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How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

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Sunnyvale, CA
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How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

We are planning on going to Alaska next summer on our own (i.e. not with a cruise ship). We were in Alaska before and saw Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali & Seward and loved it. This time we will see Denali again, Chena & Glacier Bay which I assume will not be *that* crowded but we are also planning to visit Juneau and Ketchikan (and renting a car in both places). I found a cruise ship schedule for these towns and there will be 3-4 ships in each day during the entire time we will be in Alaska. We are an outdoorsy family and would like to hike around, see Mendenhall glacier, zip line, rain forest walks, Mt. Roberts Tramway (& hiking), Misty Fjords cruise and try avoid huge amounts of pushy people and long waits for a restaurant and long lines for, well, just about everything. Is it really unpleasantly crowded in the towns when there are that many cruise ships around?

We were in Europe this year and it seemed everywhere we went, even the hiking trails in Switzerland, there were huge groups of pushy tour groups and this really spoiled the trip for us. We would like to avoid this.

Perth, Australia
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1. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

We were in both last month, travelling independently. There was at least that many cruise ships in Juneau during our 3 day stay. Yes downtown was very busy, we weren't there to shop so it didn't bother us. Once you walked a few blocks up, there was virtually nobody else, just a few friendly locals. The only time we queued for dinner was at the Hangar, and that was only about 15mins, never had any trouble at lunchtime. May I recommend "Traceys Crab Shack" and "Flight Deck" ( both little vans/booths) for "fast" really good lunch food. I think the ships arrive at different times also, one day we were in Juneau, none arrived til 11.30 so if you have a hire car you can get out to Mendenhall early. We did that and only a handful of people there.The Mt Roberts Tramway didn't run until the ships arrived so it was very busy. Once again though the higher you walked once you got out, the thinner the crowd became. Glacier Bay is not crowded at all. Most of the time we barely saw anyone else on the trails around the G.B Lodge. Cant comment about Ketchikan as there was no ships in town the day we were there.

fti
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2. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

I agree with perthlady. Just this summer I was in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan when ships were in town. You can easily avoid 90% of cruise ship passengers by staying away from the downtown areas.

It was a good point to check the cruise ship docking schedules. We ended up downtown Ketchikan in late afternoon, as one of the cruise ships was leaving. Stores were empty, the Discovery Center was empty and most of downtown was deserted.

It is VERY easy to lose the cruise ship passengers if your objective is not shopping (mine isn't) and you do a small amount of advance planning.

haines, alaska
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3. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

Good morning Lanamom......you might enjoy adding Haines into your itenerary......we get one cruise ship per week (on Wednesdays)...........Glacier Bay is just over the mountain from Haines and there are flights to GB-Gustavus that depart from Haines several times a day......if your family includes children, there are lots of places to explore here....I would be happy to answer any specific questions you have

http://www.haines.ak.us/

Ketchikan
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4. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

I live and work in downtown Ketchikan and it's true the port area is very, very crowded when ships are in. The port, fortunately, is only about a four square block area of our lovely community. You can go a half mile away in any direction and have all the peace and quiet you desire. Tour groups are not allowed on our trail system, on our gorgeous public beaches or in most wilderness areas. The restaurants right on the dock are busy, but walk a few blocks or take the bus to the "west end" as we call our local shopping district and you will find numerous restaurants with seats available. I really like the waterfront Narrows Inn about three miles from the dock and Diaz Cafe or the Ketchikan Coffee Company at the New York Hotel which are on Stedman just past our famed Creek St. I eat at both all summer long with no problem. There is lots to see and do in Ketchikan that has nothing to do with the cruise business. Come visit!

haines, alaska
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5. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

Hi Rainbirder

Re: "Tour groups are not allowed on our trail system, on our gorgeous public beaches or in most wilderness areas"......interesting, is that something you Ketchikanians voted on, or is that a forest service ruling......I don't believe we have that here in Haines Borough in our State Parks or Forests......I would think that a "public beach" would be open to all......

