6 Insidious Things Alaska Crusaders Catch (2023)

6 Smart Things Alaskan Cruise Lines Keep Remembering

While there are already many things that draw passengers to Alaska, I want to point out something that many cruise lines stumble upon before they even get there. That includes my good friends Graham and Pete.

After watching my videos from my recent cruise in Alaska, they booked a cruise on Norwegian Bliss. They enthusiastically told me they would visit the ports I suggested and they also spent some scenic days at sea on glacier cruises.

But they fell into the cruise trap.

#1: Harbor Fishing

Looking at their itinerary, I noticed that when they call at three major ports (Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan), they don't stay more than four hours each. They arrived so early in the morning that their viewing time was more than two to three hours.

They had only been in Victoria three hours on the way back to Seattle, but it was already eight in the evening. Worse, they weren't scenic cruises through prime glacial terrain.

Check your options – twice!

Had they chosen another cruise at the same time and price as mine on the Majestic Princess or the Nieuw Statendam, they would have had all day in ports. This would allow for better and mandatory glaciers like Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Alley.

Too many cruise lines focus on the route map and don't carefully review the time spent in each port. This is something that consistently attracts tourists and doesn't give them the maximum Alaskan cruise experience.

Luckily they had time to fix the problem and I convinced them to switch to a cruise that would offer them the best opportunities.

Then I had to make sure they didn't get caught exploring. Here I had seemingly conflicting warnings and advice.

#2 Unnecessary tour hook

First, I pointed out the many great things to do in Alaskan cruise ports that cruise lines would sell as tours, but many don't require cruise lines for them. If they relied on the line, they would lose flexibility and incur unnecessary costs.

Here are some examples from these three most visited ports where I have warned that they can be caught on ships of the line.

Go away

I Ketchikan, Greater Alaskalumberjack showIt's fun and the cruise line would sell it as a trip. But all this means that they are brought to him and sit in a certain place.

However, they could purchase tickets online or on-site for much less, around $37 for adults and $18 for children. It is a short and well-marked walk from where the ships dock.

A must-do Alaska cruise!

At Skagway the line would sell rides to - I think that will do -White Pass und Yukon Railway. It's a great experience, but again, you can book tickets for any departure for less (about $142 for adults and $71 for kids).

On a cruise, you'd have to escort them to the train, which admittedly often departs from the ship's dock, and that's it. The publicly booked buses usually depart from the train station, which is also close to where the ships dock.

In Juneau, instead of a cruise, there is an excursionGoldbelt Mount Roberts tramFor breathtaking views from 1,800 feet above the city, simply order your tickets online or on site. It's right on the main pier and you can go there whenever you want.

Cruises to Mendenhall Glacier 14 miles from Juneau are popular but expensive and at times limit time on the glacier to just 20 minutes.

I suggested using local insteadhigh-capacity busesIt costs about $2 each way. But since it's a 1 hour bus ride and a 30 minute 1.5 mile walk I suggested they use the Blue Bus Glacier Express which would cost about $45 round trip and they did from the parking lot in front to take the tram directly to the visitor center. I told them they could only get tickets on sites like Viator or Expedia or at the waterfront.

I warned them not to get involved in booking things where the cruise line doesn't offer much value, but to book these alternatives in advance as they often sell out on busy port days.

But on a couple of trips I've told them they'd be surprised if they didn't book a cruise.

#3: A Safer Ride

If they're planning on taking more exotic trips to Alaska, like flying or helicoptering to glaciers for dog sledding or hiking, and they're concerned about expense, I've suggested that they might get caught making potentially bad decisions for money reasons.

These are expensive trips, costing hundreds of dollars and potentially involving greater risk. The cruise line has done a lot of research and shut down some of the best providers based on years of experience.

When to Trust a Cruise Line?

While hiking accidents in Alaska are very rare, they do happen. I mentioned that I was brought to my attention by a tragic incident in 2021 when guests of Holland American Nieuw Amsterdam booked their own seaplane tour from Ketchikan and sadly died in the crash.

On these more expensive and exotic voyages, I personally use and rely more on the cruise ship experience and history. But I told them that if they'd rather not, they would like to book at the port, which they can easily do as there are many stalls in the port selling tours, so do a little checking before confirming .

