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Alaska Cruise Port Shopping Tips

Cruise passengers find shops right by the ship in Ketchikan.
Cruise passengers find shops right by the ship in Ketchikan. © 2018 Scott Bateman
Shoppers will find plenty of stores to browse at each Alaska cruise port.

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.

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

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, Skagway.com 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. Hunt for them at the first port of call. 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, even at Juneau. We were surprised to find it's even true in the tiny town of Skagway, which has a year-round population of 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.

 > Category: Planning Tips   

August 18, 2018

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