Cruising Alaska: America’s Coolest State Offers the Warmest Welcome

Ports in Juneau or friendly and easy to walk.
A port in Juneau docks feet from the Mount Roberts Tramway. Photo by Pat Woods

Small friendly ports

Friendly Alaska port towns exude a warm welcome for cruise guests. All are walkable, safe and offer a plethora of activities and shopping. You won’t need a pricey wardrobe here. Simply dress in removable layers, wear sturdy walking shoes and bring rain gear.


An all-day rain did not stop us from exploring Alaska’s capital city of 30,000. Our ship docked within steps of Mount Roberts Tramway, where cable cars ascend 1,800 feet up the steep mountain. At the top we watched a movie, shot pics of ships below, visited a nature center and browsed a gift shop purveying quality merchandise.

In late afternoon a shuttle bus took us to a Dog Musher’s Camp on nearby Douglas Island, where we were greeted by 150 barking and howling Alaskan sled dogs. Sixteen-dog teams were hitched to six-passenger wheeled vehicles that enable dogs to train year-round for winter dog mushing, Alaska’s favorite sport.

The dogs’ excitement made us forget the rain and enjoy the one-mile ride. After the ride, mushers demonstrated equipment and talked about their dog racing experience. Finally it was much anticipated puppy petting time which helps pups become socialized with humans.

Juneau’s attractions include Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure, sport fishing, whale watching and helicopter flightseeing.

Like other towns in the Inside Passage, Sitka is an island that cannot be reached by roads or highways. Once a part of Russia, Sitka celebrates both its Russian and Native American heritage with dance troops.

Known for clean air and safety, this quiet town of 8,900 (far fewer in winter) offers a variety of hiking trails, museums, the Alaska Raptor Center and St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The local pharmacy features a 1950s-era soda fountain.

Ketchikan pulls out all to stops for cruisers with a flat attractive waterfront, large visitor center, free shuttle buses, plus friendly greeters, local tour operators, helpful shopkeepers and residents.

Although Ketchikan gets 152 inches of rain a year, it was sunny and in the 60s. We strolled Creek Street boardwalk and visited the Tongass Historical Museum.

Ketchikan honors its native heritage with the world’s largest totem pole collection preserved at the Totem Heritage Center. The town of 13,000 has a thriving arts community and is a sport fishing haven with five salmon species.

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