Last but not least are the small boats. Often called “6-Packs” because they’re limited to 6 passengers, these tend to be the most personal tours. Ride on the Rum Runner and you’ll get a great lecture from a (very fun) marine biologist. Ride on the Can Can and you’ll get to experience life in Alaska the way locals experienced things growing up here. Ride on the 40′ Three Eagle and you get Luxury and comfort, heated, (even air conditioning) while listening to some great personal stories of growing up in Juneau in the 50’s. Some boats, driven by retired Coast Guard officers will give you an entire maritime history of the USCG, etc… The smaller boats can be a bit of a rough ride in windy weather, as Weather Permitting implies with its boat’s name. Since you can’t control the weather, you may be in for a bit of a ride on a 6-Pack vessels. However,on a small boat, the whole tour can be entirely up to your wishes and whims.
Next, look at how much time you’ll be spending on the tour, then compare the pricing. A $115 tour comes out to $46 per hour if it’s a 2.5 hour tour. A $138 tour may seem more expensive, but if you’re getting 3 hours on the water, the cost is the same between the tours. While on the subject of time, be sure to ask about the ground transportation to and from the small boat harbor. Some tours may include it in the fee, and some may charge extra. Also, the drive time between the cruise ships downtown and Auke Bay averages to about 30 minutes each way. Many of the 3.5-hour tours you see are really 2.5 hour tours with a 30 minute bus ride before and after, so be sure to ask about “time on the water”.
Once you’ve made a decision based on time, take a look at what the tour includes. Most boat trips in Juneau should include “Alaskan Snacks,” soft drinks, and coffee. Some of the longer trips will include a lunch, but be sure to ask. (ie: Adventure Bound sells lunches, snacks, etc. on their Tracy Arm trips, Alaskan Marine Adventures includes all of that in the price, etc.) Different tours are becoming known for their unique snacks. Three Eagle provides free some great Alaskan snacks including smoked salmon, sausage, cheese, crackers, coffee,soda,tea, etc, and a free lunch on the longer trips. Harv & Marv can often be seen meeting Eileen in her kayak to deliver fresh baked cookies. Alaskan Marine Adventures usually serves an assortment of smoked salmon, crab dip, reindeer sausage, cheese, crackers, etc…. don’t hesitate to ask! Not that snacks will make or break your decision, but it’s important to consider whether or not you can customize things when you’re booking.
Another point to consider is the concern for safety and overall safety record of the boat/operator you choose. Larger vessels are required to be inspected on a regular schedule by the USCG. The small boats are not, but there’s a voluntary “5-Star” inspection program that more of the smaller boats are participating in.
Visit http://www.whale-watching-alaska.com for more info!
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