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Kitty Ellas Mom

Princess excursions to Emerald Lake?

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Hello!  I'm a 1st time cruiser going to Alaska on Princess in mid June.  I was just planning to do the railway in Skagway but have now been reading about how it's better to do railway one way and bus tour the other in order to get out and take pics, plus see other sights that you don't see on the railway.  In particular I want to see Emerald Lake, as it looks beautiful from pics online.  I am unsure if I want to go the route of booking an independent excursion however b/c it's my 1st cruise and I don't want things to be really complicated.  Princess does have one bus excursion that lasts 8.5 hrs and says you go to Carcross and see the musher's camp and many sights along the way but it doesn't specify Emerald Lake.  Does anyone know if the lake is typically a stop?  I'm sort of thinking of a Dyea Dave tour based on advice from this forum.  I would definitely not rent a car.  Overall I'm trying to balance FOMO with the knowledge that I tend to overbook myself and be too tired.  Not sure if Emerald Lake is worth it just to see it briefly and take pics.  Thanks for any advice.

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Update:  I called Princess and they called the tour operator who said they would not guarantee to stop at Emerald Lake if it's not listed.  But, they would be glad to stop if they are nearby and someone asks.  To me that doesn't seem like a good enough reason to book an 8.5 hr excursion when I wouldn't get to see what I wanted....but it's really great in other respects too.  It's Princess SGY-180 if anyone knows about that.  I just still wonder if it's typical to stop at Emerald Lake b/c every TripAdvisor review of similar tours says it's a stop in the same area.  My experience with booking a tour from an independent company is that I took one in France one day, so my experience is very limited and I'd definitely appreciate anyone's advice.  Thank you!

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I have had Princess stop there (it is not far out of the way) if someone asks early on. They have to cut lunch by about 10 minutes.

 

No guarantees.

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Go independent - there's zero hassle, buses are trivially-easy to find, only a handful to a hundred or so extra yards walking, pricing is usually a little keener but more importantly you can usually find a tour on a smaller vehicle which means less time wasted at each stop, more flexibility for ad hoc stops, and just generally a better experience all around. Plus, when you have a specific desire to see X why the heck would you even consider taking a tour that does not have X on the description? Choose a Chilkoot, Dyea Dave or whoever tour that DOES go where you want instead.

 

There's literally ONE road out of Skagway up into the Yukon so nobody gets lost, there's always enough padding in the tour lengths to allow for problems, bus breakdowns (and trains!) happen rarely - but when they do the other vendors help out by transferring folks onto their buses to get them back in time (this happened to us last summer, the train burst into flames so we waited an extra half hour at the station then brought a busload back who were supposed to be doing a 'bus & train' combo - only 2 couples were booked for all-bus, so all the bus seats except four were filled by someone being helped out).

 

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Thanks!  That's exactly the kind of info I needed to know.  I agree it seems silly to book something that wouldn't be guaranteed to go to the lake.  Since it's my 1st cruise I was trying to streamline things by only using the ship's excursions.  

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I chose and recently booked Chilkoot for July 2020. I like that fact that they buy the train tickets and take you and bring you back to ship- train etc.  Sounds completely no hassle to me. The furthest point north we stop is Emerald Lake. 
Our party is doing the van portion first then the train back. It starts a bit later but we are in port all day, into evening so we figured eat a hearty breakfast on the ship then head out. We meet them 15 min before so I believe 9:00. It’s a 7.5 hour day. Very excited!!
 

Edited by DENNAS

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I hope no one gets  a little mad at me, but as Emerald Lake is beautiful and such a pretty color, it is small. I would say very small. Just don't get your hopes up for something spectacular. My husband and I chose to rent a car in Skagway and I felt we were blessed. There were places we just fell in love with and wanted to stay a little longer. Glad we were not on a bus.

 

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I detest the cruise line bus tours out of Skagway, mainly because you’re on the bus most of the time and some of the driver/guides are awful.  My first choice in Skagway is the Bennett Lake trip with train up/bus down, second choice is to rent a car, and third choice would be a private tour...

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Thank you all for the info.  I went witha  Chilcoot Charters tour that goes to Emerald Lake, with bus up and train back down.  It was very close to the one offered by Princess except guaranteed Emerald Lake and uses smaller buses.  The one thing that worries me is that there isn't a bathroom onboard the bus, but it sounded like there were places it could stop if necessary.  

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6 minutes ago, katrina915 said:

 I have gone with Chilkot charters many times.  They stopped enough for me, but be aware that there are less places to stop in the Yukon.  As far as bathroom breaks and anything else, you probably are better off in smaller bus.  The driver is more flexible. 

