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Royal Caribbean Alaska excursions: Recommended tours for each port

In:
12 Jun 2024
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

After you book an Alaska cruise, your next question might be which shore excursions are the best to book.

Alaska shore excursions

Alaska is known for its natural wonders, and many people want to maximize their time in Alaska by going on the best tours that allow them to see the major highlights. Whale watching, dog sleds, glacier viewings, historical tours, and many more are the most requested excursions cruisers want.

Our team has been on various Alaska cruises over the years, and we've experienced many different tours. Plus, our readers have shared their own recommendations for the best options.

Note: We make no guarantees about any of these tours. It's a list to consider based on feedback and our experiences. Book these tours at your own risk.

Here's our list of recommended cruise ship excursions to help make your search easier.

Juneau shore excursions & tours

Whale in Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Watching Combo Tour: You'll get to see the two best things in Juneau: whales and glaciers. Website

Mt. Roberts Tramway: If the weather is clear, you can easily take the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the summit and enjoy spectacular views below. This is not a full-day tour, so you could combine this with another tour.  Website

Whale watching with Jayleen's Alaska: Many cruisers recommended this tour company, and it has received high accolades, including being named the #1 Water Tour in Juneau, Alaska. Website

What watching with Alaska Tales Juneau: Another highly rated whale watching tour, where you can not only view whales, but they offer a money-back guarantee if you don't see any. Website

Whale watching with Harv & Marv: Another often recommended whale watching tour. They also offer lighthouse tours. Website

Jeep tour: Take a self-guided tour of Juneau in your own Jeep Wrangler. There's a GPS and narration provided to allow you to move as fast or slow as you want. Website

Sled Dog Discovery: Dog sledding is a great family-friendly tour that combines history and the opportunity to meet the dogs. Website

Glacier and Guided Walk: If you're feeling adventurous, try a helicopter tour that brings you to Mendenhall Glacier. Website

Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter & Dog Sledding: Take a helicopter flightseeing tour with dogsledding and land on the lower level of the Herbert Glacier. Website

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Ketchikan shore excursions & tours

Misty Fjords

Misty Fjords Flightseeing Tour: See this glacier-carved wilderness from the air. It's everything Alaska is known for in one. Website

Ketchikan All In One: Small group tours that offer wildlife viewing, salmon fishing, and learning about the indigenous heritage of the area. Website

Kayak Eco-Tour: Kayaking is a fun way to get close up to many of the natural wonders, and it's easy to pick up (even if you've never done it before). Website

Combo helicopter tour: See the best views of the mountains and valleys surrounding Ketchikan Lakes and Mahoney Falls. Website

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show: An entertaining spectacle of lumberjacks showing off their skills of carving wood using chainsaws, tree-climbing gaffs, and six-foot saws. Website

Totem Bight and Rain Forest Tour: Learn about the native history of Ketchikan while exploring a rainforest. Website

Fishing expedition: If you want to try to catch halibut, salmon, and more, a deep sea fishing expedition might be what you want. Website

Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour: Educational & interactive Alaskan fishing tour meant to evoke the same style of fishing as seen in Deadliest Catch. Website

Skagway shore excursions & tours

White Pass and Yukon Railway, Skagway, Alaska

White Pass Scenic Railway: By far the most popular excursion in Skagway, see beautiful views from the comfort of the train. Website

Skagway Musher's Camp and Sled Dog Adventure: Go on wheeled dogsleds that are pulled by a team of sled dogs, and then meet puppies after. Website

Ghosts and Goodtime Girls walking tour: Storytellers take you around town to share what it was like for the women of the Klondike Gold Rush. Website

E-Bike rental: Get around Skagway on your own with an e-bike. Website

Jeep tour: Explore Skagway and the nearby Yukon Territory in a Jeep rental, which includes, maps, mile-by-mile guide as well as an interactive tour guide. Website

White Pass Train & Bike Tour: Take the White Pass train up, and then bike back down. Website

Sitka shore excursions & tours

Totem

Whale watching with Captain Gary: Many people swear by Gary, who is from Sitka and knows the area well. Website

Fortress of the Bear: Animal rescue center, that includes bears. Many tours include a stop here, but you can do it yourself if you prefer. Website

Alaska Raptor Center: A medical treatment center for eagles and any injured wild birds. Website

Small group wildlife and scenic boat tours: Offers the chance of viewing seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales, porpoises, and Sitka black tail deer. Website

Wildlife Quest & Fin Island Lodge: Boat tour to see wildlife, including sea otters, whales, and coastal brown bears. Lunch at Fin Island. Website

