Have been twice to Alaska. I took my two young teens once. They had walkie talkies to stay in touch with me. I let them run around Ketchican, Juneau, and Skaway. They had the time of their life. The ships all stop near the towns.
It is always rainy so forget the hikes, canoe rides, and bikes. Take the cheapy plastic ponchos. It isn't any fun taking a bus tour if it is raining super hard. The Local American tour guides will make sure you get back to your ship on time. They will all be hanging out at all the ports with their cheaper deals. I trust them because they all know you have a dead-line to get back to the bus.
There is No guarantee that you will see a lot of whales and wildlife on a tour. Save your money unless you want to take a chance. You will get to see some whales from the ship sometimes. I did.
Sitka is a cute Russian cultural city that you can walk everywhere. Everything is close by. Save your money and just walk to whatever you want to see.
Skaway is a fun town to just walk around BUT they have a very expensive train ride that is many hours and could get boring. Best to just walk around town and be a looky loo.
Seward to Anchorage - We loved the train ride instead of taking the bus to Anchorage. It cost a little bit more but totally worth it. It goes real slow so you can see some wild life, glaciers, quick-sand, small water-falls and it stops so you can take photos of whatever looks interesting . There will be a tour guide, you can buy a meal, hot chocolate and keep the train cup. You will be seated at a table where the kids or you can play cards or games. Lots of windows everywhere. I LOVED THE TRAIN RIDE.
Anchorage is just a normal city with a Mall and restaurants to eat at. The airport is small but has Fast food for your last meal in Alaska.
You can see Alaska without a tour and still have fun. There are lots of free buses in each port. I took a free shuttle to Wal-mart just so I could get a free tour of Alaska in Juneau.lol. They also took me to where the locals shop Mall.
You can buy your tours on the ship too. Just buy cheapy tours for the kids and seniors. They don't like to walk. I don't reqret not buying any of the tours. I just walked around the towns and also took the free buses.