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Alaska’s first city, Ketchikan, is surprisingly colorful. The buildings and waterfront are a mosaic of color: greens, reds, purples, and yellows are punctuated with totem poles (including the one in the U.S. passport!) and fishing industry memorabilia. Like most ports in the Last Frontier, Ketchikan has character – as do the Ketchikan shore excursions you can book during your Alaska cruise.
I’ve visited Ketchikan twice in recent years: once as part of an Alaska cruise in 2017 – my unforgettable UnCruise experience – and again as a port stop on my Windstar cruise in 2022. The UnCruise also began in Ketchikan, so I had the chance to explore town on my own and get to know a bit more about what this small Alaskan city has to offer.
Based on my experience, I’ve scoured the list of cruise excursions offered by the big cruise companies, and put together my own list of the best Alaska cruise excursions in Ketchikan. I also keep in mind some of the other tips on choosing Alaska cruise excursions. For each excursion, I list which cruise companies offer that one – so you can see whether your cruise is on the list.
These Ketchikan shore excursions sample the menu: history, culture, wildlife, scenery, food, and adventure. There’s something for everyone in Ketchikan, and this list will have at least one cruise excursion you’re keen to book in Ketchikan. Read on to discover each one and pick your Ketchikan cruise excursion!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní (traditional lands) of the Tlingit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in April 2020, and was updated most recently in October 2022 for the coming season.
The Best Ketchikan Cruise Excursions
Given how many cruise companies offer a number of interesting and unique shore excursions in Ketchikan, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these nine to be the bestKetchikan cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:
- I went through all of the Ketchikan excursions and chose the ones I think are worth doing (the V factor 😂)
- I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion in 2023.
- I force-ranked the excursions by uniqueness. (That means each excursion gets its own number, no ties)
- I gave each excursion a boost or deduction for being a good value based on the “Money-to-Time” Math.
- Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
- To break ties, I used the top Uniqueness score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!
Here’s my list of the best Ketchikan excursions:
|Tour||# of Cruises|
|1||Saxman Native Village & Lumberjack Show Combo||6||0|
|2||Rainforest Exploration & Raptor Experience||5||0|
|3||Lighthouse, Totems & Eagles Excursion||7||+4|
|4||Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer||7||+1|
|5||Coastal Cruise, Oyster Farm & Tasting||7||+1|
|6||Ketchikan Pub Crawl||8||-2|
|7||Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour||6||+1|
|8||Wildlife Safari & Beach Bonfire||8||-5|
|9||Tatoosh Islands Sea Kayaking||5||New!|
On my first visit to Ketchikan, it poured buckets pretty much the whole day. After all, Ketchikan receives precipitation 234 days per year on average! I didn’t let that dampen my spirits though, and neither should you. Even if it’s raining, these are the best cruise excursions in Ketchikan.
1. Saxman Native Village & Lumberjack Show Combo
Who Offers This Ketchikan Shore Excursion? Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
Like Skagway further up Alaska’s Inside Passage, Ketchikan is one of the major destinations for learning about state history. And the best Alaska cruise excursion in town lets you experience two of the major chapters in Ketchikan’s history: Alaska Native heritage and the industrial history that built the modern town.
There are several tours that include a visit to Saxman Native Village or the Lumberjack Show along with another activity – but this combo tour that has both is the one I recommend because it packs that one-two punch in a single tour.
2. Rainforest Exploration & Raptor Experience
Who Offers This Ketchikan Shore Excursion? Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, and Regent.
Level up your eagle experience in Ketchikan with this excursion – it includes a guided walk through the Tongass National Rainforest (yes, Alaska has a rainforest!) and a visit to a predatory bird sanctuary. There you’ll meet some of Alaska’s most badass birds: eagles, hawks, and owls too. I’ve had the chance to visit the sister sanctuary in Sitka, and it’s incredible to see these birds up close and see how wild they remain even as they rely on humans for care and rehabilitation.
3. Lighthouse, Totems & Eagles Excursion
Who Offers This Ketchikan Cruise Excursion? Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
If the culture-focused excursion I put as #1 and the scenery/wildlife one I put as #2 both sound good, consider this: this 3+ hour excursion allows you to board a shore cruise to Totem Bight State Park past Guard Island Lighthouse – Alaska Native history mixed with modern development. Along the way, you can keep your eyes peeled for Bald Eagles that nest in the shoreline trees.
