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Les
Manchester (New Hampshire)

Alaska, Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Victoria, Seattle, Vancouver

What to see or do during cruise stops

I am cruising to Alaska from Seattle Sept 12, 2014 and visiting Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Point Straight, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Victoria B.C. Looking for suggestions for inexpensive tours or things to do for one day each place. Ships tours are very expensive. Also staying in Vancouver, Canada for 3 days post cruise. Any ideas there? Thanks very much.

Les


11 Answers

top answer by
Valerie from Seattle

Les, I hope you have a great cruise! I worked three summers for Holland America Tours in Alaska, so I have a couple suggestions for you. I'm going to assume you have 12 hours in each city, just for simplicity's sake. In some ways, booking through the cruise companies is what I recommend, because you are guaranteed a spot and while the prices are high, I can usually read through the descriptions to see what's actually cool and worth doing. But, since you want to try and save some money...

The other thing is that you mention some places on your list which you will only access from the boat--they aren't actual stops where you'll deboard. The big cities on your list are Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria; the rest are 'float-by' attractions. I don't know Victoria, so I'll leave that to someone more knowledgeable.

In Ketchikan, try to do something like the Saxman Native Village Totem Pole Park or Totem Bight State Historical Park. I'm not sure about renting cars in Ketchikan, but basically, check out some of the native culture--totem poles are one of the big things, but there are often other cultural tours too. At all cost, avoid the 'dinner + show' option. Those are always kinda cheesy, and finding great local food is way better, like Bar Harbor Restaurant.

In Juneau, try the Mount Roberts Tramway or find a tour company that does helicopter landings on Mendenhall Glacier (a good suggestion seems to be Temsco). These are expensive, but trust me, they're worth it. If the price makes you nervous, maybe call and see what their cancellation policy is, or how often they have last-minute availability. You could wait until you arrive in Juneau to book, and thus know for sure that the weather will be awesome. Another cool thing (if you're a beer person) would be to investigate the possibility of touring and tasting at Alaskan Brewing Company.

In Skagway, the must do is the White Pass & Yukon Route. Don't do the dinner option--opt for something in town like Skagway Brewing Co.. The train ride is simply breathtaking, and I've never heard any bad thing about it from anyone I've recommended it to... I've driven along part of that same route, so I can testify it's that cool.

Hope this helps as a starting point! There's lots to do, and it's been a while since I was up there, but you'll have a great time either way. Be sure to pack warm--September is already winter in Alaska!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Saxman Native Village Totem Pole Park (attraction)
  2. Totem Bight State Historical Park (attraction)
  3. Bar Harbor Restaurant (restaurant)
  4. Mount Roberts Tramway (attraction)
  5. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
  6. Alaskan Brewing Company (attraction)
  7. White Pass & Yukon Route (attraction)
  8. Skagway Brewing Co. (attraction)
11 thankscomments (4)


answered by
Scott from Phoenix, Arizona

We just completed a similar cruise and did our own exploring.  Since there were 4 people in our group we could get a decent bargain by hiring a cab to take us places we wanted to visit.  Mendenhall Glacier is very cool and we enjoyed the hiking trail from the visitor center that brings you somewhat close to the glacier.  We asked our cab driver to stop at the fish hatchery in Juneau and wait while we checked it out (20 minutes is plenty).  In Skagway we opted to take a hike up to and around a beautiful lake -- the visitor center in town has a map showing the trailhead and route mileage.  We ate at the local brewery and had an amazing beer, the Spruce Tip Ale.

If the gardens at Victoria are not your thing, several people on our ship enjoyed the killer whale trip that guarantees you will see killer whales or gives a sizable credit back.  This is the one organized excursion I would recommend.

