Alaska Excursions--post your reviews here!

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Forum' started by ClaireinTN, May 18, 2011.

  1. jenf22

    jenf22 DIS Veteran

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    Well, I talked myself into the Bear Country excursion in Ketchikan. It's just money, right?? :lmao:

    Anyway, couple quick questions - I booked it for a 1:15pm departure. We're in port at 11:15am. If we get off right away and walk around the town, do we have to get back on the ship to meet up for the excursion? I would assume so. Is Ketchikan small enough to wander through some shops in 1-1.5 hours? We've got main dining, so we'll want to be back on the ship by 5:15pm. There is a 2:15pm excursion that lists the end time as 5:15pm. Should I do that one instead? Thanks everyone! So excited for Alaska!!! :cool1::cool1::cool1:
     
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  3. nickol0117

    nickol0117 Earning My Ears

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    We recently returned from the June 18th Alaska trip. What a wonderful experience and how lucky we were to experience out of the norm weather!

    We enjoyed each of the excursions we took. Happy with our choices. It was my wife, myself, and our three boys, ages 17, 15, and 11. We did the following:

    Skagway - Grizzly Falls Ziplining. Awesome experience. Beautiful scenery on trip up to the ziplines. You begin in a small motor coach and then once at camp you switch to a special vehicle that takes you further up into the mountains. Our ziplining guides were fun and so very nice. We had "Danger Dave" and Brendon. So very patient with us, showed us tricks, and encouraged us all the way. We were in a group of six (five of us and one other person) and our two guides. The one guide said my wife did not stop smiling the entire time. A truly great afternoon. Upon our return to the ship we still had sufficient time to go and shop and see more of Skagway.

    Juneau - Did the Best of Juneau tour. Catamaran was comfortable and spacious and allowed easy viewing of wildlife. Saw A LOT of whales as well as bald eagles, seals, etc. Also saw a brown bear! Orca Point Lodge was beautiful and the food very good. Felt we had sufficient time at Mendenhall Glacier and enjoyed that portion of the tour as well. The tour did take the entire time in port so we were not able to go and explore anything else.

    Ketchikan - Bering Sea Crab Fisherman Tour. This tour we booked on our own and not through Disney Port Adventures. We saved a good amount of money this way. Also, because we didn't need to remain on the ship with the Port Adventures group signed up for this same tour, we left the ship around 7:15 and had time to shop and look around Ketchikan before heading to our tour on our own at 8:30 (very easy walk from ship). Can't say enough about this tour! Fantastic from start to finish. Crew of the Aleutian Ballad are all so very nice and friendly and their stories were heartfelt. You are free to walk about the ship and get close up with all the wonderful sea life they brought on board. When we boarded the vessel they mentioned that we would be feeding bald eagles..little did we realize just how many that would be...that was the most amazing part of the trip....we neared the area where the bald eagles would be and as soon as the Aleutian neared the bald eagles began to arrive from all over and then when they began tossing out fish for the eagles to eat I bet there were well over 50 eagles all next to us...just amazing to see.

    Victoria - We did not book any excursions for Victoria. We stayed onboard and had our 5:45 dinner. After dinner we exited the ship and there were free complimentary motor coaches that drove you into Victoria and left you off. We had a good 90 minutes to look around Victoria and shop and then return via the same motor coach and got back to the ship in plenty of time.
     
  4. jenf22

    jenf22 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks so much for the review! We're doing this one in September! :cool1:
     
  5. Skylarr29

    Skylarr29 <font color=blue>Oh Darn it, I was 'forced' to buy

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    Yep, you will need to get back on the ship and go to the meeting place listed on your excursion ticket. Jealous of your port times!
     
  6. Disney Hot Mama

    Disney Hot Mama DIS Veteran<br><font color=coral>Onion haters unit

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    We too were on a June 18th sailing to Alaska on the Disney Wonder. Had the best ever weather, it was even over 80 in Ketichkan and we were swealtering!

    We did the Bearing Sea tour two years ago and have to say it was one of the best ever we have done. I agree with everything you said above. From the crew to experiencing new things and then the eagles... amazing!! We also booked on our own and it was a simple walk to their boat.
     
