We're both in our early 30's and have been on cruises before, but this is actually our first one to Alaska. I would love for anyone to recommend us shore excursions and give us tips on going there. Our trip is going to be on May 27 on the Celebrity Summit visiting Seward, Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait, and Ketchikan. We are spending one day before in Anchorage and one day after in Vancouver. Do you guys buy your shore excursions through the cruise company or is it cheaper through someone else and if so, who? Any and all information is greatly appreciated.
Call your travel agent ASAP and inquire if the Grandview Rail Transfer from Anchorage to Seward is still available. It's a little more expensive than the bus transfer, but well worth the difference. You'll be much more comfortable on the train than on a bus!
As to your ports of call:
In Skagway, there are two "must see" attractions.
>> 1. Be sure to see the "Days of '98 Revue Starring Soapy Smith" at the Eagles Hall. You can either go on your own or take a shore excursion that includes the play.
>> 2. Be sure to take the excursion on White Pass & Yukon Route (real narrow gauge railroad) to Summit Lake. The scenery is spectacular and the railroad itself, built with pick and shovel in the late 1890's, is an engineering marvel even by modern standards because of the terrain through which it passes.
I recommend booking the rail trip through the shore excursion desk because the railroad sometimes operates as many as sixteen trains at once. If your ship's train gets delayed by congestion, the ship will wait for its return. If you are on another train that gets delayed by congestion, you could miss your ship.
In Juneau, there are many possibilities and I have yet to hear anything negative about any of the excursions. There's also plenty in town that you can see on your own. For example, the state capital, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Nativity are all within a block of one another just a few city blocks from the ship and completely free. You also can take the Mt. Roberts Tramway up to the summit from the base station right next to the pier.
in [b]Ketchikan[/i], Saxman Village (best booked as an excursion so the transportation will be seemless) is a worthwhile take where you'll see demonstrations of carving totem poles and enjoy a folkloric show of Tlingit dance. Alaska's fourth largest city also has other great opportunities to encounter indigenous culture. If you have time, the duck tour is also interesting.
Have a great cruise!