There is NO NEED to book a tour of Mendenhall Glacier - it is EASY and CHEAP to take the shuttle and walk around by yourself without be "herded" with the masses and have limited time to see what interests you specifically. We loved walking around on our own and if we had booked a tour, we would have missed a totally chance encounter with a mama bear and her cub at the Steep trail.
We booked a private charter for just 3 of us on a small 6-person boat and we saw a FANTASTIC display of whale bubble net feeding! It was just us so NO jostling for the best photo position and NO waiting for the best spots. Our Captain Liz was absolutely fantastic and it was expensive but totally worth it for us.
This is a magical, trip of a lifetime place. It's too bad that it is not feasible for the Volendam to offer this excursion. Although it was the most expensive thing we did, it was the best and unforgettable.
We took a float plane to Anan Creek Bear Observatory for a completely magical experience. The float plane itself was in great condition and the pilot was very experienced and we felt very safe. However, as a whole, the rest if Island Wings seemed very very disorganized and completely underestimated how long it would take for us to hike back to a different pick up point due to low tide. We barely made it back to the ship on time and the other couple was actually very late but luckily, the other ship waited.
The float plane ride itself was great and so was the pilot. The guide was very knowledgeable and we were glad he was with us but he totally underestimated when we needed to leave. We had to HOOF IT back down and walk about an extra 3/4 mile due to low tide. The Island Wings assistant was NOT great at all.
We enjoyed the less expensive Summer Mush Camp experience. You don't really get to "mush" per se - the dogs just run you around for about 30 minutes in large group in a modified golf cart. But...the ride up in the Unimog was unexpectedly interesting and so was the shuttle ride up to the camp. Our mushers were very knowledgeable and courteous and I saw no signs that any of the dogs were in distressed, abused or in bad condition. Yes - each dog's quarters are basic - no frills and not ideal. With that said, they seemed happy and healthy and ready to run. They are working dogs. Best of all - we got to HOLD A PUPPY. Now, if you are expecting top notch purebred Huskies and experienced Iditarod racers, then this isn't for you. But we enjoyed it.
This was a GREAT experience. The naturalist on the catamaran to the glacier was great and the kids that take you on the canoe ride are enthusiastic and not interested in clever, chatty, "canned" pitches of what we are seeing and doing. They were low key and quiet and you could just enjoy the quiet and the experience. This was such an unexpectedly unique and splendid experience. The paddling is NOT strenuous and is very brief. Word of caution - while I was paddling I was completely fine and during the rest of the evening I was fine. The next morning, my back was in pain. I must have pulled something while paddling. But, I would still do this again in a heartbeat. Just be careful.