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Alaska, private tours or ships?

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Hi there,  we're pretty experienced cruisers,  but have never been to Alaska,    We're on the Celebrity Solstice 8 day out of Vancouver next May.   Our first & last cruise excursion was in 2002 :classic_biggrin:  Since then, we either diy with rental cars, buses, trains, etc. or private excursions.   

 

I've been looking into excursions for our trip & it seems that I will definitely do a private whale watching (or searching) excursion in Icy straight Point....  planning on renting a car in Juneau,  but in Skagway & Ketchikan, I'm stumped....  I'd like to do the White Pass train up in Skagway & bike back down.... it's offered by our cruise line for almost the exact same price as the private tour operators.    I understand that on the whale watching (or searching) tours the prices are the same, but you get smaller groups... is it the same on the train & bike tours?  I get that the train is the same for everyone, but will the bike portion be with a smaller group?

 

To clarify,  it seems that private tours in Alaska are priced just like the ships tours.....  is there an advantage to private???

 

Thanks in advance 

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I just came back and found better prices on my own.  I shot a live interview with a retired Alaskan tour guide and speaker for the cruise lines.  He talked about 5 different ports, you might find it interesting.

 

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2 hours ago, misguy said:

I just came back and found better prices on my own.  I shot a live interview with a retired Alaskan tour guide and speaker for the cruise lines.  He talked about 5 different ports, you might find it interesting.

 

 

thank you :)

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Icy Strait Point (Hoonah) - Book with Glacier Wind Charters as soon as they are open for booking.  It's not so much that we saved.  It was a personal experience with six people.  

 

In Juneau, we found no need to rent a car.  We took a taxi to Mendenhall Glacier and then did Mt Roberts Tram up the mountain in the afternoon, and even had time for an early dinner near the port.  

 

I was disappointed in the White Pass train from Skagway, but enjoyed travel back and saw a couple bears, the mush dogs, emerald lake, and more on the way back with Dyea Dave tours.  I know that cost was less than ship tour.

 

We did the Sea Plane in Ketchikan after walking around the town in the morning.  We did it through a private company, Misty Fjord Tours, that has a spotless record.  We paid a lot less for our flights, but we waited to book until day of flights.  We wanted to make sure we had a clear day or would have done something else.  

 

These Alaska cruises aren't cheap, but if you're making this amazing trip, my advice would be to not look to save a few dollars and sacrifice quality.  This was a one-time event for us and that's how planned our activities.  

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Posted (edited)

You don't necessarily get smaller groups when you book the train independently. My sister booked with Chilkoot last year and they had every seat full. I had booked through Princess previously and we had extra seats in the car. So it depends on the day.

 

I used to bike quite a bit when younger and would not bike down that route. There are a ton of buses going fast and it is not something I would do. A friend broke their leg biking down there as they felt like they were going to hit and had to divert.

 

For the most part - I do recommend private excursions. Definitely whale watching - you can get more personalized service with a much smaller group.

Edited by Coral

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Sometimes you can find better pricing booking through the ship! We'll be there in August and in Ketchican, we're doing the Baring Sea Crab Fishing tour. The direct price is $199, but the ship's price was $169. In fact, I caught it one day at $151.20, so I jumped on an almost $100 savings for the two of us!

 

We are doing a direct booking for whale watching in IPS as that was considerably cheaper than the ship's offering ($168 instead of the ship's $199).

 

There are a couple of advantages to booking through the ship though. First, if the tour runs late (bus breaks down or whatever), the ship will wait for your return or, if necessary, pay for you to get back to it at the next port of call. Foe this reason, it's always good to make sure there's plenty of 'wiggle room' at the end of your tour to get back. Some of the best entertainment on a cruise is watching stragglers running up the pier to make the sailing and even seeing their faces as the ship sails away without them!

 

Second, if you happen to get injured on the tour, then you will not get a bill from the ship's doctor. This actually happened to me. I took an Introduction to Scuba Diving tour in Cozumel and managed to scrape my leg on some coral. It really stung for several days, but I walked past the excursion desk and they said 'Was that on a ship's tour? If so, treatment is free, so go to the medical facility and get it seen to!'

 

 

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One of my favorite excursions ever was kayaking in Chilkoot Lake in Haines while our ship was in Skagway. Our cruise line did not offer that particular excursion, but we saw people from Royal Caribbean kayaking the same day. We were in separate kayaks with a guide--just the two of us with one guide. They were in triple kayaks with seven or eight kayaks per guide--20 to 24 people per guide. We were able to go farther and see more. We also paid a lot less. It was great.

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Thanks for all the helpful replies & tips!  I'm going to look into the Glacier Wind Charters...  I hadn't even considered a taxi to Mendenhall,  sounds more relaxing than the car rental route & we love going up trams... so that might be a good fit for us.

 

I'm still going to look into the bike ride private excursion... a couple of other options, I definitely want/need something active, either biking, hiking or kayaking.... we're in our 50's but relatively fit & active, so no big bus tours for us :)

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We used Glacier Wind Charters a couple of weeks ago and can recommend. 

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14 minutes ago, Pushka said:

We used Glacier Wind Charters a couple of weeks ago and can recommend. 

 

thank you :)

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