Alaska Excursions--post your reviews here!

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

  1. Clotho

    Clotho Doting on Disney

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Messages:
    1,578
    Just got back from our week on the Wonder, and we did two excursions:

    Skagway - Grizzly Falls Ziplining with Alaska Excursions

    We met at 9:45am in the Walt Disney Theater and were lead to a comfy small tour bus. Our driver was Keeley, and she gave us a little tour of Skagway (it's not a long tour ;) ) including driving past the back-alley warehouse where she and some of the other seasonal guides live (what a life!), the community health center (they have no doctors), and other local lore and info.

    At base camp, which is also the base camp for one of the musher's camp excursions, we got suited up with our harnesses. This is a photo of some of the family of 5 that was on the same tour with us:
    [​IMG]
    This was when I was pretty sure I was going to throw up with stress. As someone who is afraid of heights, this excursion was a bucket-list line item I wanted to knock out, and I was soooo nervous. Here at base camp is the last restrooms you will see, and simultaneously having a nervous stomach and nausea, I was trying to breathe and relax and try not to freak out. Once you are locked into your harness, you can't exactly make a hasty retreat to the little girl's room--something I was keenly aware of...

    Luckily, we were soon ushered off to the Unimog, which is a growling powerhouse of a hill climber, with twice as many gears as a regular vehicle. The roads are steep gravely pathways carved through the mountainside.
    [​IMG]

    There are 11 ziplines, 2 of which are "practice lines"--lower to the ground, not too fast--and two suspension bridges. We started on the second line with a father and his 13 year old daughter, and the family of 5 began on the first line, effectively pacing our group one after the other so we wouldn't hold each other up but would end not too far apart at the end.

    Our guides were Jay and Matt and they were great. Fun-loving guys in their late 20's/early 30's with a great sense of humor. The company has names for each of the lines, with a little story about why the name was chosen. For instance, "This one is called the Big Kahuna. It's the longest and fastest--you will get about 30 seconds of line time."

    To add even further interest, they would issue little challenges on each line. "For this one, try to turn yourself upside down," or, "This one is the trust fall--throw your arms wide and fall backward off the platform without grabbing the harness. You get higher points for falling from the top rung of the platform ladder." They would give us tips on how to succeed at each challenge, then Matt would demonstrate the challenge and then wait on the other platform to play catcher. Jay stayed behind with us to lock us in and help us launch, then follow behind. They had the system down smooth, quick, and made us feel very safe.

    I stepped up to go first on the very first line, to pull off the bandage as quickly as possible. Sick to my stomach, I stepped off the platform. Those first few lines I was gripping for dear life and not wanting to look down. By the trust fall challenge, I was falling from the top rung full out; and by the time we got to the toughest challenge, I was launching into a graceful front flip off a very high platform!

    Here are some pics:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My hubby and I are not small people, though we were within the required weight range. The harnesses fit comfortably and we felt safe and supported throughout.

    [​IMG]

    We felt exhilarated and accomplished at the end, and enjoyed a bottled water and a granola bar in the sunshine next to a firepit (not necessary on the very sunny and warm day we had, but surely welcome for those on more typical cold, rainy days). We hung out for about 20 minutes chatting and taking photos while we waited for the family behind us to finish up, then we loaded into the 'Mog for the ride back down.

    We were running ahead of schedule and the road is one-lane in most places. So while waiting for another Unimog to head up the hill, our driver took us to a platform overlooking the valley. He told us more local lore, pointing out interested details of the landscape, and taking photos.
    [​IMG]

    Back at camp we had a short period of time to look in their shop (all dog musher merchandise, none for the zipliners!), and they let us visit the puppy pens for a little while, too, even though we hadn't paid for any dog musher camp stuff.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Keeley drove us back down to town, dropping off those of us who wanted to stay in town near a recommended restaurant and drove the rest of the people back to the dock. We had plenty of time left in the day, so we grabbed lunch and soaked up the rare sun (we even got a little burned!)
    [​IMG]

    We would highly recommend this excursion to anyone. Don't let fear hold you back! All ages and fitness levels participated in it and had a grand time. The guides are friendly and skilled, and we had a great time. We agreed this was the favorite thing we did our entire trip.
     
