The first thing you should do before booking a cruise to America’s Last Frontier is look at what Alaska shore excursions appeal to you. Norwegian Cruise Line does an amazing job of providing their cruisers with a wide range of excursions in each port of call. Since I did my Alaska cruise with them, I will be sharing what excursions they offer.
During the Alaska cruise, sometimes as many as six other ships were in port at the same time. It stands to reason that a lot of the same Alaska shore excursions are offered to all the main cruise liners, but check just to be safe.
I am a big fan of cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line and have done about 11 or 12 cruises with them all over the world. I love their freestyle cruising and know exactly what to expect on each cruise. However, there are several cruise lines in the Alaskan market and you should pick one you are comfortable with.
Before you head ashore, don’t forget these items:
- Ship key card
- Passport and/or visa to get back on OR in case you are crossing into Canada on your excursion
- Money/credit cards
- Camera to capture memories
- Sunglasses if you need them
- Phone or tablet if you need to get on WiFi, make calls or just check in
- If it is raining, raincoat and waterproof shoes
- Read more of my Alaska Cruise Tips
Alaska Shore Excursions: Ports of Call
Ketchikan Shore Excursions
The first stop on the Inside Passage and one of the most colorful ports, I think you will find the Alaska shore excursions here just delightful. Dubbed “Alaska’s first city,” and the start of many cruises to Alaska, you will sign colored homes and buildings as you arrive in the Ketchikan port.
Fun facts about Ketchikan:
- This Alaskan coastal city receives more than 140 inches of rain per year!
- Ketchikan is considered the “Salmon Capital of the World.” So eat up!
Things to note about the port of Ketchikan:
- You can easily walk to the city from the ship pier, its right outside the dock
- Historic Creek Street is about a 5 minute walk from the furthest dock in port and one of the most popular places to visit as it used to be a brothel until the 1950’s
- There is PLENTY of shopping in the city – you cannot even walk 10 steps without coming on another store
- Salmon reigns supreme – give it a try
- Most of the tours are very short and you will have extra time to see the city on your own. Do not miss Creek Street!!
- The city is pretty flat outside of the ship, making it accessible for everyone.
- If you are from the United States and have a cell phone provider from there, your phone will work here in Ketchikan
A Sampling of Shore excursions offered in Ketchikan:
- Sightseeing and Highlights Tours
- Saxman Native Village – This excursions takes you to see the Beaver Clan House. After seeing a short film you will get to see a theatrical production and visit the gift shop.
- A Taste of Ketchikan – this walking tour takes you to one of the local favorite eateries in Ketchikan. Delight in the local catch and feast on a buffet of foods prepared by the chef.
- Ketchikan Pub Crawl – 90 minute walking tour that includes visiting and drinking in pubs, learning about prohibition and the history of the brothels at Creek Street.
- Ketchikan Highlights by Trolley – on this quick tour of the city you will get to experience Totems (the largest collection, a gift shop and at the end of the tour the driver will let people off at Creek Street or back at the ship. (get off at Creek Street and walk back, it is very close).
- Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show – Watch these Lumberjacks come to life in a rip roaring display of woodsman skills for a show you won’t soon forget.
- Tours on the Water
- Misty Fjords Tour by Boat – explore Rudyerd Bay on this luxury coach from Ketchikan.
- Knudson Cove Salmon Sportfishing -there is no better place to fish for salmon than the “Salmon Capital of the World!”
- Tatoosh Island Sea Kayak – take a 25 minute drive to your destination where you will get in a double kayak and take off. Animal sightings have been seen on this tour that include a bald eagle sweeping in for a salmon. (Note: sightings are not guaranteed).
Juneau Shore Excursions
Juneau was my favorite port of call because, MENDHALL GLACIER, but also these Alaska shore excursions offered here that had whale watching’s were guaranteed! If you plan to see whales, and I think you should, make sure and do it in Juneau (if your ship stops here) and take one of the guaranteed whale sightings tours.
Fun facts about Juneau
- Juneau is one of two state capitals in the United States NOT connected by roads. The only way into the city is by boat or air.
- Officially the second largest city in the United States by land.
Things to note about the port of Juneau
- Juneau is easy to walk if you don’t plan to book any Alaska shore excursions here.
- There is an express bus to Mandall Glacier (Blue Glacier Express) for $30 round trip per person and ir runs every 30 minutes from 8-6.
- Taxis and a local bus system are available.
- Car rentals are available if you want to venture on your own.
A Sampling of the excursions offered in Juneau:
- Sightseeing and Highlights Tours
- Mendhall Glacier and Hatchery – visit Macaulay Salmon Hatchery after visiting one of the only drive-to Glaciers in the world, Mendhall!
- Mendhall Glacier and Salmon Bake – visit Mendhall Glacier, Macaulay Salmon Hatchery to learn about the life cycles of salmon and the Gold Creek Salmon Bake, where you will feast on Alaskan salmon and other delicious food.
- Historic Gold Mine and Pan for Gold – you are guaranteed to find gold on this tour AND keep what you find. This tour will talk about the gold rush and teach you to pan for gold.
- Mt. Roberts Tramway – tale a tram 1,800 feet above the city and see Juneau from new heights. You can access hikes, shopping, a movie, and the best views of the city from the top. Ticket is good all day once purchased.
- Bike and Brew Glacier View – take an 8.5 mile bike journey to see Mandhall Glacier from different view points on a mostly flat surface and finish up at an old seaplane hanger for a taste of some award winning beers from micro-brewers in Alaska.