 

 

 

 

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Worst case you can do it in the oldest of old-school ways - in fact on our last Chilkoot excursion to Emerald Lake we had a bathroom stop by a lake with a bit of woodland, where the bathrooms were 'guys go in the woods this side of the road, ladies on the other' 😉

 

If you're like us and always travel with hand sanitizer and a packet of tissues, no problem - we handed a few out to folks who were less organized and didn't want to wait until the lunch stop which had proper bathrooms. As long as you 'go' away from lakes & streams, you're just providing extra fertilizer and in the harsh local climate the plants appreciate it (unless you rip them up to wipe with because you forgot tissues...)

 

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On 1/18/2020 at 10:36 PM, Kitty Ellas Mom said:

Hello!  I'm a 1st time cruiser going to Alaska on Princess in mid June.  I was just planning to do the railway in Skagway but have now been reading about how it's better to do railway one way and bus tour the other in order to get out and take pics, plus see other sights that you don't see on the railway.  In particular I want to see Emerald Lake, as it looks beautiful from pics online.  I am unsure if I want to go the route of booking an independent excursion however b/c it's my 1st cruise and I don't want things to be really complicated.  Princess does have one bus excursion that lasts 8.5 hrs and says you go to Carcross and see the musher's camp and many sights along the way but it doesn't specify Emerald Lake.  Does anyone know if the lake is typically a stop?  I'm sort of thinking of a Dyea Dave tour based on advice from this forum.  I would definitely not rent a car.  Overall I'm trying to balance FOMO with the knowledge that I tend to overbook myself and be too tired.  Not sure if Emerald Lake is worth it just to see it briefly and take pics.  Thanks for any advice.

 

I've been to Emerald Lake twice with Dyea Dave Tours in Skagway.  I give them two thumbs up!  They will pick you up at the dock, stop at the train office in town to pick up your White Pass tickets (book your train tickets ***WELL*** in advance by calling them directly - Dyea Dave does not provide tickets) then you'll be off on your tour.  Dave's buses hold maybe a dozen passengers (once we had only four total and the next time there was about 10) so it's very easy to make quick stops for photo ops and such.  Dave does not take deposits nor credit cards.  You reserve your spot and pay at the end of the tour - his guarantee is that if you're not happy you owe nothing.  You can either pay in cash or with a personal check.  How much better can that be?  We were dropped off to catch the train from Fraser then he was waiting for the train back in Skagway - he'll take you to your choice of drop-off points (back to the dock at your ship or anywhere in town).  Excellent, excellent service!  Good luck!

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On 1/19/2020 at 6:58 PM, wolfie11 said:

I detest the cruise line bus tours out of Skagway, mainly because you’re on the bus most of the time and some of the driver/guides are awful.  My first choice in Skagway is the Bennett Lake trip with train up/bus down, second choice is to rent a car, and third choice would be a private tour...

I have to concur with wolfie11. We've done every mode of transportation to Emerald lake, big bus, small bus, train, rented a car a couple of times. I think our best excursion out of Skagway was with Dyea Dave, we've done his tour twice and both times they were excellent. It's been a couple of year so I think this year we'll go with Dyea Dave again. 

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I highly recommend renting a car and driving yourself, you then have control, we have done this twice and it is an amazing journey. Here is a video from our drive.  

 

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On 1/21/2020 at 3:15 PM, SuperCrewBear said:

 

I've been to Emerald Lake twice with Dyea Dave Tours in Skagway.  I give them two thumbs up!  They will pick you up at the dock, stop at the train office in town to pick up your White Pass tickets (book your train tickets ***WELL*** in advance by calling them directly - Dyea Dave does not provide tickets) then you'll be off on your tour.  Dave's buses hold maybe a dozen passengers (once we had only four total and the next time there was about 10) so it's very easy to make quick stops for photo ops and such.  Dave does not take deposits nor credit cards.  You reserve your spot and pay at the end of the tour - his guarantee is that if you're not happy you owe nothing.  You can either pay in cash or with a personal check.  How much better can that be?  We were dropped off to catch the train from Fraser then he was waiting for the train back in Skagway - he'll take you to your choice of drop-off points (back to the dock at your ship or anywhere in town).  Excellent, excellent service!  Good luck!

Another two thumbs up for the tour with Dave. Most excellent grand service you could hope for.

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On 1/21/2020 at 9:33 AM, Kitty Ellas Mom said:

Thank you all for the info.  I went witha  Chilcoot Charters tour that goes to Emerald Lake, with bus up and train back down.  It was very close to the one offered by Princess except guaranteed Emerald Lake and uses smaller buses.  The one thing that worries me is that there isn't a bathroom onboard the bus, but it sounded like there were places it could stop if necessary.  

There is a large turnout with public restrooms (builtin port a potty type) about an hour + out of Skagway, then there is a stop in Carcross, or a musher camp, depending on the order, both have restrooms. Our driver asked if we wanted to pull over and we did.