  2. Avatar

    Google AdSense Guest Advertisement


    to hide this advert.
  3. pixarmom

    pixarmom DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    5,638
    We returned from our amazing Disney Wonder to Alaska vacation last Monday, and I'm ready to post about our incredible excursions. First, I have to say that the Wonder is in excellent condition, the cast members are outstanding, we love the smaller size of the ship and this was just the most incredible vacation. I hesitated to spend this much on both the cruise itself (family of five, category 4A, midship with a wonderful verandah) and the Disney excursions, but it was worth literally every penny. I should also mention that it was sunny in every single port and the temperatures were always comfortable, so I know that's not always the case and we felt extremely fortunate.

    We have three boys, ages 5, 12 and 13. So we were looking for port adventures that were active, would allow my husband and I to see a variety of new and interesting sights, and accomodate our youngest. We also wanted to keep costs reasonable, and aren't crazy about anything having to do with small planes or helicopters. I couldn't be happier with our choices - turns out they were perfect for us.

    Skagway - Takshanuk 4x4 Adventure. Wow - so fun and amazingly beautiful. We had plenty of time to walk around Skagway in the morning before our port adventure, and that was really enjoyable for about an hour or so. Stopped in a few shops and a little museum that was set up like an 1800s bar (boys loved that!) It was uncrowded, the weather was beautiful and the walk along the wooden planks in Skagway was really pleasant.

    On to the excursion: After meeting in the Walt Disney Theater at 11:15am, we boarded a bus that took us around the harbor in Skagway to the catamaran. Our catamaran took three different port adventure groups over to the town of Haines. It was an amazingly beautiful ride over to Haines and our guide on the catamaran (Steve, I think) was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic - we learned a lot.

    When we arrived in Haines, I could not believe the amazing scene behind us - mountains, water, just incredible. We boarded another bus to the base camp. This is where we met Ronnie. Now Ronnie has a certain kind of charm and he's entertaining - he's definitely working hard to make sure we all have a great time! At the bottom of the mountain, we board our Kawasaki Mule 4x4 vehicles. My husband and I took turns driving and our three boys rode in the elevated seat above. We started up the mountain and it was steep! Not fast, but bumpy, very fun and incredibly scenic. Stopped at the lodge for cookies, hot chocolate, lemonade and hot cider. The cookies were really good - I wasn't expecting much and was very surprised. The view from the lodge is just beautiful. We continued up the mountain, making one stop on the way and one stop at the top. Again, it's difficult to describe the amazing views of mountains, water, trees, etc. And on a sunny day - just wow.

    The way back down the mountain was even more fun. Some of the 4x4s let the one ahead get a little farther so that they could speed up a bit. (OK, my husband was one of those - our boys loved it.) The meal at the lodge is every bit as good as others say. We loved the halibut and the chicken - difficult to decide which was better. And the lodge itself was very clean, and the staff was friendly and well-organized.

    Then we headed back down the rest of the way, hopped in the bus, took a short tour of Haines (thanks, Ronnie!) and boarded our catamaran back to Skagway. We could either walk back to the ship or take the bus - we usually walk, but were a little tired after seven hours, so we opted for the bus!

    We returned to the ship around 6:15 or so, and we had previously arranged to switch to late seating in the MDR for just that night. I'm so glad we did that, and many thanks to tips on the Dis! We were not hungry after the full meal at the lodge anyway, and the 8:15 dining time was ideal after this excursion. We also had the chance to relax on our verandah with some snacks that we retrieved from Cove Cafe and a couple glasses of wine while our boys watched a movie (pixar, of course) in the room - perfect!

    Juneau - Sled Dog Discovery and Musher Camp. There are a number of different sled dog port adventures, and we were very happy with this one - it was a good value and very fun for our boys! It was an early start at 7:30am, but we were happy with our early start. After meeting in the Walt Disney Theater, we boarded a bus to the musher camp. The drive was only 30 minutes or so and we passed through Juneau on the way. When we arrived, as promised, the sleds were ready and the dogs were very excited to see us! We boarded the sleds and took a quick lap or two around the rainforest trail. Very fun and bit chilly (so important to bundle up - we did!) The musher took photos of the dogs and of us in the sled. At the end of the ride (we knew it would be short, so we were not disappointed by the length) we met each of the dogs.

