Originally Posted by You
Hi Everyone. My husband and I (ages 33 & 30) are going on a cruise in the middle of May to Alaska, aboard the Star Princess. Being that this has been my dream vacation since I was a little girl, I don't want to miss out on anything. Anyone one have some good advice about what to do once on land? I'm a little leary of the excursions you can book through the ship. I've heard they are a bit expensive, and a little "cattle-like". My husband has no patience for huge crowds and long lines. Also, we are both drinkers, and I was wondering if it's possible to bring Vodka for me, and beer for him. Don't get me wrong, we will be more than happy to spend our money at the ship's bars and restaurants, but we'd like a couple of "nips" in our own stateroom. Can we buy liquor on board, to take back to our room? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Alaska is a fantastic destination! The only problem is that there's far more to see and to do in Alaska's major ports of call than in the ports of call of any other cruising area anywhere in the world, including Europe! You'll have about enough time to scratch the surface since you will be in each port of call for only a day.
That said, I do have a few specific recommendations.
>> In Ketchikan, the ship's excursion to Saxman Village, located just south of the town, is an excellent introduction to the indigenous culture of the Tlingit tribes. Saxman Village has an interesting and historically significant collection of totems at its entrance, and you will see totem carvers at work during the tour. The carvers make totems in all sizes, and they will make them to order for those who wish. There are also some interesing exhibits on Tlingit traditions, but the highlight is a show of Tlingit dance presented in a reasonably authentic Clan House. After the tour, you will have plenty of time to walk the historic town since the ship moors at the warf right in the center.
>> Alaska's capital city, Juneau, is quite walkable, and there are several attractions that are worth your time. If the weather is clear, you can take the tram right next to the warf (turn right coming off the ship and go to the end of the warf) up to the summit of Mount Roberts for some spectacular views of the area. IIRC, there's also a good lunch spot up there. Returning to the base, the state capital, located just a few blocks from the warf (turn left coming off the ship along the main street parallel to the warf and bear right at the fork in the main street, offers free tours throughout the day. About a block beyond the capital, the (Russian Orthodox) Church of St. Nicholas and the (Roman Catholic) Cathedral of the Nativity, both located on 5th Street, have very interesting icons and other art that make them worth a visit. Returning to the waterfront, you'll find several shops that offer souvenirs that reflect Juneau's Russian heritage including authentic nesting dolls. And if you would like to go to a salmon bake, Juneau offers one of the best -- but I strongly recommend taking the ship's tour to that, as it's outside of town and late enough so the timing could be tight if you go on your own.
>> Skagway offers two unique and very worthwhile attractions. The first is a play called "Days of '98 Revue Starring Soapy Smith" that's performed at the Eagles Hall, which is on the far side of town from the piers. Princess offers a decent shore excursion that combines this play with a tour of the city's highlights, providing seemless transportation. The other "must" attraction is a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR), a narrow gauge railroad built to haul miners and supplies from Skagway to the Yukon Territory during the Yukon Gold Rush (c. 1897-1899). Built with "pick and shovel" through virtually impassible terrain in a matter of months, the WP&YR remains a marvel of civil engineering with replica coaches that offer a taste of the "Days of '98" with some of the most spectacular vistas that you can imagine. Princess offers several shore excursions that include a ride on the WP&YR, some of which combine it with various other activities that may or may not be of interest to you.
>> If your cruise also calls in Sitka, be sure to see the show by the Russian folk dancers and, of course, to visit the Russian Orthodox cathedral there, which is home to a very interesting collection of icons, whatever else you decide to do. I understand that the city's Raptor Center is also very interesting.
I'm sure that you will have no problem finding activities of interest in Alaska. You won't be able to do everything in any of the ports of call, so relax and do what you can do well. There will be plenty of time to do more on another cruise to that destination!