  7. Calfan

    Calfan DIS Veteran

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    We will be doing this tour on our Aug. 6 sailing. We also booked direct. So glad to read your positive comments. I had no idea about the bald eagles! Did you find many shops open in Ketchikan when you left the ship around 7:15 a.m.? I would like a little time to poke around Ketichikan, and given the short port time there, it seems before the tour is the only option.
     
  8. nickol0117

    nickol0117 Earning My Ears

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    We found ALL the shops to be open as soon as we were off the ship...I remember walking in the ship to breakfast and looking out the porthole and seeing "open" flags hanging from the shops already at 7 AM. I believe we ate breakfast and were off by 7:15 AM and figured we'd have a good hour to look around and shop before our Sea Crab Fisherman Tour at 8:30.
     
  9. RedSox68

    RedSox68 DIS Veteran

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    I had posted a longer version of this on the Vancouver thread, but realize that some of the info might also be helpful here:

    Returned from a 20-day CruiseTour with Holland America (7-day cruise and 12 days on land up into the Yukon) on June 7th. [I know Disney does not offer this, but I cannot recommend this type of trip highly enough. You will go places you could not go on your own (or would want to drive on your own I should say) and see things that are phenomenal.]

    Anyway, here's a synopsis of what we did and learned. Loved going in May -- lots of ice and snow still left and we did not experience any temps above mid-70's in any city or port and very little rain!

    AMTRAK: We flew into Seattle for one night and took Amtrak the next morning to Vancouver. I cannot say enough about this terrific ride. We did not buy business class, but were in line at the station by 6:30 a.m. for our 7:40 departure and got three seats together on the recommended left side (water views) with no problem. I will definitely say get there early though. We arrived at 6 a.m. when baggage check in opened and there was a line. As soon as we got our bags checked, we got in line at the booth that assigns seats, which opened a little before 7 a.m.

    In Ketchikan we had opted to do a day on our own, but when we departed the ship (another non-rainy day for us), we saw an opportunity for a shuttle tour that was discounted by $10/pp and we were glad we took it. We were taken out to the totem poles, to a village and along the waterways where we stopped to watch harbor seals. It was a 4-hour tour and we had a great time with our local driver Justin. This town has some of my favorite shops. But we were told by our tour guide (a local resident) that all the shops along the waterfront are owned by the cruise lines and they give nothing back to the town in revenue. ALL the help is outside seasonal workers and they do not hire the local towns folk. So we shopped only at stores that were locally owned.

    Favorite port: Skagway. We did the full day excursion with Chilkoot Tours that started with the incredible/extraordinary/phenomenal ride on the White Pass Yukon Express (http://www.chilkootcharters.com/yukonrail.htm). We had the most beautiful day and could see for miles. The train ride is just so relaxing and full of views of wildlife, rivers, lakes, snowcapped mountains, etc. When we arrived at the end of the line, our bus driver met us (Terrell from Texas -- you were the best) and we continued on to Caribou Crossing Trading Post for our lunch and a visit with husky puppies! Now granted, the place looks like a western front for a movie, but it was fun and the food was delicious: BBQ chicken, baked potato, rolls, cole slaw and homemade donuts. Sodas were extra, but iced tea, coffee and tea included. We stayed there about 90 minutes because they also have a wildlife museum and a petting zoo (all included). Then we went on to Emerald Lake and Carcross and Lake Bennett. I loved this choice vs. the ship's excursion because Terrell would stop anywhere you wanted, pull over for pictures or animal sightings, and was so personable and knowledgeable. There were only about 18 of us and it was great fun. We left at 8 a.m. and returned at about 4 p.m. He made several stops dropped people off wherever they wanted in town, or taking them back to the ship. Worth every single penny. With this type of excursion, you do go up into the Yukon by bus. The train no longer goes that far.

    Upon return we bought tickets ($5/pp) at the Red Onion Saloon for a tour and it was great fun -- lots of original wallpaper, dresses, etc. Then we walked back to the ship (a truly nice walk along a paved pathway) while Eagles flew overhead.

    Juneau: Only excursion we booked through the ship (for the cruise portion) was Best of Juneau. What a terrific excursion. I must start out by saying that I have read voluminous reviews of this excursion with a lot of people complaining about there not being enough time at Mendenhall Glacier. I couldn't understand that statement as we felt an hour was more than enough time. Granted, we knew we were not going to walk to the waterfall, but there was an incredible waterfall fully visible from the land's edge next to the glacier! We spent about 40 minutes out at the glacier, walking around the viewing platforms and on the beach. We had 15 minutes to shop inside which was more than enough time. We felt very satisfied.

