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Home > Member Reviews > TulipL0ver's Port Reviews of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria

TulipL0ver's Port Reviews of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria
Oosterdam cruise in June 2013
Member Name: TulipL0ver
Cruise Date: June 2013
Embarkation: Seattle
Destination: Alaska
Member Review: TulipL0ver's Oosterdam Review
Juneau
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+


In Juneau, once you disembark, there is a row of activity kiosks manned by young people waiting to answer your questions, book your excursion, and of course, take your money. Near the kiosks is the official Juneau Visitors' Center which will also answer questions, provide maps and brochures, and give local advice. At the kiosks, we bought passes to ride a shuttle to the Mendenhall Glacier, just out of town. Each pass was $16 pp rt. At the National Park, we decided not to pay the extra $3 for a wrist band to enter the Visitors' Center and instead walked out to Nugget Falls. The hike is pretty flat on a wide gravely road, and didn't take more than 15-20 minutes. You can get close enough to the falls to feel the spray, but from this viewing point you are still far from the actual glacier. You really can't get close to the glacier unless you pay for a helicopter excursion to fly you out on to it; be forewarned that those type of excursions are quite pricy and book up quickly. After returning to town, we took pictures outside the Red Dog Saloon, bought specialty popcorn from a local vendor, and went to the Juneau State Museum looking for some place cool. Yes, Alaska was having a heatwave that week, and we wanted to find some place air conditioned. The State Museum is small but has information about indigenous people, wildlife, early settlement of Alaska, and contemporary artwork. After the museum, we walked back to the Mt.Robertson Tramway, where we bought tickets for $30 pp rt. There is a trail that you may hike from town to the top of the peak; someone told us it would take one hour, someone else said two. But given our lack of time, we forked over the money and were whisked to to top with its spectacular views of Juneau and Douglass Island. There are hiking trails on top, and we hiked out to the Cross before turning around to return to the cruise ship. Be aware that in mid-June there are still patches of snow on top of the Mt. Robertson trails, and there are swarms of gnats lingering over the areas of melting snow. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and perhaps carry something, like a trail guide, to swat away the insects. Also, be sure to give yourself plenty of time for the tram ride back down the mountain. Everyone lines up to go down when it gets close to sail away, so go a little early in order to arrive at the ship on time.



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Sitka
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+


The Oosterdam is one of the few cruise ships which stops in Sitka, which is too bad because it is a very charming town. This is a tender port, so the crew has to lower the enclosed life boats to ferry the guests back and forth to the dock. A local told me that this can be quite expensive for the cruise lines, and there is speculation that someday the ships may no longer come. However, there is quite a bit to see and do in this little town, and residents seem generally friendly, even with the influx of tourists on Cruise Ship Days.

The first thing you notice when you arrive at the dock is that hometown feel: local kids selling homemade bake goods for snacks, local operations offering various excursions, residents selling passes to the hop-on, hop-off bus. We were a little disoriented at first, confused by the choices, but ended up paying $10 pp for an all-day bus pass. By riding the bus, we were able to go to the convention center where the Russian dancers were preforming, the Russian Bishop's House, the Sitka Aquarium, the Totem Pole National Park, and the Alaska Raptor Center. We ran out of time, so didn't get to see the Cathedral or the Bear Rescue Center, which other people said was amazing. We bought a couple of souvenirs downtown, but definitely could have used more time to shop.

Sitka is pretty isolated. The hop-on, hop-off bus driver told us that it is cheaper to fly from Seattle to Hong Kong than it is to fly from Seattle to Sitka. I'm not sure if that statistic is really accurate, but I do know that Sitka is quite a gem--so much history, hometown flavor, beautiful scenery--that I would highly recommend that you visit if you can.


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Ketchikan
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+


Ketchikan is a great shopping port. There are many gift shops, canned salmon markets, and jewelry stores within easy walking distance of the pier. If you want to go a little further up hill, the free downtown bus will take you to Creek Street, the former red light district now with its art galleries and high end souvenir shops, and to the Ketchikan Museum. There is also a totem pole museum up behind town that the free bus stops at. There is a cheesy--and quite pricy--lumberjack show within easy walking access of the cruise ships and a Children's Discovery Museum close by. But be warned, always take your umbrella and extra waterproof jacket with you when you leave the cruise ship, even if it's not raining when you disembark. The weather changes quickly in Ketchikan--and that change usually means rain. Even though your ship is docked at the pier, it can be too much of a hassle to return to your stateroom for your rain gear, but at the same time, the drizzle can be annoying. So it's best to go prepared--I wish I had.



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Victoria
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+


Victoria is a very short port stop. Most cruise ships arrive by 6 pm and must leave by midnight; otherwise, the cruise line will have to pay for another day's port fees. Unfortunately, the day we arrived we dilly-dallied before disembarking the ship--we went to look at our cruise ship photos and we had dinner at the MDR. By the time we left around 7:30 pm, the port authority attendants told us it was too late to make it out to Butchart Gardens and back in time for sail away. I was extremely disappointed, since I had wanted to see the gardens since one of my work colleagues told me about them years and years ago. Thankfully, our taxi driver was not fazed by our request. He drove us out to the gardens in 20 minutes, waited an hour for free, then drove us back to the pier by way of downtown Victoria so we could take pictures of the Parliament House and the Empress Hotel. This jaunt, however, was not cheap. The posted price of a taxi to the Butchart Gardens is around $50 USD plus tip, and the entrance price to the gardens is $30 pp, a little cheaper for youth. So basically we spent over $200 for our brief evening's outing. The ship's excursion would have been slightly more expensive, but we would have been forced to leave the ship earlier thus guaranteeing more time at the gardens. Probably the best would be to pick a cruise ship that arrived in Victoria early in the day--that way you would have lots of time at the gardens in the sunlight without the numerous other cruisers. But as I said, not many ships arrive before 6 pm. Once the taxi driver dropped us off at the pier, we walked out the causeway to the miniature lighthouse at the end. From the causeway we had gorgeous views of downtown Victoria, the sunset, the full moon, the nighttime scuba divers, and the two well-lit cruise ships docked at the pier. It was a great photo opportunity and it was free.



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