Trip Planning – Alaska Cruise – Independent Port Exploration

Later in the year we are doing an Alaska cruise with the following itinerary –

1 Vancouver, Canada 4:00 p.m.
2 At Sea
3 Tracy Arm, Alaska Cruising Cruising
4 Skagway, Alaska 7:15 a.m. 7:30 p.m.
5 Juneau, Alaska 6:15 a.m. 4:30 p.m.
6 Ketchikan, Alaska 11:15 a.m. 7:30 p.m.
7 At Sea
8 Vancouver, Canada 8:00 a.m.

Looking at the shore excusions available via the ship, nothing really appeals.  Lots of salmon, crab and halibut fishing or things involving hiking, kayaking or more boating.  I’d love to go dog sledding but I’m allergic to snow (ok, I’m just a wimp…) and it costs an arm and a leg.  In fact most shore excursions start at $US50 and go up (plus a tip, after all its the USA.)

So what to do then?

Over to Tripadvisor, this is a great site to find what activities there are to see and do at your ports of call.  Also check out Cruisecritic, it has port reviews which are handy as you can find out where you dock, your location to town, getting around and other potentially useful info.

Personally, I also hate the touristy jewellry stores and trinket shops in these places, and am more looking for history and culture, if its the real deal and not some tourist clap-trap.  So it looks like for Alaska, we are going it alone.


The ship docks right in town and its easily walkable according to the sites above (yay says the budget conscious traveller).

So our first stop will probably be the Trail of ’98 Museum, its $2 to get in.   Tripadvisor says “gold rush history, costumes, exhibits on the building of the Alaskan Highway and the army in Skagway, and quite a bit of Native crafts and history.”

Next up we have the Gold Rush Cemetery – not your average tourist attraction but weather permitting, this sounds very interesting.

Then onto the Skagway Museum and Archives, this museum is more about the history of Skagway itself.

Time (and feet) permitting final stop will be Corrington’s Museum which has free entry.

Pretty much all the museums appear to be on or just off the same street with the Cemetery at the far end of town.  A bit of a walk but not terribly far by the looks of things and as our first shore day after effectively two sea days, we will be happy to get out and move.


The following day we are docked in Juneau from 6.30am.  We have a privately organised whale watching excursion booked at 11.30am so we will probably just go for a walk around the downtown area.  If we are up and about early enough, we could potentially visit the Alaska State Museum which opens at 8.30am in the summer months.  Entry fee is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors (and around half this in winter).  The reviews indicate most people take 90 minutes – 2 hours to visit, so that would have us back in time for our whale watching.


Final stop on the cruise is Ketchikan.  This is the stop I’m looking forward to most.  Again like Skagway, it appears to be an easily walkable town.

The Dolly’s House Museum, it is definitely somewhere I think would be interesting to visit.  Essentially it tells the story of the red light district as it was in the 1900s-1950s.  Entry fee is $5.

Also in Ketchikan are a number of parks with totem poles.  According to one review on Tripadvisor, the local bus can get you to Totem Bight State Park.  This is an option but reading about Ketchikan it sounds like a nice town where you can while away a few hours exploring.

Cruises as I’ve blogged about before, on this post, can be a great budget conscious traveller option.  You do have to watch the “extras” though, such as shore excursions, onboard drinks and shopping.  They can add up fast!

Some cruise lines also have an expectation that you will tip key positions so you may want to check how your particular cruise handles that so there are no surprises at the end.  Some are included in the fare, some are upfront on embarkation and others are at the end.  The crew work hard for these tips so please don’t be an arse and not tip if this is expected on your particular cruise…

Disney Wonder in Alaska
Disney Wonder in Alaska (image from Disney Parks Blog)

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