Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
3red7s

Excursion companies other than the cruise lines?

Recommended Posts

Hello all, we have booked our Alaskan cruise, Seattle to Seattle, on RC for May 29, 2020.  I knew that excursions would be pricey.  As with other ports, has anyone found an excursion company that it not with the cruise line & offers better prices?  we are doing:  Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway & Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier.  Also, are any of these ports nice enough to just get off the cruise ship & walk around?  Thank you

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are lots of posts about other excursions - just keep reading, including scrolling down a few pages. Also, many people have mentioned non-cruise-line excursions in their trip reports, so it is worth browsing those, even some by those who were on other cruise lines since all cruise lines call at these ports.

 

There are also threads about things to do in the ports without an excursion. Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier are a little different, because they aren't ports. A cruise line may offer an excursion where you transfer to a smaller boat to get closer, but there is probably not any competition to choose from, because the operator has to work directly with the cruise line for that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We really enjoyed our hike with Wild Wolf tours in Ketchikan. She took us to the end of the road in a small van and told us what it was like to grow up there. We also got to the museum before all the tour buses

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We’re not planning any organized excursions in Juneau - the tram up Mt. Roberts is right by the dock, and there’s public bus service to Mendenhall Glacier. From the look of it, all the towns on the Alaska cruises are pretty small and walkable, but you’ll want to book an excursion to see anything out of town (we're planning on the Misty Fjords cruise from Ketchikan and the White Pass railroad out of Skagway).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, kochleffel said:

There are lots of posts about other excursions - just keep reading, including scrolling down a few pages. Also, many people have mentioned non-cruise-line excursions in their trip reports, so it is worth browsing those, even some by those who were on other cruise lines since all cruise lines call at these ports.

 

There are also threads about things to do in the ports without an excursion. Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier are a little different, because they aren't ports. A cruise line may offer an excursion where you transfer to a smaller boat to get closer, but there is probably not any competition to choose from, because the operator has to work directly with the cruise line for that.

 

Agree, there are dozens and dozens of threads on vendors in each port, and other options, like walking around. To add to this dead on post, I will say it is also commonly reported here that vendors separate from the ship, particularly those you get right at the dock, are not typically much cheaper than ship's excursions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of the private excursions are not necessarily cheaper. They are better and often have smaller groups.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on your budget, you could spend more than the price of the cruise, just to get you and/or your family to helicopter onto a glacier. There are the whale watches in most ports. Juneau, in particular, has a square full of booths just looking for people to go on private tours.

That said, all the ports you mentioned are quite nice and you can manage to spend a day in each just wandering about, doing walking tours or local transportation. Depending on what you are looking to do and how much you are willing to spend.

Take Skagway, for instance, you can walk right up to the White Horse train and buy a ticket if you wish. You can rent a car and drive into the Yukon, as you cannot get lost as there is one main road there and back. 

Ketchikan you can spend quality time on Creek street, walk up the Married Man's Trail and see salmon all over the place. visit Totem Pole Park. In Juneau, you can get some transportation to Mendenhall Glacier and spend some hours there, taking the easy mile walk to the glacier and the waterfall.

You do NOT need to spend a fortune in Alaska unless you want to do things that cost lots of money. 

 

Cheers

Len

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm also a fan of DIY cruise stops.  Most ports have nice things you can see just strolling from the ship.  There are also a ton of free or inexpensive activities you can do on your own.  And the hiking is fantastic.  All you need are your own two feet (and sometimes a public bus ticket).  Some ideas in Ketchikan:  wander Creek Street and the fish ladder, hike Deer Mountain or the Rainbird Trail, take a city bus out to Totem Bight for some totem poles in a beautiful location  Juneau:  see the new whale project sculpture, wander around downtown and take in a museum or an art gallery,  walk the flume trail, visit the salmon hatchery, take the tram up Mt. Roberts and then hike to Gastineau Peak or farther, get to Mendenhall Glacier on your own (though public transportation is inconvenient and shuttles are ridiculously expensive), etc.  Skagway:  take a fascinating free walking tour through the park service, learn about the Klondike Gold Rush at the small but excellent (and free) museum, wander the streets, walk to Yakutania Point, visit the Gold Rush Cemetery.  Or...if it's sunny and you're in shape, take the rigorous but absolutely gorgeous hike to Upper Dewey Lake.  

 

Here are some of my cruise highlights (in port and on the ship) that you don't need to go on an expensive excursion to see:

https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/05/alaska-cruise-highlights.html

And some of my favorite inexpensive activities in port: 

https://www.melindabrasher.com/2017/05/if-youre-looking-for-inexpensive-things.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good to know about the booths in Juneau.  We are wanting to go dogsledding on a glacier, knowing that we need to have a plan B in case the weather doesn't cooperate.  When we first booked our cruise, there was at least one helicopter dogsled tour on the website.  However, there are none listed anymore - I suppose they are waiting until they have vendors contracted for 2020.  Anyway, we've been looking online at booking independently just to get a feel for what to expect from that type of excursion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For Juneau you can do the tram without booking through the cruise, it's walkable and lovely

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I looked the one thing cruiseline tours offer over independent is turn-key, door-door, and depending on the tour big bus affair.