- Dog Sledding Summer Camp – meet some of the beautiful sled dog puppies but not before taking a 1.5 mile ride with Alaska’s beautiful huskies!
- Five Glacier Seaplane Exploration – soar the skies in Juneau and see FIVE glaciers from new heights. On this tour you will see the Norris, Taku Glacier, East and west Twin Glaciers, and Hole in the Wall.
- Helicopter Glacier Trek – flay over the beautiful wilderness before landing, where you will do a one hour walk on a beautiful glacier. No experience necessary as you will be guided on this epic Alaska shore excursions experience.
- Taku Glacier Adventure by Air, Water and Ice – take the most epic of the Alaska shore excursions and enjoy Taku Glacier b helicopter, air boat – where you will come within arms reach of the ice and on land.
- Tours on the Water
- Whale Watching and Mandhall Glacier Photo Safari – this tour has a professional photographer on board to guide you and give you tips on taking great photos. You’ll cruise through Juneau by land and sea to see whales and Mendhall Glacier.
- What Quest and Orca Point Lodge – on these guaranteed whale sighting Alaska shore excursions, board your vessel and go see the whales! Complete this tour with a salmon bake at the Orca Point Lodge. Don’t forget your camera because you won’t want to miss anything.
- Luxury Whale Watch Juneau – board a whale watching yacht and cruise into the waters of Auke Bay. This is the ONLY whale watching yacht in Alaska – so when it comes to Alaska shore excursions, this one will be going out in style.
- Juneau Sportfishing – take a four hour tour aboard this fishing vessel where you can catch salmon. After June 15th, if you catch anything you can have it shipped home for a fee. Make sure to bring $25 for a fishing license and $15 for a king salmon stamp.
- Mendhall Glacier River Float – ready to do some light water rafting and view the Mandhall Glacier from a different perspective? This this thrilling excursion is for you.
Skagway Shore Excursions
The most popular of the Alaska shore excursions in Skagway is by far the White Pass Scenic Railway. You can take it by itself or combine it with a plethora of other adventures.
Fun facts about Skagway
- Over 1 million visitors visit the port per year!
- Since Skagway is such a big tourism hub, a lot of seasonal workers are brought in.
- The population of this tiny city is around 900+ and doubles in the summer months.
- During the gold rush, over 10,000+ people resided in Skagway.
- The founder of Nordstrom made $13,000 from a gold mine stake during the gold rush and then returned to Seattle and started the company.
- One of only THREE cities that can be reached by road in Alaska.
Things to note about the port of Skagway
- If you need access to WiFi and you are not getting it on your ship, you can walk to the local library in town.
- The walk from where the ship was docked to the end of town (which is not very big) was about a 30-45 minute leisurely walk.
- The White Pass Scenic Railway is the highlight of the Alaska shore excursions offered in Skagway. If you want to do this, PLAN IN ADVANCE!
A Sampling of the excursions offered in Skagway:
- Sightseeing and Highlights Tours
- White Pass Scenic Railway – take the “Scenic Railway of the World”and climb 2,865 feet in elevation in a 40 mile round trip adventure. See the route those who took in Alaska in seek of great fortune.
- Best of Skagway and White Pass Railway – this adventure comes with a tour of Skagway, a pass into British Columbia as you learn about the gold rush and completed with a barbecue, that includes salmon!
- VIP White Pass Scenic Railway – this tour puts you in the Yukon Route’s luxury car as you enjoy all inclusive beverages and local appetizers with other riders.
- Yukon Territory Scenic Drive – climb up over 3,200 feet into Canada’s Yukon Territory.
- Skagway’s Original Street Car – board this 1927 yellow street car to learn all about the history of the city and the man behind the tour.
- Ghosts and Good Time Girls Walking Tour – take this walking tour of the city. Step back in time where one of the Madams, who is in full costume, walks you through Skagway’s ghoulish and good time history took place.
- Glacier Discovery by Helicopter – this 40 minute helicopter and 40 minute glacier walk are for those looking for an unforgettable adventure in Skagway! On this tour, one of the best marvels in mother nature, the Ferebee Glacier, you will get to walk among.
- Tours on the Water
- Ocean Raft Wildlife Adventure – take this intimate tour through the Lynn Canal, which is the the largest and deepest fjord in all of North America! You could see whales, sea lions, eagles, and much more during this adventure on the water.
- Eagle Preserve Float – join this high speed catamaran to Haines where you will enjoy a picnic and a rafting excursion in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Reserve.
- Chilkoot Lake Freshwater Fishing – no experience required. Take this tour to Chilkoot Lake where you’ll get a one of a kind experience fishing for salmon and you might even catch visions of wildlife like brown bears and eagles.
The Bottom Line on Alaska Shore Excursions
The funnest part of cruising to Alaska is all the epic adventures you take in each port. Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone and do something you never thought you would do, you may surprise yourself. Of all the cruise destinations I have been to, Alaska has by far, surpassed every expectation, and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. While wildlife sightings are not guaranteed (mostly) keep a keen eye out because you never know when an eagle will swoop down in front of you and grab himself a salmon or when a whale will breach on the water.
If you are a latitudes Member on Norwegian Cruise Line, double check your benefits as you may have discounts on Alaska shore excursions. I know I am a Platinum Latitudes Member and get a 10% discount on any shore excursions I book. That is more money to spend on the ship or in the port!
Just remember to do your research ahead of time, book in advance if you can, don’t forget your passport and/or visa if you need one, and pack for a variety of weather conditions.
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