 

20190520_135450.thumb.jpg.55b42b4a6d0b8ad5a66076e75443d61c.jpg

 

 

 

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I went with Chilkoot Charters b/c they included the train tickets and I didn't want to buy them myself.  But now I see so many votes for Dyea Dave that I wonder if I made a mistake.  Can anyone compare the two?  Thank you all so much for your advice.

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On 1/19/2020 at 1:22 PM, Great Sky Girl said:

I hope no one gets  a little mad at me, but as Emerald Lake is beautiful and such a pretty color, it is small. I would say very small. Just don't get your hopes up for something spectacular. My husband and I chose to rent a car in Skagway and I felt we were blessed. There were places we just fell in love with and wanted to stay a little longer. Glad we were not on a bus.

 

I completely agree.  We rented a car and drove.  I have many great memories of the places we stopped along the way.  Emerald Lake wasn't one of them.  It was pretty, but I much preferred the stop where we were alone and could take our time to enjoy the views and listen to the birds.  You're up fairly high on the road and looking down at Emerald Lake.  At the other pull off areas, you can walk down and get right up next to it.  

 

 

Edited by atobols

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I also booked with Chilkoot.  For several reasons, they handle everything; tour I wanted; and the train ride back was not available (or sold out) for the day we are there.   

Glad I checked if the tickets are available on the day.   

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We just booked with Dyea Dave for the trip up to the Yukon. Will pick us up at the dock in a smaller van and flexible as to the places we will stop.  A great price and a quick email reply from the office as to times and meet up points.  We have ridden the train on previous trip so will enjoy a highway based tour this time.  Plenty of time to roam around Skagway when we return around 4pm.  Ship does not leave until 8.

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Has anyone done Chilkoot Charters and missed Emerald Lake?  I'm just asking b/c I remember reading somewhere (on this forum, somewhere) that someone was upset their tour missed EL.  But I don't know what tour she was on.

Edited by Kitty Ellas Mom

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On 1/29/2020 at 12:48 PM, lasman said:

We just booked with Dyea Dave for the trip up to the Yukon. Will pick us up at the dock in a smaller van and flexible as to the places we will stop.  A great price and a quick email reply from the office as to times and meet up points.  We have ridden the train on previous trip so will enjoy a highway based tour this time.  Plenty of time to roam around Skagway when we return around 4pm.  Ship does not leave until 8.

I too am considering this trip. Initially I wanted to take the train one way from Fraser for the return to Skagway, but it is sold out. However, such a trip is available if I book directly through the cruise line. However, I like the flexibility that Dyea Dave offers.

 

Having never been to Alaska or Skagway, what would you advise? Will we miss out on a lot of beautiful scenery by taking the train for a portion of the trip?

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3 hours ago, Kfrech said:

I too am considering this trip. Initially I wanted to take the train one way from Fraser for the return to Skagway, but it is sold out. However, such a trip is available if I book directly through the cruise line. However, I like the flexibility that Dyea Dave offers.

 

Having never been to Alaska or Skagway, what would you advise? Will we miss out on a lot of beautiful scenery by taking the train for a portion of the trip?

We enjoyed the train ride up and back. I would recommend trying to get the train ride at least one way if possible. We had planned to do a bus/train combo on our last visit but that combo was sold out at the time, so we opted for the train roundtrip. It was very foggy when we started in Skagway but it cleared as we went to higher elevations and was a beautiful trip on up and all the way back. We are train enthusiasts and ride Amtrak all over the country so the train ride was a mandatory bucket list item.   I have some concerns about fog on the highways that are not really a factor on the train. But wanted to see different scenery and Yukon and BC sites that are not readily available on the train ride.

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17 hours ago, Kfrech said:

I too am considering this trip. Initially I wanted to take the train one way from Fraser for the return to Skagway, but it is sold out. However, such a trip is available if I book directly through the cruise line. However, I like the flexibility that Dyea Dave offers.

 

Having never been to Alaska or Skagway, what would you advise? Will we miss out on a lot of beautiful scenery by taking the train for a portion of the trip?

You see a lot more scenery going up on the road and into the Yukon.

On both trips you need a guide that knows the history of the gold rush, its fascinating.

The train up is fun, for good photos you need to be well positioned in the car or out on the ends of the cars.

 

The smaller vans stop at set places but also stop when they see wildlife like bears or sheep. The trips into carcorss usually include stopping at one of the musher camps. Most of the smaller tour companies worked for  Dyea Dave at some point before starting their own.

 

Someone in the roll call last year organized a bus for a group of us with Trail of 98 Tours. It was great, we put 14 or 15 in an 18 person so there was more room.

 

http://tntours98.com/index.html

 

 

 

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Just booked Chilkoot Charter's Bennett Scenic Journey. Train ride up and shuttle bus back. Looking very forward to it!

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