We just got back from our Alaskan 12 night cruise (from May 20th - June 1st)
Everything thing in Alaska is a little more expensive. It's like no other place in the world but it has a very limited touring season, about 5 months. This is in comparison with other locations that have a longer season. Also remember in some of these locations...(for example Juneau) there is only TWO ways in...by sea or air. So yes...things will be a little more expensive. But we were still surprised by the good prices!
Some of the excursions are GREAT and worth every penny.
ICY STRAIGHT POINT: Is a fairly new stop...this location has only been open to the public for about 3 years. My husband enjoyed the Remote Bush Exploration & Wildlife Search...and yes it was mainly a walk and talk thing. One interesting point. While taking this excursion of the island...in front and following behind the group were two armed guides with high powered guns...BEARS you know! No joke...there is reported on this island a 1600 lb bear wandering around. Icy Straight Point is beautiful and worth the tender over even if you don't go on an excursion.
No one can guarantee animal, Mammal or Eagle sightings unless they're in a zoo. But when we were on our cruise...we saw everything! Whales, Orca's, Eagles, bears and mountain goats...etc. Most of the tour guides try really really hard to make it happen for you. But timing is everything and if the animal, whale, eagle isn't there????
The one thing you want to make sure of, if you do decide to book an excursion privately and not through the ship...make sure you get back to the ship on time! Also, make sure they have a good understanding of what you expect...and YOU have a good understanding of what they can deliver. Remember: No one can guarantee sightings!
Alaska is really unique...you will love it. There is so much to see...I don't think you will be disappointed no matter what you book.