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View Poll Results: Best chance to see Orca?
Juneau 4 80.00%
Ketchikan 0 0%
Seattle 0 0%
On the boat??? or just by chance 1 20.00%
Voters: 5. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old February 14th, 2008, 01:19 AM
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Default Shore Excursion Advice

I'm going on an Alaskan cruise on June 1st out of Seattle for my honeymoon. I have a few questions about shore excursions. Where are we most likely to see killer whales, (my fiance really wants to see some)? Has anyone used Temsco or Dolly Varden for tours? esp. their Helicopter and dogsledding tours. Also is their a better place to do this Juneau or Skagway? Also has anyone done the ziplines in Ketchikan or Juneau is one better than the other? Sorry for so many questions at once. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Ted
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Old February 14th, 2008, 08:44 AM
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Saw them along the shore while on the ship. You need to be out or at least sit on your balcony whenever you can, so much nature to see and enjoy.
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Old February 14th, 2008, 09:34 AM
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Orca sightings in Alaska is RARE and totally hit or miss. They have an extremely wide range and no way to predict. If they are in the area you might see them. Otherwise, don't count on it. IF indeed a priority, I strongly suggest you get to Victoria a couple DAYS and go out a few times on their whale watches. They run about a 80% average for sightings- reason you really need to go out more than once. I go with Seacoast Expediations the most. There is also Prince of Whales right on the inner harbor, who is also long standing and well run. These would be for the southern residents- LJK pods. I spent 5 days last summer Northern Vancouver Island, going out whale watching three times. This is the area of the northern residents. Ended up seeing the A pod all three trips, with one, a specular time at Robson Bight with the mics. dropped listening to the pod call and rubbing on the rocks.

I have gone out on over 20 Juneau whale watches. 5-07 was the FIRST time I had seen orcas there, and fortunately was on one of the "fast" boats out, which made it to them- they had been seen on the morning trip. And the skilled cpt. knew their "speed" and estimated where they would be down the Lynn Canal perfectly. We were the only boat that attempted to see them.

For clairfication Dolly Varden is a booking agent only. They don't run any tours. I never recommend using ANY middle men in Alaska. Always superior to direct book with the vendor.

I have glacier helicopter landed 6 times. 4 vendors in Juneau 1 in Skagway. Glacier dog sledding is the most canceled of all Alaska tours, always have back up plans.
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Old February 14th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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Default Re: Shore Excursion Advice

I'll add to Karen's comments a bit...

For the most part, I agree with Karen's points. I don't, however, think Orca sightings are "RARE" in Alaska (I see them way too often to call it "rare") but I definately agree that they are "hit or miss". Of all my time on the water around here, we've seen orcas on less than 20% of our total trips (family touring, charters, maintenance runs, etc.) but if we look at just the trips I take that go to certain areas (outer coast, Tracy Arm, Frederick Sound, etc.) my family and guests have seen orcas on nearly 80% of those trips. The bottom line here, though, is that we're not arguing over the definition of the word "rare"... if you want an Orca viewing trip, plan it in Seattle or Victoria. If you want a humpback viewing trip, plan for Juneau, ISP (Hoonah), or Hobart Bay.

Temsco, ERA and Coastal are the 3 helicopter companies that fly out of Juneau. Book directly with one of them for a better (often lower cost) tour. I have heard bad things about Dolly Varden, and have had one negative experience myself. They are just a booking agency, and don't have much (if any) presence in the cities where they book tours. Dolly Varden may be able to flex their pricing a little more than booking direct. Coastal Helicopters gives a 20% discount to any vendor who passes their credit check and then re-sells their tours. If a broker is looking for high volume business, they can shave a few dollars off of their commission and advertise a lower price than even the vendors themselves. This might be a good way to save some money, but you'll almost always get a "bare minimum" tour and no service if something gets confused.

While it may be true that "glacier dog sledding is the most canceled of all Alaska tours" remember that they run THOUSANDS of tours each summer, so if a small percentage of tours cancel due to weather it's not hurting business too much. Having back up plans is always a good idea, not just for flying tours. So much up here is weather dependent, and we never can predict that... even on the same day! Remember that helicopters are a way of life up here, and when the weather gets really nasty, a helicopter is usually the last safe method of flying (then even the helicopter companies begin to charter boats to get folks moved around, but a boat can't very well get someone to the ice field, can they?! ;-)

There was a good discussion about the Juneau ziplines over at http://www.cancancase.com/forum/alas...-ziplines.html . As I understand things, Ketchikan had the first zip tour, then Juneau got 2 a few years later. ISP (Hoonah) is supposed to be North America's longest and fastest zipline, but we'll see what they put in Hobart Bay when that port opens up in a few years...