Don't be afraid to explore on your own.  We felt our self-guided tours were amazing at a fraction the cost of the organized excursions.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
  2. Juneau (city)
  3. Skagway (city)
  4. Victoria (city)
6 thanks


answered by
Elizabeth from Juneau

First of all, welcome to the great state of Alaska! I have taken two cruises to Alaska in 2010 and 2011, and then moved my whole family up here to Juneau in 2012! There are wonderful things to do here in Juneau. We have a great tram Mount Roberts Tramwaythat goes up the side of the mountain, right by the cruise ship docks. You can spend all day up there, hiking the trails! The round trip ticket for the tram is $32. We also have a beautiful glacier, Mendenhall Glacier, that is worth every cent of the $20 round trip fee to see. You can hike at the glacier and there is an amazing huge waterfall that you can walk right up to! You might even see a bear or two, or a mountain goat hanging on the side of the mountains out Mendenhall Glacier. Both of these ideas are inexpensive and you will truly feel the beauty of our little capital city, here in Juneau. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mount Roberts Tramway (attraction)
  2. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)


answered by
doreen from San Jose (California)

What to see or do during cruise stops

I start my trip to Alaska soon, and as a result did a bit of research on what to see and do on the Alaska Cruise ship route.  The following is a summary of what I discovered as I searched for fun things to in Alaska that were not too expensive.

Ketchikan

Fish Creek:

Walk from the dock up Fish Creek and watch the Salmon swim and jump upstream. It is truly an amazing sight. Go up the path above town to where they actually spawn. They are so thick in the stream you can almost walk across them.

Rainbird Trail:

Stop at the visitor’s center on the doc and get a map of town. From there, take the city bus up to the library and walk the Rain Bird Trail. This is a nice introduction to the rain forest at the beginning of the trip. At the end of the trail, walk back down to the bottom of the hill and take the bus back to the port.

Totem Bight State Historical Park

Take the city bus to Totem Bight State Park to see the iconic Clan House and the totem poles. This is a beautiful park, even in the rain and worth the visit.

Herring Cove Bears:

At the dock you will find a number of vendors ready to take you to see various sights around town. A couple of them offer a trip to Herring Cove for a chance to see some black bears feeding on the salmon at the fish hatchery. I hear the bears are pretty consistent as long as it is salmon season. This is a relatively inexpensive trip and will include a stop at the other city Totem Park.

Hike up a Mountain:

There are a couple of hiking trails that leave right from town that take you into the beautiful mountains that surround Ketchikan. Let me know if you want me to send you a map. 

Hike Around Ward Lake and/or Go Fishing:

There is a nice, very easy trail around Ward Lake, a short bus ride out of town. You can walk around the lake, picnic in the shelter, and fish while admiring several types of forest terrains, including some old growth redwood trees.

Go Fishing:

If you want to catch some salmon to take home, you can rent a fishing pole right on Fish Creek. They will give you directions on how to get your fish to the packing house to get it cleaned, cut into steaks, frozen, and shipped home. Ask a local which ones you should throw back.

Go Shopping:

Ketchikan has a mix of locally owned stores the sell art, food. and jewelry made in Alaska and right in Ketchikan; and internationally known, upscale merchandise. If you want to be sure to buy from a local, ask one of the folks in the visitor’s center. We enjoyed shopping for prints and locally made souvenirs at Crazy Wolf Studio (Crazy Wolf Studio). They specialize in authentic Northwest Coast design Native Art. We watched them do some carvings while we were there.

Visit the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center:

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center provides a very nice overview of the history, culture, and wildlife of Southern Alaska. The exhibits are very well done and informative. The kids will like the life-like forrest room and the gift shop. They have some nice children’s books with Alaskan themes. It is a nice dry place to visit while a rainstorm passes. Admission isn't free, but it isn't expensive either.

Skagway

Drive over the Klondike Hwy:

Rent a car in advance for this one. For a complete description of this road trip visit Murray’s Guide  to the South Klondike Highway.  Murray provides great information about what to expect on this drive and for $5 you can buy his mile-by-mile guide.

