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Located on the Pacific coast of the Inside Passage, Sitka is a bit off the main cruise routes through Southeast Alaska. While many companies do offer itineraries with a port stop in Sitka, plenty more itineraries stick to the calm waterways further inland and make other port stops like Juneau, Skagway, and Icy Strait Point. If you’re on this post, you may have stops there too – but you also want to know what to do during your time in Sitka, and which Sitka cruise excursions are the best. That’s where I’m here to help!

This isn’t a scientific process; I didn’t read past guest reviews or tabulate offerings and options. Instead, I used my Alaska local knowledge to consider the excursions, choose a sample of the best experiences, and rank them in the order I think most people visiting Sitka will love. I also kept in mind some of the other tips on choosing Alaska cruise excursions I’ve previously shared. These include uniqueness, cost, time, and cost-to-time ratio.

If you have an Alaska cruise planned and the itinerary includes a port stop in Sitka, read on for my suggestions about the best Sitka cruise excursions!

Featured photo credit: marc.cappelletti via Flickr


Who Offers Alaska Cruise Excursions in Sitka?

Sitka Waterways - John Bromley via Flickr
Photo credit: John Bromley via Flickr

In my research, I found that 19 of 21 cruise companies operating in Alaska offered a port stop in Sitka. Of those 19 companies, 11 have listed Alaska cruise excursions in Sitka for the 2020 season: Carnival CruisesCelebrity CruisesCrystal CruisesDisney Cruise LinesHolland AmericaOceania Cruise LinesPrincess Cruise Lines, Regent Seven SeasRoyal CaribbeanViking Cruises, and Windstar Cruises. Several other cruise companies also list that they have Juneau cruise excursions but no details on their site: Alaskan Dream Cruises, Azamara, Cunard, Lindblad, Ponant, Seabourn, Silversea, and UnCruise.

Holland America Line offers the greatest number of Sitka cruise excursions. They have 31 different excursions available; several are wheelchair accessible alternatives to others. Princess Cruises offers the next greatest number, with 26 excursions in Sitka.

It’s tough to say which company has the best excursion options based on my list below… However, Princess Cruises is the only company that offers all of the Sitka cruise excursions I consider the best. So if you want the greatest number of options, consider booking with them!

Note: To the best of my knowledge, the cruise excursions listed in this post are accurate for the 2020 Alaska cruise season. However, there may be inaccuracies or schedule changes that I haven’t yet added. Also, if you see an excursion you love which isn’t offered by your cruise company, be sure to check their website as the final resource on which cruise excursions are offered in Sitka.

The Best Excursions in Sitka for Your Alaska Cruise

Sitka View with Sea Lions - peacelovetrees via Flickr
Photo credit: peacelovetrees via Flickr

When you step off the ship to explore Sitka, there are a lot of choices for what to do. Whether you want to see wildlife, learn about the city’s history, or burn off a few cruise calories, there are cruise excursions for everyone and every travel style in Sitka.

1. Sea Otters, Raptors & Bears, Oh My!

Allen Marine Tours - Sea Otter in Sitka
Courtesy of Alaskan Dream Cruises

It’s often the case that the top cruise excursion I recommend is one that’s offered by most or all of the cruise companies. This is because of a cycle whereby the best excursions are popular and everyone wants them and thus more cruise companies offer them – helping more people experience and love that tour!

But this tour is especially great for several extra reasons that make it the best cruise excursion in Sitka. First of all, I love a clever tour title, which this one has. Second, it’s a day tour offered by the sister company of Alaskan Dream Cruises (who I’m cruising with in September; join me!) and I’ve read the book of their family company history and I know they’ve perfected this tour over decades of service. It’s the excursion with the best boats, best experience, and best chance to see wildlife. Need I say more?

Who Offers This Excursion?

This Sitka cruise excursion is offered by almost everyone: Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, and Royal Caribbean, oh my!

2. Historic Sitka

Sitka Waterfront - joenevill via Flickr
Photo credit: joenevill via Flickr

Almost all Alaska cruise ports have an important role in Alaskan history, but Sitka has a special spot on center stage. Sitka was the town where Alaska changed hands from Russian occupation to become ‘Seward’s Folly’ in the mid-19th century.

On this excursion, you’ll sample different chapters in Sitka’s history. The itinerary includes visits to Sitka National Park, Sheldon Jackson Museum, and Centennial Hall where you’ll attend a New Archangel Dance performance (Russian folk dancers, with a presentation of the Alaska Flag).

Who Offers This Excursion?

This cruise excursion is offered by Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.