Lake Tahoe...
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6. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

As for restaurants I think you will find that most cruise ship visitors will eat on ship as meals are included. As for pushy people I don't believe they are here, or at least I never had problems, even the hiking trails in Switzerland. We were there in 2007 at the beginning of October and the trails were not crowded. We were at Mürren, and hope to get back there again.

Lakeland, TN
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7. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

A few years ago my wife and I arrived by cruiseship in Ketchikan, somewhat turned off by the cruiseline arranged side trips ie: Glacier trekking and float plane flights into Misty Fijords Natl' Park, where you pay a couple of hundred bucks to pack into a small plane or chopper with a bunch of other shipmates and take off on a well travelled, scripted mini-journey. We didn't do any of these, rather we walked off the ship and strolled down the waterfront, checking out the restaurants and dock front addresses, passing a regional airline terminal and then we noticed a few moored float planes. We decided to stop and ask about them. It turns out that the smallest one (4-seater) was available for hire, with the veteran pilot available to take off now. We checked him out with the terminal manager down the road and found he was well regarded and safe, with a 16 year safe flying record. He quoted us a price for a custom trip back in to the fijords which would get us back in plenty of time before the ship departed, and was about $50 cheaper than the packed planes booked by the cruizeline. No repetitive jokes and memorized scripts over a crackling speaker, just a scenic flight over water, mountains and wildlife, with a choice as to what kind of lake to land on. We hit the water on an isolated lake which seemed as if it had never seen a human - in among tall snow covered peaks with waterfalls on all sides. We opened the doors and stood on the flat surface of the pontoons (with lifejackets on, of course), and I asked the pilot how deep the water was. He replied "about 1200 feet" at which point I gripped the strut with both hands! We saw a Grizzly and Mountain Sheep, and I felt like Harrison Ford when we took off toward the steep side of a mountain on the way out of there. There is no way anyone else on that ship has the memories we do. Upon landing, the pilot, with whom we had become friends, drove us to the street we needed to be on and said goodbye. I wish I could remember his name or the name of his plane for you, but maybe you could inquire on a stroll down the waterfront like we did.

Juneau, Alaska
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8. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

I'll second (third or fourth) the comment that it's pretty easy to get away from the cruise crowds in Juneau, just go a short distance away from downtown.

The tram terminal is right downtown and the area at the top of the tram can be crowded when several ships are in. But as with downtown, most people stay close to the tram landing and lower trails. if you hike up beyond Father Brown's Cross, you're not likely to see many other people.

For a quieter experience at the Mendenhall Glacier, go to the Skaters Cabin (west) side; since you're outdoor folks you might want to hike West Glacier Trail to the glacier's face (not too many hikers there, although the helicopter noise can be rather exhausting if there are lots of tours going overhead).

Juneau has many many miles of lovely trails, some of which see only a couple of people per day. If you end up going on the rainforest zipline tour (at Eaglecrest), plan in some extra time to hike the road to the top of the chairlift, for beautiful mountain scenery. Or try Herbert Glacier Trail, or the Scout Camp trail at Eagle Beach. If you're ambitious, climb one of the mountains--Mt. Jumbo is a great hike, as is Mt. Juneau, though both are challenging.

Take a picnic and drive "out the road"--there are dozens of little pocket beaches along the way that you can walk down to and--especially if it's a weekday--you can have the place to yourself. Watch for whales, seals, sea lions, seabirds.

Ketchikan
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9. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

Hi mombear, I know historically that tours have had to get approval for access to the National Park Lands. They want very badly, for instance, to do nature walks around Ward Lake and have been turned down, but I'm not clear by who. I guess it's not fair to say tour groups can't walk on a public beach, but the tours don't as far as I can tell since there is no trail, or start and finish point to the beaches or they are long hikes, such as the one to Coast Guard beach. The legalities may not be the issue as much as the practicalities of fitting a group into small spaces. The tours do unload at City Park regularly, but they don't stay long.

10. Re: How busy is Juneau & Ketchikan when cruise ships are in town

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