My husband and I are going on our first cruise in July on Vision of Seas (20th Anniversary). With so many excursions available-is there any reason to "book ahead" for them? We have heard conflicting advice-All the good ones will be gone versus plenty of onsite vendors to choose from. Also, we pre-paid our tips-but I do realize that for extra good service, we will want to tip more-how can I be sure that our wait-staff, etc know that they can count on us to show our appreciation for their services? Thanks in advance for any insight.
If you see a particular excursion that you think you really would like to do, then I would book it before your cruise. Since this is your first cruise I think you would feel more comfortable booking the ship's excursions and not trying to do something offsite. As mentioned in other areas on this site, if you booked on a ship's excursion the ship will wait if your late.
The service on the ship should be good whether you tip extra or not. However; alot of people slip the staff something at the beginning of the cruise.
My wife and I have been on 14 cruises including two cruises to Alaska. Alaska, Hawaii, England Scotland, Ireland, and northern Europe are places where you can go on your own because English is either the official language or English is widely spoken. I am not opposed to ship excursions but only when I want to see something that is not easily accessible on our own.
Consider renting a car in Juneau and Skagway because a car will give you the flexibility to see more than if you go on a tour. The exception to this is a helicopter ride which are expensive. Car rentals may be a bit higher than at home but you do not need anything fancy.
Ketchikan and Sitka can be seen very easily on foot, that is, you can walk to see the major attractions in these cities.
Get the cars rented because you can always cancel without penalty. And driving in Alaska is fun because they have very good roads. Also, the ride from Skagway on up imto the Yukon is one of travel's great experiences.
Fruby is right, that you can easily walk to most (though not all) major attractions in Ketchikan and Sitka. Juneau is also quite walkable, except to the Mendenhall Glacier. I would caution that, if you are going to rent a car and drive yourselves around, that you be very aware of the time, and allow extra time to turn the car in, making sure you have a way to get back to the dock right away. The cruise ship will not wait for you if you get back late and are not on a ship's shore excursion. I would also remind you that if you decide to drive from Skagway into the Yukon, you will be crossing the U.S.-Canada border, and should have proper ID with you (passport or driver's license and certified birth & marriage certificates if U.S. citizens). Getting back into the U.S. at the border may take extra time if customs & immigration decides to do a search of you and/or your car.
If your heart is set on a special shore excursion - the White Pass Railway in Skagway, or a fishing excursion, helicopter or floatplane ride, whale-watching or wildlife cruise, or anything else where numbers may be limited, then by all means book it ahead of time. Once you have made final payment on your cruise, you can often do this on the cruise line's website; you'll need your booking number, ship name, sailing date and perhaps other information, depending on the cruise line you are using.
Have a wonderful cruise! Alaska is truly wonderful.
Thank you for the compliment, Fred! I owe whatever I have in writing ability to a battleaxe English grammar teacher in jr. h.s., and to computers, which allow me to go back and make corrections before posting (when I remember!)
Thanks for the insight. Still have concerns about the whole tipping issue but on the excursion topic/Book what is most important and be flexible on the rest. Has anyone else prepaid tips? What happens to the "envelope night" when you prepay..Is your staff told ahead of time that you already tipped? Thanks again for all your help.
The "envelope night" goes away with prepaid tips. However, you can still do that if you prefer, at least on most cruise lines. I have heard people have had good results if they give their stewards, waiters, etc. a small tip to start, letting them know there will be more later if service is good. In any case, if service is exceptional, it's probably a good idea to give an extra tip personally to the crew member in question, in addition to the prepaid tips. I'm sure they'll appreciate it, and most of them work extremely hard for what they get.
you did recommendations for a rental car in Juneau.
What kind of excursion could one do in July?
To Mendenhall Glacier we could easily go by shuttle-bus, we wouldn´t need a car.
What would you recommend?