Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Alaska Cruise Port Shopping Tips

Cruise passengers find shops right by the ship in Ketchikan © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
Cruise passengers find shops right by the ship in Ketchikan © 2018 Scott S. Bateman

Shoppers will find plenty of stores to browse at each Alaska cruise port. But shopping ideally begins online before the cruise even starts.

Two types of shops are most common in these ports. The first emphasizes souvenirs such as T-shirts, coffee mugs and the like. The second consists of craftspeople who make original works; many of them visit the ports to sell their wares just for the season. Nearly all of the shops are small. Retain chains are rare to non-existent.

It’s an undeniable fact that shops in each port offer many similar souvenirs. A handful stand out because they have artisans producing unique goods.

Multiple tour guides told us that many of the shops nearest the docks were owned or operated by the cruise lines. They also said those shops had the most expensive goods.

We didn’t notice prices were especially higher near the docks. But it does pay to walk several hundred yards either way to find the best shops. They were not always nearest the docks.

There are two important tips when shopping in Alaska cruise ports:

1 - Visit the official websites for each port before the trip to look for tips, coupons, lists of shops or publications. For example, has a downloadable travel guide with ads in it. One ad said: “Stop by for our FREE coupon book and our in store specials up to 50% off.” Ketchikan’s official site had a “special offers” section and a free visitor’s guide by mail.

2 - Many shops market aggressively in coupon books. If not online, hunt for them at the first port of call, especially in any welcome stations. They often contain coupons for souvenirs.

3 - Shops often promote “free gifts” in the coupon books. Although free is great, we found that the freebies weren’t worth the effort to find the shop offering them.

Average shoppers might find it takes about two hours to give each port shopping area a thorough tour. We were surprised to find it’s even true in the tiny town of Skagway, which has a year-round population of only 900 people.

Clearly, Skagway has many more shops than it needs for 900 people, but many of the shops and shop employees are seasonal.

All of the ports get high marks for cleanliness, atmosphere, visitor centers and colorful buildings.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
February 26, 2022