Port and Shore Excursions
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this from Era Helicopters. I am not a complainer by nature, but these people just don't seem to care at all about customer service and how much money you've just spent with them.
The helicopter ride was cool and the dogs were cool to meet. But, it was very rushed, quickly over, and impersonable. I could not help but feel like we were in "tourist harvest" mode. A week later and I am still not convinced it was worth anywhere close to the $1,000+ we paid for the two of us. And, we didn't book through the ship.
Our big problem was that they ended up separating my fiancee and I on the helicopter ride over. We saw the note that they could separate groups for weight purposes... but a party of two normal weighted people? That is not a group. Part of the $1K is to do the trip together. When we expressed our concern, the goofy kids they have working the counter as the face of their company just laughed at us. When I asked to speak to the person in charge, they basically told us to suck it up.
If it was my company, we'd re-focus on customer service, give a sincere apology and maybe offer some credit to the gift shop. What happened to good customer service and treating each customer with importance and respect???
The rest of Juneau was, frankly, filled with high-pressure salesman selling overpriced junk. Just browsing, they would ask you what your price range was, etc. I don't like that, it would be much better to just have good prices in the first place. The prices could not come close to competing with those on the ship in the duty free store, which is where we ended up making most of our purchases (Victoria was a notable exception).
We ate at The Flight Deck and were met with crappy service like we were wasting the bar tender's time, even though our three meals were close to $100. The food was pretty good though, we got the crab boils (goof) and fried salmon (mediocre). The onion rings were amazing though... when asked what they were seasoned with, "I don't know, that's how they come in the bag."
Very disappointed overall with Juneau. We felt that it was a total and complete tourist trap. I am happy that we spent no money other than our excursion and our meal.
We chose to independently book through Baranoff on their "Fish and Dine" excursion. This was really a great time for the short period we were in Ketchikan. It is a small skiff that accommodated three of us privately in our skiff, but had several of them for everyone.
We went fishing for Rock Fish 200 feet down after a 30 minute or so skiff ride, caught two large ones and a small one, as well as a two-foot shark that we humanely threw back.
Then we went to their very well constructed base camp, in a pristine location, where they filleted and cooked our catch... making sure that we ate just our catch if that is important to you.
On the way back, we saw a harbor seal sunning on a rock, as well as three Eagles. We threw our fish carcasses and watched the Eagles swoop in.
All in all this one is highly recommended... we were treated very well and really enjoyed ourselves in the perfect weather.
This was the absolute pinnacle of our trip.
We booked with Captain Jim Seeland in Sitka Sound Tours, independently, based upon a review from this site. We did his Wildlife Tour, but he will customize your tour for whatever you're looking for.
It was a private tour with just our family for $130 per person on his boat. We saw humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, Eagles, Puffins, and tons of other birds. He even met us early so we'd have a little extra time.
We had such an amazing time with this... you need to look him up if you'll be in Sitka. My mom and grandparents did the touristy whale watch in Juneau and they said this blew it out of the water. I wish I could post pictures.
Sitka was a quaint town that was a nice change of pace from Juneau, and renewed somewhat our faith in humanity. We ate at a local restaurant and had great food and service.
We chose not to do an excursion in Victoria, so we just walked around a bit and ended up coming back to the ship a little early. It was 6pm-12 midnight in port. We found a very unique Jade carvings store that gave a 25% US military discount. Weird, right?
A very nice, clean city but with a hefty 12% sales tax, which they explained pays to keep their streets clean. Overall, we felt this would be a great place to spend a weekend.