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The 10 Best Skagway Shore Excursions for Your Alaska Cruise in 2023

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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. The best Skagway shore excursions reflect that, too!

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 also 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.

One Day in Skagway - White Pass

I’ve visited Skagway several times during my various adventures living in and traveling to Alaska, including during my Windstar cruise in 2022. During my most recent trip, I picked an excursion to ride the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, then spent the rest of my time just exploring the historic downtown.

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, and have ranked the best 10. 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. Read on for the best Skagway cruise excursions!

(If you want to do Skagway on your own, I recommend checking my guide for how to make the most of one day in Skagway!)

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 March 2020, and was updated most recently in November 2022.

Skagway vs Haines: The Differences Explained

As you start planning your Alaska cruise and choosing an excursion in Skagway, be aware: some excursions don’t actually happen in Skagway, they take place in nearby Haines.

Haines is a small Alaskan community with Native Alaskan roots and plenty of its own unique history. It’s also a 45-minute fast-ferry ride from Skagway. Both Haines and Skagway have limited moorage spots, so some boats moor in one and transfer guests to the other by said fast ferry.

It’s important to read the description for any Skagway excursions you’re interested in, since they may actually occur in Haines – but all of the ones on this list are actually in Skagway. (And I’m working on a list of Haines excursions coming soon.)

The Best Skagway Shore Excursions

Given how many cruise companies offer a number of interesting and unique shore excursions in Skagway, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these nine to be the best Skagway cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:

  1. I went through all of the Skagway excursions and chose the ones I think are worth doing (the V factor 😂)
  2. I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion in 2022.
  3. I force-ranked the excursions by uniqueness. (That means each excursion gets its own number, no ties)
  4. I gave each excursion a boost or deduction for being a good value based on the “Money-to-Time” Math.
  5. Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
  6. To break ties, I used top Uniqueness score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!

Here’s my list of the best Skagway excursions:

Rank
(2023)
Tour# of Cruises
(2023)
Change
(from 2022)
1Ghosts & Goodtime Girls Walking Tour8+7
2Klondike Rock Climbing6New!
3Legends & Lies: Gold Rush Saloon & City Tour3+6
4Best of Skagway7+0
5Musher’s Camp Experience8-2
6Alpine Lake Canoe Adventure3New!
7Taste of Alaska Food Science Tour3-1
8Skagway in Focus: Guided Photography Adventure4-3
9Chilkoot Horseback Adventure5New!
10Burro Creek Waterfall Lodge and Crab Feast4New!

Curious to learn what makes each one of these tours special enough to make my list – when most cruise companies offer dozens of options? Let’s dive into the specifics of each excursion on this list.

1. Ghosts & Goodtime Girls Walking Tour

Who Offers This Skagway Shore Excursion? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.

As I mentioned, Skagway is a destination for history lovers – so it’s no surprise that a history tour tops the list. But don’t worry, this isn’t some dry lesson taught by a professor who spends his time with his nose in a book.

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!

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

2. Klondike Rock Climbing

Who Offers This Skagway Shore Excursion? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Regent, Royal Caribbean, and Viking.

Let’s be real: rock climbing and rappelling aren’t for everyone, but this tour is truly unique and thus scores high on my list of the best Skagway cruise excursions. Also, I think this tour is new – it’s certainly new on my list.

This 3+ hour tour is good for Alaskan adventurers 8 years and older, and starts with a drive through Skagway and up the Klondike Highway to the spot where you’ll learn the basics of rock climbing and rappelling. Professional climber guides will help you choose a route, then give you advice to reach the apex of whichever ascent you choose; they’ll also provide a safe rappel back down as you enjoy the sweeping views.

As you might guess, you need a good level of mobility to do this tour – but it’s a unique way to burn off those buffet calories if you’re up for the effort.

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

    Skagway Cruise Excursions

    Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Skagway? Carnival, Holland America, and Princess.

    Have you figured out the theme of many 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?).

    *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.

    4. Best of Skagway

    Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Skagway? Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.

    One of the best Skagway cruise excursions 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.

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

    Who Offers This Skagway Shore Excursion? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.

    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.

    6. Alpine Lake Canoe Adventure

    Who Offers This Skagway Shore Excursion? Disney, Oceania, and Viking.

    As you might have noticed from the table at the top of this post, there are a number of new Skagway cruise excursions that made my list this year; this isn’t a surprise since some companies didn’t make it through the past few years, and new ones have started, offering new tours.

    In any case, this particular one caught my eye, as it’s got a lot of things going for it: first, you’ll transport up the Klondike Highway to Summit Lake, which sits high in the White Pass – this gives you ample opportunity to enjoy the incredible scenery of this area. Next, you’ll board a traditional 12-person canoe, much like the Klondike prospectors used back over 100 years ago. You’ll get to work a bit, learn history a bit, and enjoy the scenery a lot – sounds like a perfect excursion to me!

    7. Taste of Alaska Food Science Tour

    Skagway Cruise Excursions - Smoked Salmon

    Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Skagway? Carnival, Holland America, and Princess.

    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!)

    8. Skagway in Focus: Guided Photography Adventure

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

    Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Skagway? Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.

    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. Pack your camera gear for this one!

    9. Chilkoot Horseback Adventure

    Skagway Cruise Excursions - Horseback

    Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Skagway? Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.

    If you somehow saw my previous list of Skagway cruise excursions, you might notice that the top tour I recommended then – the Chilkoot Hike & Float tour – isn’t even on this year’s list. That tour is still available, but I realized it just wasn’t as compelling as others you could now enjoy, and if you’re going to explore the Chilkoot Trail, riding it on horseback is definitely a more unique experience!

    This tour starts by leaving Skagway; you’ll transport by vehicle to the nearby town of Dyea, then meet your equine transport and head out on the trail. Said trail takes you along the Chilkoot Trail in part, as well as along the water, through the forest, and past Slide Cemetery – which dates back to a landslide in 1898 and the many prospectors and frontiers-people who perished in this part of The Last Frontier.

    10. Burro Creek Waterfall Lodge & Crab Feast

    Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Skagway? Disney, Holland America, Princess, and Viking.

    Last, but certainly not least, here’s one more new Skagway shore excursion that makes my list – this one is much like some experiences you might be able to have in other Alaskan ports, but I love that Burro Creek Lodge has an incredible waterfall that you can get up close and personal with.

    During this excursion, you’ll be transported by boat from Skagway to Burro Creek Lodge and learn about this rustic off-grid accommodation. Then you can choose between taking a short hike, relaxing by the fire, or watching the on-site chef prepare your meal of a Dungeness crab and shrimp boil with andouille sausage, corn on the cob and potatoes, followed by a roast mashmallow-topped double-chocolate brownie. If you’ve made it this far in the list, and your mouth is watering like mine, this is the excursion for you!

    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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    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.

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