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The 5 Best Juneau Shore Excursions for Your Alaska Cruise (2024)

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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 arrange 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?

Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - 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.

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 December 2023 for the coming season.

The Best Juneau Cruise Excursions in 2024

Given how many cool things there are to do in Juneau and how many cruise companies offer shore excursions in Juneau, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these to be the best Juneau cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:

  1. I went through all of the Juneau shore excursions (312) on every company (8) that has any cruise(s) that stop there in 2024
  2. I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion this year.
  3. I force-ranked the excursions by “uniqueness” with no ties.
  4. I calculated what the cruise should cost with my “Money-to-Time” calculation and then gave a bonus (or penalty) based on the actual excursion price.
  5. Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
  6. To break ties, I used the “uniqueness” score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!

For 2024, here’s my list of the best Juneau excursions:

Rank
(2024)
Tour Name# Cruises
(2024)
Change
(from 2023)
1Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Quest8New!
2Taku Lodge Feast & 5-Glacier Seaplane Discovery8
3Mendenhall Glacier Native Canoe Adventure5↓2
4Best of Juneau6New!
5Glacier View Sea Kayaking6↑2
6Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest7New!
7Mendenhall Glacier Explorer7New!
8Helicopter Glacier Trek8New!
9Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter6↓5
10Sled Dog Discovery & Musher’s Camp6New!

As you can see, the top options for cruise excursions in Juneau have changed a lot recently; almost all of the shore excursions I recommend are new on the list this year – but there are a few great ones that have held on to the list in 2024.

For the rest of this post, I’ll highlight five of the excursions on this table and which type of Alaska traveler I think each is best for. Let’s go!

🥾 Best for Adventure Travelers: Helicopter Glacier Trek

During our last trip to Juneau, Mr. V and I opted for this excursion – this is in part because we’ve visited Juneau before, have done some of these other excursions, and wanted to try something new. (Actually, we opted for the Glacier “Walk” rather than “Trek,” but the experiences are quite similar.)

On this helicopter glacier trek, you’ll take a transfer out to the Juneau airport, board a helicopter, and enjoy a nice flight up to land on Mendenhall Glacier. This trek then includes a two-hour hike on the glacier – with a guide and all the equipment you need for safety and comfort of course. (The “Walk” option some cruise companies offer is much shorter, with only about 30 minutes on the glacier.)

As an alternative, if you aren’t up for hiking, the “Glacier View Sea Kayaking” is another good Juneau shore tour if you don’t have any kayaking excursions planned, or you could do a DIY excursion and take the tram up Mt. Roberts and hike up there instead.

🗿 Best for Culture Vultures: Mendenhall Canoe Adventure

Juneau Cruise Excursions - Glacier Canoe -joiseyshowaa via Flickr
Photo credit: joiseyshowaa via Flickr

This excursion caught my eye as one of 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.

If you’d rather DIY it, consider visiting the Alaska State Museum and walking along the new Totem Pole Trail on Juneau’s waterfront; both will give you unique ways to experience Alaska Native Culture in Juneau.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Best for Families: Sled Dog Discovery & Musher’s Camp

If you’re planning a family cruise to Alaska, you are probably keenly aware of figuring out the best excursions to keep the kiddos in your group happy – what better way than with sled dogs?!

(Even if you’re not traveling with kids, I recommend doing an excursion or tour that introduces you to these essential Alaskan residents and their importance to the historic and modern transportation options in the state!)

On this Juneau shore excursion (it has several similar names depending on the cruise line), you’ll head out of town to a “rustic” musher’s camp; there you’ll meet the musher and his dogs, then head out on a one-mile “dry” run – that is, the dogs will pull a wheeled cart (rather than a sled, since there is no snow). Back at camp, you’ll then learn about dog sledding, equipment, races, and more, plus have plenty of time to meet the pups.

🦪 Best for Foodies: Juneau Food Tours (Not on List)

I am a firm proponent of the Anthony Bourdain philosophy that food opens the door to cultural understanding, so I always like to include food tours in my recommendations – and do them myself.

While there used to be several food-related tours that made my list each year, there are very few good ones to recommend this year. Instead, I recommend striking out on your own to book Juneau Food Tours directly – owner Midgi Moore can absolutely accommodate your ship schedule to make this work for when you’re in port.

I’ve done this tour twice (after my Alaska Uncruise in 2017 and before my Alaskan Dream Cruise in 2021, plus swung by their office during our time in Juneau with Windstar in 2022!) and it’s the best way to sample the variety of flavors Juneau has to offer in the short time you have to visit.

🐋 Best for Wildlife Seekers: Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Quest

Last but not least, those of you keen for a wildlife experience should consider booking this tour in Juneau. First of all, the “Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Quest” excursion (including others similarly named) topped my list of all Juneau cruise excursions this year – meaning it’s a great value, popular, etc. – but it also gives you a good chance to spot whales in the waterways around Juneau which are well-known for great opportunities to see them.

The tour starts with time to visit Mendenhall Glacier; there is a guided option or you can strike out to try and visit the lake shoreline on your own with the allotted time. Then you’ll transfer on to Auke Bay, board a small vessel, and set out in search of humpbacks and orcas; both can be found in the waterways near Juneau! You might also spot eagles, sea otters, and seals if you’re keen-eyed.

There you have it – my take on the best Alaska shore excursions in Juneau for every type of Alaska traveler. Have other questions about visiting Juneau, taking an Alaska cruise, or choosing Alaska cruise excursions? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. Did you like how I organized this post for different types of Alaska travelers? That’s something new I tried for 2024 and I’d love your feedback – please share in the comments so I can make this post better for future Alaska cruisers!

Cruise-Excursions-Cover

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

7 Comments

  • Melanie Book

    It all sounds fabulous on paper. What you are saying is that if I am booked on Norwewgian and I want an excursion that the ship does not offer, I cannot get it.Ban I not get an excursion from Juneau itself once we arrive?
    They all sound amazing and I am sure the their prices are equally amazing which unfortunately does not fit my budget.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Melanie. It’s not necessarily the case that if NCL doesn’t offer the excursion you can’t do it – you could do the research to see if the company that offers it for other cruise lines also allows travelers to book it independently (like, for example, Juneau Food Tours, which does offer their tours to cruisers and non-cruisers alike). However, the logistics (timing, transport) are usually a lot more complicated if you try to do an excursion on your own, which is why the cruise companies discourage people from doing it. I recommend reaching out to NCL to see what they suggest, then if you’re really set on an excursion they don’t/can’t offer try to do it on your own.

  • Woody

    Thanks. It appears that there are a couple variants on the Helicopter/Glacier/Dogsled excursion. You list Mendnhal, but is the Norris excursion roughly equivalent? We’ll be on RCI Radiance OTS in mid July.

    • Valerie

      Hi, Woody – I personally prefer Mendenhall due to the view, but Norris is also nice! You really can’t go wrong with either if you’re doing the helicopter + dogsledding tour.

  • Brittany S

    Is there a reason you don’t recommend a whale watching excursion? May be a dumb question, but this is our first time on a cruise and to Alaska! Trying to maximize or time 🙂 thanks for your input!

    • Valerie

      Hi, yes, I get this question a lot. The reality is that whale watching excursions aren’t very unique – they tend not to score well on my algorithm – and I personally prefer whale watching from Seward anyway. I hope that helps!

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