Visit the Klondike Gold Rush (Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park):

This historical park is outside of town and includes old buildings and historical information as well as a beautiful waterfall.

Take the Ferry to Haines

The Fast Ferry will take you through a beautiful waterway to Haines. There are some nice tour companies that will outfit you for kayaking, hiking, bear viewing etc.  You can try to rent a car. (It didn’t look easy.) There is a bike rental shop in town and you can bike 13 miles to Chinook Lake and look for black bears fishing at the inlet.  The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve looks pretty amazing. The bulk of the Eagles don’t come to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve until November, but seems like most people see some while visiting in the summer.

Icy Strait Point

Icy Point Strait. Icy Point was designed especially for cruise passengers, so most activities need to be booked through your ship. There are some alternatives. We booked a whale watching trip with Icy Strait Whale Adventures based on Trip Advisor Reviews. From what I can tell the only thing you can do for free is take a hike along the shore which is beautiful or walk to the small town of Hoonah.

Juneau

View the Mendenhall Glacier

You can take the Mendenhall Glacier Express Bus directly from the port to the Glacier Visitor Center. A round trip ticket is $16. Once there you can visit the visitor’s center and hike around the area, including to the Glacier Lookout Point. It is a pretty big hike to the actual glacier but there some notable trails including the East Glacier Trail at 3.5 miles and bears are known to frequent sheep creek.

Hike the Perseverance Trail
The beautiful Perseverance Trail is one of the three most historically significant trails in the state. The original route, used by natives for goat hunting, fishing and berry picking, was later to become the first road in Alaska after gold was found in the 1880's. You can still see ruins and artifacts of the old mining operations scattered throughout the valley. Access the trail by walking up the hill through town from the port.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ketchikan (city)
  2. Fish Creek (attraction)
  3. Totem Bight State Historical Park (attraction)
  4. Herring Cove (attraction)
  5. Ward Lake (attraction)
  6. Crazy Wolf Studio (attraction)
  7. Southeast Alaska Discovery Center (attraction)
  8. Skagway (city)
  9. Klondike Hwy (attraction)
  10. Klondike Gold Rush (attraction)
  11. Haines (city)
  12. Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve (attraction)
  13. Icy Strait Point (attraction)
  14. Juneau (city)
  15. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
  16. Perseverance Trail (attraction)
  17. Rainbird Trail (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Alan from Winnipeg

While in Vancouver, a must see is Gastown. Also walk the sea wall and definitely visit Stanley Park

There are excellent restaurants False Creek


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Vancouver (city)
  2. Gastown (neighborhood)
  3. Stanley Park (park)
  4. False Creek (attraction)
5 thanks


answered by
Doug from Saint Augustine

If you are "adventurous" you must do the zip line in Ketchikan.  Check out the videos on YouTube to see what it is like.  My wife is terrified of heights but loved this.  Totem Pole exhibit is cool as well.

If you are only doing a cruise and not speding some additional time on land, definitely do a glacier tour/dog sled adventure.  Summer is not the ideal time so you must go onto a glacier to experience.  In Skagway do the railroad as mentioned above.  At the terminus in Seward I woluld highly recommend the Kenai Fjords boat tour.  We took a couple of boat tours and this one was the best.  The Alaska State Museum in Juneau was closed for renovation while we were there in May but should be open now.  Visit the capital building if time permits,  The Mount Roberts Tramway is located right at the cruise docks and gives one a spectacular view of the port and surrondings.    

A cruise gives you only a "glimpse" of Alaska.  If you possibly can do it, spend some more time and travel on the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage and/or Denali National Park to really see Alaska at its best.

Time is always an issue but I guarantee if you enjoy your cruise, you'll want to return.

