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Old September 6th, 2004, 08:52 PM
La Rae
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Default Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Hi,
We are first-time cruisers, going to Alaska on HAL Sept. 17. I know it's late (we just got our travel documents), but if you all could give me some hints on excursions...? I've read so much in these boards about booking separately from the cruise line that I'm afraid to make a bad choice! I want us to do two things: a float plane trip (we did a glacier landing in New Zealand so I'd like to pass that up this time) and a dog sled ride. I don't know enough about the geography of Alaska (one of the very few states in the US I haven't visited) to even know where Misty Fjords are, although everyone seems to think they're worth seeing. We're not much for shopping, but if someone could suggest just one port to do that in, we'll do excursions for the other ones. Anyway, hope to get some quick responses; not too much time left!!
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Old September 6th, 2004, 11:11 PM
LNey
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Default I'll tell you one company to avoid

We booked a float plane tour through a company called Last Frontier Tours. We also booked a bus tour to the Mendenhal Glacier through them. The woman who sold us the tour told us to take the 11:30 bus from the glacier back for the plane ride, then when we got on the bus, the bus driver told us that we could take the 12:00 bus back. Well to make a long story short, the bus driver was late picking us up by about 20 minutes and we missed our plane trip. Yes, we probably shouldn't have listened to the bus driver (hindsight is 20/20.... but she did work for the tour company selling the tour and she was so insistant that we could definitely take the later bus. So now we are out $800 because the Last Frontier Tours refused to give us our money back. They were also very nasty to us telling us that it was too bad...they have a no refunds policy. Any decent business would have refunded our money (the airline that was to do our tour didn't hold them responsible for the cost of our seats so basically they made $800 for doing nothing)
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Old September 6th, 2004, 11:15 PM
LNey
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Default Re: I'll tell you one company to avoid

meant to add to above reply.....this was in Juneau. If you want to do a float plane trip, I'd book it directly through Wings in Juneau and avoid an agent (can't tell you how it was though since we never got to go, but at least our wallet is $800 lighter thanks to last frontier tours...that money was getting so heavy anyway.........
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Old September 7th, 2004, 12:04 AM
Thoth
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

I have done these tours and enjoyed them,
Juneau= Mendenhall Glacier and a hiking tour.
Sitka= Rapter Center and Russian Dancers. I also did a self walking tour which was very easy and included most of the famous sites.
Ketchikan= boat/plane to Misty Fjords and Creek Street on my own.
Personally, I like to book my tours through the cruiseline at about 60 days out.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 10:54 AM
Ford_Racing_Ron
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Just returned and in Ketchican we really enjoyed the Misty fjords floatplane. Ketchican is actually an island and the Misty Fjords is on the backside (away from open sea) of the island and there are numerours companys that can take you there. We choose Seawind Aviation. Its a family run business and they will more or less customize the timing of the trip to match your schedule,,if they are not booked for that day. Alsos, if you book on-line, as we did, you may get a discount off the fare. One thing you will see if you research this is almost all companys charge the same for the basic trip so I weighed which one will give me more time for my money and this company won. Another side story is my wife is scared to death of helicopter rides and was pretty apprehensive about flying in a floatplane. Steve is such a good pilot her fear left her quickly and she said this was the highlight, for her, of our 14 day trip.

I am sure no matter what company you choose you'll have fun.

Happy sailing
Ron
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Old September 7th, 2004, 01:21 PM
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Default Re: Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

I would look at your interests and budget and try to come away with the best, well-rounded trip.

Ketchikan: Ocean kayaking with Southeast Sea Kayaks. It was very easy and beautiful. We did the Orca Cove tour, which is in a very secluded place. They max out at 6 guests and we were lucky enough to get it so that it was just the 2 of us and the guide. Bald eagles flying all around us and you can paddle quietly right up to them when they are on the beach. Afterwards, they give you some great smoked salmon, fruit and cheese.

You can easily see town on your own. Just have an idea for where you want to go to save some time. We did Creek Street (of course) and the Salmon Hatchery & Totem Heritage Center (both of which are quite short)

Juneau:

1, We wanted to do some hiking here in the Tongass (temperate rain forest that stretches down through Ketchikan, Canada and into Washington/Oregon). After doing it, I'd say I totally underestimated the experience. Its an amazing environment ... it has no real soil, developing from the bedrock left in the wake of the glaciers, so 100 foot tall trees grow with very shallow roots. You get a real appreciation for the plantlife and the development of the forest. We lucked out and were there during berry season, which was a nice treat. [We were going to do the Guide's Choice Hike but went with the Rain Forest Discovery Walk because of a knee injury in the group and more hiking to come. The Walk is very very easy. Both are through the same company.]

2. Can't recommend enough some helicopter glacier flightseeing and landing. Expensive but very worthwhile. You get a far better understanding of the glaciers from this perspective. We opted for the 2 hour glacier trek, which was about 30 min of flying + 2 hours of hiking on the glacier. It was breathtaking and really not all that tiring because they take many breaks for pictures and to walk people 1-by-1 whenever you go up or down any incline. [I would have done Misty Fjords but decided I was only going to do 1 flight experience and far preferred this one.]

I can't speak to Sitka but the buzz is about Russian culture and wildlife viewing of otters, etc.