 

In almost everyport there is some DIY that are both low cost to free. 

 

But I got to ask you are going to Alaska and some of the things like Glaciers, Salmon, Whales and the experience around them simply aren't available as DIY and the difference in cost between ship tour and independent are small.   

 

Plan early, book, don't worry about weather, if weather causes cancellation then you'll get a refund option, whether cruiseline or independent, but be prepared for cool and wet anytime.

 

Waiting till port is a gamble if you want helicopter or other high depend low availability excursion.  

Edited by chipmaster

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, dmdiver said:

Good to know about the booths in Juneau.  We are wanting to go dogsledding on a glacier, knowing that we need to have a plan B in case the weather doesn't cooperate.  When we first booked our cruise, there was at least one helicopter dogsled tour on the website.  However, there are none listed anymore - I suppose they are waiting until they have vendors contracted for 2020.  Anyway, we've been looking online at booking independently just to get a feel for what to expect from that type of excursion.

 

Dog sledding with Helicopter is very limited and weather permitting with a narrow season that ends very early.    Book a cruise before mid August and plan alternative options if they cancel.  Once ship booked book with the excursion directly or reserved with the ship once it is available for book.    Crazy expensive, but if you catch it, well worth it if your budget can tolerate.  I'd do an inside and eat Ramen for a month to fund if I had to choose.

Edited by chipmaster

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/21/2019 at 6:54 PM, 3red7s said:

Hello all, we have booked our Alaskan cruise, Seattle to Seattle, on RC for May 29, 2020.  I knew that excursions would be pricey.  As with other ports, has anyone found an excursion company that it not with the cruise line & offers better prices?  we are doing:  Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway & Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier.  Also, are any of these ports nice enough to just get off the cruise ship & walk around?  Thank you

 

I haven't read all the replies to your post so I may repeat some of what others have said. I've been on two Alaskan cruises (plus several fly-in road trips of the interior) and have arranged all of our port excursions.  After doing the research before our first cruise (I had never cruised before ANYWHERE) I decided I could make my own arrangements and save a significant amount of money by not using the cruise line for anything other than transportation between ports and a "hotel".  It's not that difficult once you figure out what you want to do.  One of the things the cruise lines hit you with is a guarantee of you not being left at the port because you didn't make it back to the ship in time - making it sound like the independent tour operators leave people stranded at the dock regularly.  That's just not true.  The local tour operators are very aware of when each ship arrives and when they are scheduled to leave.  If they didn't get their customers back on the ship they would soon be out of business - a bad experience would be broadcast immediately on places like here at CC.  I compared the price difference between excursions arranged by the cruise line and similar (or identical) excursions I could easily arrange myself.  I estimate that I saved what would be equal to a decent meal out for two on each excursion.  On our first 10 day cruise I saved enough for several dinners out for two.  Plus I had the satisfaction of getting exactly what WE wanted to do.  Plus I was able to save time while in port.  For example, in Juneau we wanted to do a helicopter trip to a glacier walk.  We also wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier.  Both are in the same general area of Juneau about a half hour from the dock.  Thru the ship we'd have had to shuttle back and forth twice.  We rented a car (picked up near the ship) and drove ourselves to the helicopter trip then left from there for Mendenhall.  Even with renting a car we still saved a significant amount of money plus we didn't waste time riding back and forth to the ship.  As far as local tour providers I would like to recommend Dyea Dave Tours at Skagway.  Their web page is easily found -- they may or may not have anything you're interested in.  I've used them on both our our cruises and will use them if we are there again.  I give them two thumbs up!  Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Figure out what you want out of your trip-  first.  Then find the tours that match.  I am VERY picky about my vendors. So you may want to be aware of the operator history as well.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have never booked an excursion thru any cruise line and have always had great experiences with third party groups - just need to do your due diligence.

 

In Juneau we were very happy with booking a whale watch/Mendenhall Glacier excursion with Juneau Whale Watch and it was a lot cheaper than other tour groups

 

Ketchikan is one port where we just got off and did our own thing - walked around and souvenir shopped, walked Creek Street and visited the Totem Heritage Museum and Deercreek hatchery

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, SuperCrewBear said:

 

