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Best Alaskan Cruise Excursions

Everything You Need to Know About Alaska Cruise Excursions

From dog sledding to mountain climbing, whale spotting to zip-lining, this article contains a wealth of information for future cruisers about the best shore excursions in Alaska. 

Whether you’re looking for Carnival shore excursions, Princess excursions, Holland America excursions, or shore trips from other Alaska cruises, the following list will give you an idea of all the exciting things there are to do in the Last Frontier. Now, let’s plan the ultimate Alaskan cruise adventure.

Dog Sledding in Fairbanks
Dog Sledding in Fairbanks. Photo courtesy of State of Alaska/Matt Hage.

Top 12 Alaska Cruise Shore Excursions

A cruise excursion is when a cruise ship stops and offers on-shore activities (guided walking tours, kayaking excursions, hiking, bus tours, etc.). Here are 12 of the most popular Alaskan cruise excursions. 

1. Dog Sledding

No Alaskan cruise is complete without a dog sledding excursion! Explore Juneau’s magnificent glaciers being towed behind a dozen Alaskan huskies. If you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to spot a musher’s camp!

2. Misty Fjords National Monument

Immerse yourself in wild Alaskan nature by visiting Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan.  You will be met with fantastic fjords, whimsical waterfalls, and glacial lakes — offering amazing opportunities for breathtaking photography. 

3. Mendenhall Glacier 

Less than 15-miles from Downtown Juneau is one of Mother Nature’s spectacular masterpieces. Mendenhall Glacier is part of Juneau’s 1,500-square-mile icefield and deserves a visit for all cruisers who are visiting Juneau. 

4. White Pass & Yukon Route

Built more than 120 years ago, White Pass & Yukon Route is a scenic railway that gives travelers views of some of Alaska’s most stunning naturescapes. This railway was built in 1898 whilst the Klondike Gold Rush was underway but still proves a worthwhile ride for anyone looking to create priceless memories. 

Bald Eagles at the Chilkat River
Bald eagles at the Chilkat River. Photo by Mscornelius/Getty Images.

5. Alaska Cruise Fishing Excursions

If you have the opportunity, participating in a fishing outing is one of the best excursions to be a part of on your Alaska cruise. Attempt crab fishing in Ketchikan or stream fishing in Icy Strait to be a part of an authentically Alaskan experience.


Get to know Alaska’s Gold Rush history by visiting Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park on horseback. Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or you’ve never ridden a horse in your life, you will enjoy taking in the spectacular landscapes via horseback. Most Gold Rush tours include Skagway (a quaint, historic town) followed by a peaceful ride through the meadows of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

7. Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Visit a 48,000-acre bald eagle preserve and enjoy riverside trails and wildlife spotting. If you’re on the fence about visiting just to see bald eagles, you’re in luck — while visiting Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve you might also spot bears, mountain goats, swans, and moose roaming the serene naturescape.

8. Juneau Helicopter Adventure

Take advantage of your Juneau excursion to get a bird’s eye view of the terrain. You can wonder at the magnificent Juneau Icefield, land on and explore a glacier, and learn all about the area from a knowledgeable pilot or tour guide.

Excursions Juneau Helicopter Glacier Tour VisionsbyAtlee Getty Images
Photo courtesy of

9. Whale Watching

One of the best and most authentic Alaskan excursions is going whale watching among the glaciers. Some of the types of whales you might see include humpback whales, gray whales, beluga whales, and killer whales. Some of the best spots for whale watching include: 

  • Icy Strait Point
  • Resurrection Bay
  • Juneau
  • Ketchikan

10. Chilkoot Lake Kayaking Excursion

Go kayaking in Chilkoot Lake and enjoy the serenity and solitude of your surroundings. During kayaking excursions at Chilkoot Lake, you should remember to bring your binoculars as wildlife is abundant in and around the lake. 

11. Glacier Trek

Another Alaskan adventure that you won’t want to miss is a guided glacier trek. Some of the most scenic glacier treks include: 

  • Mendenhall Glacier
  • Exit Glacier
  • Worthington Glacier
  • Portage Glacier
  • Grewingk Glacier

12. Denali Zipline Excursion 

If you want to start conquering your fear of heights with something a little less extreme than a helicopter ride, try a zip-lining excursion over Denali. Safe and secure in your harness, you can witness the wonders of Denali from above — at a speed of up to 60 miles an hour. 

Misty Fjords National Monument
Instagram-worthy Misty Fjords National Monument. Photo by Barbaraaa/Getty Images.

Alaska Cruise Excursions Tips

When it comes to Alaska cruise activities tips, here are five tips to ensure that your Alaskan excursions are fun, memorable, and comfortable. 

  1. Bring binoculars. This is especially important if you’re going whale or wildlife viewing!
  2. Visit an Alaskan brewery. Alaskan Brewing Co. and Denali Brewing Co. are two favorites among cruisers.
  3. Do a helicopter excursion. If you have the opportunity to see Alaska from the air, take it! Conquer your fear of heights while soaking in some of Mother Nature’s finest work.
  4. Dress for the weather. One of the most fatal excursion mistakes made is forgetting to dress appropriately. This can really put a damper on your enjoyment, so make sure that you wear comfy shoes and pack a light jacket for your day off the ship.
  5. Charge your camera. Don’t miss out on capturing special excursion moments by forgetting to charge or pack your camera!

Following these five simple tips will ensure that you have the best Alaska cruise excursions and finish your vacation with a host of good memories (and photos!) to reminisce about later. 

Nordic Skiing in Fairbanks
Nordic Skiing is a great activity if you’re looking for an active excursion. Photo by State of Alaska/Matt Hage.

Types of Excursions in Alaska Cruises

There are several different types of excursions that you might encounter during your Alaskan cruise. Some of the different types of excursions include:

  • Guided or unguided excursions. With guided excursions, you will be with a guide (either from the ship or a local), versus unguided excursions where you will be using your free time to explore and get off the beaten track.
  • Active or sightseeing excursions. The difference between these types of excursions is that active excursions involve anything activity-based. Ziplining, dog-sledding, or hiking are all active excursions while sightseeing excursions involve highlight tours and are generally inactive.
  • Full-day or partial-day excursions. Shore excursions in Alaska vary in length. Some may take you off of the ship for a brief half-day excursion, while other excursions might be all-day events.

Book Your Favorite Alaska Cruise and Excursions

At AAA, we offer a colorful selection of cruises, each offering unique Alaska excursions.

To start planning your adventure, call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to learn about our repertoire of cruises, receive travel guides, and more.

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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