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jeremystevens

Booking tours on Alaska inside passage cruise

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Hi,

 

We've just booked onto the Volendam leaving Vancouver on 03/06/20. We want to go whale watching in Juneau, and on the zipline in either Skagway or Ketchican - we can see that the timings work with the times the boat is docked, is it best to book direct with the tours, or via HAL when on the boat? On our previous cruise in the Med (with Princess), the tour costs were quite heavily marked up when booked on the ship.

 

Any trip advice would be welcome, thanks.

 

Jeremy

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What is the date of your cruise?      So you are cruising on the Volendam on June 3, 2020?  If it’s an excursion that may sell out you should book prior to boarding whether direct or with HAL.  You have plenty of time to plan.  Be sure to read the trip reports on the Alaska board on CC which will help you plan uour excursions.

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I never book a HAL excursion...way too much. There are many other options. Some through TA’s or check your roll call. Many suggestions there, too.

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Thanks Wyobean. Couldn't see that a role call had been started for this cruise yet so I started one myself. Yes, I think I'll book outside of HAL, the timings don't cause a concern and I suspect I'll save a lot of money.

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13 hours ago, oaktreerb said:

What is the date of your cruise?      So you are cruising on the Volendam on June 3, 2020?  If it’s an excursion that may sell out you should book prior to boarding whether direct or with HAL.  You have plenty of time to plan.  Be sure to read the trip reports on the Alaska board on CC which will help you plan uour excursions.

Thanks for the tip. Yes, plenty of time yet but I like to sort these things out early!

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13 hours ago, wyobean said:

I never book a HAL excursion...way too much. There are many other options. Some through TA’s or check your roll call. Many suggestions there, too.

Thanks Wyobean. Couldn't see that a role call had been started for this cruise yet so I started one myself. Yes, I think I'll book outside of HAL, the timings don't cause a concern and I suspect I'll save a lot of money.

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Google discount books in Alaska . Last we looked there are 2 discount books  .The books show the coupons ,like 2 for 1  coupons .tours are pricy in Alaska & we saved a bunch using the discount coupons 

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pasting partial response from another thread:

 

Please, please, please do shore excursions!     We looked for more active ones to take, but still all were tame and suitable to almost anybody.    Booked all ourselves and in almost every case, they came to the ship to pick us up at the gangway.   

 

I used Cruise Critic and every recommendation turned out to be terrific:

Ketchikan:    islandwings float plane

Juneau:    Coastal Helicopters  Dog Sled with Extra Landing  *******off the charts excellent experience

                  Harv and Marv whale watching  

Skagway:   Dyea Dave tour van/ white pass railroad return from Yukon

Interior Alaska:   Talkeetna flight over Mt. McKinley ***** one word, "wow."

 

One other Alaska note:   We are a family used to doing things on our own, but we ended up booking the cruise with an "escorted land tour."    It's not so much that we needed a "guide" but these escorted cruise/tours include food (just like on the cruise ship).   The cruise line lodges are remote for the most part and it's not like there are other restaurant options nearby that you can walk to, so you will end up eating at the lodge restaurants.    The menu prices are expensive.    In my opinion, pay for the escorted land tour because by the end of your trip, you very well could end up paying the same price as the escorted tour but with more hassle and consternation (once you see the menu prices).     Use your cabana money for the escorted tour!!

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We booked most of our Alaska tours with private companies and had no issues. Our stop in Ketchikan was very short, so we booked our tour that day through HAL just to be safe, but we had comfortable windows of time in our other ports. 

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2 hours ago, mcrcruiser said:

Google discount books in Alaska . Last we looked there are 2 discount books  .The books show the coupons ,like 2 for 1  coupons .tours are pricy in Alaska & we saved a bunch using the discount coupons 

Thanks! I'll take a look.

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QUOTE...“One other Alaska note:   We are a family used to doing things on our own, but we ended up booking the cruise with an "escorted land tour."    It's not so much that we needed a "guide" but these escorted cruise/tours include food (just like on the cruise ship).   The cruise line lodges are remote for the most part and it's not like there are other restaurant options nearby that you can walk to, so you will end up eating at the lodge restaurants.    The menu prices are expensive.    In my opinion, pay for the escorted land tour because by the end of your trip, you very well could end up paying the same price as the escorted tour but with more hassle and consternation (once you see the menu prices).     Use your cabana money for the escorted tour!!”

——————

We did the 13 day cruise/tour...3 days on ship and 10 on land. Not sure if this is what you are talking about as escorted, but we had a guide and a schedule. We had the option of the meal  package or not. We opted not to get it and were very glad. We were never in a place that did not have several restaurant options away from our room/lodge/motel. Our guide had a list of all places within walking distance. We got to scout around, try new places and save a LOT of money. Many of the people who had gotten the meal plan wished they wouldn’t have. Some reasons were...too much food(huge meals with dessert), not a lot of flexibility(sometimes you just aren’t hungry or you just want soup, but you paid for a meal) and the cost. We figured we saved about half what the meal plan cost. Some liked it for the convenience. Not saying you shouldn’t go that route, just putting in my 2 cents.

Edited by wyobean

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OK so the research is going well, and we're looking at doing ziplining in either Skagway or Ketchikan - I think the Ketchikan option looks better, has anybody done either before?

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Hi! I'm going to be on the Niuew Amsterdam cruise on Aug 24, 2019 with my wife and 15yo DD.  We're thinking about doing a dog sled tours in Skagway.  Do folks recommend booking that through HAL or are there local agencies I should take a look at?  Also, are the helicopter tours to dog sledding on the ice really that much better than the musher camps?  

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We have done both - private and HAL tours in Alaska.  We have found the prices to be a bit lower on the private tours, but not by that much IMO.  The reason we book private (when we do) is if the tour fits our needs better than the HAL tour. 

 

For example, in Skagway we wanted to do the train up and a bus down and HAL did not offer this option at the time we booked.  We found a highly recommended (on CC) tour group that fit the bill nicely.  We were on the same train, but our own car for the 3 of us, as compared to the Hal tour - great deal!  Coming down we were in a smaller van by ourselfs and were able to stop wherever and whenever we wanted to view things.  Price was a bit lower than HAL, but not so much that you would notice.

 

One suggestion in Alaska - if you find a HAL tour that you really want, book it as early as possible (before you board) as they do sell out (especially those with limited capacity).  

 

Sometimes the HAL tour is the better option.  One time we bought the tickets to the Tram in Juneau from HAL, as it was the same price PLUS HAL would refund them if you decided not to go on it for any reason (this was great when you have multiple things to do in Juneau).  One more thing - with the HAL tours you earn Mariner days (one day per $300 spent).

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If it is offered on your cruise (and it usually is for Volendam out of Vancouver) do NOT miss the Tracy Arm excursion that drops you off of Volendam and onto a small boat that takes you for an unforgettable up-close excursion into Tracy Arm, and meets up with Volendam in Juneau later that day.  We saw (I am not exaggerating even a little bit) hundreds of whales of 3 different kinds in Tracy Arm, and the proximity to the glaciers was breathtaking. The best thing I've done in Alaska and I've gone on 17 Alaska cruises.  Sign up early for this one! It sells out quickly. IMO this is even better than dedicated "whale-watching" tours where you might see whales and you might not... (of course no guarantee here either but the scenery is SO amazing that even if you didn't see a whale (and again, we saw hundreds!!) it would be well worth the experience.  This is not true for the regular "whale watching" excursions that can be boring if you don't see whales). 

 

Edited by Moriah

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