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Excursion Reviews


The Grand Canyon. Enormous. Majestic. Kid friendly? Believe it or not, the answer is yes!

Despite the fact that our children, ranging from 10 to 18 years old, were less than enthusiastic about adding the Grand Canyon to our family vacation this year, it turned out to be one of their favorite parts of the trip out west. What do I mean by less than enthusiastic? I believe the word “boring” was used once or twice. As far as they were concerned, they’d already seen the Grand Canyon time and time again in photographs. But a photograph isn’t the same as seeing it in person, and seeing this incredible landscape in person is anything but boring.

As soon as we arrived, they quickly realized that the pictures didn’t do it justice. They were in awe. Imagine that, a 10-year-old in awe of something over a million years old. Now, that same 10-year-old girl is learning about the Grand Canyon in school, and she proudly tells her classmates, “I’ve been there!” Not only has she been there, but she’s taken photos there (some goofier than others) and she’s made memories there—memories that she’ll cherish for the rest of her life.

So yes, your kids may groan about how “boring” a bunch of rocks may be, but don’t rule it out. We didn’t, and we’re so glad because of it.

With that said, the Grand Canyon probably isn’t the ONLY place you want to visit on a vacation to the Southwest, as two days there is more than enough for your children. That’s why I recommend visiting any of the many places close by. In fact, we took a day trip out to the Canyon from Las Vegas!

If you’re interested in learning more about building a family vacation around the Grand Canyon (or adding it to your already-planned vacation in the area), contact me for a quote today!

Skagway, Alaska Cruise Port Excursion Review: DIY Jeep Tours

Skagway! The port that lays farthest North along our cruise of the Inside Passage and home to the White Pass & Yukon Railroad. Skagway was built on the Klondike gold boom in 1897.

Even though the White Pass Railroad is considered one of the most amazing railways in North America, we opted to try the DIY Jeep Tours (formerly Alaska Green Jeep Tours) because we could travel the same route as the train, plus stop whenever we wanted too to take pictures or stretch. Our destination was Emerald Lake 75 miles North in the Yukon.  The price for Jeep rental is $250 per day (plus city and rental tax).  There is also an additional fee for reserving online.  We ended up paying a total of $312.50, which is a great deal considering the price of other excursions available.  The Jeep can be picked up as early as 7:30am, and has to be returned by 6:00pm.  There is a 200 mile limit, which is more than enough to get you to Emerald Lake and back.  The trip takes approximately 1.5 hours each way (not accounting for stops to take pictures and take in the scenery).  

You could choose whatever color jeep you wanted. We originally wanted the blue jeep on the front row but the guy in front of us got it first! So we opted for the cool red Jeep on the end.

The distance from the cruise ship was a brisk, easy walk. I took this picture standing in the road at the DIY check-in hut.

I took this picture while standing in the Main Street
disney alaskan cruise
This is a picture of the check-in hut from the same spot in the road that I took the previous picture of the Disney Wonder at the dock.
Gas station across the street from DIY Jeep Tours. We will come back to this later.

Our confirmation email stated that we should bring proof of insurance to rent the jeep, but I was never asked to provide it during the check-in process. I would make sure to bring it just in case.

The rental process was smooth and easy. After completing some necessary paperwork, the staff member and I performed the orchestrated, yet familiar, walk-around of the jeep looking for any dents, dings, and scratches. All the Jeeps were in great shape and clean inside. A few had some minor scratches and a road wash up around the wheel wells, but that’s expected knowing the usual weather conditions in the area.

We were given this notebook with a CD and written directions for our tour towards Emerald Lake. The CD contained some great historical information but it was challenging for the CD to stay synced with my driving. So I asked my wife Tammy to just read the information written in the notebook which seemed to work well for us.

The book was easy to read with convenient pictures to accompany the text.

Before we left town, we decide to drive down State Street. Since there were only two cruise ships in port, we had the town all to ourselves to start the day. So much so, the streets looked like the backdrop of a Hollywood movie studio.

View of the Disney Wonder while driving towards dock along State Street

We soon turned our Jeep around and headed North on Highway 2 (South Klondike Highway) towards the Yukon. The scenery immediately turned majestic just a few short miles outside of town.

Torment Valley. Imagine traveling this rough terrain in 1898 with 1,000 pounds of supplies. Crazy!
Our red Jeep still looking good

Fourteen miles North of Skagway is the Summit (3,290 feet); however, because the weather elements are harsh, the Canadian Customs Station is nine miles farther North. Remember your passport!

Canada Customs

Alaska is on Alaska Time, while the Yukon is on Pacific Time. We saw this great sign roadway sign and had to stop for a picture.

Once you pass through Canadian Customs, it’s 36 miles to a beautiful spot to view Bove Island. Bove Island was known as a menace for boatmen heading to the Klondike.

Bove Island straight ahead
Bove Island in Tagish Lake

Almost there. We made a quick pit stop in the town of Carcross (short for Caribou Crossing – herds caribou once migrated through this area between Bennett and Nares Lake).  There are restaurants, restrooms, wildlife museum and dog sleds with husky puppies available if you choose to stop here.  

Carcross Commons/Tagish First Nation. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Just a couple of miles North of Carcross was an unexpected site…a desert! In the Yukon? Yep. Proudly known as the “world’s smallest desert (one square mile); although it’s not technically considered a real desert because the environment is too humid).

I forgot to take a picture of my own but this is exactly what it looks like! Photo Credit:

We made it! Well, at least we thought we had arrived. There is no “welcome to Emerald Lake” sign, and honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by its size…so I wasn’t 100% sure this was THE place. Based on the views we experienced during our journey 80 mile journey north, and having passed by Tutshi Lake, Tagish Lake, and Benett Lake, I think I was expecting something spectacular and large but I’ll concede the turquoise water was impressive to see (reminded me of beaches in the Caribbean…with snowcapped mountains outlining the distant views). Even the map at the end of the parking area doesn’t refence anything related to “Emerald Lake” (see below), but based on our handy dandy notebook from the DIY Jeep Tours, we figured out this was the spot.