    The rest of the tour was wonderfully low key. It was just our family and one other family (our youngest son became a big fan of their oldest and they sat together on the bus back to the ship!) We met another musher and Froto, a dog who had run over 5,000 miles the previous summer (or year, can't remember which.) We learned about the gear the mushers used, walked over the suspension bridge, got hot chocolate (or cider) back on the other side and went into a covered (still outdoor) area to learn more about mushing. Now, I'm not a fan of animals or dogs and I thought this was really interesting. I know others have reported that it was too much information, but we were so interested in our guide (Emily) and her stories that we asked tons of questions. I don't think she was able to complete her whole spiel because we were asking so many questions. Then we met the puppies - fun for everyone. They don't have names yet, so the kids can invent names for them.

    On the way back, the bus driver stopped at an overlook so that we could see the Mendenhall Glacier. Glad we got to see it, and glad we did not spend our entire time in Juneau there. We had a wonderful time on our Tracy Arm day, but I think our boys were good with the glaciers by that time and ready for a different kind of adventure. The driver offered to drop us off in Juneau, which meant we would need to catch the shuttle back to the ship. We walked around a bit, stopped in a toy store, book store and candy store, and then headed back to the ship. I didn't expect to have time to look around in Juneau and I know we didn't see much, but I appreciated that 45 minutes or so.

    Ketchikan - Rainforest Canoe and Nature Trail. This was definitely my favorite port adventure. We met in the Walt Disney Theater at 7:45am - so another early morning. Again, I'm so glad we booked early excursions because that gave us time to see the towns quickly before our departure. We boarded a bus and our very lively and talkative tour guide gave us tons of information about Ketchikan history (her nickname was tick tock, I think.) She had quite a lot to say, but we found her interesting and entertaining. The bus took us out to Lake Harriet Hunt, and it's just incredible. Just a trailer with canoe equipment, some portable bathrooms (VERY clean for portable bathrooms) and our guides. Our guide, Ben, was the best guide of the entire cruise. We got our paddles and life jackets and headed out to the canoes. I think there were 13 or 14 people per canoe - we could paddle or not paddle, but our family (including our 5-year-old) opted to paddle the entire time. Ben taught us a ton about the area while we paddled and took questions throughout. Our kids loved the part where we all yelled in unison to see how it would echo. And it did - we were the only ones on the lake - never saw anyone else! I think we paddled for about an hour, and then stopped at the camp, where we left the canoe for a short nature walk. Again, really interesting and absolutely beautiful. I had read complaints regarding the snack at the end of the walk, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It's a snack, just as advertised. It included something for everyone in a clean, beautiful setting, and we really enjoyed it. The bread was yummy with the raspberry jam, our youngest loved the goldfish crackers, the clam chowder was tasty (and I don't even like clams) and the hot chocolate was quite good. We paddled back to our starting point, boarded the bus back to Ketchikan and had time to tour Ketchikan quickly before getting back on the ship. Another wonderful day.

    Victoria - On Our Own. We had early dining, and got off the ship around 7pm. We boarded the Disney-provided complimentary bus to downtown Victoria. We really enjoyed our walk around downtown Victoria, strolled through a festival of some sort and watched a very entertaining street performer. We stopped in a few shops and made our way back to the shuttle around 9:20pm or so. There was a bit of a wait for the shuttle, but no problem. I know many complained about the itinerary and the timing of this stop, but we loved it. It was just the right amount of time for our boys. (In fact, we felt that way about all the port times - perfect amount of time in port for us, and then nice for our boys to get back to the ship for either a swim or other activities.) On our last day, we enjoyed our time on the ship, and we were able to get out and see something new in the evening. It was a good distraction from the "final farewells" and "see ya real soons" for everyone! And I packed up nearly everything in the afternoon, so no rush when we returned to our room.

    In the final analysis, our boys ranked the dog sled #1, the rainforest canoe #2 and the Takshanuk 4x4 #3, but they wanted to be clear that they absolutely loved them all and it was nearly impossible to rank them. So they felt like giving the 4x4 a #3 doesn't really reflect how much they enjoyed it. My husband and I ranked the rainforest canoe #1, Takshanuk 4x4 #2 and dog sled #3 - all with the same disclaimer that our boys give!

