I'm posting this is different areas so I can get a variety of responses. If you've seen it before you can disregard.
Several of my family members and I are going on a RCI Alaskan cruise soon and we are trying to make decisions about shore excursions, which hasn't been easy. My brother has two children ages 11 and 13 so we have to consider them when we are making plans. I have several questions that I hope some experienced cruiser can help me with.
1.) The shore excursions available through RCI are quite expensive. Are there better and cheaper (and safe) excursions to plan on your own? I have looked at serveral things on the net, but most suggest booking through the cruise line anyway.
2.) If we did plan on taking the RCI excursions we don't know which ones would be best. The following are the the ports and the choices of excursions we're considering:
Glacier View Bike & Brew
Has anyone taken the bike tour? Do you get a good view of the glacier?
Whale Watching & Wildlife Cruise
I believe this tour and the one in Sitka are both operated by Allen Marine, but they suggested booking through the cruise. Do you really get to see much wildlife? If not there, where is the best spot to see different kinds of animals? I think the kids would like it.
Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest
Is the whale/wildlife watching better in Juneau or in Sitka?
Tongass Forest Nature Hike
If anyone has been on this could you tell me if it was any good? My brother is leaning toward this excursion and going to the raptor center on our own. It just sounds like a walk through a forest to me.
ICY STRAIGHT POINT:
Whale & Marine Mammals Cruise
Is this particular cruise worth it? They don't guarantee any sightings on this cruise.
Remote Bush Exploration & Wildlife Search
My parents want to do this, but it just sounds like you ride on a bus, get out and strectch your legs for a while, and try to see some birds.
The one thing I wanted to do on the whole cruise was visit the Alaska Sea Life Center. However, because this is where we disembark, I just found out by reading the book that you have to claim your luggage at the airport in Anchorage 126 miles away by 2 pm. That stinks because our flight isn't until about 7:30 that evening. I thought that they might just store your luggage at the airport for a fee... Are you assigned to a particular bus going to the airport? If so, it sounds like we would just have to get off the boat, get on the bus to the airport, and sit around at the airport the whole day. Any suggestions or advice?
3.) If we do decide on one of the RCI excursions can you wait until the cruise to book them or do they sell out ahead of time?
4.) I have had conflicting reports of whether you can get Cokes with your meals in the dining room on RCI. I have had people tell me you can only get them free with your meal, but others have told me that you can't get them free at all anywhere. If it's the latter then that boggles my mind... I understand that you can get all you want to eat at dinner, but not sodas? It seems like food is much more expensive....
5.) Are there places to iron clothes on the Radiance? I have heard yes and no to this as well...
6.) I know that traveling withing the US one can use the TSA locks on their bags, but is it OK for purposes of going through US Direct in Canada and RCI? I have called both the TSA and RCI and no one could answer my question with any degree of certainty.
I know that was a lot of questions, but everytime I call RCI I get a lame customer service rep who can't answer any questions. Gee, and their saying when you're on hold while they're trying to get an answer is something to the effect that they are there to make your trip easier. Well, so far they haven't, but I hope someone who reads this can. Thanks!
I haven't been to Alaska, but have cruised quite a bit. I've booked excursion both through the ship and on my own. Keep in mind that if you book on your own and you don't get back to the port on time the ship will leave without you and you are responsible for getting yourself to the next port of call. If there is an excursion that I want to take that only lasts a few hours and is fairly close to the pier I tend to book on my own. If its a long excursion (ie we're in port for 8 hours and its a 6-7 hour excursion) I book through the ship. I also book through the ship if I have to travel inland for more than an hour.
If you decide to book on your own make sure you book through a reputable company. Check the BBB in that area and see if there are any complaints and try to get recommendations from other cruisers. Check to see what their policy is if they don't get you back on time and make sure you get it in writing.
Anything I'm booking through the ship I book on line ahead of time. Popular excursions tend to book up quickly.
