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The 10 Best Skagway Alaska Cruise Excursions

The 10 Best Skagway Alaska Cruise Excursions
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It’s hard to choose, but among Alaska cruise ports, Skagway is probably my favorite. Skagway is a weird, wild, wonderful destination: it has been home to a confluence of history, culture, and outdoor adventure that dates back to the late 19th century.

After all, Alaskan Natives called this area home for centuries, and most gold rushers in 1898 passed through Skagway on their way to the goldfields. Their ‘wild west’ lifestyle drew shady businessmen and intrepid ladies of the night… all of whom left their mark on the region. Add in beautiful scenery and opportunities for outdoor adventure, and Skagway is a unique place that’s well-worth exploring during your port stop on an Alaska cruise.

I’ve visited Skagway several times during my various adventures living in and traveling to Alaska. During my most recent trip, I spent the whole day just exploring the historic downtown – but there are some amazing Skagway cruise excursions to choose from if you want something more structured.

As you plan your Alaska cruise and compare Skagway cruise excursions, it’s hard to choose one. To help, I’ve reviewed all of the excursions offered by Alaska cruise companies for 2020, and have picked my 10 favorites. I’ve also ranked them to recommend the best Skagway cruise excursion if you want a specific suggestion. Read on for the best Skagway cruise excursions, and let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Who Offers Alaska Cruise Excursions in Skagway?

Skagway Cruise Excursions

In my research, I found that 14 of 21 cruise companies operating in Alaska offered a port stop in Juneau. Of those 19 companies, 9 have listed Alaska cruise excursions in Juneau for the 2020 season: Carnival Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Lines, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and Viking Cruises. Several other cruise companies also list that they have Juneau cruise excursions but no/limited details on their site: Azamara, Oceania, Ponant, Regent Seven Seas, and Silversea.

Princess Cruises offers the most number of Skagway cruise excursions. They have 57 different excursions available – some of these are variations for wheelchair accessibility.

If you struggle with making decisions, Viking Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises offer the fewest number of excursions and variations.

It’s tough to say which company has the best excursion options based on my list below… Princess Cruises offers nine of the 10 best Skagway cruise excursions and Royal Caribbean offers eight of them. So if you want the greatest number of options, consider booking with either 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 Skagway.

The Best Alaska Cruise Excursions in Skagway

Skagway Cruise Excursions - Downtown

Once I reviewed all of the cruise excursions in Skagway, I’ll admit: it was obvious which one should be #1. As you’ll see, the top Skagway cruise excursion I’ve picked really is the most popular and offers the best sample of Skagway life and culture. After that, doing a rank order of the rest was really tough! Though whether you’re craving Alaskan scenery and wildlife or local food and culture, there’s an option for everyone in Skagway.

1. Best of Skagway

Skagway Cruise Excursions

Like the top Alaska cruise excursion that I recommended in Seattle, the best Skagway cruise excursion is a ‘city tour’ that shows you the best parts of this small Alaskan community. The ‘Best of Skagway’ tour does exactly that, and is offered by many of the cruise companies that make port stops in Skagway.

On this 6.5-hour tour, you’ll have three incredible experiences – and three that are totally unique to Skagway. First, you’ll board and ride the White Pass and Yukon Route, a narrow-gauge railroad that ascends the White Pass for epic views and scenery. Next, most tours disembark at the “Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp and Salmon Bake” for a bawdy historic reenactment about Skagway’s history and a meal of fresh Alaska salmon. Finally, some tours add on a saloon stop at Red Onion Saloon – you can raise a glass in camaraderie with the legions of intrepid gold miners who passed through Skagway over the centuries.

Who Offers This Excursion?

As mentioned, this excursion is offered by many of the cruise companies. The Best of Skagway tour is offered by Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.

2. Ghosts & Goodtime Girls Walking Tour

Skagway Cruise Excursions - Warren LeMay via Flickr

Want a bit deeper dive into Skagway’s unique history? The Ghosts & Goodtime Girls Walking Tour is the excursion for you!

Join a Skagway madam for an alleyway tour of Skagway’s saucy former tourism industry then tour the city’s brothel museum. Along the way, learn about the women who lived here – and perhaps still haunt the halls of their working establishments. End by enjoying a champagne toast in the Red Onion Saloon, whether you’ve seen a ghost or not!

Who Offers This Excursion?

You’ve got lots of options for cruise companies that offer this Skagway cruise excursion. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean all allow you to pre-book it.

(While Disney offers this excursion, I would imagine it’s better for older children than younger ones.)

3. Gold Panning, Gold Rush Sled Dogs & 40 Below

What I love about this excursion is that, like the Best of Skagway tour I put in the #1 spot, it offers a combination of distinctly Alaskan experiences all within a single tour. Especially in Skagway, dog sledding, panning for gold, and experiencing the frigid cold are all critical parts of the city’s history.

On this 3-hour tour, you’ll meet sled dog puppies and a musher, try your hand at gold panning, and feel the deep cold of an Alaskan winter at the 40 Below Experience – a cold chamber that does a remarkably good job simulating the bitterness of winter in The Last Frontier. (Having just spent time in Fairbanks in the winter, I can tell you it’s a very unique experience you only need once in life! ?)

Who Offers This Excursion?

