood

I think you summed it up fairly well. That is why I like this board. The people here are polite, well informed and sometimes opinionated. I have also booked both ways, am not an experienced Alaska cruiser but did extensive research and many hours on the boards.We were pretty much happy with all our excursions. The only trouble we had was on insufficient time on two bus tours in Sitka, one booked independently and one thru ship. They were both late, rushed thru everything and constantly had to wait for inconsiderate fellow travelers. We have also traveled for a week on our own and found that this was much better for us to book on our own. Here, costs and time utilization were prime concerns, and we made right choice. Have great time, enjoy and then share your experiences with the rest of us that don't have another Alaska cruise booked yet. Thank you too Host Carline.

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We are going on the Vision to Alaska on 6/25/04.

 

It's actually kind of fun researching and booking tours on your own. We booked a Misty Fjords flight seeing tour through Island Wings in Ketchikan. We saved about $40 for the two of us by booking direct. We chartered a private boat all day in Icy Straights to go fishing through Glacier Wind Charters. You can check out their website @ www.g-wind.com if you're interested in chartering a private boat for a reasonable price. They grill your catch right on the boat. They do other excursions such as whale watching and wildlife quests also. We paid about $10 less than the ship fishing tour for Icy Straights and theirs only lasts for half a day vs. our full day in a very personable environment. And of course, we booked Captain Larry through Orca Enterprises for Whale Watching in Juneau. It's about the same price as the ship, but supposed to be a much better experience. And while talking to Orca Enterprises office, we found out they book other tours as well. So, since they're so reputable, we booked a 2nd excursion in Juneau with them to take a helicopter to the top of a glacier and go dogsledding. That was about $90 cheaper for the two of us than the cost on the ship. We basically saved about $150 on the excursions we booked direct and got some really good packages for what we did pay which was about $1,700 for the stuff we booked direct. Whew! Better be fun.

 

We did book one excursion through the ship. It is the one in Skagway called the Skagway Extravaganza. You take the White Pass RR to the top of the mountain, come down in a van with scenic stops. You then stop at a trail camp that has entertainers of the era. You have a full meal including salmon grilled outside and go panning for gold. You then go to the Red Onion Saloon, have a private tour by the madam and are served beer or root beer just before the tour concludes. You can then choose to stay at the Red Onion or not. Well, of course I'll be staying.

 

Whether you book direct or through the ship. Do everything you possibly can. Have fun planning it and have a blast doing it!

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