Traveled to Alaska on Visions in August of 05. Loved every minute!
1. Shore exc. tend to be expensive, but you need to do some to get the feel of Alaska. If you book through the cruise line, they make sure you are back to the ship on time.
2. Juneau-- Did a Rain Forest exc. They had golf carts with carts pulling behind up the side of the mountain along dirt paths. Secnery at the top was beautiful. Also the gardens at the bottom were wonderful.
Our ship didn't go to Sitka.
Icy Straits was my favorite. We did the remote bush & Wildlife search. Long bus ride but it was worth it. Guide was very good. We got off the bus and walked along a path and then on to three different deck like strucures. They looked over a river with salmon running. We saw a few bears. It was great. Got some great pics. We also were accompanied by an armed wildlife person.
We left from Seward. It's a 3 hour bus ride from port to airport. Long ride but You can't beat the scenery.
3. You can book either way. If you have your heart set on a certain exc. do it ahead of time. The popular ones do fill up.
4. I had a coke with meal in the dining room each night --No chaarge.
5. No irons are allowed on board. Fire hazard. They do have a laundry service and you can send your things out, for a fee.
6. We used TSA locks in USA and in Canada and on ship, never had a problem.
Hope this helped you. Any more questions just ask. We had a great time!!!!