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

4. Legends & Lies: Gold Rush Saloon & City Tour

Skagway Cruise Excursions

Have you figured out the theme of Skagway excursions? It’s all about history! As an alternative to the Best of Skagway tour, the Legends & Lies tour is a great option for adults (or groups with kids 16+*, the minimum age requirement for this excursion).

The excursion takes you to the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Historic District where you’ll learn from historic actors about life in a stampede town during the gold rush era. You can also try your hand at making a few stampede-era cocktails (including one with edible gold!) and snack on funky Alaskan snacks (salmon quesadilla, anyone?).

Who Offers This Excursion?

Raise a glass and toast history on this excursion if you’re cruising with Carnival, Disney, Holland America, or Princess.

*On certain cruise companies, guests as young as 16 can go on this excursion, but you must be 21+ to make and enjoy an alcoholic drink during the tour. There are non-alcoholic options for underage guests.

5. Musher’s Camp and S’more Roasting Adventure

Denali Excursions - Husky Homestead

If you’re traveling with kids – or just a kid at heart, in which case, I feel you! – this is a perfect Skagway excursion for your whole group. On this roughly 3-hour tour, you’ll visit Dyea, a former gold rush town where you can meet a musher and his sled dogs today. The musher will give a talk and give you a chance to meet any puppies they have in the camp that day. Afterward, you’ll roast s’mores around a campfire surrounded by the Alaskan wilderness.

Who Offers This Excursion?

Ready for this excursion? It’s offered by Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Mush!

6. Chilkoot Trail Hike & Float

Skagway Cruise Excursions - Daniel Reichert via Flickr
Photo credit: Daniel Reichert via Flickr

Looking to stretch your legs in Skagway after all those days on the ship? This two-activity Chilkoot Trail hike and float is the best option for you.

On this excursion you’ll do a coach transfer to Dyea, hike two miles of the Chilkoot Trail (the easy part, not this part), then board an 18-foot raft to float down the Taiya River. It’s a relatively easy excursion – easy hiking and sitting rather than paddling on the raft – but offers a bit more activity than other options.

Who Offers This Excursion?

Be sure to pack your activewear and book this excursion if you’re cruising with Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, or Royal Caribbean.

7. Skagway in Focus: Guided Photography Adventure

Skagway Cruise Excursions - Mark McElroy via Flickr
Photo credit: Mark McElroy via Flickr

If one of your goals in Alaska is getting amazing photographs to wow your friends back home, this is the Skagway cruise excursion you should choose. This three-hour tour pairs you up with a local photographer to explore the whole region. (Note: you may cross the Canadian border as part of this excursion so you must bring your passport!)

There’s no specific location or itinerary you’ll be guaranteed to visit. The guide will choose a few spots based on their local knowledge and recent good experiences (like wildlife they’ve spotted in a specific area). You might shoot wildlife, historic buildings, stunning scenery, or all of the above!

Who Offers This Excursion?

Pack your camera gear for this one; you can book it if you’re cruising with Holland America, Princess, or Royal Caribbean.

8. Eagle Preserve Float

Skagway Cruise Excursions - Eagle Float

I grew up in the town of Eagle River, Alaska, so I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to eagle viewing opportunities. ? That’s why I’m happy to promote this excursion on the list, even though it’s pretty niche-y – you wildlife lovers will want to consider this one.

This is a 6.5-hour tour that’s pretty much exclusively on boats. You’ll board a catamaran to Haines, then transfer to an 18-foot raft to float through Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. I mean, if an eagle preserve doesn’t have eagles, where else will you see them? (Juneau has a large eagle population too but no specific excursions for them.)

Who Offers This Excursion?

This Skagway cruise excursion is offered by Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Viking.

9. Klukwan Native Culture Experience

If your cruise doesn’t take you to Haines and/or you didn’t do a cultural excursion in Ketchikan, I highly recommend considering this Skagway cruise excursion from Skagway. During the 6.5-hour tour, you’ll board a catamaran to Haines, then learn about the Native Alaskan culture there.

Specifically, you’ll visit the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center to learn about and view Tlingit crafts and art – this is one of the most recognizable Alaskan Native cultures. You’ll also watch a traditional dance (and hear traditional music) and learn about Tlingit traditional dress. Basically, this is a great one for you culture vulture cruisers!

Who Offers This Excursion?

Book this Skagway cruise excursion if you’re cruising with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, or Viking.

10. Taste of Alaska Food Science Tour

Skagway Cruise Excursions - Smoked Salmon

Isn’t there something so satisfying about making and then enjoying a super-healthy meal of local food? I mean, there’s like a whole generation of people who have transformed the restaurant industry with that preference. That’s why this Food Science Tour, which admittedly isn’t offered by many of the cruise companies, makes my list.

The Taste of Alaska Food Science Tour will take you into the kitchen with the chef and owner of the Historic Skagway Inn. You’ll learn about fresh produce and seafood in the Skagway area, the science behind cooking those foods, plus how to prepare that food for maximum delicious-ness. In the end, you’ll enjoy a salmon dish with fresh greens, and homemade ice cream. (This is a great one if you plan to buy Alaska salmon on your trip – that’s one of my most-recommended Alaska souvenirs!)

Who Offers This Excursion?

Sink your teeth into this excursion if you’re cruising with Carnival, Holland America, or Princess.

There you have it – my take on the best Alaska cruise excursions in Skagway. Have other questions about visiting Skagway, 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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