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As you plan your Alaska cruise, you’ll see there are some destinations that almost every single cruise will visit. Juneau is one of those places. Nearly every cruise provider offers at least one cruise that goes through the capital city. The big cruise companies offer Juneau shore excursions you can take during your port stop there to help you fill the time (though you can certainly spend the time on your own). For smaller ships, you’ll have to book your own excursion since Juneau is often an embarkation or disembarkation port.
You’ll undoubtedly realize quickly that not only is Juneau a popular port stop; it’s also one of the ones with the most excursion options. It’s easy to become overwhelmed while trying to choose which one to do. What are the differences? How do you combine the experiences you want to have – if such a tour exists at all? Which are the best shore excursions in Juneau?
In this post, I break it down: I looked at all of the Alaska shore excursions in Juneau and chose the nine I think are the best. I chose them for you and put them in order based on what I know Alaska visitors will love. 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.
Having cruised through Juneau twice in the past few years, I know how overwhelming it can be to choose an excursion out of dozens of options. Let me help narrow it down for you; read on for the best Juneau cruise excursions for your Alaska cruise!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní of the Tlingit people. 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 February 2020, and was updated in October 2022 for the coming season.
The Best Juneau Cruise Excursions in 2023
Given how many cool things there are to do in Juneau and how many cruise companies offer a number of interesting and unique shore excursions in Juneau, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these nine to be the best Juneau cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:
- I went through all of the Juneau 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 Juneau excursions:
|Tour Name||# of Cruises|
|1||Mendenhall Glacier in a Traditional Canoe||10||0|
|2||Five-Glacier Seaplane Ride to Taku Lodge||10||+3|
|3||Dog Sledding & Glaciers by Helicopter||7||-1|
|4||Underground Gold Tour||6||-1|
|5||Gold Creek Alaskan Salmon Bake||8||New!|
|6||Bike & Brew Glacier View||8||+2|
|7||Glacier View Sea Kayaking||9||0|
|8||Juneau Food Tour||6||-4|
Not everyone will agree with this list – and it certainly isn’t the original list I wrote back for the 2020 season (ha!). But I feel confident that this list is both impartial but also informed by my expert advice. Now let’s dive into each one!
1. Mendenhall Glacier in a Traditional Canoe
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Juneau? Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.
This excursion caught my eye the best Alaska cruise excursions in Juneau because it’s one of the only to have a cultural element to it. (There are other cities/port stops in Alaska that offer better cultural experiences, like Haines and Skagway.)
You’ll board a traditional Tlingit-style canoe and paddle up to the face of Mendenhall glacier; be ready to feel the cold emanating from this massive ice floe! You can try to spot wildlife (bald eagles are big in Juneau!), feel the mist coming off nearby Nugget Falls, and have a snack as part of the excursion.
2. Five-Glacier Seaplane Ride to Taku Lodge
Who Offers This Juneau Cruise Excursion? Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.
As you can tell, some of the best excursions in Juneau are also pretty expensive. That’s primarily because Juneau has amazing sights that are best seen from the air.
This one makes the list because it is worth the splurge: you’ll enjoy a 40-minute flight, a history lesson about living in rural Alaska, and then a meal of fresh Alaskan salmon. In fact, this excursion is often chosen by past guests as the top excursion on their whole Alaska cruise (source)!
3. Dog Sledding & Glaciers by Helicopter
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Juneau? Disney, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.
Among the huge number of excursions you can book in Juneau – and even on this list of nine – it’s hard to choose the best one. This one, which broadly incorporates a helicopter tour, glacier landing, and dog sledding depending on the tour operator and cruise company, is definitely worthy of its spot in the top 3.
Helicopter Tour + Glacier Landing + Dog Sledding = One Epic Memory
You’ll get epic views of Mendenhall Glacier on your helicopter tour, then touch down to board a dog sled – the huskies will give you a heck of a ride with all their energy and enthusiasm. [Notes: While there is no age minimum, children must be old enough to understand the rules of interacting with the dogs. There’s also a weight surcharge for the helicopter ride for passengers in excess of the individual weight limit.]
