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JLeslie's avatar

What excursions should I do on my Alaskan cruise?

Asked by JLeslie (61785points) April 11th, 2012

My husband and I have decided to join my parents and their friends on an Alaskan cruise. I’ve been going through all the various excursions, so many, and I am trying to narrow down what to do. The only one I know I am doing for sure is a trainride in Skagway.

Also possible in Skagway:

Should I do an excursion to a mushers camp? They tell you about what they do, you can play with the puppies, and they take you on a sled ride on grass, not snow.

Another one we are thinking about is horseback riding in Skagway.

In Juneau I have narrowed it to:

Floating down the river near Mendenhall Glacier. It is a 12 person raft, the rapids are not fast, barely rapids from what I understand.

Mendhall Glacier and Gardens. It’s a walking tour.

My parents are doing Gold panning and Alaskan Salmon bake, but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the gold panning? I can do just a Salmon bake for dinner which I am considering. What do you think?

In Ketchikan:

A jeep and canoe safari. We drive the jeep through the Tongass National Forest and then the Canoe is a 20 person canoe, but it says paddle across the lake system, which to me means it might be just a short trip across to another side?

My husband leans towards a fishermans tour where we would be onboard one of the vessels that was featured on the show Deadliest Catch, but this is not a wild ride on the seas, it is calm and they tell you stories, and it it is scenic.

Last choice there is a land sea choice, walk around Katchikan learn the history, stroll through the rainforest then board a boat and hope to spot some wildlife.

What do you think? I am interested in comments from those who have been to Alaskan and who haven’t.

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9 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I would do the salmon bake. Alaskan salmon is different from what you get in East Coast grocery stores or restaurants.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Do the salmon bake.
If you like flowers do the Mendenhall walking tour.

Can you do the fisheries tour in Juneau? Their aquariums are worth the tour themselves, and if you buy salmon their the money goes back into the salmon fisheries. They have great smoked salmon.

One tip, don’t worry about fitting any purchases into your luggage. 99% of the shops will ship your purchases to your home after you get back.

When I did the cruise I took a half day charter for halibut from Ketchikan, best part of it was the ship’s Italian chef prepared the catch for us that night.

JLeslie's avatar

@WestRiverrat Yes, they do have tours of the Hatchery’s, but I thought it would not be very interesting. I’ll rethink it, thanks!

6rant6's avatar

We did the Skagway hike. Awesome. But seriously, apply mosquito repellant even to the places you don’t think they can get to.

JLeslie's avatar

@6rant6 I was wondering about that. The mosquitos love me and I am usually very prepared in that way, but wasn’t sure if that far north it would be a big issue. Thanks!

syz's avatar

Do every single excursion that you can fit in! I hated the time on board ship (really? I need lectures on how to buy diamonds and square dance? Where are the wildlife, geology, history talks?) But every moment off of the ship was fantastic!

Jeruba's avatar

I would love to join you! My husband says a cruise is not for him, so I guess we’ll make landward plans instead.

But my son loved everything about visiting Alaska, starting with Skagway, and was most especially enthralled by the glacier. And I have always wanted to ride rapids. I hope you do everything you can think of and then tell us all about it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Welcome back from the cruise! What did you end up doing?

JLeslie's avatar

We were so lucky that we did not have any rain in any of the ports. They have had a very very rainy summer. I was really worried about the weather, because it would have ruined it for me.

In Juneay we did the glacier, whale wathcing, and salmon bake tour. The whale watching was amazing. We saw huge groups of them, maybe 12–14 come up out of the water at once right next to the boat sometimes. Even the tour guides said it was an amazing day, one of them took a lot of photos since it was sunny and so active. The glacier we were too rushed unfortuneately, but the movie at the visitor center was very informative. The salmon bake was sort of a dud honestly, but we met up with my parents there, they had been on a different tour, and that was nice at the end of the day, and some of the food was very good.

In another port, Skagway, we took a train up the mountains and back down. In the same port we also went horseback riding through the forrest, and then into a clearing with a river running through it and snowcapped mountains all around, it was beautiful.

In Kethikan we didn’t take a tour. We took the free local bus to a salmon hatchery which I found very interesting, and they had some eagles there, we then went to see some totem poles (I could have skipped that) and later on we walked around town.

We also went through glacier bay and the boat eventually sits near a large glacier and just turns the boat a little every 20 minutes or so, so everyone gets a view. Small pieces fell off, calved, while I was watching. The park ranger actually comes aboard and tells you about the regression of the glaciers and other info, and we were given some maps with time lines, really very interesting, I learned a tremendous amount, especially terminology, not knowing much about these things previously.

The ship was relatively small, 1400 passengers, nice mix of people. About 300 Australians on board, seemed like they were everywhere. Many people from the UK, and a few from other parts of Europe, some Asians (but I am not sure what percentage of them lived in North America) at least a couple were American who I spoke to, and most were not. And, of course many Canadians, and people from the US. The great part about the diversity was hearing other travels they had done, and of course people are interesting anyway. Seems most Aussies think Americans are just awful with gun control laws, or lack of, and very critical of our health care system (sound familiar).

We had dinner one night with a Welch couple who have live in Scotland for almost 20 years, and they were hysterical. Great attitude, I wish I was more like them. In the moment, loving every minute of every experience. Told us of their adventures.

One evening in the disco a German man and Dutch woman came up while we were all dancing to ask where we were from, they were sure we weren’t American, I guess their assumption is Americans don’t or can’t dance? Not sure. I had guessed they were European earlier actually, so it’s kind of funny they came up to us and asked and had made assumptions. My husband responded he was Mexican when they asked. My husband was very funny on the dance floor that night, really great time. We requested some songs that night because very few people were in the disco.

The cruise was mostly over 60 year olds, although there were quite a few families with young kids. Catering to the older crowd the library area of the ship was very large and very good.

The food on ship was good, and some meals were great. Many of the things had a little more fat than I would like, as most “restuarant” food does. I had a very very good Italian meal in the Italian restaurant, and another evening rack of lamb in the main dining room that was excellent. Oh, and a fish entree the first night in the dining room that was one of the best in my life. Since seafood and Italian food aren’t very good where I live now, those meals were a real treat. We chose open seating in the dining room, which worked out great. My parents and their friends had chosen fixed seating, 5:45 and I just couldn’t fathom being ready for dinner so early. I felt badly about it for about 2 days, guilt about not sitting with them, and then I let it go, because I would not have made it to dinner half the time even if I had been trying.

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