3. A Food Lover’s Tour

I love a good food tour and Sitka is a surprisingly great place to book one. If you’re ready for something other than cruise food by this point, consider this tour, even though it’s only offered by a few companies. On this tour you’ll visit a local food truck, sample fresh seafood dishes, and even try dishes with Russian heritage to honor Sitka’s time as the capital of Russian America. My mouth is watering just thinking about this one…

Who Offers This Excursion?

This cruise excursion in Sitka is only offered by Holland America and Princess, so be sure to consider it if you’re cruising with either of them.

4. Bike & Hike

Sitka Hiking Trail - Bob Keefer via Flickr
Photo credit: Bob Keefer via Flickr

If instead of adding more inches to your waistline, you’d rather burn off a few, this is the excursion to book! On southbound cruises, Sitka is often the first port stop after several days at sea; northbound, it’s the last one before several days at sea. In any event, stretching your legs and getting a good breath of fresh air on land is a great idea.

This is actually one of the more ambitious bike and hike excursions I’ve highlighted in this series: you’ll go on a four-mile ride along Silver Bay, followed by a mile hike on Thimbleberry Trail to see mountains, lakes, and other scenery. Most companies mark this as a ‘strenuous’ tour, so keep that in mind as you consider whether to book.

Who Offers This Excursion?

Get your heart pumping by booking this excursion which is offered by Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, and Windstar.

5. Russian & Tlingit Heritage Discovery

I’ll be honest: I’m a little bit uncertain if the companies I’ve identified as offering this Sitka cruise excursion below are all offering the same tour. Several companies offer cultural tours, but they all seem to sample different destinations and experiences across Sitka.

In any event, this is a great excursion for history and culture vultures. Over the course of the 2.5-hour tour, you’ll learn about Alaska Native Tlingit culture as well as the history of Russian-American culture in Alaska.

Who Offers This Excursion?

This cruise excursion in Sitka is offered by Carnival, Princess, and Viking.

6. Pedal & Pub Crawl

Vancouver Cruise Excursions - Craft Beer

When I lived in London, I had rules about how many miles I had to run to earn pints at the pub each weekend… So this kind of excursion is right up my alley!

Actually, this excursion is far more fun than fitness. It includes riding a 15-passenger bike (yes, that’s a thing!) plus visiting several local pubs and other Sitka landmarks to learn about Alaskan history in between sips of Sitka ale.

Who Offers This Excursion?

This excursion, like the food tour, is only offered by Holland America and Princess.

7. Dry Suit Snorkel

I mentioned it on my list of Ketchikan excursions, too: snorkeling in Alaska is definitely an unforgettable experience if you’re up for the adventure! On this 2.5-hour tour, you’ll slip a thick dry suit on over your street clothes and learn safety tips. Then, you’ll spend 30-60 minutes in the water depending on your group size. Once you’re in the water, keep an eye out for sea stars, sun stars, fish, anemones, crab, urchins, and more – all living in and near a huge kelp forest.

Note: There are age and weight restrictions. Guests must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 85lbs and 240lbs.

Who Offers This Excursion?

Dive into this excursion (metaphorically!) by booking this excursion while cruising on Carnival, Disney, Holland America, or Princess.

8. Ghosts of Sitka

For a short, fun walking tour of Sitka with a little bit more personality than the standard tour, consider booking this spooky option. On a 1-hour excursion, you’ll learn about some of Sitka’s darker chapters in history, and the spirits who may still walk the Sitka streets. The one-mile walking tour route includes cobblestones and inclines so you’ll need to have mobility to handle those terrains.

This tour happens during the day so the creepiness factor isn’t too high, and anyone 10 years and up can go on this tour.

Who Offers This Excursion?

You can book this Sitka cruise excursion if you’re cruising with Holland America or Princess.

9. Salmon & Halibut Fishing

Icy Strait Point Excursions - Halibut Fishing - Bryan Wilkins via Flickr
Photo credit: Bryan Wilkins via Flickr

As you may have noticed from other excursions on this list, Sitka is a great base for encountering marine life in the surrounding waterways. That includes loads of fish species, including some delicious ones like salmon and halibut.

If you love fishing and want to have that experience as part of your Alaska cruise, Sitka’s a good spot to give it a try since it’s on the Pacific coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage.

On a 4- to 4.5-hour trip, you’ll board a fishing boat and learn about the technology and traditional methods professional fishermen use to find the best spots. Then, cast your own line to try and catch one yourself! If you do have good fishing luck this day and want to keep your catch, your prize fish can be processed and shipped home for an additional fee.

Who Offers This Excursion?

10 of the 11 cruise companies with excursions on their website offer some sort of fishing tour. They are Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Viking, and Windstar.

There you have it – my take on the best Alaska cruise excursions in Sitka. Have other questions about visiting Sitka, taking an Alaska cruise, or choosing Alaska cruise excursions? Let me know in the comments!

Keep Planning Your Alaska Cruise!

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