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Old 01-09-2012, 08:51 PM
 
Location: Huntsville, AL
1,586 posts, read 3,839,526 times
Reputation: 1368

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Ok, after much deliberation and consideration of a driving trip (with VERY appreciated advice from members of this forum), my family has decided on a cruise with Disney Cruise Line.

Seriously, advice is MUCH appreciated, and if we love Alaska we will certainly return someday for a road trip, but with two girls age 7 & 9 and their grandmother with some physical issues, we think doing the Disney cruise will keep everyone happy, engaged, and comfortable. The primary purpose of this trip is to knock an Alaska visit off grandma's bucket list, so I think her comfort and enjoyment is maximized by not spending hours in a car or RV crammed up with two fighting sisters, not to mention she is inclined to get extremely stiff spending hours in a car.

Questions:

Skagway:

- White Pass Scenic Railway vs. Steam Railroad. The Steam train looks cooler to me but the route is much shorter? Would we sacrifice awesome scenery by choosing the steam train?

- What (if any) tour operator would you recommend to have an unforgettable day in Skagway, with included rail? We have a full day at port and I'd like to make the most of it, and I'm not convinced the cruise line excursion makes the best use of our time and money at this port.

Juneau:

- Priority #1: Go on a helicopter ride and stand on a glacier. I know this is stupid expensive but we want to do it. With a party of 5, booking independently will save us substantial money. Any recommendations?

As much as I'd love to do so, trekking on a glacier is not practical. We'll be lucky if grandma even gets out of the helicopter and youngest child probably have limitations too. I want to stand on it, get some photos of everybody, and say we did it. 20 minutes on a glacier would be great, in favor of a little extra scenic flight time.

IF we can squeeze in something worthwhile in addition to a helicopter tour, what would you recommend? If weather is not cooperating with a helicopter ride, what would be a good back-up plan?

Our ship arrives in Juneau at 7:30 am and leaves at 2 so we don't have a full day.

Also regarding Juneau: We are considering 2 departure dates: one includes an additional 3 hours in Juneau, but doesn't port for an evening in Victoria, BC. I've been to Victoria several times before so it's not a must-see for me, but my family hasn't been. Is another few hours in Juneau worth sacrificing Victoria?

Ketchikan

This is an extremely short port of call. Like 4 hours. This was the one port of call where I was thinking of just using the Disney excursion to go to Potlatch Totem Park and possibly a lumberjack show add-on. The lumberjack show looks like something I could see on TV, but other tourists seem to really love it, especially kids.

Anyone want to sell us on a different idea?


My girls would also LOVE to go dogsledding and meet huskies. The "real" dogsledding on glaciers is just beyond all reason in terms of cost, but if there is a way for them to squeeze in a visit to some pups and maybe try one of those sled-with-wheels summer sled (Skagway or Juneau) they would be over the moon. The cruise line offers such a trip, but it is at the exclusion of higher priorities. Would love to find a way to squeeze it in in addition to our priority items, especially if we can find a way to do it where we aren't paying for grandma to do a "husky activity" when she wants nothing to do with dogs.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:04 PM
 
Location: Bethel, Alaska
21,337 posts, read 30,929,515 times
Reputation: 13634
Fly up to Anchorage and rent a van, you'll have much more fun on your own and you'll see a lot of the state.
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:27 PM
 
Location: Huntsville, AL
1,586 posts, read 3,839,526 times
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Please, trust me, with my mother-in-law and two kids, we may see more of the state, but we won't have more fun. We really, really won't. Especially her. She will be stiff, in pain and possibly carsick, and this trip is mostly about her. This is a person who gets stiff and can hardly move after a 1-hr car ride.
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:20 PM
 
18,999 posts, read 24,517,429 times
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Don't let anyone try to talk you out of the vacation that you want...well, not that they will be able to do so but...maybe the "rent an RV or rent a van" threads don't have any real purpose here.

As far as Ketchikan, you can take the bus down to Saxman and see the Native carvers; they do a really good job there.