Soda is not free. You pay for it, even with your meal. If you drink a lot of soda I would get the soda card. If you're like me and only will have one or two then buy it by the can/glass. I usually buy the soda cards just for the kids.
Celebrity Century 1/09
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Carnival Inspiration 8/05
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Carnival Inspiration 4/04
Sovereign of the Seas 4/03
alaska in the one cruise with ports where i would do all of my tours through a independent tour co's or on my own. whale watching in juneau is the number 1 tour IMO. the whales are awesome too see. some are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them on the ship but not many.
dog sledding in skagway would be fun for the kids or panning for gold. dont take a bike riding tour up the mts. in skagway. it is a very busy 2 lane road and a long ride for children. the train ride is great for adults here but is boring after awhile for young ones.
how about kayaking in ketchikan. or fishing off the dock at creek street. kids love that.
Have been twice to Alaska. I took my two young teens once. They had walkie talkies to stay in touch with me. I let them run around Ketchican, Juneau, and Skaway. They had the time of their life. The ships all stop near the towns.
It is always rainy so forget the hikes, canoe rides, and bikes. Take the cheapy plastic ponchos. It isn't any fun taking a bus tour if it is raining super hard. The Local American tour guides will make sure you get back to your ship on time. They will all be hanging out at all the ports with their cheaper deals. I trust them because they all know you have a dead-line to get back to the bus.
There is No guarantee that you will see a lot of whales and wildlife on a tour. Save your money unless you want to take a chance. You will get to see some whales from the ship sometimes. I did.
Sitka is a cute Russian cultural city that you can walk everywhere. Everything is close by. Save your money and just walk to whatever you want to see.
Skaway is a fun town to just walk around BUT they have a very expensive train ride that is many hours and could get boring. Best to just walk around town and be a looky loo.
Seward to Anchorage - We loved the train ride instead of taking the bus to Anchorage. It cost a little bit more but totally worth it. It goes real slow so you can see some wild life, glaciers, quick-sand, small water-falls and it stops so you can take photos of whatever looks interesting . There will be a tour guide, you can buy a meal, hot chocolate and keep the train cup. You will be seated at a table where the kids or you can play cards or games. Lots of windows everywhere. I LOVED THE TRAIN RIDE.
Anchorage is just a normal city with a Mall and restaurants to eat at. The airport is small but has Fast food for your last meal in Alaska.
You can see Alaska without a tour and still have fun. There are lots of free buses in each port. I took a free shuttle to Wal-mart just so I could get a free tour of Alaska in Juneau.lol. They also took me to where the locals shop Mall.
You can buy your tours on the ship too. Just buy cheapy tours for the kids and seniors. They don't like to walk. I don't reqret not buying any of the tours. I just walked around the towns and also took the free buses.
The one tour I would skip is the Sitka boat excursion. While I love any boat ride, we didn't see much of anything. Eagles, yes, but got a much closer look just walking around. DH loved Tongas. He rented a bike on his own. I walked to the Russian Orthodox church, then browsed art in shops. Would do Raptor center if I ever get to go again.
Whale watching in Juneau was amazing! Humpbacks and orcas very near by. Lifetime memory stuff...ahhh.
It's much easier to book through the cruise line and there is not hat much difference in price. Don't know about the bike and brew, but the Helicopter ride to Mendenhall glacier is extremely good but expensive. they actually leave you on the glacier with a naturalist for about 45 minutes then come get you. If you go to Skagway the train to White Pass is a once in a lifetime must do thing. Sitka is a walk around place. If you have never seen sea otters that one would be really great they are wonderful. If you are from California forget that.
Landlocked in Denver, but cruisin every chance we get.
Polynesia, Carib. '86
Cr. Odyssey, Scandinavia, '91, 30 Day S Pac. 2002
Crystal Harm, Aust., N.Z., '94
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Old Cr. Pr. Canal, '97
RCCL, Carib, 1998
Volendam, Car, 2000
Ryndam, 35 day S. Am., Antarctica, '03
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Cr.Pr., Carib. 08
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