Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari (Juneau)
About $200, purchased from Carnival in advance
Although pricy, this tour boasted a maximum group size of 14 people, and we only had 11 in our group. We boarded another tourbus - very similar to the tourbus we were on in Skagway - and went to a harbor somewhere in or around Juneau. Another feature of the tour was that the Tour Guide, David, was a professional photographer, and he gave us tips for photographing wildlife during the trip to the marina. I'm not much of a photographer, so I found his information very handy. The boat was perfect for the number of people we had - we could all move around without getting in each other's way, and the windows opened in and latched to the ceiling, so they were also out of the way while we were trying to watch for whales.
At first we waited in one spot for about ten minutes or so and spotted two whales - close enough so that we could see their tales flip in the air as they dove underwater. When it was clear that those whales had moved along, the boat moved to another location where there were already several whalewatching boats present. The captain of the boat acted as secondary tour guide to keep things interesting. Again, after about ten minutes or so, we saw a whole pod of about five or six whales - the tour guide said there was a baby with them too. The boats aren't allowed to get more than 100 yards from the whales, but the whales can do whatever they want, and they seemed determined to give all the watchers a good time - first coming up near one boat, then another, and then ... our boat! A couple of them came up right there (points to a spot no more than 25 feet away.) And, okay, I didn't get great photos, but I don't care, because I saw whales! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
From there we went by bus (and got a hearty snack) to the Mendenhall Glacier, where the Parks Service has a visitor's center. Our Tour Guide took us along a nature trail, about five minutes or so to a bridge over a creek where salmon were spawning. The bears really like the spawning salmon - it's like a buffet - and right around the corner from the bridge was a bear! It wandered off down the trail we were going to take, so we turned around and went back the way we came.
After that, we walked over to see the Mendenhall Glacier. There's a small lake that the glacier feeds, with little icebergs in the lake. The Visitor's Center is maybe a mile across the lake from the edge of the glacier. It was really gorgeous.
Ketchitour's Scenic Wildlife Tour by Trolley (Ketchikan)
About $30, purchased at the cruise dock
This tour was the first time we just found a tour when we got to port instead of buying ahead of time, and it was very disappointing. We weren't on a trolley, we were on an old school bus with not enough leg room. The Tour Guide (a woman whose name I've forgotten) didn't spend much time telling us about history, instead yelling at jaywalkers and telling us about her former husbands. Our big destination was a bridge outside of town, where we got to stand on the shoulder of the road and see lots of salmon spawning and a bald eagle. After spending about twenty minutes looking at fish, and not buying jam from her friends, we went back to town. Fortunately, the tour was only an hour or so.
Yukon Scenic Drive (Skagway)
About $100, purchased from Carnival in advance
We boarded a tourbus (a nice bus with comfortable seating for about 25 people) in Skagway which took us into Canada - through a small slice of British Colombia into the Yukon Territories, to a town called Carcross. The scenery on this drive was magnificent. A few locations along the way were foggy in the morning, but by the time we returned in the afternoon the fog had cleared.
We had lunch at the Spirit Lake Wildreness Resort in Carcross - bland sandwiches and pie, soup, and fresh fruit. I liked that the tour guide radioed the restaurant ahead of time with special dietary needs - we had three vegetarians and two no red meat eaters on board - and the restaurant was able to prepare food appropriately.
Our tour guide, Mark, was excellent. He really knew his stuff - history, geography, life in a small Alaska town - everything we wanted to know, presented in a friendly manner. He even recited Alaska-themed poetry to us! He took photos of everyone (with their own cameras) at the "Welcome to the Yukon" and "Welcome to Alaska" signs, and kept an eagle eye out for wildlife - we didn't see much, but not because he didn't try! This was our first excursion, so I was still getting a feel for how much to tip tour guides - in retrospect, I wish I'd tipped him more. (If you do this tour - and you should - and get Mark for your Tour Guide, tip him an extra dollar for me.)
Ogden Point Cruise Shuttle (Victoria)
About $10 round trip, purchased at the cruise dock
This was not technically a tour, but it turns out that the cruise terminal in Victoria is a 45-minute walk from downtown, so we took a double-decker bus for the trip downtown (and a single-decker for the return trip.) The buses were clean, the staff was friendly, and they had a handy little map of the area we were in, including their stops and tourist destinations.
Victoria was nice, but I regret we didn't get to spend more time here, especially during daylight hours