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Alaska Cruise Kayak Excursion Tips

An Alaska cruise kayak excursion is a chance to see the beautiful waters around the cruise ports.
An Alaska cruise kayak excursion is a chance to see the beautiful waters around the cruise ports. © 2018 Scott Bateman
Our Alaska cruise kayak excursion had an intimidating start.

We were a moderately fit couple over the age of 60. All of the other couples were at least 25 years younger. Could we keep up with them?

The answer was yes. They were wimps. We were awesome.

Actually, we just managed to keep up with them.

As they say, age is just a number even with a kayak excursion. Moderately fit people of almost any age can go on kayaks and tour some of the beautiful bays and passages around any of the Alaska cruise ports.

A typical excursion lasts about three to four hours. That time includes getting ready for the kayak by putting on gear such as life jackets and kayak spray skirts along with quick tips from the guide. Some operators offer waterproof bags for cameras and other items. Preparation took about 15 minutes.

Guides take tourists to various vantage points for photographs and commentary along with some pauses in the action. Excursion kayaks usually hold two people, so their combined paddling moves the kayaks quickly from one point to another.

Lucky kayakers will have good weather and even luckier ones will see some creatures in the water or on land. Bald eagle sightings are common.

Shopping for Kayak Excursions


Booking a kayak excursion on the cruise ship is sometimes but not always the most expensive option. One actual excursion from a cruise line took three and a half hours and cost $120 per person including a snack.

A local operator in Seward charged $69 per person for a three-hour kayaking tour on Resurrection Bay. Another one charged $75 for a hour-hour tour.

Alaska cruise planners can go on cruise line websites to see the kayak excursions they offer and how much they charge.

Price comparisons showed that kayak tours are more expensive in some locations than others, especially among local operators.

So it pays to go price shopping by location before going on the cruise.


Booking a Kayak Excursion


Alaska weather is wildly unpredictable with rain even during the summer. Some excursions are still fairly tolerable Alaska during rainfall, but a kayak excursion isn’t one of them.

It also isn’t much fun to cancel the excursion because of rain and not get a refund because the cancellation took place too late.

Booking on the ship at the last minute has one major advantage. It gives kayakers a chance to check the weather and see if it is good enough to go.

Last-minute bookings also mean passengers can skip booking on the ship, go ashore and book directly with the local operator if it means saving some money.

Still, the last-minute approach has another risk. All of the available slots might be full. Either way, cruise passengers may want to book a kayak excursion at the last minute more than any others.

Tip: Ask how much time the tour actually spends in the water and not the total duration. Some tours include transportation while others leave right from the docks. Each tour requires some time for distributing equipment and a brief training session.

Excursion Examples


The guided kayak tours below are examples of what is available in each major port and may not contain all possible tours. Prices were current at the time of this writing and subject to change.

Ketchikan


Ketchikan Kayak Company, www.ketchikankayakco.com, has a 2.25-hour eco tour for $129 per person that visits two to three small islands and includes transportation to and from the starting point. The total time from dock to dock is four hours. Each tour has six guests per guide.

Southeast Sea Kayaks, www.kayakketchikan.com, has a tour that also lasts 2.25 hours for $93 per person over the age of 15 and $63 for children ages 6 to 15. Each tour has 10 guests per guide. This one begins right by the cruise docks.

Alaska Shore Tours, www.alaskashoretours.com, has a 2.5 hour tour “from pickup to drop-off” that is $99 for adults and older teens and $69 for children ages 6 to 15.

Skagway


Skagway is one of the smallest cruise ports and has fewer excursion operators as a result. Most of the kayaking out of Skagway requires taking a boat trip 20 miles south to Haines.

For example, Shore Excursioneer, www.shoreexcursioneer.com, has an ambitious 6.5 hour tour to kayak at Chilkoot Lake State Park. It begins with a 45-minute catamaran ride to Haines, followed by a 30-minute ride to the park. The total kayak time is 1.5 hours. The price is $192 for teens and adults and $167 for children 7 to 12.

Sitka


Shore Excursions Group, www.shoreexcursionsgroup.com, has a 2.5-hour tour “to explore sheltered waterways, harbors and coves”. The $108 price includes snacks and water. The tour leaves right by the cruise pier.

Kayak Sitka, www.kayaksitka.com, says its most popular small group kayak tour is 2.5 to 3 hours of paddle time at $159 for teens and adults and $124 for children 4 to 12. The price includes snacks and bottled water.

Juneau


Alaska Shore Tours, www.alaskashoretours.com, has a 3.5-hour tour “from pick up to drop off” that takes them to view of Mendenhall Glacier. The cost is $109 for adults and $79 for children. The tour includes transportation to North Douglas Island where the kayaks launch.

Juneau Shore Tours, www.juneaushoretours.com, also has a Mendenhall Glacier kayak tour. It combines a kayak tour to the glacier and then a one-hour hike on it. This much longer 6.25 hour tour costs $349 per person.

Seward


Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking has a variety of half-day and full-day kayak tours. A 2.5-hour paddle time tour of Resurrection Bay is $75. The tour begins two miles from Seward, and participants have to take a taxi to get there.

Adventure 60 North, www.adventure60.com, has a family friendly half-day kayak tour at Bear Lake, which is about four miles from Seward. The waters are calm and flat; the activity level is easy. The price is $74 per person and total duration is three to four hours. The minimum age is 3, which is one of the youngest age limits of any tour.

Whittier


Alaska Sea Kayakers, www.alaskaseakayakers.com, says its most popular kayak tour is a three-hour trip to the busy rookery for the Black Legged Kittiwake seabird. This easy trip is two miles across the fjord from Whittier and costs $89 per person.

Lazy Otter Charters, www.lazyottercharters.com, has a full-day tour for $335 that includes lunch and a water taxi into Blackstone Bay and on to Blackstone Glacier.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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August 27, 2018

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