Totem Trail & Sitka Historic Park: The Totem pole park offers a hike through the rainforest. Website

Haines shore excursions & tours

Haines, Alaska

Chilkoot Lake Nature and Wildlife Viewing: Opportunity to see a turquoise lake surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, a salmon-filled river flowing into the sea, and important Tlingit cultural sights. Website

Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve: Run by the State of Alaska, has around 100 bald eagles you can see at once. Website

Kroschel Films Wildlife Center: Photo opportunities and close encounters with lynx, wolves, wolverines, caribou, foxes, and much more. Website

Icy Strait Point shore excursions & tours

Orca

Icy Strait Point ZipRider: Go across six 5,330’ ziplines that will let you soar 300 feet above the rainforest below. Website

Whale watching with Glacier Wind Charters: See humpback whales, along with other wildlife. Website

Whale watching with Icy Strait Whale Adventures has a custom-built whale-watching vessel that has large windows that allow unrestricted viewing while getting up close and personal to whales. Website

Whale watching with Hoonah Travel Adventures offers an intimate small boat experience to their customers that have large viewing decks and oversized sliding windows. Website

Fishing charter: Offers group and private fishing trips. Website

Tree Top Adventure Park & Ropes Course: Self-guided courses with varying difficulty levels that allows you to advance through the obstacles at your own pace. Website

Why aren't there Royal Caribbean shore excursions on the list of recommended tours?

Kayaking in Alaska

There are two reasons we did not include shore excursions sold by Royal Caribbean on this list.

First, it's difficult to ascertain if a specific tour sold by one ship on a particular sailing is the exact same tour as another sold on a different sailing and/or ship. Truthfully, it just wasn't practical to come up with a list given the generic names Royal Caribbean gives to their tour names and verify it's the same tour for anyone else booking it.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with Royal Caribbean's shore excursions and I've often booked them myself. It was just easier to come up with a list of third-party vendors.

In addition, Royal Caribbean's tours are operated by third parties that the cruise line vets. The cruise line acts as a "middle man" in organizing it, so one way or another, you're going to end up with a third-party tour.  

In many cases, if you do a Google search for the Royal Caribbean Alaska shore excursion the exact tour appears from the vendor.

Granted, booking with Royal Caribbean does include certain benefits, such as ensuring the ship will wait for you if your tour is late getting back. 

How to book Alaska cruise excursions

When it comes to booking an excursion for an Alaska cruise, you have two main options: book through Royal Caribbean directly or with an outside provider.

Booking through Royal Caribbean

Booking directly through Royal Caribbean tends to be more expensive, but is a safe option in terms of reliability and cancellation policies. Royal Caribbean vets tour operators thoroughly before offering an excursion to guarantee you’ll have the safest, most authentic experience possible.

On the chance a Royal Caribbean excursion runs late, the cruise ship will wait for the tour group before leaving port. If for some reason the ship is unable to wait, Royal Caribbean will make arrangements and cover the cost of the tour group's return to the ship.

Read more: Is it better to book excursions through the cruise ship?

Booking through Royal Caribbean directly also tends to be convenient, as all excursions are listed directly on the Cruise Planner site. You won’t have to browse the internet and read reviews from independent companies prior to booking an excursion. Plus, if you have onboard credit, you can put that toward an amazing excursion!

Booking through an independent provider

While there are several pros to booking an Alaska cruise excursion through Royal Caribbean directly, booking through an independent tour operator can provide a wider range of excursion options, lower prices, and smaller groups.

Read more: Top ways to avoid crowds on an Alaska cruise

Simply put, there are many more shore excursions available in Alaska than the limited supply offered by Royal Caribbean. A quick search on Tripadvisor or Viator for Alaska cruise excursions will result in far more choices than what may be offered on your cruise.

Ketchikan charter boats

Royal Caribbean excursions tend to be priced higher than independent excursions because the cruise line receives a cut of the excursion cost from the tour operator. Booking on your own eliminates the middleman, often leading to more affordable prices.

While the cruise ship will not wait for you if you’re running late on an excursion through an independent provider, this is a rare scenario as reputable tour providers have years of experience getting tour groups back to the ship on time. In addition, tour operators may offer similar cancellation policies to Royal Caribbean on the chance your cruise itinerary changes.

Read more: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

How much do shore excursions cost in Alaska?

While it’s possible to find great deals on cruise fares to Alaska, shore excursions can often be more expensive than what you are used to on a Caribbean cruise. Knowing how much you’re willing to spend on Alaska cruise excursions can better help you budget your vacation while still having an incredible cruise experience.