Hope some of this helps!
Happy Alaska Travels...
-Case


Quote:
Originally Posted by tedzler
I'm going on an Alaskan cruise on June 1st out of Seattle for my honeymoon. I have a few questions about shore excursions. Where are we most likely to see killer whales, (my fiance really wants to see some)? Has anyone used Temsco or Dolly Varden for tours? esp. their Helicopter and dogsledding tours. Also is their a better place to do this Juneau or Skagway? Also has anyone done the ziplines in Ketchikan or Juneau is one better than the other? Sorry for so many questions at once. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Ted
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Old February 14th, 2008, 10:41 PM
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awesome info, keep it coming. Also has anyone particularly liked a helicopter co.? Thanks... All feedback is welcome, ted
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Old February 14th, 2008, 11:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tedzler
awesome info, keep it coming. Also has anyone particularly liked a helicopter co.? Thanks... All feedback is welcome, ted
All 3 helo companies are about the same in terms of quality and the tours they offer. I've been using all 3 of them for years for my touring and personal travel plans, and not had a bad experience with any. I generally go glacier flightseeing with ERA because they give me the friendliest local discount and can often comp seats if we're willing to fly standby. I just checked with Coastal today, and they'll give me the best rate for a 2-hour private charter if I need to fly home from a charter in August when my wife goes into labor.

If you're comparing tours, take a look at the time you get to spend in the air, on the glacier or with the dogs, etc... compare "apples to apples" and go for price. Temsco is commonly booked solid with cruise ship contracts, and so is ERA lately. For direct booked, private reservations, you're probably going to end up with Coastal, but be sure to at least ask the others. As I mentioned, Coastal pays commissions to anyone passing their credit check, so MANY tour companies like to co-book with them because they'll make money selling the helo tour AND money on their own tour. (It's also a great service to provide for customers to save them some booking hassle and shuttle time.)

Happy Alaska Travels!
-Case
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Old February 15th, 2008, 10:37 AM
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Default Re: Shore Excursion Advice

[quote="CanCanCase"]





http://www.cancancase.com/forum/alas...-ziplines.html





For clairfication- the Budget Queen post registered on this site is NOT the Budget Queen from CC as stated. I am unable to register, otherwise I would not it directly on that board. (I'm getting a message that my "parent" 's email has to be given for permission for posting.
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Old February 18th, 2008, 02:32 PM
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OP - Orca interest.

If you are sailing out of Seattle, see about spending a pre-cruise day for a trip to Anacortes / San Juan Isl/Friday Harbor. We are staying 2 nites pre-cruise in June and plan on renting a car to visit that area.
Seems to be about 90 min. drive north of Seattle, rental car for the day about $40-ish. From what I have researched - NOT experienced yet- there is a good chance of Orca sighting in and around the San Juan Islands. Do a search and see if that would be worth your time and efforts.

Safe travels,

Nona
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Old February 19th, 2008, 12:36 PM
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Thanks, I looked into whale watching around Seattle, sounds like a good option. Also has anyone ever heard of a saloon maybe in Skagway that is famous for giving shots with a frozen toe in it? I might be mistaken here but I remember hearing something like that when I was younger.
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Old March 15th, 2008, 05:14 PM
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From what I have read, the one thing that interests me the most is a train ride to Denali. I will be with a huge family group, and the two most experienced travelers make most of the plans, so you can go with the group, and do something else on your own. If there is not a group doing the Denali trip, I will be out of luck. They did say they were planning a few days in the Anchorage area at the end of the cruise, so I really hope this is one thing on their list. As far as suggesting anything, I feel very grateful to be included with this group, so I will be happy with whatever they decide.
Jayne
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Old March 21st, 2008, 03:30 PM
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We flew with ERA Helicopter and just had an awsome experience. We landed on a glacier. The pilot was great fun and very knowledgable. He explained how the glacier was formed and why the dark line in the glacier was there, exposing bits of granite and other stones.
This was by far the most wonderful, memorable Alaska experience of our cruise.

You just can't get a proper view of Alaska from the ground. Just breath taking from the air. The scenery is just AWSOME!!!!!!
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