I haven't read all the replies to your post so I may repeat some of what others have said. I've been on two Alaskan cruises (plus several fly-in road trips of the interior) and have arranged all of our port excursions.  After doing the research before our first cruise (I had never cruised before ANYWHERE) I decided I could make my own arrangements and save a significant amount of money by not using the cruise line for anything other than transportation between ports and a "hotel".  It's not that difficult once you figure out what you want to do.  One of the things the cruise lines hit you with is a guarantee of you not being left at the port because you didn't make it back to the ship in time - making it sound like the independent tour operators leave people stranded at the dock regularly.  That's just not true.  The local tour operators are very aware of when each ship arrives and when they are scheduled to leave.  If they didn't get their customers back on the ship they would soon be out of business - a bad experience would be broadcast immediately on places like here at CC.  I compared the price difference between excursions arranged by the cruise line and similar (or identical) excursions I could easily arrange myself.  I estimate that I saved what would be equal to a decent meal out for two on each excursion.  On our first 10 day cruise I saved enough for several dinners out for two.  Plus I had the satisfaction of getting exactly what WE wanted to do.  Plus I was able to save time while in port.  For example, in Juneau we wanted to do a helicopter trip to a glacier walk.  We also wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier.  Both are in the same general area of Juneau about a half hour from the dock.  Thru the ship we'd have had to shuttle back and forth twice.  We rented a car (picked up near the ship) and drove ourselves to the helicopter trip then left from there for Mendenhall.  Even with renting a car we still saved a significant amount of money plus we didn't waste time riding back and forth to the ship.  As far as local tour providers I would like to recommend Dyea Dave Tours at Skagway.  Their web page is easily found -- they may or may not have anything you're interested in.  I've used them on both our our cruises and will use them if we are there again.  I give them two thumbs up!  Good luck!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, 3red7s said:

 

great info....though I don't mind spending money on vacation, I found the excursions to be so expensive.  I will definetly check out Dyea Dave Tours.  thank you!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Budget Queen said:

Figure out what you want out of your trip-  first.  Then find the tours that match.  I am VERY picky about my vendors. So you may want to be aware of the operator history as well.  

can you recommend any tour operators that you used in Alaska?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Herfnerd said:

We have never booked an excursion thru any cruise line and have always had great experiences with third party groups - just need to do your due diligence.

 

In Juneau we were very happy with booking a whale watch/Mendenhall Glacier excursion with Juneau Whale Watch and it was a lot cheaper than other tour groups

 

Ketchikan is one port where we just got off and did our own thing - walked around and souvenir shopped, walked Creek Street and visited the Totem Heritage Museum and Deercreek hatchery

awesome recommendation:  we shall check out Juneau Whale Watch...thanks

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, 3red7s said:

can you recommend any tour operators that you used in Alaska?

There is no point in me listing my vendors if you aren’t considering that touring.  As I mentioned you have to figure out your touring preference FIRST.  Then select the best vendor for you.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/27/2019 at 10:42 AM, Herfnerd said:

We have never booked an excursion thru any cruise line and have always had great experiences with third party groups - just need to do your due diligence.

 

In Juneau we were very happy with booking a whale watch/Mendenhall Glacier excursion with Juneau Whale Watch and it was a lot cheaper than other tour groups.

How much was that tour you took a piece? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, tallnthensome said:

How much was that tour you took a piece? 

With the discount code we found online and prepurchased, with tax it was about $127 pp.  this was a 3-4 hour whale watching tour and Mendenhall Glacier for as long as we want, until their last shuttle back to town

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/26/2019 at 4:08 PM, SuperCrewBear said:

 

I haven't read all the replies to your post so I may repeat some of what others have said. I've been on two Alaskan cruises (plus several fly-in road trips of the interior) and have arranged all of our port excursions.  After doing the research before our first cruise (I had never cruised before ANYWHERE) I decided I could make my own arrangements and save a significant amount of money by not using the cruise line for anything other than transportation between ports and a "hotel".  It's not that difficult once you figure out what you want to do.  One of the things the cruise lines hit you with is a guarantee of you not being left at the port because you didn't make it back to the ship in time - making it sound like the independent tour operators leave people stranded at the dock regularly.  That's just not true.  The local tour operators are very aware of when each ship arrives and when they are scheduled to leave.  If they didn't get their customers back on the ship they would soon be out of business - a bad experience would be broadcast immediately on places like here at CC.  I compared the price difference between excursions arranged by the cruise line and similar (or identical) excursions I could easily arrange myself.  I estimate that I saved what would be equal to a decent meal out for two on each excursion.  On our first 10 day cruise I saved enough for several dinners out for two.  Plus I had the satisfaction of getting exactly what WE wanted to do.  Plus I was able to save time while in port.  For example, in Juneau we wanted to do a helicopter trip to a glacier walk.  We also wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier.  Both are in the same general area of Juneau about a half hour from the dock.  Thru the ship we'd have had to shuttle back and forth twice.  We rented a car (picked up near the ship) and drove ourselves to the helicopter trip then left from there for Mendenhall.  Even with renting a car we still saved a significant amount of money plus we didn't waste time riding back and forth to the ship.  As far as local tour providers I would like to recommend Dyea Dave Tours at Skagway.  Their web page is easily found -- they may or may not have anything you're interested in.  I've used them on both our our cruises and will use them if we are there again.  I give them two thumbs up!  Good luck!

 

It would be a lot easier to read your post if you used paragraphs.

 

DON

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/28/2019 at 11:26 PM, donaldsc said:

 

It would be a lot easier to read your post if you used paragraphs.

 

DON

Truth, lol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations

Announcements

×
×
  • Create New...