Traveling with my husband, 5y/o son and mom who has arthritis and gets around slowly but can walk for long distances. I'm interested in doing the helicopter at Juneau, the train at Skagway and seeing bears in Ketchikan. I'm the cautious type and am nervous about booking excursions on my own. Any suggestions, information and help would be appreciated.
I'm also cruising in August on the Vision of the Seas.
My cabinmate & I booked Coastal Helicopters out of Juneau; a little cheaper than RCCL's excursion & maybe a different company. We opted to be picked up at 9:15 (there's an earlier 8:15) at the ship; they'll have a van there for us with our name, as a limo would do. online is www.coastalhelicopters.com. We booked with our credit card numbers; cost is $169. Depending on number of people that day will determine whether 4-seater or 6-seater. Plus they don't charge your card til you actually take the tour. Really looking forward to that one!!
Then we decided to do the White Pass railroad in Skagway. When Debbie spoke w/them, they suggested we book through the cruiseline as ships always have plenty of space for that excursion. So for $82 (I believe RCCL was $10 more), the train meets us at the dock!
Haven't decided on Ketchikan -- we may play that one by ear and just do Saxman & the town.
There is no risk booking your excursions independently. You are still in the US with high business standards. I have done it for years for Alaska travel!!! Coastal is not used by the cruiselines and yes it is a different company. The ships use ERA- very shuttle like and TEMSCO. You can book the White Pass RR direct if you do not mention you are on a ship. Depends what you want to do. You will be on the same train. I have gone bear watching out of Ketchikan twice with both www.taquanair.com and www.islandwings.com Both excellent companies.
Good information Karen. A question or 2 about the White Pass RR. Is there a savings in booking it myself? If I need to cancel for some reason (late docking, whatever) aren't I a little safer booking through the ship? What about transportation to the RR? If I book it myself isn't that a problem?
Thanks for your help. I am at the point of making the land reservations this week...the same ones you took...Coastal helicopter in Juneau, White Pass RR/bus back and the bears in Ketchikan so can you imagine our excitement???
Don't worry about getting to the RR in Skagway. The RR station is an easy walk from the dock, and the whole downtown area is pretty compact and easy to do on foot, walking from the dock.
Have a wonderful time and be sure to pack twice as much film as you think you'll need!
PS Just a word of warning so it won't be too much of a disappointment if it should happen to you -- Alaska can be very changable with weather. I was there in Aug 1999 and it was so sunny and warm (70's + 80's) that we saw very little wildlife on land because it was just too hot for them during the daytime!