    I'm really glad we booked everything through Disney. I know we could have saved money by booking independently, but I loved how all the port adventures were so well-organized, and I didn't have to worry about getting back to the ship on time.

    I hope that helps - thanks to all who have contributed to this thread and helped us to make our decisions!
     
  4. Clotho

    Clotho Doting on Disney

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Messages:
    1,578
    Great reviews! Really enjoyed reading. Man, there were so many great excursions, it was hard to choose. I could see doing Alaska again to get to try some other stuff and see even more of the beautiful area. Though the weather we had was so incomparable, I fear a return trip would disappoint!

    Oh and not directed at you, but in general for other people reading: from what I heard from our excursion operators, most of the excursions are not actually cheaper if you book straight through them. Looks like they set their rates and then the cruise lines take their cut of it, rather than tacking on an extra fee. We tried to save some money by booking ahead with the tour companies, and the price was the same so we just went through Disney. With short port times, it is a safer bet anyway, so the boat won't leave withoutcha! ;)
     
  5. EeyoreIsMyName

    EeyoreIsMyName DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    720
    I'm wondering if anyone has gone on the Bear Country & Wildlife Expedition lately? We are interested in reviews of this port adventure for our Alaska trip next year. TIA!
     
  6. VowRenewal13

    VowRenewal13 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Messages:
    245
    We did the Best of Skagway, which included the Liarsville Salmon bake and gold panning. It was OK. It was raining and cold. We ate outside. The food was good, the show was nice. We did not pan for gold because we were running late and had another stop before going back to the boat. On our next cruise to Alaska in 2014, we will not do the "Best of" and just pick one thing that we really want to see.
     
  7. tink1963

    tink1963 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Messages:
    3,553
    Not done recently, did it last year. I also would Iike to get some reviews from this year as we are going back next August and plan to do this excursion again.

    Sent from my iPad using DISBoards
     
  8. monicainindy

    monicainindy Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    May 15, 2011
    Messages:
    128
    Oh 2014... I hope they come back to Alaska. We have a placeholder for Alaska next year, but really want to go in 2014 instead so I can still do my girl's trip to Europe next year to celebrate my 40th bday!!!
     
  9. jenf22

    jenf22 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2011
    Messages:
    966
    We did this excursion a couple of weeks ago (we were on the September 3-10 sailing). We thought it was a great excursion! We saw 7 black bears total, including some cubs, all fishing in the stream. Our 5-year old thought the suspension bridges were great and loved feeding the reindeer after watching the bears.

    To address something we read in reviews prior to going - someone's review (I think on Tripadvisor, not here) said there were dead fish all over and they thought people had put them there for the bears to eat. We saw plenty of live fish swimming in the stream. True, there were a lot of dead fish also. We learned the bears prefer female salmon and sometimes just eat the eggs, leaving the rest of the fish. I don't think the fish were put there by people.

    I think the "greatness" of the excursion may depend on time of year. Since we went late in the season, the bears were out in force trying to fatten themselves up for the winter.

    Let me know if you have any questions. I have about a million pictures of the bears, but I'm still going though the pictures from the trip.
     
  10. EeyoreIsMyName

    EeyoreIsMyName DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    720


    Thanks for the review. I'm hoping that I can do this excursion but it would be earlier in the season. I'm hoping I will still see bears. I'd love to see some of your pictures if you could post them.::yes::pixiedust:
     
  11. tajz90

    tajz90 Mama D

    Joined:
    May 6, 2012
    Messages:
    2,436
    I think there's a great chance to see bears for free. We saw them in 2 diff ports, 3 diff times. One was fishing in salmon stream, one was just walking the hill in front of ship and then a mom and two cubs playing / eating near the water near the zip lining area.
     
  12. meajuly5

    meajuly5 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2012
    Messages:
    742
    Lovin this thread!
     