View of Emerald Lake from overlook parking area
See, no mention of Emerald Lake, but it’s clear “You are Here”

If we had wanted to, I think we might have had enough time to travel further north to Whitehorse but we weren’t sure…and we didn’t want to miss our ship leaving port! So, after spending a few minutes at the lake, we decided to head on back to Skagway the same route we came. Even though the route is the same, the scenery always looks new from a different angle. Because there was little to no traffic during most of our commute, we would stop several times for me to capture some pictures from the roadway.

Having the Jeep in the picture helps give some scale to the sheer size of the mountains
One last photo op as we head back into Alaska

We did have a bear sighting near a rock pile close to the U.S. Customs Check Point. There was only one other car nearby, so we were able roll within a safe distance and capture this picture. I think this was the highlight of the day for my wife Tammy. Thanks to her for scouring the roadside and first seeing the bear!

disney alaskan cruise
Brown bears and grizzly bears are the same
U.S. Customs Border

Oh, remember that gas station photo I shared with you early in this blog? Well, that’s where you will want to top of the Jeep before you turn it back in. Don’t forget, or you’ll end up paying more per gallon if you let the Jeep tour company do it. The gas pumps do take credit/debit card.

We would most definitely recommend this excursion while in Skagway – we will do it again on our next trip to Alaska!  You can read reviews on other excursions here.

As an Independent Travel Agent with Mouse Counselors, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures by Disney®, Aulani and all other destinations at no cost to you.  Message me today if I can help book a magical vacation for you.  

Hoonah Travel Adventures – Whale Watching Review

Our Review of Whale Watching Excursion

with Captain Paul & Hoonah Travel Adventures

Blog Post by:  Eddie

When Tammy and I started planning our first ever trip to Alaska, the discussion of scheduling a whale watching excursion was at the top of the list. Not all Disney Alaskan Cruises stop in Icy Straight Point (Hoonah, AK) so we knew this would be a great opportunity to schedule a whale excursion.

We arrived in Hoonah, AK to the mystic scene of light fog rising through the trees, as if to point towards the zip line high above the mountain top (Icy Straight Point is home to the World’s Largest Ziprider; over a mile long and soaring at speeds exceeding 60 mph). Upon hearing the “all ashore” announcement around 12 noon, we departed the ship and took a quick walk towards the Adventure Center for our 12:15 appointment with Captain Paul and Hoonah Travel Adventures.

disney cruise to alaska

Once inside the Adventure Center, which was very open and clean, our directions were to walk through the center and back out through door #2 (see picture below).

disney cruise to alaska
See door #2 in the background. The monitors on the table is the “Smart Waiver” process for all the excursions

There was a short walk along a granite dust path to the Excursion Hub (think bus loading area) for Hoonah Travel Adventures. Along the route there were signs leading wanderers to paths for exploring the island.

There was a short walk along a granite dust path to the Excursion Hub (think bus loading area) for Hoonah Travel Adventures. Along the route there were signs leading wanderers to paths for exploring the island.

Nature trail to the left

The walking trail was short and the scenery was great, and there were a few signs directing us in the right direction. Just around the bend was an open area surrounded by large logs forming a circle, and in the middle were the friendly faces of the Hoonah Adventure staff members. There were also other groups of people waiting for their bear excursions to begin (Sorry, I couldn’t find the picture I took of the waiting area!)

After a 5-10 minute wait, a clean, comfortable commuter bus pulled up. We all hopped onboard and traveled another short five minute ride (1.5 miles) to the Hoonah marina where Captain Paul and his two daughters were waiting to share with us the natural beauty of Icy Straight Point.

disney cruise to alaska
Our boat is circled

We couldn’t have asked for calmer waters, and the weather was perfect: overcast and cool. Captain Paul and his two daughters were wonderful hosts. The boat we were on was new, clean, and very spacious, offered a nice restroom, and free snacks were included (bottled water and granola bars).  Our group consisted of about 20 people, and there was a seat for everyone onboard. There were plenty of windows for viewing from inside the boat, and ample space at the bow and aft of the boat for outdoor viewing; in fact, the aft has an elevated platform for even better views. The selfie below was taken on the aft platform.

disney cruise to alaska

As advertised, siting a whale was guaranteed, and it didn’t take long at all. A short 15 minute boat ride North of Hoonah to the Point Adolphus area put us right in the middle of several whales for viewing. We quickly learned that one of the easiest ways to spot a humpback whale was searching for what looks like a mist of spray on the surface of the water (see picture below).disney cruise to alaska

Once Captain Paul sited a whale, he would calmly position the boat to give us all a great vantage point to watch and photograph the whales. There were several other whale watching boats nearby, and all of them were careful not to crowd and impede the whale’s path of travel. There were plenty of whales nearby, so there was no rush or worry to get a good photograph.

disney cruise to alaska

A humpback whale will breech the waters surface 5-6 times before making its famous dive that produces the iconic tail view.

hoonah travel adventures whale watching excursion

On the way back to Hoonah, we were treated with a spectacular scene of seeing the Disney Wonder moored to the Hoonah gangway.

disney cruise to alaska

This was a fantastic excursion and one that my wife will be recommending to all her Alaskan cruise clients!

hoonah travel adventures whale watching excursion

As an Independent Travel Agent with Mouse Counselors, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures by Disney®, Aulani and all other destinations at no cost to you.  Message me today if I can help book a magical vacation for you.