The allure of sailing past glaciers, venturing into the rugged wilderness and admiring the quirky frontier towns entices more than a million people per year to take an Alaskan cruise. An Alaskan cruise is not one of those vacations where you want to skip a port and relax on the ship. There are too many wondrous adventures waiting that make it necessary to plan your Alaska cruise excursions carefully.
Unfortunately, Derrick and I haven’t had the opportunity to take this cruise. However, my in-laws have cruised to Alaska multiple times, even taking the land and sea tour once, so I asked my mother-in-law to share her insight on the best Alaska cruise excursions. They always sailed with Royal Caribbean, but many of the excursions are similar, regardless of the ship you choose. You can also book some of these independently (i.e., not through the cruise line.)
For those a bit more adventurous, a friend of mine highly recommends 2 tours she took, having sailed on Princess in 2017. So you get tips from my mother-in-law as well as my friend who sailed with kids K and Lucy’s age.
What Alaska Cruise Excursions Do We Recommend?
The Top 4:
- The train in Skagway – DEFINITELY!
- Free walk around Ketchikan – A great inexpensive way to explore.
- Whales watching in Icy Strait- I highly recommend, if in your budget.
- ABAK Glacier Trek and Paddle in Juneau – A must for adventurers.
My mother-in-law says…
We did the Saxman Native Village Tour our 1st time in Alaska. Unless it has changed a whole lot, I would NOT recommend this tour.
Instead, (and we did this twice) walk to the area where the famous Dolly’s House Museum is located. There is a cost to go in, but just stroll by if you’re short on cash. A beautiful river runs through the area, plus the history of a well paid lady of the night is fascinating. Ketchikan also has a huge store called the Tongass Trading CO. that is fun to walk through with clothing, fishing and hunting items and souvenirs galore. They also have a lumber jack show, which is a lot of fun.
We did the Glacier Gardens & Mendenhall Glacier tour again, on our second visit, because we enjoyed it so much the first time. The gardens have upside down trees where all the flowers grow out of the roots. You might even see a bald eagle or three! The Mendenhall glacier itself is magnificent! There is also an indoor area with an interesting history on glaciers. We even caught a glimpse of big horn sheep (not always possible to see but we did).
No doubt about it, I would do the White Pass Railroad train ride again. It takes you into the Yukon territory, a beautiful ride through the true Alaskan interior. My husband got a picture of a bear right next to our train car. You can even go out on a platform and take pictures if you can deal with the cold.
Once you have finished the train ride, wander around the small, quaint town. Walk by the Red Onion Saloon – the girls dance and hang out the windows as in days gone by. There are little shops and ice cream stores and you can also walk along the street on old fashion board walk sidewalks and take photos on the snow train car and side cars.
Icy Strait Point:
The best place to see whales is here! We booked a private excursion on our last visit as the Royal Caribbean tour packs the people on like sardines. This is also a fantastic place to see eagles by the dozens. If you don’t want to spend the extra money to see whales, you can walk along the pathway into a small wooded area, along part of the shore and back around. There is also a small museum showcasing salmon packing info and pictures of the equipment. But if you truly want to see whales…………get off the bucks
Tours for Adventurers:
Back to Dana….
My friend did an Alaska cruise with her family (2 grandparents, 6 parents and 6 tween – teen age kids) in 2017 and recommends ABAK Glacier Trek and Paddle in Juneau. This is geared toward adventurers and is a strenuous tour. The grandparents skipped this as it was above their activity level but the children ages 11 – 14 participated and loved the tour as much as their parents. This isn’t booked through the ship as it’s an independent tour. If you enjoy the outdoors and have the fitness level to participate, this is her absolute favorite tour from the entire trip.
The Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour in Ketchikan is also highly recommended and the grandparents were able to do this excursion. She said it was an interesting tour and seeing the bald eagles was amazing. You’ll be aboard the Aleutian Ballad, which was on the hit TV show “The Deadliest Catch”. On Princess Cruiseline the tour is called, The Deadliest Catch Crab Fisherman’s Tour.
They also did the Musher’s Camp & Sled Dog Experience in Skagway. The kids enjoyed the tour and seeing the sled dogs, but she did not highly recommend this particular excursion.
It’s no wonder that Alaska has become on of the most popular cruise destination in the world. The pristine frontier and impressive glaciers make the 49th state of the United States and ideal vacation. Ride the train in Segway, see the glaciers in Juneau, and go whale watching in Icy Strait Point. The beauty of Alaska awaits you!
What Alaska Cruise Excursions do you recommend? Share your picks in the comments.