  13. chickamu

    chickamu Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Messages:
    41
    Hello
    Anyone done the horseback excursion in Alaska? My daughter are booked for the July 22 cruise and both into animals and have horses. Is it worth the money?
    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
     
  14. jonesm117

    jonesm117 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    142
    We are headed for Alaska in August 2013 on the Wonder - YEAH. WOndering if it's worth it to do the adventures by disney or just book the port excursions on my own. Anyone done it?
    Thanks,
    Monica
     
  15. mellers

    mellers DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2007
    Messages:
    2,047
    I did it on my own. It's almost always cheaper and very safe to book your excursions on your own.
     
  16. meajuly5

    meajuly5 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2012
    Messages:
    742
    Any particular companies you used and can recommend?
     
  17. mellers

    mellers DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2007
    Messages:
    2,047
    Skagway:

    http://www.wpyr.com/ (If you book through them, you'll pay less, and the only difference is that you walk to the station at the front of the train, rather than board from the caboose. We saved $50 for our party this way, and we were on the exact same train.)

    It's worth noting, if you have wheelchair users in your party (I am one), that it's better to book the second train run on your own. If you arrive early enough to catch the first train, they will change your tickets at no charge and, while there are a great many wheelies on the second train, when we went, we had the whole wheelchair compartment to ourselves.

    They do not book the railroad songs/I spy game one, but I can make up some goodies myself for a lot less for kids.

    There is a wheelchair accessible shuttle that will take you from the station to the gardens and glassworks--you don't have to pay for the big Disney tour--however, I don't know if you can pay separately to blow a glass ornament. Our daughter was too young to participate, but she loves glassworks (took stained glass in HS) so we went out there and just watched. The whole cost was considerably less than Disney.

    Ketchikan:

    We did the lumberjack show in Ketchikan, and we were all a bit disappointed. What we liked best (and was VERY inexpensive--about $5) was the incredible Alaska museum across from the lumberjack show. This is a particularly good option if it's raining or very cold.

    We also did the Ride The Ducks tour, and we enjoyed that quite a bit, but it's not something you really need to set up in advance.

    Juneau:

    The Mount Roberts Tramway is about 6 of 1, a dozen of another, but I wouldn't book through Disney if you like to keep your options open.

    The Alaska State Museum is also a lot of fun, and a great choice if the day is rainy and windy.

    If you want to do the major excursions (floatplanes, etc.), there are a lot of people who've made recommendations on this board. Overall, you'll do better if you book those on your own. I also posted a general overview a while back, but it's been two years, and I would go for the more recent recommendations now.
     
  18. RedSox68

    RedSox68 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2009
    Messages:
    2,694
    In Skagway we booked Chilkoot Tours ahead -- saved us a couple of hundred dollars over the ship's exact version of the same excursion.

    In Ketchikan we got off the ship and booked a shuttle tour with one of the companies on the dock -- the one offering the best deal, and we had a great time.
     
  19. sabrecmc

    sabrecmc DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
    Messages:
    1,628
    I second the rec for Chilikoot tours for Skagway. Great excursion! We had 60+ year olds and my 5 year old along and everyone had a blast. My review is somewhere early in this thread, but it was definitely a highlight.

    We did DCL tours in Juneau and Ketchikan, though I booked the Lumberjack show via their website b/c it was cheaper than DCL for the same thing. For Juneau, I'd probably book whale watching on my own if I were to do it again, though we had a great time on our trip. I heard that later DCL groups were on much larger vessels, which makes it a bit difficult. Ours was a smaller boat, so everyone could see just fine. Mendenhall Glacier was great! Wouldn't have minded more time there to explore. I think that is the nice part of booking on your own.
     
  20. dvhtu

    dvhtu Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2012
    Messages:
    12
    This thread has been very helpful. It seems that most people are taking the train in Skagway. Has anyone tried doing the bus only tour in Skagway? I am looking into either Discover The Yukon Adventure by Chilkoot Charters & Tours OR Yukon Discovery by Frontier Excursions & Adventures. Has anyone tried either one of these two excursions? Reviews will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.
     
  21. LeslieG

    LeslieG DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2005
    Messages:
    2,729
    We rented a car in Skagway and drove up to Emerald Lake. Probably my favorite thing we did. The lake is spectacular. And we saw bears on the drive up and back on four different occasions along the road! This was in late May last year.
     

Share This Page