4. Underground Gold Tour
Who Offers This Juneau Cruise Excursion? Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, and Regent.
It’s impossible to visit Southeast Alaska and not learn about the Gold Rush – and how important it was to the settlement of The Last Frontier. This tour is a fun combo of history and unique activities. It reminds me of the Seattle Underground Tour (one of my top Seattle cruise excursions); it also shows a bit more of how tough it was to strike it rich and how rugged the men had to be.
On this tour, you’ll visit an old mill where mining technology was developed, then descend into an old mine shaft (they’ll provide the hard hats!). After learning about mining techniques, you’ll come above ground to try your hand at gold panning. While you won’t find any nuggets (most of the gold at these demos is ‘placer gold’), it’s a fun chance to learn about this chapter in Alaskan history.
5. Gold Creek Alaskan Salmon Bake
Who Offers This Juneau Cruise Excursion? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
Have you really visited The Last Frontier if you haven’t attended a salmon bake? You can find this quintessential Alaskan meal all across the state – so where better to try it the first time (or first of many) than in the capital city of Juneau?
This Juneau cruise excursion is great for two reasons: it’s delicious and it’s affordable. In fact, it’s quite in line with the cost of other meals you might enjoy while exploring Alaska independently, making it a great cruise excursion if you love eating off-ship.
Best of all, this excursion is short – you can possibly pair it up with a second excursion when you’re at port in Juneau depending on the times your ship is docked.
6. Bike & Brew Glacier View
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Juneau? Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.
Get your blood pumping – then chill out on this excursion, which is a wonderfully active and delicious half-day tour. Like many Juneau cruise excursions, this one gives you a sample of how much the capital city has to offer.
It includes history lessons, an 8-mile bike ride, and a stop at a historic building in downtown Juneau. There you’ll try some of Alaska’s best craft beer. (I’m not sure which beers are on offer, but I personally love 49th State Brewing, Seward Brewing Company, and – of course – Alaska Brewing Company – so be sure to try any beers by them!)
7. Glacier View Sea Kayaking
Who Offers This Juneau Cruise Excursion? Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
After days of seeing Alaska on a really big [bleep]ing ship, I think it’s important to get off your behemoth chariot and see Alaska’s waterways the way Alaska Natives did for millennia. That’s why included this sea kayaking excursion on the list. For those of you who love an active excursion, it’s a great option with plenty of amazing wildlife viewing opportunities and stunning vistas.
During this half-day excursion, you’ll paddle around the waterways of North Douglas Island. Be sure to admire the wide-angle view of Mendenhall glacier, and learn Alaska history from your guide, too! Honestly, it sounds brilliant, plus you’ll burn off some of those buffet calories
8. Juneau Food Tour
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Juneau? Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
Love food? Juneau is a place to try some off-ship local options! There are several different food tours offered by the companies. They vary in terms of tastings vs meals, the stops you’ll make, and what you’ll try. But no matter what, you should opt for 1. local crab, 2. anything foraged, 3. some animal you never thought humans should eat before (reindeer, mmm), and 4. local beer.
I also know that you can book this tour directly with Juneau Food Tours, a local operator (that’s what I did after my Alaska Uncruise in 2017 and before may Alaskan Dream Cruise in 2021). Owner Midgi offers her tours to work perfectly with cruise ship timing, so you can book directly and know all the money spent goes directly to a local business.
9. Mendenhall Float
Who Offers This Cruise Excursion in Juneau? Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, and Regent.
You should only consider this Juneau cruise excursion if you’re not continuing up to Denali. (My favorite Alaskan rafting trip is one of the top things to do in Denali, so if you are going that far north, do that one instead of this.)
On this excursion, you’ll do a five-mile river float with moderate rapids and river flow (this depends on the season and weather!). You can also see some epic views of Mendenhall Glacier and the Tongass National Forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – and big rocks that might cause a splash!
There you have it – my take on the best Alaska shore excursions in Juneau. Have other questions about visiting Juneau, 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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