So, you have booked an Un-Cruise, (ISD) now what? Due to the unpredictable nature of air travel I ALWAYS recommend flying in to your starting point a day early. This way, if the flight is delayed you don’t quite literally “miss the boat”. Our two week Inside Passage was booked round trip to/from Juneau, but this trip can also be booked roundtrip to/from Ketchikan.
You can use the pre-trip options that are offered by InnerSea, or you can book on your own. I chose to save some money, and book on our own. We travelled with another couple who were arriving on the same flight. I reserved a taxi to take us from the airport to Juneau with Evergreen Taxi http://www.evergreentaxi.com/. Note, however, there were several taxis from another company waiting in line at the airport, but there were four of us, so we needed a van to accommodate all of us and our luggage. The fare including tip was about $40 from the airport to the hotel.
On the way into town the taxi driver pointed out some local spots. She suggested we try Russian dumplings at Pel’meni for lunch the next day. The place is frequented by local and only serves two things, meat or potato dumplings. They are spicy only because of the what the cook puts on top (curry, cilantro and hot sauce), you can ask him to hold the hot sauce, but that is half the fun. For $6.00 you can’t go wrong with this little gem of a place. YUM!!! http://www.yelp.com/biz/pelmeni-juneau
We chose to stay at the Westmark Baranof Hotel and each couple booked a two room suite, with two bathrooms and a separate sitting area for $159 per night. http://www.westmarkhotels.com/juneau.php.
Your bags have to be at the Gold Belt Hotel by 1:00 PM and can be dropped off as early as 9:00 AM. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Baranof, by the way the oatmeal with fresh fruit was yummy. We then checked out around 10:00 AM and ordered a taxi, which arrived in less than five minutes. We took the taxi to the Gold Belt (half a mile away). The taxi cost us $15.00 including tip. We checked our carry on and checked bags in with the ISD staff at the Gold Belt and took off to explore Juneau. You will want to keep a day bag with you during the day and be sure and keep your rain gear handy. (NOTE: Be sure to double check these times with InnerSea. )
The Juneau State Museum http://www.museums.state.ak.us/asm/asmhome.html is walking distance from the Gold Belt Hotel and is well worth an hour or two. It has a very interesting exhibit about the various peoples who populated Alaska for centuries and an interesting historical exhibit about Alaska after the Russians arrived. They have a free coat room and free lockers (large), so you can stow your day bag and rain gear while you visit the museum.
After the Museum, you can stroll through town, pass quickly by the big cruise ship docks and take the Mount Roberts Tram (if the weather is nice) for a view. http://www.goldbelttours.com/mount-roberts-tramway . Cost is $29.00 per adult and is good for the day. Note: We did not do this, as it was pouring rain the day we were in Juneau.
If you are inclined you can shop at the dock side jewelry stores and gift shops. Most of these are owned by the cruise lines. I frankly don’t understand going to Alaska to buy jewelry, but to each his own. You can also visit the infamous Red Dog Saloon. It’s one of those places that everyone must experience at least once. FYI you can order root bear if you are so inclined.
At the foot of the tramway, you can pick up the Blue Glacier Express Bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. The bus runs a schedule based on the big ships arrival and departure and costs $16.00 round trip. I suggest contacting the Mighty Great Trips (MGT) to find out what schedule they will be running on the day you will be in Juneau, the owner will give you tips about beating the big cruise ship crowds. MGT also offers some other rather inexpensive tour options, just remember that they do cater to the big ships. http://www.mightygreattrips.com/tours/
If you like crab, stop by Tracy’s King Crab Shack http://www.kingcrabshack.com/index.html. You order from the truck and then sit in a heated patio area. My husband and I had the Crab Bisque and it was wonderful. Our friends split a Half Snow Crab and Half Dungeness Crab and said it was amazing.
On our trip with ISD we made a stop in Wrangell for a day. They have a very nice museum that is walking distance from the dock http://www.wrangellalaska.org/museum/index.html.
Several people on the ship hiked up Mt. Dewey http://www.seatrails.org/com_wrangell/trl-mtdewey.htm.
I called Breakaway Adventures http://www.breakawayadventures.com/stikine.htm from my cell phone and booked a jet boat tour on Stikine River. We invited other cruisers to join us, but none took us up on it, so we had a private jet boat tour and got to sit right up front with Captain Eric Yancy. The boat was completely enclosed and nice and warm. I had expected wet with lots of spray, but that was not the case. (Note that we did miss lunch on the ship, but grabbed some fruit and granola bars which are always available in the dining room. )
Ketchikan is such a cute town. This was our third time in Ketchikan. I highly recommend the Cape Fox Lodge, which is the ISD meeting place as your pre or post departure accommodation. This town is just plain fun to walk around and explore. The little shops that dot Creek Street are all great fun to visit and most, if not all are owned by local families, not big cruise lines.
You can walk on a paved path 2.5 miles south of town to the Saxman Village and Totem Park, but be advised you won’t be allowed access to the clan house or carving shed, unless you arrive with a tour from Ketchikan. The tours are only available through a big cruise ship. The hike was nice and the totem poles are interesting but it was disappointing to be told we needed to be with a tour group to gain access. We did catch a city bus back to town for $1.00 per person.
Another couple took the $1.00 bus to Totem Bight State Park and they were able to gain access to the clan house. It is about ten miles out of town so the bus or taxi would be needed. I have not been here, but I think this would be a better option than going to the Saxman Village. http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm.
Hope you enjoy your time in Southeast Alaska.