We are also not much for shopping. The best advise is to fill in gaps by shopping but to deal with excursions first. Ketchikan seemed to have the largest to offer with respect to galleries (at least the largest clustered easily together). Otherwise, most shops looked the same in most ports.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 01:49 PM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketch

I just noticed you mentioned a dog-sled ride. Be aware that there are 2 types...one involves a helicopter to a part of the glacier with a bed of snow...the other involves an apparently rough ride on a dirt/gravel trail. Be certain of what you reserve.

We spoke to many who did the glacier version of the trip and loved it. They do this out of Juneau (and Skagway) and at some places in the interior. Last I heard, the warm summer had caused enough of a snow-melt that they had to close up shop in Juneau in mid-August (but maybe that's wrong). I'd check into it and have a back-up plan.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 01:12 AM
MIsty
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Hello!

I'm also on the Sept 17 Cruise on HAL...Ryndam, by chance? The Alskan Tour book has coupons in it (for your information) that could save you- the floatplane/Misty Fjords tour is normally 199 a person, and I have a buy one get one free coupon, so it's half price, basically. I've been reading (after booking!!!!) that some poeple prefer the helicopter ride?

Also looking forward to just touring the palces- seeing the cathedral, etc.

I can't wait to go! First cruise, first time to alaska
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Old September 8th, 2004, 08:47 AM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

It's extremely simple to book direct with Alaska venders and I would NEVER use any booking agents- middle men- as the above poster did. Glacier dog sledding is over so the only dog sledding option is a cart ride out of Skagway. Determine if this is something you want to do- there is no comparism with this and snow. I have flown with Southeast Aviation, Carlin Air and Island Wings to Misty Fjords. Superior operators compared to ship contracted. You may be able to get a cheap used Toursaver book since the season is almost over- look on ebay and post a request on various boards- BUT determine if "coupon space" is still available.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 02:55 PM
Misty
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

By Above poster, did you mean me? I didn't book through a middle man, I had the coupon book and called the agency direct. They seem very accomodating. I tild him I was on a cruise, and asked if I could use the copun book. He said yes, and gave me a couple times to choose from. Really looking forward to it though. Does anyone know if the helicopter/dog sled ride was better? Has anyone done both? Is the floatplane worth the ride?

Thanks for the info!
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Old September 9th, 2004, 08:19 AM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

We booked a float plane tour through a company called Last Frontier Tours

These are middle men.


The book you are referring to is the Toursaver. I have flown several times with Southeast Aviation. My opinion only- glacier helicopter landings are definately superior to Misty Fjords floatplanes- have done several of those too. Over 10 flights in Juneau and Ketchikan.
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Old September 9th, 2004, 11:30 PM
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Default Re: Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Karen 16
We have booked Carlin Air for a floatplane ride to the Fjords out of Ketchikan next Tues. and was wondering if he compares to Island Wings. We are also booked on Coastal for Thur. which I assume will be the highlight of our day. You seem very knowledgeable and appreciate your input. I am bound to have a great time in AK! Thanks,
Nan
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Old September 9th, 2004, 11:56 PM
La Rae
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Thanks everyone for your input and insights...hope we make the right decisions!
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Old September 10th, 2004, 07:45 AM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Actually Jeff Carlin used to fly with Island wings. I have flown with both him and Michelle as well as Southeast Aviation- who used to be Taquan- another story. All well established operators- have a great trip!!!
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Old September 12th, 2004, 05:38 PM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

I just got back from my Alaska cruise on the HAL Statendam and had a marvelous time. For Sitka, I would definitely recommend the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest. Take the early morning one as wildlife is most active. We were barely away from the sight of the ship when we got into a group of humpback whales. We also saw a whole "raft" of sea otters and bald eagles in the trees. Also, do a trip to the Raptor Center in the afternoon. Nice displays of the birds and some awesome trails around the center.

I do agree that the helicopter trip and glacier landing is an awesome excursion. I like it better by far than floatplane flightseeing. I did the "Pilots Choice" with 50 minutes flight time and two landings on the glaciers in Juneau.

In Ketchikan, I did the Neets Bay Bear Watch. That is a fly-in by float plane with a hike to see bears and we did see some. One hint too, this late in the year, winds can be a problem in both Juneau and Ketchikan. The two days before we landed in Juneau, all helicopter flights were cancelled. In Ketchikan, all Misty Fjords flightseeing was cancelled, but we went on as scheduled because we were headed a different direction.

Have fun on your cruise!



Post Edited (09-12-04 16:43)
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Old October 5th, 2004, 01:07 AM
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Default Re: The Alaska Tour Book

Hi,

You mentioned there were coupons in The Alaska Tour Book. What exactly is this and where did you get it?

By now you have taken your cruise - how was your experience? We're planning our first one next summer!

Thanks for the info-
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Old October 5th, 2004, 08:10 AM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

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Old October 9th, 2004, 09:15 PM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Karen,
Would you give me some idea of prices for the helicopter, and the float plane ? I'm guessing those are the most expensive? Would you break down which town Southeast Aviation, Carlin & Island Wings operate out of? Is this the helicopter or float plane business? Thank you for sharing your expertise, it is much appreciated. Cathy

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Old October 10th, 2004, 09:56 AM
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Default Re: Best shore excursions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan

Basic glacier helicopter landing with Coastal out Juneau was $180pp this past season. The above listed are floatplane operators are out of Ketchikan which run trips to Misty Fjords around $200pp, and bear watching tours- seasonal from end of July.
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