Finally, something new has been added. Princess Cruises, a longtime leader in the Alaska cruise market, has updated their shore excursion offerings with 20 new ways for passengers to see the wilderness, including a unique opportunity to join a scientific expedition while in Juneau to help study climate change and wildlife behavior patterns. Guests can also get closer to the dramatic glaciers of Tracy Arm, pilot their own zodiac on a tour of Ketchikan or enjoy the opportunity for animal encounters at a film trainer’s wildlife park.
Princess currently offers an extensive array of 215 shore excursions plus the new 20, all of which will begin operating in May, 2010.
Here is the list (courtesy of Princess Cruises) of new tours available to Alaska cruise passengers:
Whales & Glaciers Citizen Science Adventure (Juneau) — This unique tour will give participants a taste of what it’s like to be a research scientist in the wilds of the Last Frontier. Passengers join a science-based excursion giving them the opportunity to participate in a GPS time-lapse photo project at the Mendenhall Glacier that documents the effects of climate change on the Juneau Icefield. Citizen scientists can also collect water samples, net plankton and record humpback whale and other marine wildlife behavior. This observational data will improve scientists’ understanding of the many variables that affect Alaska’s marine ecosystem. In addition, passengers will enjoy a whale-watching cruise, with guaranteed whale sightings.
Back Country Zodiac Expedition (Ketchikan) — Passengers can be their own captain for the day as they skipper their custom-built motorized inflatable along the coastline of Revillagigado Island for a unique Alaska adventure. Participants will follow their guide on a journey that explores Native culture with a view of Saxman Native Village, and a search for wildlife such as bears, eagles, whales, seals and more. The group guide will explain the area’s history, geology, culture and ecology.
Alaska Wildlife Park (Princess Exclusive — Skagway) — Visitors can meet many types of animals at the Kroschel Films Wildlife Park Center. The park is run by trainer Steve Kroschel who has a lifetime of experience working with wild animals for movies such as “Never Cry Wolf” and the PBS “Wild America” series. His center provides a home for numerous orphaned wild animals including wolves, Arctic fox, lynx, porcupine, pine marten, mink, reindeer and wolverines. Guests will enjoy hands-on, face-to-face encounters and intimate close-up photography of many of these animals as they learn about the behavior of these intriguing creatures and gain an understanding of the time and trust required to train them.
Whales, Bears & Glaciers Adventure (Princess Exclusive — Juneau) — This excursion offers an opportunity to experience the perfect Alaska trifecta: whale watching, bear viewing and a scenic flight over the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield. Visitors will see two of Alaska’s most impressive creatures with a whale watching cruise that guarantees sightings, plus a bear search at a salmon-bearing stream. The tour caps off with a flight over the Juneau Icefield and the Mendenhall Glacier on the way back to town.
Tracy Arm Fjord & Glacier Explorer (Juneau) — Sapphire Princess passengers have a new way to get a close-up look at the glaciers of Tracy Arm as they cruise aboard a luxurious, high-speed catamaran for an in-depth exploration of the twin Sawyer Glaciers. The adventure begins just before Sapphire Princess reaches the entry to Tracy Arm, as participants board their catamaran directly from the ship. After viewing glaciers from a much closer vantage point than is possible from a cruise ship, they will travel to Juneau to rejoin Sapphire Princess.
Adventure Park & Zip Lines (Skagway) — Thrill-seeking passengers can walk along raised balance beams, cross suspension bridges and fly through the air on a series of zip lines with this adventurous excursion. The exciting course will keep passengers challenged and exhilarated as they soar through the air on a series of six zip lines through the lush Alaska canopy.
Juneau Jeep Adventure (Princess Exclusive) — Visitors can experience Juneau’s most scenic and historic locales in the rugged comfort of a Jeep Wrangler for a small group adventure. A diver/guide will take each group on a tour through Juneau, to a scenic view of Mendenhall Glacier and other local sites, ending with a stop at the award-winning Alaskan Brewing Company for a final taste of Juneau.
Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter & Salmon Bake Combo (Princess Exclusive — Juneau) — This unique tour combination gives passengers a stunning aerial view of the famed Mendenhall Glacier plus the chance to feast on wild Alaska salmon. Participants will enjoy a glacier landing where they can explore the glacier’s surface and learn how glaciers form, flow and shape the landscape. Once they’ve worked up an appetite, visitors join the salmon bake festivities for an all-you-can-eat meal.
Historical Ketchikan Walking Tour (Princess Exclusive) — Visitors can gain a unique understanding of Ketchikan and its Tlingit culture on this guided walking tour of Alaska’s “First City.” Led by a former city mayor of Tlingit descent, the tour offers personal knowledge of the many changes Ketchikan has experienced over the years. Visitors will also learn the significance of totem poles within Native culture, see the former red light district, and visit a salmon ladder to see the incredible journey salmon endure as they return to their spawning ground.
Bear Country & Wildlife Expedition (Ketchikan) — Passengers can view black bears in their natural habitat on a wildlife experience just a short drive from downtown Ketchikan. Participants will enjoy a nature walk on their way to a stream where more than 100,000 Pacific salmon return each year to spawn. Large concentrations of bears and other wildlife gather to feed on the huge runs of salmon. In addition to the bears, bald eagles wait for scraps, while mink, marten and wolf frequent the area, and seals can usually be seen feeding on the bountiful fish harvest.
Behind the Scenes at Butchart Gardens (Victoria) — One of Victoria’s premiere attractions, Butchart Gardens is a beautiful place to explore independently. However, with this tour, guests have the unusual opportunity to go beyond the usual self-guided visit, and enjoy an exclusive in-depth guided tour behind the scenes. Visitors will learn the history of the gardens and explore the Mediterranean Garden and botanist’s greenhouse, plus see a demonstration by the gardens’ ceramics master as he displays his skills in flower-pot making.
If you are already booked on an Alaska cruise, you can easily reserve your tour at the Cruise Personalizer on Princess.com. Don’t wait too late as many shore excursions are quickly filled before the ship ever sails.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath… stop for a meal and a glass of wine along the way.