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Old November 23rd, 2009, 03:03 PM
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Default Need help with Alaska excursions

My husband and I will sail on Radiance of the Seas the end of May. I have been doing so much research on excursions that I am overwhelmed. We have never been to Alaska; in fact we are from the deep South. I am eager to see SNOW! We are looking at a flightseeing tour to a glacier and maybe even dogsledding. Also, I read about a couple of coupon books that many people seemed to like. If you have used one of these, is one preferable to the other. Any help would be appreciated.
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Old November 23rd, 2009, 04:35 PM
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My husband and I will sail on Radiance of the Seas the end of May. I have been doing so much research on excursions that I am overwhelmed. We have never been to Alaska; in fact we are from the deep South. I am eager to see SNOW! We are looking at a flightseeing tour to a glacier and maybe even dogsledding. Also, I read about a couple of coupon books that many people seemed to like. If you have used one of these, is one preferable to the other. Any help would be appreciated.
Countrygirl,

Doing your own research is the most important thing you can do to improve your enjoyment of Alaska. The first bit of advice that I could offer would be, do not try do too much on your first trip to Alaska. As you no doubt have noticed tours are very expensive in Alaska. One tour that I would highly recommend would be a helicopter out of Juneau with a glacier landing. From the air you get a perspective that is unbelievable.

The only coupon book that I always get when doing a land tour in Alaska, before or after my cruise, is the alaskantoursaver book. There are many valuable coupons in this book but most of the coupons are for hotels and activities for those traveling in the interior of Alaska.

In Skagway I would recommend renting a car from AVIS and driving at least to Emerald Lake. The drive is one of the most scenic drives anywhere in the world. The drive takes about 4 hours round trip and still leaves plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing around Skagway. If you do take this drive be sure and bring your passport as you will cross into Canada. If you are planning to do this please be sure and reserve your car as far ahead as possible as they tend to sell out early. There is also a train that goes part of the way to Emerald Lake out of Skagway.

If you have any other questions, please fire away!

Debra
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Old November 23rd, 2009, 06:03 PM
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Debra,

Thanks for the information. May I ask which company you used for the glacier flight out of Juneau. I have just about decided to this tour. Also, did you add on the sled dog ride? I think that looks awesome!

It's ironic that we have already decided on renting the car at Skagway and driving to Emerald Lake. We like the idea of being able to stop when we want to and look at the scenery.

We plan on arriving in Seward a day or so early and doing the day cruise there and Exit Glacier. We also have stops in Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point. Any suggestions at these two places?

Regarding the tour coupon book? Would it be worth it for me to purchase it with what I'm doing (in your opinion, of course)?

Thanks again for the info.
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Old November 24th, 2009, 01:09 PM
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Hi Countrygirl,

The company that I used in Juneau for the helicopter glacier landing was called ERA. I just booked the tour right at the dock in Juneau. I have not done the dog sledding part of it, but it does sound like fun.

Glad to hear you have decided to rent a car in Skagway and drive to Emerald Lake. If I may, I also could add a few of other tips about this drive to Emerald Lake.

On the way to Emerald Lake, Just outside of Skagway, right at the railroad track crossing, there is a road off to the right that takes you to the Gold Rush Cemetery, which is a mile or two down the road. It is a very interesting place to visit that has a lot of history of the gold rush days. The only sign is a small hand made sign with an arrow.

Another tip while on this drive is that on the way back from Emerald Lake, again just outside of Skagway, there is a road that branches off to the right and goes up a hill that takes you to an excellent view point of the harbor, all of Skagway and the airport. Great place for picture taking. Also watch your speed when within 15 miles of Skagway as the local police to enforce speed laws. There is also the smallest desert in the world just outside of Carcross.

As for the value of the tour books, it all depends if the tours you want to do happen to be in the book. I would suggest going to the websites and see if the book would help you. As I said before, the big saving are if you are going to be touring in Alaska, on your own, for a week or so. The web-site for the Alaskan tour saver book is toursaver.com
There is also a discount book called something like Northern Lights, but I have not used this one yet.

Hope some of this helps,

Debra
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Old November 29th, 2009, 02:42 PM
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The coupon book would maybe help you as TEMSCO and Kenai Fjords boat tours are offers next year. Do your homework and find out if available to you.

I have done many glacier helicopter landings, really shows the vastness of Alaska. But for clarification, a glacier dog sled is mostly all snow, not ice. You also do not drive your own sled. Two sleds are hooked together, taking 3 passengers, 2 ride in the basket, one on breaks, 1 professional driver. The 3 passengers switch positions. It also is the most canceled excursion in Alaska, so have back up plans and have decided- IF you will go on a regular glacier landing, if available.

Allow 5 hours for a round trip drive from Skagway to Emerald Lake. "Necessary" purchase and print out www.murraysguide.com will really enhance your trip. The above trys to reference the Dyea Road. It is unpaved, and you would be taking full responsibility for any damage to the car. Just be aware of the risks, if you take it. The viewing pull off, is still on the paved section. A short climb from the Gold Rush Cemetery is Reid's Falls, easy walk to to consider.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 03:30 PM
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.... a glacier dog sled.....It also is the most canceled excursion in Alaska, so have back up plans and have decided- IF you will go on a regular glacier landing, if available..
Have to agree here. We looked forward to the dog sled portion only to find out it was cancelled.

