12 Tips for the Best Alaska Cruise Experience Part 3 – Icy Strait, Ketchikan, the Inside Passage and Vancouver
A trip to Alaska should be on everyone’s “bucket list,” and an Alaska Cruise is a great way to explore this magnificent state. In Part One I discussed choosing your cruise and getting a great price, researching and booking excursions, and a few things to do in Alaska pre-cruise. Part Two covers tips for getting to your ship, viewing Hubbard Glacier and touring in Juneau and Skagway. In this final part, I will share my tips for enjoying your days in Icy Strait, Ketchikan, Vancouver, as well as your sea day sailing the Inside Passage.
Tip 9 – In Icy Strait do some shopping, take a stroll to Hoonah or go on a hiking tour
Icy Strait is a “made up” port, somewhat akin to the “Private Island” stop on some Caribbean cruises. It’s run by members of the First Nations Tlingit tribe and offers limited activities. Your options are shopping, strolling to nearby Hoonah, nature driving/hiking tours or whale watching. We chose whale watching, and it was a very expensive disappointment.
Suffice it to say, this isn’t the place I would recommend going on a whale-watching tour. Unless of course, you’ve never seen a whale in your life, and you don’t mind staying 500 YARDS AWAY from any whale your boat captain happens to spot (that’s the law in AK). One of the hiking tours is probably a better option. On the plus side, the shopping is pretty good in this port (lots of merch at decent prices). Additionally, the nearby town of Hoona is a short walk for places to grab a beer and enjoy the scenery.
Scenes from Icy Strait Point
These guys were snapped with a serious zoom lens – they were specks to the naked eye. : (
Tip 10 – In Ketchikan go for it and book a kayaking and flightseeing tour!
Ketchikan is known for being rainy, so brace yourself for that likelihood. That little fact aside, there are two fabulous things to do in Ketchikan. One is kayaking in nearby Orcas Cove (any yes, you will probably see Orcas, for free and up close). And two, taking a flightseeing tour to Misty Fjords National Monument. We chose to do a private combo tour of both through Southeast Sea Kayaks.
Now, not gonna lie – that combo tour is pricey. We chose to do it because for us it was a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and we were all glad we ponied up the cash and did it. The scenery was spectacular, and it was a very special memory for all of us. However, be sure you are going to be okay with it if you happen to get one of the many rainy days in Ketchikan. Alaska is still gorgeous in a misty drizzle!
Even taking a 5 hour combo tour, you will still have plenty of time to explore this fun town. Be sure to check out the many wonderful native art galleries and walk thru the historic old “red light district” on Creek Street. Another interesting site in town is The Rock, a bronze statue in the harbor which honors the people who shaped the history of Alaska – native peoples, gold miners, bush pilots, fishermen, and the women who ran boarding houses, businesses and um, “entertained”.
A few images from our day in Ketchikan
Downtown Ketchikan and The Rock
Kayaking in Orcas Cove
Flightseeing in Misty Fjords
We landed in Big Goat Lake to explore a glacial ice cave
Flightseeing in Alaska is not for the claustrophobic or the “small, old plane phobic”
Sailing the Inside Passage
Tip 11 – Get packed/unpacked early so you can enjoy the entire day on deck sailing through the Inside Passage
Your last (or first, depending on your direction) cruise day will be a sea day sailing the Inside Passage, a gorgeous blade of glassy water flanked by rolling hills dotted with idyllic farms and homesteads. Get as much packing/unpacking done the night before so you can enjoy every minute of your day up on deck soaking up the sun and gorgeous scenery. Not to mention this is the only day you are likely going to be warm enough to put on your bathing suit to make use of the hot tub and sauna.
On our ship the sauna (dry heat type) had huge panoramic windows to view the scenery. I was completely alone every time I went in there, so if you are looking for solitude, the sauna is your spot!
Some scenes from the Inside Passage
Tip 12 – Add some time for exploring the wonderful city of Vancouver
We chose to add some time in Vancouver after our cruise, and I highly recommend it. Vancouver is a fabulous city – clean, safe, full of all kinds of different cultures and cuisines. A must-do is to rent some bikes from the numerous rental shops and spend the day exploring Stanley Park. And definitely grab food from one of the many ethnic takeaway shops!
From hotels near the cruise ship pier, your cheapest, easiest option to get to the airport is the train. It’s easy to navigate and the friendly locals will help you figure out the ticket kiosks. Just make sure your hotel is near a train station or you will be schlepping all that cruise luggage a long way on the street!
Our beautiful day in Vancouver
Thanks for coming along on my tour through Alaska. I hope these tips on Icy Strait, Ketchikan, Vancouver and sailing the Inside Passage will help you have an amazing adventure of your own.
Check out Parts One and Two of this series for more great tips on making your Alaska Cruise the best trip ever!