I'm posting this is different areas so I can get a variety of responses. If you've seen it before you can disregard.
Several of my family members and I are going on a RCI Alaskan cruise soon and we are trying to make decisions about shore excursions, which hasn't been easy. My brother has two children ages 11 and 13 so we have to consider them when we are making plans. I have several questions that I hope some experienced cruiser can help me with.
1.) The shore excursions available through RCI are quite expensive. Are there better and cheaper (and safe) excursions to plan on your own? I have looked at serveral things on the net, but most suggest booking through the cruise line anyway.
2.) If we did plan on taking the RCI excursions we don't know which ones would be best. The following are the the ports and the choices of excursions we're considering:
Glacier View Bike & Brew
Has anyone taken the bike tour? Do you get a good view of the glacier?
Whale Watching & Wildlife Cruise
I believe this tour and the one in Sitka are both operated by Allen Marine, but they suggested booking through the cruise. Do you really get to see much wildlife? If not there, where is the best spot to see different kinds of animals? I think the kids would like it.
Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest
Is the whale/wildlife watching better in Juneau or in Sitka?
Tongass Forest Nature Hike
If anyone has been on this could you tell me if it was any good? My brother is leaning toward this excursion and going to the raptor center on our own. It just sounds like a walk through a forest to me.
ICY STRAIGHT POINT:
Whale & Marine Mammals Cruise
Is this particular cruise worth it? They don't guarantee any sightings on this cruise.
Remote Bush Exploration & Wildlife Search
My parents want to do this, but it just sounds like you ride on a bus, get out and strectch your legs for a while, and try to see some birds.
The one thing I wanted to do on the whole cruise was visit the Alaska Sea Life Center. However, because this is where we disembark, I just found out by reading the book that you have to claim your luggage at the airport in Anchorage 126 miles away by 2 pm. That stinks because our flight isn't until about 7:30 that evening. I thought that they might just store your luggage at the airport for a fee... Are you assigned to a particular bus going to the airport? If so, it sounds like we would just have to get off the boat, get on the bus to the airport, and sit around at the airport the whole day. Any suggestions or advice?
3.) If we do decide on one of the RCI excursions can you wait until the cruise to book them or do they sell out ahead of time?
4.) I have had conflicting reports of whether you can get Cokes with your meals in the dining room on RCI. I have had people tell me you can only get them free with your meal, but others have told me that you can't get them free at all anywhere. If it's the latter then that boggles my mind... I understand that you can get all you want to eat at dinner, but not sodas? It seems like food is much more expensive....
5.) Are there places to iron clothes on the Radiance? I have heard yes and no to this as well...
6.) I know that traveling withing the US one can use the TSA locks on their bags, but is it OK for purposes of going through US Direct in Canada and RCI? I have called both the TSA and RCI and no one could answer my question with any degree of certainty.
I know that was a lot of questions, but everytime I call RCI I get a lame customer service rep who can't answer any questions. Gee, and their saying when you're on hold while they're trying to get an answer is something to the effect that they are there to make your trip easier. Well, so far they haven't, but I hope someone who reads this can. Thanks!