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When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

15 Apr 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Planning an Alaska cruise usually involves booking shore excursions in the state’s magnificent destinations, whether to go whale watching, visit a glacier, or take a train into the mountains, but when is the best time to book an Alaska shore excursion?

Let’s dive into our best tips for booking shore excursions on an Alaska cruise that will help ensure you pay the least amount of money and have the widest variety of tours to choose from.

Book early, reprice later

It’s recommended to book shore excursions as soon as possible after booking an Alaska cruise. This helps ensure the tour you want to book does not sell out and that you pay the lowest price possible for a shore excursion when booking through Royal Caribbean.

Waiting for the price to go down on a shore excursion is never the best idea, as you are always able to cancel a shore excursion and immediately rebook it on the Cruise Planner if you see a lower price.

For example, if you book a whale watching tour for $179.99 and it is later priced at $149.99, you can cancel and rebook without penalty, saving $30 in the process.

Additionally, tours can and do sell out on occasion. Royal Caribbean may sometimes add more tour options or spots to an excursion, but this is not guaranteed. Therefore, if you find something you really want to do while on an Alaska cruise, be sure to book the tour right away.

In fact, some excursions may have various time slots to choose from, with excursions offered in the morning or afternoon. Booking early ensures you can select the time slot that works best with your schedule.

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Research excursions in advance

Having an idea of what types of activities and tours are available in each Alaska cruise port is helpful to know before you book your cruise. Not only can this influence your itinerary choice, but it cuts down on research time after booking the cruise, meaning you can save time and book excursions while they are still available.

Juneau, for example, offers some of the best whale watching opportunities on an Alaska cruise whereas Canada’s Yukon territory can be visited on a cruise to Skagway. Ketchikan offers excellent hiking, kayaking, and cultural activities whereas Sitka excursions can provide insights into Russian Alaska and the town’s history.

Deciding which shore excursion to book ultimately depends on your budget and interests. A full-day hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain can sound like a dream for some passengers and a nightmare for others! Likewise, those prone to seasickness will want to research tours that do not involve small boats, and passengers with kids will want to find the best kid-friendly excursions available.

What to do in Alaska cruise ports:

Related: Alaska cruise whale watching guide & tips

Booking excursions onboard

Every Royal Caribbean ship has an area onboard where guests can inquire and book shore excursions once the cruise begins. On some ships this is a standalone venue whereas on other ships it is located at Guest Services.

We don’t recommend waiting to book excursions once onboard because the price may be higher than booking an excursion prior to your cruise. While there is the advantage of being able to speak directly with Shore Excursions staff about tour options, you will be limited to what excursions still have spots available.

If you already have an excursion booked but have questions or concerns about the tour, though, you can speak to the Shore Excursions staff onboard to get any questions answered or find a different excursion.

Related: Cruising to Alaska: What I did right and wrong

Why are there no excursions available?

If you booked your cruise far enough in advance, excursions and other cruise add-ons may not yet be available in the Cruise Planner. Check periodically in the time leading up to your cruise to see if excursions are listed. Once you see them listed and know what excursion to book, book right away to ensure you get a spot and a good price.

Royal Caribbean may add additional excursions to the Cruise Planner, so check periodically to see if there are any new, exciting excursions available that you want to book.

Can I cancel my Alaska shore excursion?

According to Royal Caribbean’s tour cancellation policy, excursions can be modified or cancelled up to 48 hours prior to port arrival without any penalty. However, tours involving flights, trains, special events, overnight stays, hotel stays, and Private Journeys must be cancelled at least 30 days prior to your sailing date. Cancellation penalties may apply if guests do not adhere to these rules.

If you are booking an excursion through an independent provider, check with the tour operator for cancellation information and policies.

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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