You need to go to TripAdvisor and see if you can find a guy named "Dyee Dave" in the Skagway forum. I know there's a woman who lives in the area who used to have people up to see her sled dogs---but things change and I don't know if she still does that. This guy would know.
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:25 PM
 
Location: Dangling from a mooses antlers
6,281 posts, read 10,886,103 times
Reputation: 4797
Check in with the folks on the Alaska forum on Cruise Critic too.

Alaska - Cruise Critic Message Boards
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:39 PM
 
18,999 posts, read 24,517,429 times
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OK...I'm almost sure that this was the person I was thinking about in Skagway.

Sled Dog Tours in Skagway, Alaska

Looks like they're fairly reasonable too.

If it's who I'm thinking of, the woman also makes hats, gloves, and even sweaters from dog hair. She brushes her team and spins the hair that comes off from their undercoats into wool. I have one of her hats; it's gorgeous.

And here's Dyee Dave--it's good to see that he's still in business--he's a great guy.

http://dyeadavetours.com/

As far as Juneau goes...I don't know much. My cousin's kids are in a dance troop that sometimes performs---I don't think it even costs anything, it's more about sharing their culture. Something like that might be fun for your girls.

Last edited by Metlakatla; 01-09-2012 at 10:50 PM..
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:30 AM
 
Location: Huntsville, AL
1,586 posts, read 3,839,526 times
Reputation: 1368
Thank you, all! Dyea Dave looks like right up my alley - also I found a tour operator that is a former employee of his that runs small tours from her SUV - an option as well. Hoping she gets back to me.

I think I have Skagway figured out at least. I'll check out cruise critic as well.

And yeah, I've determined this is the kind of vacation that will suit us best. I do understand that whole road trip recommendation, and how that seems like the only logical thing to someone who lives in Alaska. If it were just my husband and I, that would be my preference frankly, but when you have little kids, grandma, etc, sometimes sacrificing some sight seeing so that everybody involved can have a relaxing, comfortable, time - it's worth it. I just see us in the van, the kids oblivious to gorgeous vistas, whining "Are we there yet?!", and grandma saying she's stiff and sore, wanting to know the precise time of our meals and stops, etc. STRESS! None of us have ever been to Alaska so even those few ports-of-call will be a very novel and memorable experience, and in the interim enjoy some relaxation & entertainment on the boat.
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Old 01-10-2012, 11:36 AM
 
Location: Alaska
5,347 posts, read 15,035,696 times
Reputation: 3952
In Juneau, the two helicopter companies are Temsco and ERA Helicopters. Temsco offers something called Pilot's Choice, which gives you an opportunity to see more. Check out their website for details. Other things of interest are whale watching tours, a trip to Mendenhall Glacier (sometimes included in another activity), the Mt. Roberts Tram, City Museum, State Museum, kayak tours and zip lines. The latter two probably aren't advisable. The whale watching tour would be your main alternative if weather is bad for flying.

I've heard they put on a good lumberjack show in Ketchikan. You're right, it's something you could see on TV, but it's fun to be there in-person too to see the action.


Edit: There's also Coastal Helicopters in Juneau.
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Old 01-10-2012, 12:07 PM
 
Location: Wasilla, AK
2,433 posts, read 3,552,797 times
Reputation: 1758
The answers to your questions can be found in the Trip Advisor forum: Alaska Forum, Travel Discussion for Alaska - TripAdvisor as well as the Cruise Critic forum that Stiffnecked recommended.
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Old 01-10-2012, 12:35 PM
 
Location: Bernalillo, NM
946 posts, read 1,579,520 times
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Here's a couple of good general overviews of possible shore excursions - Alaska Shore Excursions; Alaska Cruise Guide - Cruising Alaska (part 1) and Alaska Shore Excursions; Alaska Cruise Guide - Cruising Alaska (part 2).

Here's a link to a dog sled excursion in Juneau - Sled Dog Summer Camp. We haven't done this one but some of the online reviews I found speak highly of it. And it looks like it has some other interesting stuff as well. At $124pp it isn't cheap, but still a lot less than the glacier dogsledding.

Looks like there's also a sled dog camp in Skagway as well - https://www.alaskaexcursions.com/sit...ion/sleddog_sk. Don't know much about this other than what's on the website.
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