Would you recommend doing the glacier landing/dog sledding combo - or just a glacier landing (possibly the tour that lands on 2 glaciers)?
Also, I am planning to book a helicopter trip out of both Juneau and Skagway to be safe. I hear the trips out of Juneau are cancelled often (particularly the dog sled tours). So, if we make it - great, I'll cancel the Skagway trip. And, if we don't make it, I'll have Skagway as a backup. Sound okay?
I'm going on the dogsled/helicopter tour out of Skagway. I recently went to a seminar on Alaska and two people who live there were the speakers. I asked them if it was worth going on and they said it would be the experience of a lifetime. They also told me to go out of Skagway not just because that the tour is canceled more out of Juneau but that the glaciers were actually nicer in Skagway (buy Juneau is nice too they said). Hope I helped.
Be aware of cancelation penalities??? I have to disagree- I think the glaciers are excellent and more varied out of Juneau. For clairfication- the dog sled camps are on much more snow- NOT ice, so your flights are to 2 different areas. If you want to walk on the ice then possibily consider both?? I have been canceled upon twice on glacier dog sledding, but have glacier helicoptered 6 times. I also dog sledded- the real thing with driving my own sled last March. These tours, you don't drive, but are in tantum with a musher. I have to agree- an excellent opportunity!!! Tough choices!!
Is there a safer time to avoid cancellations due to weather? (ie. morning vs. afternoon). Also, if the dog sled/glacier landing is cancelled, can they usually fit you in on one of the other glacier landing trips or are you out of luck?
They can cancel anytime. With the helicopters now so popular and fully booked, it is unlikely you will have many options. There is the chance you could do a "regular" glacier landing, instead of dog sledding, but probably not space for a later dog sledding??? I always book the first available per the vender recommendations, so to have blocks of time for other activities. Schedule when acceptable for you. Inquire directly what advice the operator may offer???
We did the dogsledding out of Skagway, and completely agree with what sean26 heard at the seminar. For us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime, indescribable experience that we will never forget. It was well worth every penny.
Whether you book independently or through the cruiseline is a personal decision. It depends on your budget and what you're comfortable with. You'll definitely save money booking independently. If you book independently, you'll want to be sure you understand in advance about required deposits and possible financial penalties associated with cancellation.
Booking through the cruiseline (as we did) is more expensive, but also less risky financially. We were assured of a full refund in the event of cancellation or if our port schedule had to be changed at the last minute. (Fortunately, nothing went awry.)
Timing - Alaska weather is so variable that you just have to cross your fingers and hope. We had been advised by several people who live in the area to book in the afternoon because morning fogs had often lifted by then. But we wanted our afternoon free for other things so took our chance with a morning reservation. That proved fortuitous. A storm moved in that afternoon, cancelling all dogsledding and glacier excursions for the rest of the day.
For clairfication- the cruiselines also use TEMSCO out of Skagway- cheaper if you book independently- you can be sitting side by side cruise booked passengers. Also- ALL of the operators will refund independently booked, tours, if the ship doesn't make it into port (extremely rare) or canceled for weather reasons. Just the same as the cruise booked tours. The differences will be for cancelations for personal reasons- so be fully aware of the policies. Most are very generous.