Taking a cruise to Alaska? No doubt you’ve read about all the wonderful helicopter tours or float plane adventures you can have on one of the many shore excursions during your cruise. You may also have noted the price of some of these excursions. And, while a helicopter tour is great fun, tacking on several high-priced adventures onto your moderately-priced cruise can quickly add up to one very expensive vacation.
Can you have fun shore excursions without over-taxing your travel budget? Absolutely, especially if you plan in advance. Also, be aware that you don’t have to go on the shore excursions through your cruise ship. You can always venture out on your own and explore Alaska, sometimes getting to destinations on the city bus for much less than what you’d pay for transportation through your cruise ship. Remember to always compare the cruise ship’s shore excursion prices with similar tours offered by independent tour companies.
What cheap Alaska shore excursions are waiting for you? Here are several inexpensive shore excursions at some of the most popular Alaska ports of call:
Want a great adventure for under $25? Take the Mount Roberts Tramway, a 6-minute ride to the 1,800 foot level of Mount Roberts. The great thing about this excursion is that the tramway is located where the cruise ships dock, so you can just walk to the tramway at your leisure.
If you want to get out and see Alaska’s beauty as well as take a hike, then the tramway is perfect for you, as there are trails on Mount Roberts for all levels of ability, from nature walks to strenuous climbs, including a trail that is handicap-accessible. Depending on the time you have, some people like to take the tram to the 1,800 foot level and hike down. There is also a restaurant on the mountain, as well as a nature center.
Another inexpensive, yet must-see Juneau shore excursion is a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. No doubt your cruise ship offers some type of package tour to the Glacier, ranging from the inexpensive bus/walking tour to the more expensive adventure tours where you can kayak, canoe or ride a float plane. If you want just a no-frills bus ride to the Glacier so you can explore on your own, there are many tour bus companies offering such rides. MightyGreatTrips.com offers a roundtrip service to the Glacier for $12, with transportation running every 30 minutes. If you don’t mind the extra walk, you can also take a city bus which will drop you off a mile and a half from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. City bus fares are $1.50 for each direction of travel.
One inexpensive shore excursion in Skagway is a float tour, which combines sightseeing and rafting. Skagway Float Tours offers a tour lasting approximately 2 to 3 hours which includes a 10-mile drive along the coast to the Dyea Valley, with a 45-minute gentle float down the Taiya River. This excursion costs $75 and is suitable for all skill levels. Call 907-983-3688 for more information.
If floating’s not your thing, but riding a bike is, consider a bicycle tour of the Rainforest. This bike tour is suitable for all skill levels, and follows a flat path through rainforest, historic ruins and coastal tidal flats. Your cruise ship may offer this as a shore excursion, or you may go independently through Alaska Bicycle Tours, for a price of $78 for a 3-hr. tour. You can also rent bikes by the hour if you wish to ride around town. Rentals are $14 for 2 hours, $25 for 4 hours, or $35 for 8 hours. Call 877-292-4154 for more information.
Just want to get out and explore the town of Skagway by foot? Go to Skagway.com to download a walking tour map and have a great shore excursion in Skagway for free.
Ketchikan is a wonderful place to see totem poles, and many cruise lines offer shore excursions where you can tour the city of Ketchikan and then go view totem poles at the Saxman Native Village and Totem Bight State Historical Park. While these tours usually are inexpensive, you may be able to see the totem poles for even cheaper if you take the city bus on your own to Totem Bight State Historical Park – $1 each way.
Researching and planning ahead is a sure way to find fun, cheap shore excursions. Not only will you keep your cruise within your budget, but you may also find you save enough on one shore excursion to help pay for those more expensive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as a seaplane exploration of the Misty Fjords. When booking independent excursions, do keep in mind the time you have in each port of call, and book trips with plenty of time to arrive at the departure point and get back to your ship on time.