For example, "Google" the provider and check their reviews on TripAdvisor or CruiseCritic on your phone. Or before your trip, ask your cruise roll call on CruiseCritic if anyone has had a good experience or supplier recommendations that they've felt safe and impressed with.

Knowing they are big souvenir buyers on their travels, I had to warn them not to get caught here.

#4: Shopping Corner

I've seen Alaskan cruise lines fall into several traps that make them more money than they should.

Advisor for the port purchase

It all starts on board the ship with support from the cruise line itself. On every Alaskan cruise I've been on, Port Buyers are on board to chat and hand out coupons and cards.

They are not employed by cruise lines and are not impartial, nor do they necessarily recommend the best quality or value for money stores.

They actually work for advertising companies likeMultimedia an BordIPPI groupand earn commissions by forcing cruise passengers to shop at certain Alaskan port stores, such as Diamonds International and Effy Jewelery stores, Del Sol's color-changing clothing stores, and so on.

These businesses also pay cruise lines hefty fees to participate in these programs. Investigation led byHuffington PostamtFor example, businesses in Alaska Harbor reportedly pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for admission each year.

Free – not so free!

I warned them that, just like me, they might find discount coupons and free amulets in the onboard cabin to collect, promising to get even more free gifts by visiting some stores. But they must remember that they are designed to get them to visit stores that may not offer the best value for money, with highly qualified salespeople to entice them to buy jewelry, watches, diamonds and clothing – and not always at the cheapest and best prices.

However, if you follow the adviser's advice and don't want to get caught, at least double check online prices to see if it's a good deal before you buy.

Local vs Network

The next area I see Alaskan cruise ships getting caught shopping in port is the large gift shops near the port area. Some reports say they are line owned but I haven't been able to confirm this but they appear to be chains not locally owned.

So I suggested to Graham and Pete that they really should support the community they are calling to look for nearby stores that often sell the same or similar items.

Local businesses proudly advertise it on their signs or shop windows, making it easy to find. However, I warned them that it might mean stepping back a block or two from those who had gathered on the right as they exited the ship.

Local Wares

This prompted me to tell you about another way day trippers are caught buying souvenirs and taking something to commemorate the trip.

Most of the items in the stores are mass-produced, made in China for example, and have almost no relation to Alaska itself. I told them that if you enter different ports, you will see the same item with the port name changed.

Instead, I advised you to look for items with the Silver Hand and Made in Alaska logos when shopping. They are inspected, monitored and subject to claim to ensure the authenticity of Alaskan goods.

price list

When I bought it, I asked them not to fall for the "Smoke and Mirrors" promotions in stores.

I indicated that they were skeptical about big discounts off the so-called regular retail price, multiple purchases like buying three shirts for the price of two, and other commercial tricks. I admit I got caught buying more mugs, t-shirts and candy than I needed, thinking it was a good deal. It was not!

#6: Catch the tourist traps

I stressed that we don't want to get into the fact that Alaska has few ports. The cruise season in Alaska is short so all are geared and designed to save us as much money as possible.

Skagway, for example, has just over a thousand permanent residents, but when cruise ship passengers arrive, the town explodes. So you should be prepared for places with "tourist traps". That doesn't mean they won't have fun there, but places near the port, like bars and restaurants, are crowded, expensive, and often made for tourism.

Search for local hotspots

In Juneau, for example, there are often long lines at the dock for places like Tracy's Crab Shack, but 10 minutes away in a quieter, more local part of town where there are floating planes, I told them they could find more authentic restaurants. asFish and Chips aus Alaskawhere I ate the best fish and chips I have eaten in a long time.

The Red Dog Saloon is also one of Juneau's most famous venues. However, the original Red Dog Saloon was long gone and was two blocks away. Even if they find it crowded and very popular, the main thing is to create a place where passengers like them can have fun and make a lot of money.

I've also argued that while exploring port cities is fun, don't get caught up in it like many cruise lines do, as the best sights are outside of the cities and make for a more rewarding experience while sailing Alaska becomes.





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