The copter tour is amazing! You can take pics and vids from inside the copter so be ready!

They have to "balance" the copter with # of passengers vs their weight, weather conditions etc.

On our tour there was one person who had to sit out the tour due to these factors. Or, the operator didn't have another pilot to accomodate the total number booked that day. All we know is he was NOT happy about it!

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Old December 1st, 2009, 10:07 AM
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We did a whale watching tour is Icy Strait Point. We saw quite a few whales and sea lions. It was a fun tour. There isn't to much in Icy Strait Point itself so you want to book a tour here.
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Old December 28th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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countrygirl,

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Originally Posted by You
My husband and I will sail on Radiance of the Seas the end of May. I have been doing so much research on excursions that I am overwhelmed. We have never been to Alaska; in fact we are from the deep South. I am eager to see SNOW! We are looking at a flightseeing tour to a glacier and maybe even dogsledding. Also, I read about a couple of coupon books that many people seemed to like. If you have used one of these, is one preferable to the other. Any help would be appreciated.
If this is your first trip to Alaska, the rail excursion on the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) is an absolute "must." This historic rail line, built with "pick and shovel" (and a bit of dynamite) in a matter of months through nearly impassible terrain to haul prospectors, with their gear and supplies, into the Yukon Territory during the fabled "Days of '98" (Yukon Gold Rush), is a marvel of civil engineering that modern civil engineers are not at all certain that they could duplicate with all the advances of modern equipment. The vistas from the modern reproductions of period coaches are absolutely magnificent!

If you opt for excursions that travel any distance from your port of call, I strongly recommend booking such excursions through your cruise line rather than independently for several reasons.

>> 1. If the ship cancels the port of call for any reason (and this does happen occasionally, as "Nurse Debra" and others can testify), the cruise line will refund the price paid for excursions booked through the line. If you prepay for an excursion booked independently, you might not get a refund.

>> 2. If the ship's shore excursion has any problem returning to the port of call in time for departure, the ship will either wait for its shore excursions to return or make alternate arrangements to reboard the affected passengers. If you book an excursion independently and encounter the same difficulty, it will be your responsibility to rejoin the ship -- and this could include paying for your own transportation to the next port of call and your accommodations and meals until you rejoin the ship.

It might be slightly cheaper to book on your own, but I don't think that the savings are worth the risk.

Norm.
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Old December 30th, 2009, 12:28 PM
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Country Girl,

Glad to hear that you have decided to rent a car and drive to Emerald Lake. While the trip by rail out of Skagway is very interesting with the commentary and history, it is in my opinion very short and way over priced. Renting a car is way over 1/2 the price, for just two people traveling together. This is a good example of how much money you can save by doing your own research and booking setting up your own tours. As you said the option of stopping whenever and wherever you want is a huge plus. As I said before, either one will offer a wonderful experience.

As for tours booked on your own always check to see what the refund policy is of the tour operator. Most tour operators will refund the cost if the ship was not able to get to the port. In Alaska most cruise lines do not have any problems in maintaining their schedule and do make it to all ports.

Booking tours through the cruise lines is a major source of revenue to the cruise lines and it does offer an extra layer of insurance should there be any problems. That said, we have always booked our tours direct with the tour companies and after many, many years of cruising have never had any problems. In addition to what I consider a significant cost savings other bonuses of booking direct is that you are able to avoid that "herd mentality" of ship organized tours and we feel that we get a more personalized tour.

Debra
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Old January 6th, 2010, 12:27 PM
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countrygirl,





If you opt for excursions that travel any distance from your port of call, I strongly recommend booking such excursions through your cruise line rather than independently for several reasons.

>> 1. If the ship cancels the port of call for any reason (and this does happen occasionally, as "Nurse Debra" and others can testify), the cruise line will refund the price paid for excursions booked through the line. If you prepay for an excursion booked independently, you might not get a refund.

>> 2. If the ship's shore excursion has any problem returning to the port of call in time for departure, the ship will either wait for its shore excursions to return or make alternate arrangements to reboard the affected passengers. If you book an excursion independently and encounter the same difficulty, it will be your responsibility to rejoin the ship -- and this could include paying for your own transportation to the next port of call and your accommodations and meals until you rejoin the ship.

It might be slightly cheaper to book on your own, but I don't think that the savings are worth the risk.

Norm.

This is completely unfounded. I would like some "examples" of independent Alaska vendors being responsible for having people miss their ships, or not refunding tours, when ships don't port. It has not happened. Independent tour operators, that are well established and long running are so for a reason, they give excellent tours. I have been using many, which I have recommended for years, with consistant practices.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 07:46 PM
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Karen16,

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This is completely unfounded. I would like some "examples" of independent Alaska vendors being responsible for having people miss their ships, or not refunding tours, when ships don't port. It has not happened. Independent tour operators, that are well established and long running are so for a reason, they give excellent tours. I have been using many, which I have recommended for years, with consistant practices.
Sorry, but I stand by my comments.

>> If you prepay for an excursion from an independent operator, the contract may well say that there is no refund if you don't get to the port.

>> And there's always a possibility that problems might arise that are beyond an independent operator's control. If the choppers get socked in by fog or white-out conditions and can't fly while you are standing on a glacier, for example, you could be stuck.

Such problems may arise infrequently, but they do arise.

Norm.
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