Post cruise in Vancouver/Victoria BC: get to Victoria if at all possible.  Depending upon budget, take a the  seaplane rather than the ferry.  The ferry terminal for the trip to Victoria is way south of Vancouver proper so expect a taxi ride of $50 or more from the airport.  The ferry itself is inexpensive but the terminals in both Vancouver and Victoria are located a long distance from the main part of the towns.  Plane ride is about the same money and quicker.  So much to do and see in Victoria.  The Craigdarroch Castle and the the British Columbia Legislature Building as well as the Royal BC Museum are worth a visit.  Definitely recommend the Blue Fox Cafe for breakfast.  You won't be able to eat all the meal.  Stop for a drink at the Empress Hotel and stay up late (after dark) to see the hotel bathed in lights as well Victoria Harbor.  A lovely walking city.  Victoria is the better choice for sights over Vancouver for a short stay.

Have fun!  You will never forget the experience.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ketchikan (city)
  2. Skagway (city)
  3. Kenai Fjords (park)
  4. Alaska State Museum (attraction)
  5. Juneau (city)
  6. Mount Roberts Tramway (attraction)
  7. Anchorage (city)
  8. Denali National Park (park)
  9. Vancouver (city)
  10. Craigdarroch Castle (attraction)
  11. British Columbia Legislature Building (attraction)
  12. Royal BC Museum (attraction)
  13. Blue Fox Cafe (restaurant)
  14. Empress Hotel (restaurant)
5 thanks


answered by
Juli from Salem (Massachusetts)

When you are in Victoria, which many have recommended, be sure to take a bus tour out to Butchart Gardens — and do the afternoon tea while you are there.  Very, very special place!http://www.butchartgardens.com/visit


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Victoria (city)
  2. Butchart Gardens (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Mike from Vancouver

Hi Les, in Vancouver you can visit Stanley Park ,Grouse Grind, Kitsilano Beach, Yaletown,Seawall, Chinatown and many other locations around downtown.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Vancouver (city)
  2. Stanley Park (park)
  3. Grouse Grind (attraction)
  4. Kitsilano Beach (attraction)
  5. Yaletown (hotel)
  6. Seawall (attraction)
  7. Chinatown (attraction)
3 thanks


answered by
lauren from Vancouver

When stopping over in Vancouver grab gelato Bella Gelateria over a hundred awards! Go to Stanley Park Check out FlyOver Canada Grab a burger White Spot then spend the afternoon shopping Robson St and stop in Vancouver Art Gallery (Free Tuesday eve I Think?) We have many beaches too! Don't forget to putt around Aquabus to Granville Island Public Market

 Or head over to Main St Pack up a cheap lunch Solly's Bagelry (actually at 25th and Main now!) Then go to Queen Elizabeth Park for a picnic They have a cool conservatory up top (the big dome) with birds amazing plants and its warm! 

-West fourth also great area Rain or Shine Ice Cream

- The Mill Marine Bistro & BarThe Mill in Coal Harbour has delicious caesars which is a 'canadian' drink

Oh man Vancouver is amazing you will have a wonderful time!!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bella Gelateria (attraction)
  2. Stanley Park (park)
  3. FlyOver Canada (attraction)
  4. White Spot (restaurant)
  5. Robson St (attraction)
  6. Vancouver Art Gallery (attraction)
  7. Aquabus (attraction)
  8. Granville Island Public Market (attraction)
  9. Main St (attraction)
  10. Solly's Bagelry (restaurant)
  11. Queen Elizabeth Park (attraction)
  12. Rain or Shine Ice Cream (attraction)
  13. The Mill Marine Bistro & Bar (restaurant)
1 thanks


answered by
Trudy from Powder Springs

Not cheap, but once in a lifetime experience.  Dog sledding on a glacier.  Amazing. 


1 thanks


answered by
Janet

Victoria - take a ride on the Tally-Ho. Walk, walk, walk in downtown and harbor area or Beacon Hill Park. Dine on the harbor. Visit the Parliament buildings, Totem Park and the BC Museum. Have tea at the Empress.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tally-Ho (restaurant)




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