Port and Shore Excursions
I loved Anchorage. There was so much to do. First of all, security was very tight here. You had to take a free shuttle to and from the ship. On some one's review of Alaska on Cruise Critic, I had read about Music in the Park which was a free concert on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at noon in front of Visit Anchorage headquarters. The concert was delightful. Then we went across the street to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. Their activities were free also. There were short movies in their theater about "Alaska's Coolest Animals," "The Day the Earth Shook," "A Gathering of Bears," just to name a few that we watched. They also had exhibits with push button information. There were free walking tours twice a day with a Ranger and each day a special live program. Unfortunately, "Coffee with a Scientist" did not appeal to us so we skipped it. Too bad because all of the other days had more interesting topics.
The man selling hot dogs/reindeer dogs, etc. from a wagon in front of this federal building had the longest line so we chose his food for lunch. Glad we did.
We did pay #15 for a 1 hour Anchorage City Trolley Tour. I wish it would have been a Hop On/Hop Off tour. We would have liked to see rather than just pass Earthquake Park. After the trolley ride we spent the rest of the day in and out of the shops. I had wanted to do the Ghost Tour of Anchorage but it wouldn't end until 9 P.M. and the last shuttle bus back to the ship was at 9 P.M. although the ship didn't leave Anchorage til1 11 P.M.
We bit the bullet and decided to take a cruise line tour. We had been to Icy Strait the first year it had opened in 2004. The only difference now is their popular zip line. We are not zip line enthusiasts; hence, the Forest and Nature Tram. Our Indian guide drove us through a narrow trail while telling us stories about the native people from the area and pointed out many of the plants that they use for medicines. Afterward, we took a walk to look at the zip line and then went through the shops in the old cannery building. Many people said this was the best place to do a whale watching tour. We had done that in 2004.
We booked a private 3 hour whale watching tour with "Harv and Marv's Outback Alaska." It was a small boat with only 6 passengers. Marv's daughter was the pilot and she took us to different locations to see the whales, which we did. Afterward, we were dropped off at the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center. (If anyone is over 62, bring your Golden Age passport or buy one for $10. They are good at all national parks.) We chose to stay longer at Mendenhall and said we would find our own way back to town. We walked to the glacier and saw Nugget Falls. As we were leaving, one of the park rangers pointed out a bear sitting in a tree. So we had started off the day whale-watching and ended up bear-watching. We rode the Blue Glacier Express back to town. ($8/person/one way or #16 round trip)
There was a public library with free Internet next to where the ship was docked but we got tired of waiting on the long line. There were many, many shops in Juneau.
Although it rained for most of the day and it was cold, the Bering Sea Fisherman's Tour was one of the best. We sat under a roof with heaters on the crab boat and got to examine and hold many of the creatures that live in the water. The crew pulled baskets and pots filled with live crabs, shrimp, fish, and even an octopus. We were also taken to a place with lots of eagles. The crew told funny stories and entertained us the whole time. It was a terrific excursion. (www.56degreesnorth.com)
We decided to do our own "thing" in Sitka although we had no definite plans until we spoke to the very helpful lady at the information booth. First, we climbed to Castle Hill (across the street from the information booth) where Russia signed over Alaska to the U.S. Then we took the free shuttle (which is no longer FREE due to the cost of gas) to the Fortress of the Bear. The driver gave us a very informed narrative about Sitka during the ride. The $3 fee to ride the van was definitely worth it. He dropped us off at the Fortress of the Bear for an hour. After we paid the admission, we stood on a raised platform and watched 2 adult brown bears on one side and 3 bear cubs on the other side in a Jurassic Park-type setting although we were told they have knocked down all of the trees that had originally been planted. There was a pond in the middle and 2 of the cubs were quite playful and entertaining. It was a rescue center. There were also eagles in the surrounding trees. Then the van picked us up and took us to the Raptor Center. ($12 admission fee) There we saw eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls. Some were permanent residents and others were being healed so they could be released back into the wild. After an hour, the van picked us up again and took us to Totem Park. Since it was raining really hard at this point and my husband and I had been to the park on our last trip to Alaska, we stayed on the van and got dropped off in downtown Sitka. We did a little shopping (lots of shops) and then walked a short distance to catch the tender back to the ship.
What a delightful city! There was a free shuttle to and from the ship. The waterfront was full of street performers, food vendors, artists, jugglers, a mime, and many many tourists along with such colorful flowers. We walked around a bit and then decided to go to the Pacific Undersea Gardens right there on the waterfront It was a floating vessel moored in the harbor where we descended stairs to look through windows to see salmon, rock fish, eels, crabs, starfish, and even an octopus, thanks to a scuba diver who prodded him along. Unfortunately, the diver only interacted with the marine life several times a day and we missed most of this interaction. I'm not sure it is worth the price of admission.
Next we walked up Government Street to Chinatown. I wanted to see Fan Tan Alley which is the narrowest street in Canada. It was! We walked around the city for a while and then took the shuttle back to the ship to have dinner. After dinner, we returned to downtown to see the Parliament lit up. It was spectacular! I'm glad we had a whole day in Victoria unlike the other ships who only had a few hours.