    Then we went on the whale watching vessel which was a surprise to all of us as we didn't expect it to be so big and comfy. It sets more than 400 and has huge windows on both floors and we were very satisfied even sitting in the middle row because you are constantly getting up and down. We spent a good 3 hours onboard plus another hour at the Orca Lodge for lunch. Now let me tell you, this lunch was awesome. It was a beautiful pavilion with views all around of the water and the beach. They had chicken skewers, salmon, rice, potato salad, rolls and brownies. Lemonade, ice and hot tea and coffee were included. Sodas and alcohol were extra.

    Vancouver: We stayed at the Pan Pacific Vancouver for our pre-cruise nights. We had opted for the harbor/mountain view and it was so so worth it. We watched seaplanes taking off and landing and our room was literally right above where the ships dock. So we could look down onto the pool decks of the ships as they docked and got ready for their next departure. The hotel is gorgeous, the rooms were large and very well decorated. We did not eat in any of their restaurants as they were pricey, but there is a food mall underneath the hotel that can be reached by inside escalator.

    What was so convenient about this hotel is that the entrance to the cruise terminal is a ride down in their elevator to the basement! We called a porter to come and get our luggage and he told us you will see it in your stateroom. We then took the elevator and got off and there it was -- no having to go outside or call a cab or anything. They had reps all along the way directing us to the HAL check in.

    While in Vancouver we bought the Big Pink Bus tickets (they are merged with the Big Red Bus). The station stop was right outside the Pan Pacific main door! We always tried to get the pink bus though as they had a live narrator whereas the red buses were pre-recorded narrations that never seemed to be on the right area when we passed. The combo ticket for two days was so reasonable. The first day we just rode the bus the full route, and then got off at Granville Island. We then got back on and took it to Chinatown where we did the gardens and then had dinner at Hon's on the recommendation of our driver. The next day we took it to Stanley Park and then inside the park took the (included) park tour on a different bus. Very convenient. When done, they dropped us off at the bus stop and we waited for the red or pink bus. On the way back to town, we jumped off at Gastown and did a little touring there and watched the steam clock, then went up into the tower there (similar to the Seattle Needle type of thing). There were some terrific restaurants across the plaza from the hotel that we ate in (one Italian, one Irish) and they were very good and reasonable.

    I can also highly recommend the Fairmont Airport Vancouver Hotel. We were put up there by HAL on the last night of our land tour. What a gorgeous hotel. Our room had a view of the mountains and runway. Totally sound proof (never heard one plane coming in or taking off). And the hotel entrance goes right down into the airport with a short distance to the food court. We really liked that the food court at this airport was BEFORE security. We had lunch (chinese) and dinner (burgers) there. If we ever fly into Vancouver, I would definitely stay here again.

    In Seattle we stayed at the Inn at the Market pre-cruise -- literally at the top of the hill of the Pike Place Market. It was a townhouse (all they had available for three) and was beautiful. The beds were comfortable and the views of the city and Pike Place were great. Very convenient for the area and we were able to finish the market that day before leaving the next morning. The people there were very helpful and kind. No complaints about this place either.

    Post-cruise in Seattle we stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn at Lake Union. We found this hotel to be one of our top favorites for all that was included with such a reasonable per night price. Our room was a lake view and on the top floor so that you could see the seaplanes taking off and the boats and yachts coming and going. They also provide a free extensive continental breakfast that includes hot items like scrambled eggs, sausage, waffles and ham, plus toast, bagels, cereals, yogurts, etc. They also provide a free (although we tipped the driver each time) shuttle to and from three drop off points in town -- the Needle, Pioneer Square and Pike Place. All you had to do was call them when you were ready to be picked up. They ran from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. We were also within walking distance of the boat harbor and ate at Duke's on the water for lunch one day.

    They also have an indoor pool and jacuzzi, and a business center where you can go on the computers to print out documents and boarding passes -- also free. And FREE INTERNET. That was a huge plus for us. Of all the hotels we stayed at, this would be a no-brainer one if we go back to Seattle. The thoughtful layout, convenience, decor, ambiance and outgoing staff were wonderful.

    Can't think of anything else, but please feel free to ask questions or pick my brain!
     