Shore excursions can run anywhere from $50 to well over $500. To give an example of how varied prices can be, here are a few sample prices you may see for Royal Caribbean excursions:

Juneau

  • Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest ($158.99/adult, $110.99/child)
  • Helicopter Glacier Walkabout ($406.99)
  • Mendenhall Glacier River Rafting ($141.99)
  • Mount Roberts Tramway ($59.99)

Skagway

  • Klondike Bicycle Tour ($115.75)
  • Ghost and Goodtime Girls Walking Tour ($45.99)
  • White Pass Scenic Railway ($140.99/adult, $74.99/child)
  • Glacier Discovery by Helicopter ($379.00)

Sitka

  • Taste of Sitka ($78.99/adult, $62.99/child)
  • Siginaka Islands Cruise & Kayak Adventure ($163.99/adult, $125.99/child)
  • Tongass Forest Nature Hike ($84.99/adult, $60.99/child)
  • Native Cultural and Historical Tour ($55.99/adult, $42.99/child)

Prices of shore excursions through independent providers are often cheaper than Royal Caribbean’s pricing, so be sure to look outside of Royal Caribbean for better deals.

Do I need a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise?

It’s not necessary to book a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise. In fact, some passengers prefer to explore on their own to have maximum freedom over activities, dining, and travel pace. While excursions are an “easy” option due to the fact that all logistics are handled by the tour operator instead of yourself, they can be a bit too limiting for some travelers.

Read more: Top 50 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

Luckily, Alaska cruise ports are small and walkable, allowing visitors to experience the town’s history, culture, and nearby nature on foot. Even Juneau, the largest Alaska cruise port, still has plenty of walkable areas and ways to get around without booking an excursion, such as the Goldbelt Tramway and Mendenhall Glacier shuttle bus.

Some activities, like kayaking, whale watching, and ziplining, tend to be easier with a shore excursion than without, as all equipment, lifejackets, transportation, etc. is provided for you. Others, like hiking, visiting museums, and trying Alaska’s cuisine can easily be done without a pre-booked excursion.

What to bring on an Alaska cruise excursion

Packing for an Alaska cruise excursion is a bit more complicated than bringing a beach towel and flip flops. You’ll want to make sure you are prepared for any weather conditions you may face so you remain comfortable and warm throughout the day.

Read more: What to bring on a cruise to Alaska?

Clothing

Family on Alaska tour

Packing layers is key on an Alaska cruise. Depending on the month you’re cruising to Alaska, packing a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt as a base layer is essential. Even though you’ll be surrounded by glaciers, it can get relatively warm in southeast Alaska, especially in the summer months.

A waterproof jacket is another necessity, as rain is extremely common to encounter on an Alaska cruise. Instead of an umbrella, wear a waterproof jacket with a hood that you can take on and off throughout the day.

Read more: What should I pack for a cruise to Alaska?

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

Packing a warm layer is also important in case of chilly temperatures. Sweatshirts, sweaters, and down jackets will keep you warm on the coldest of days!

Choose your footwear carefully before an Alaska cruise excursion. If your excursion involves hiking through the rainforest, tennis shoes with non-slip soles or hiking boots will be helpful. If you’re just planning to walk around town, regular sneakers will be fine. It’s a good idea to make sure the shoes you pack for an Alaska cruise are water-resistant. Having water seep through your shoes is very uncomfortable!

Accessories

Bringing a waterproof or water-resistant daypack on an Alaska cruise is essential to ensure your electronics, identification, and any other valuables remain protected throughout the excursion.

Packing a warm hat and gloves is also recommended, particularly if you’re cruising to Alaska in the shoulder season months of May and September.

Read more: What it’s like to go on an Alaska cruise at the end of the season

binoculars

Binoculars can be another great item to pack for an Alaska cruise excursion, as they give you the chance to view Alaska’s wildlife and scenery up close. Bringing binoculars will definitely come in handy if you book a wildlife excursion.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are also important to pack. While you may not associate an Alaska cruise with needing protection from the sun, it can be strong on sunny days, as sunlight shines not only from the sky but also from glaciers and snow. A travel-sized sunscreen container should be adequate for an Alaska cruise.

You may also want to consider packing snacks to bring with you on your excursion, especially if traveling with kids. Alaska shore excursions can be more active than what you’re used to, so having a bag of trail mix or granola bars on hand is helpful.

More Alaska cruise resources:

Alaska cruise excursions: Recommended tours for each port

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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