Alaska Cruise Tips: The 5 Most Popular Shore Excursions

With good reason, a cruise to Alaska is on many people’s bucket lists. The 49th state to join the United States is known as The Last Frontier. Much of it remains untouched by humans. The wildlife is plentiful, the terrain is rugged, and the weather is often unpredictable. We found five prime Alaska cruise tips to make the best of your near-artic cruise. Several shore excursions are worth your money and time when stopping at ports while on an Alaskan cruise. Port stops will vary depending on the cruise line and itinerary you choose.

Visit Mendenhall Glacier

Alaska Cruise Tips  - Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier – Photo by Matt Artz

During a stop at the port in Juneau, taking a trip to Mendenhall Glacier is necessary. This glacier is impressive to view and easy to access, so it is an ideal excursion for families with children. After exploring the glacier, a few nearby hiking trails lead to waterfalls, wildlife, and forests. Touring Mendenhall Glacier can quickly be completed in a couple of hours, so you will have plenty of time to check out the many other things to do in Juneau

Ride on the White Pass Railroad

Alaska Cruise Tips  - White Pass Railroad
White Pass Railroad – Photo by Leighton Smith

If your cruise stops in Skagway, don’t miss a trip along the White Pass Railway. The explorers searching for treasure during the Klondike Gold Rush took this path, so there is plenty of history to learn about the area. This excursion is family-friendly. As the train travels to the White Pass Summit, adults and kids alike will have plenty to view as the train passes through a gorgeous and varied landscape. 

Go Whale Watching

White Pass Railroad - Whale Watching
Alaska Whale Watching – Photo by Deon van Zyl

Whale watching in the waters surrounding Alaska is an unforgettable excursion. Tours in Juneau, Seward, Sitka, Icy Strait, Skagway, and Ketchikan offer the opportunity, so it’s easy to make this work with your travel plans. Once you venture out on the tour boat, you could see gray, killer, humpback, and beluga whales as well as plenty of other ocean life. This is an excellent opportunity if you haven’t viewed whales in their natural habitat.

Sample a Salmon Bake

White Pass Railroad - Salmon Bake
Salmon Bake – Photo by Mario Mendez

A salmon bake is a fun, educational way to sample the local cuisine. These events are held all over the state, but while stopping at a cruise port, your best bet is to purchase your tickets for Skagway or Juneau. Most salmon bakes will feature live music, a campfire, and plenty of food. If you’re not a seafood person, alternate options are usually available.

This is also an excellent opportunity to get to know other travelers and learn a bit about the salmon industry in Alaska. Sometimes, the salmon bake can be combined with other tours, such as a hike or whale watching excursion. On one of your days in port, experience something new and choose the salmon bake instead of visiting a restaurant. 

Experience Dog Sledding

White Pass Railroad - Dog Sledding
Dog Sledding – Photo by Angel Luciano

Dog sledding is an incredibly popular shore excursion. It is truly a local tradition with a long history. The well-known Iditarod Sled Dog Race is completed each March and quintessential part of Alaska’s claim to fame. This excursion is offered in Anchorage, Juneau, Denali, Seward, and Skagway.

The sledding experiences can vary based on the tour you choose and the time of year, but some also include helicopter rides or scenic hikes. In the summer, you’ll be able to ride on wheeled carts pulled by the dogs, or you can participate in a sled ride on a glacier. You can sled on the snow in the colder months for a truly authentic experience. Your tour guides will give you plenty of information on the history and specifics of dog sledding, and sometimes, you’ll even get an opportunity to play with and cuddle the dogs. 

Final Thoughts on Alaska Cruise Tips

As you have read, there are many incredible excursions that you can choose from when taking an Alaskan cruise. These tours vary in price and duration, so travelers should do their research to find and plan events that will fit their budgets and schedules. 

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