Having visited Totem Bight State Park recently, I can say this is one of the best preserved and most peaceful places to learn about Tlingit history and culture; even on a group tour, it’s an undeniably peaceful place.
4. Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Ketchikan? Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
If learning about Alaska history isn’t your top priority on your cruise, I’m guessing scenery and wildlife are close to the top of the list. In that case, you should definitely consider booking this excursion to Misty Fjords National Monument.
Large cruise ships can’t enter Misty Fjords National Monument, so you’ll spend this 4.5-5 hour excursion aboard a smaller boat, exploring the deep fjord waterways looking for wildlife like bears and eagles. Having cruised in Misty Fjords on my first Alaska cruise, I highly recommend this one! (Note: this excursion doesn’t include kayaking like in my photo above, but I wanted to use that to show you the scenery!)
5. Coastal Cruise, Oyster Farm & Tasting
Who Offers This Ketchikan Cruise Excursion? Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.
Foodie travelers – I haven’t forgotten you! This is the first of three Ketchikan shore excursions I think is great if you love local food; this one takes the top place because it’s exclusive and indulgent. I mean, oysters are somehow always magically indulgent despite being simple shellfish.
On this 3-hour excursion, you’ll travel to Hump Island Oyster & Kelp Farm. There, you’ll learn about oyster farming – and kelp farming, which is apparently a thing! You’ll get a hands-on experience with Alaskan sealife, then go farm-to-table (or is it ‘hand-to-table’) with an oyster and kelp tasting. It literally doesn’t get fresher or more local than that!
6. Ketchikan Pub Crawl
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Ketchikan? Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
If your definition of ‘foodie’ really translates as ‘craft beer,’ then you’ll want to sidle up to the bar for this excursion. During a 90-minute tour of downtown Ketchikan, you’ll participate in a pub crawl through local watering holes, learning about the town’s colorful history along Creek Street.
Having recently sampled some of the craft beer and spirits being made in Ketchikan, I can say with confidence that this tour is delicious – though I wasn’t able to do this specific tour due to it only being offered certain days of the week when larger ships are in port.
7. Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour
Who Offers This Ketchikan Cruise Excursion? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, and Royal Caribbean.
If you love Deadliest Catch, this final excursion on my list is a much calmer version of that. During this 3.5-hour excursion, you’ll board the Aleutian Ballad – one of the ships from the TV show! – and cruise out to learn about crabbing and long-line fishing. It will give you an idea of one of the toughest jobs in Alaska.
8. Wildlife Safari & Beach Bonfire
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Ketchikan? Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.
When I review cruise excursions in each of the Alaska ports, I always look for a great one for families. While most Alaska cruisers are more mature travelers ticking it off their bucket list, there is an increasing percentage of families helping young travelers gain an appreciation for the beauty of our world.
That’s why this cruise excursion makes my list. This 3.5- to 4-hour tour includes a short cruise where you can try to spot harbor seals, bears, eagles, and other wildlife. You’ll then enjoy a wildfire with snacks ashore on Annette Island, including reindeer sausage and s’mores. Like I said: perfect for all ages!
9. Tatoosh Island Sea Kayaking
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Ketchikan? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.
As I was reviewing all of the Ketchikan cruise excursions available for 2023, I noticed a new one that I haven’t in years past: one which takes you out for a kayaking adventure at the Tatoosh Islands north of Ketchikan. Along the way, you’ll keep an eye out for marine life, sea and land birds, and more. This is a great option for adventurers who want to be active during their cruise.
You might wonder why this new excursion ranks “so low” on my list… it’s in part because there are many great kayaking activities across Alaska so the uniqueness score is lower compared to others on this list. That said, there are dozens of Ketchikan cruise excursions available across the many cruise companies, so to make to my list at all should give you confidence this is a great option if it calls out to you.
There you have it – my take on the best Alaska shore excursions in Ketchikan. Have other questions about visiting Ketchikan, taking an Alaska cruise, or choosing Alaska cruise excursions? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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