  10. bbagnall

    bbagnall Mouseketeer

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    We did it through the cruise ship, but the company was Temsco. You can book through them direct.
     
  11. kmegibow

    kmegibow Earning My Ears

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    Hi! We are doing the Mendenhall Glacier Explorer next week and am wondering if you can explain more why we should visit there on our own? Is it mainly the time limit? DH and I are bringing an 18 mo old, 5 yr old, 8 yr old, 19 yr old and my parents. My Dad just had a knee replaced last month. I'm torn between wanting to have enough time and also not wanting to be out too long. Does the bus offer more options - such as being able to leave earlier for example if it's a super cold/rainy day? That might be a good reason to take a bus or a cab? Thanks!
     
  12. kmegibow

    kmegibow Earning My Ears

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    Hi again - I searched the thread and haven't seen any reviews of "The Klondike Experience" in Skagway. Anyone done this one?

    Note, my husband and I are brining our 18 mo, 5 yr, 8 yr olds as well as my parents and 19 yr old sister. I've had to choose my excursions pretty carefully! I'd love to know what this activity is really like. Thanks!
     
  13. LindaBabe

    LindaBabe <br><img src="http://www.wdwinfo.com/dis-sponsor/i

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    THANK YOU! You are a font of wisdom and I really appreciate that you took the time to post.
     
  14. tink1963

    tink1963 DIS Veteran

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    Hi, Yes I would say mainly for the time limit. The Blue Bus runs approx. every 30 min. They pick you up at the cruise port and drop you off at the parking lot for the visitor center. I liked the freedom to be able to stay as long or as little as I wanted. And if part of your group wants to leave and say, your DH and the older kids want to stay, they know that they can catch a later bus if you went back with the little ones and your parents. And when you first board they will tell you when the last bus back will be. The driver was very helpful and knowledgeable.

    We were just heading to catch the bus back when we spotted the bear by the creek/walking trails and were able to stay as long as we wanted, with no worries about missing "our" bus. I did hear so many people that were watching the bear with us saying how they wished they could stay longer but that it was time to catch "their" tour bus.

    This is a video of the bear we saw. He/She was fishing in the creek and finally caught a meal. (click on pic and it will take you to video)
    [​IMG]

    And a couple of pictures
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    [​IMG]
     
  15. tink1963

    tink1963 DIS Veteran

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    and a quick add, I have heard that if you take the "city" bus service, you don't get dropped off as close as if you take the "Blue Bus"
     
  16. AquaDame

    AquaDame Are we there yet?

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    What time of year were you there to see the bears? Endlessly torn between keeping my June cruise next year or paying extra to move it back some... :idea:
     
  17. tink1963

    tink1963 DIS Veteran

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    We sailed Aug 23rd.
     
  18. jenf22

    jenf22 DIS Veteran

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    :banana::banana: That's great to hear! We're going the first week in September. I imagine the bears will still be there! :banana::banana:
     
  19. tink1963

    tink1963 DIS Veteran

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    I have heard that the wildlife is more active in the end of summer months, I guess getting fattened up for the upcoming winter. We did a wildlife bear vewing in ketchican and saw 20+ bear on that excursion.

    We had a long list on our wildlife wish list and I think we saw everything plus some we didn't even expect to see, except the Sea Otter:sad1:, which was at the very top of my list.
     
  20. RedSox68

    RedSox68 DIS Veteran

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    We originally had July booked and moved it back to May this year. As noted above, we saw tons of wildlife (including grizzly and black bear and orcas) and enjoyed the cooler temps and no mosquitoes. I am a winter girl at heart, so I absolutely loved the ice and snow.

    We are thinking of booking another cruise (only) next year (not a cruisetour) and are thinking of going in September. (This one goes to Sitka and Victoria). From everything I've read here, sounds like there's a chance we'll see even more bear and possibly the salmon running (?).

    BTW, just another shout out to all who take time in their day to keep these informative threads so up-to-date. Our first trip to Alaska was made TONS easier because of all the info I gathered here. :thumbsup2
     
  21. DizDays

    DizDays DVC & D23 Member

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    DH and I are going on the September 3rd cruise this year. I'll give a shout out afterward to let you know if that is the case for us.

    ITA! This has been the BEST resource bar none. Where else can you get firsthand knowledge shared with you and custom answers to your questions? This board ROCKS!
     

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