Ketchikan is the first port in Alaska and a major cruise line destination. As such, the Carribean Jewelry business move to the north when tourists tend not to go to the Carribean. Tanzanite International, Royal Jewelers, Diamonds International and scores of others are crowded into 4-5 blocks of Downtown Ketchikan.
Unique Suggestions: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate... In some instances I was able to get down to 60% below retail.
I would like to dispute CABear's experience with the Adventure Kart experience in Ketchikan. I think that his awful trip there was based on a VERY different set of expectations than what the tour very clearly advertised. I boarded a jet boat around noon for an hour's cruise through gorgeous scenery out to an extremely remote area, passing whales, eagles, and the areas south of Ketchikan while being given an unexpected guided tour from the boat's handler's. We arrived at what used to be an old logging camp, donned the protective raingear that was provided (and highly recommended) by the tour guides, popped on a helmet (not just recommended, but good common sense), and boarded our two-person off-road buggies.
These are not go-karts. They were never advertised to be go-karts. All information about the tour clearly stated that these were serious off-road capable vehicles, able to do 40 mph over woodland trails (NOT roads). It is not a sight-seeing tour, where one takes a leisurely pace over the mountains and through the forest to enjoy the sights. It is as close to off-road Baja truck racing as you can come without actually buying a truck. Yes, the sights at the stops were absolutely beautiful, as is most of Alaska. But this is "adventure" kart, not "kiddie" kart. The trails are old and abandoned logging roads, and as such, they are not paved, nor are they kept in the best repair. The karts can more than handle the punishment however, and I would advise anyone to keep in mind that one man's "rough and jarring ride" is another man's "thrill ride."
As regards the size issue: the brochures clearly state that there are weight limitations for this attraction. I, myself, am 300 lbs. and a size 46 waist, and yes, it's a bit of a tight fit, but if the prior poster really is 250 lbs., then they should not have had any issue with fitting in the vehicle at all.
Unique Suggestions: Frankly, I had a blast on this attraction. I love high-speed fun, off road adventure, and the ability to experience it in a vehicle under my own control through Alaska's gorgeous scenery was worth every penny. The tour guides were friendly, knowledgeable, and while the ride to get to the attraction was a little long at an hour, the sense of isolation and wilderness at the attraction's site was unparalleled. I would recommend this attraction for anyone who enjoys "Type A" vacations; but it is not a pleasure cruise and you will get dirty. If that sounds like a good time, then this is right up your alley.
With the possible exception of Beverly Hills, Ketchikan has more jewelry stores than any town its size that we have ever seen. Why one needs to buy jewelry in Ketchikan is anyone's guess. We assume that the target market is couples taking cruises for their wedding anniversaries. On our cruise ship, we got more info about the jewelry stores in Ketchikan than we did regarding the area's more interesting attractions - its museum, native culture, and the surrounding rain forest.
The Arctic Bar is the closet bar to the Cruise Docks...Stay Away! or ask how much a pint is.
I did not and paid $6.00 each! OUCH. OK I pay $ on a cruise ship bar. I can accept that but a bar with little or NO atmosphere forget it! Go the far end of town by the docks and try Kingfisher bar. It is local and better prices.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go in.
Fun Alternatives: Kingfisher Bar
May 2004 -- After reviewing the "Shore Excursions" brochure provided by our cruise line, my wife and I signed up for this very pricey go-cart excursion. Bottom line: The "excursion" was a HORRIBLE experience! The day was on-an-off raining and it took a 1-HOUR BUS RIDE to get to the carts. When we got to the carts, we were given helmets (w/visors) and offered raingear provided by the cart staff. We had on jeans and rain-proof jackets, so we eschewed the offer -- BIG mistake. At this point the tour leader advised that anyone with heart trouble might want to forego the cart ride! Next, we attempted to get in a cart. I am a large person, and the cart staff had to literally squeeze me into the cart, and help me buckle up the harness. Once ensconced, I attempted to start the cart -- DEAD! The staff installed a fresh battery, but still no start. We had to change to another cart - not fun! Once on our way, we encountered a VERY ROUGH road made out of CRACKED, not crushed rock, with numerous water-filled potholes. We had to play catch-up to the rest of the group but had to drive at a modest rate because of the terribly JARRING ride, and trying to see the road through the rain-splattered helmet visor. Neither one of us could take our eyes off that road to view any of the passing "scenery." After a miserable half-hour ride, we reached the turnaround point, where we had a 10-minute respite. After another half-hour tortuous ride we finally returned to the starting point, thoroughly soaked and mud-caked, and thankfully boarded a jet boat for a 40-minute cruise back to the Ketchikan dock. FINAL Bottom Line: Never in my life have I paid so much to endure such physical abuse! We were very disappointed and displeased that the cruise-line brochure did not provide a caution and reality check about the challenges of this cart excursion. Any person of greater size than 6' and more than 225-250 pounds (AND any "heart problem") should be advised to forego this excursion.
Unique Suggestions: If it is RAINING, and you opt to go on this "adventure" anyway, be sure to don the raingear offered by the tour opeator.
Fun Alternatives: Given another opportunity to visit Ketchikan for just one day, I would seek out any exhibitions of the native culture and history. Or perhaps take a Misty Fjords air-tour.
There are any number of shops in Ketchikan during cruise ship season more than willing to part tourists from their money. You'll find many items that aren't worth buying. There was a local of Ketchikan talking to a tourist who bought a $700.00 knife that turned out to be made in Malaysia and was probably not worth even $7.00. I believe that woman purchased from a street salesman, not a store.
Unique Suggestions: But even in the stores, make sure to look at the products. One way to try to ensure that you are getting authentic "Made in Alaska" products that reflect the local culture and customs is to look for the State of Alaska sponsored emblem in the form of a sticker, card, or other method of advertisement.
Fun Alternatives: If you're buying Alaskan Native art, I'd suggest researching what you like on-line (E-Bay) prior to going to Alaska. I saw items in Ketchikan that were selling for double and triple what you’d find on-line or in Anchorage, and because I don’t believe the artists are seeing that extra profit I was irritated to see it happening.
Front Street is one big tourist trap... set up mainly for the cruise boat industry. Most of the shops that face the water are just full of junk (who really wants a real moose turd?!).
Unique Suggestions: In the Front St. shops look for the small jars of local jelly (salmonberry, juniper and fireweed) - tho overpriced they are delicious.
Look for coupon books. You might be able to score some free stuff.
Otherwise, just enjoy the tackiness!
Fun Alternatives: Go down the side streets. There are some wonderful galleries along there. Tho higher priced, it's better stuff.
Eagle Spirit Gallery was very nice, as was the Scanlon Gallery and the Exploration Gallery. Here you'll get the real thing... not something made in Hong Kong!
On the Historic Register, The Glimore Hotel is located in the middle of the tourist strip. The lobby and front stairway looks good.
Speaking of stairs... there is no elevator in this 3 story building.
Then you get into your room. The bathroom needed a good cleaning, the walls were cracked, the window didn't lock and the faucet was on it's last leg.
They require a deposit to have the phone turned on in the rooms. I left a deposit... something the desk clerks were NOT able to understand. My phone was turned off multiple times during my stay... which meant a trip down the stairs to the front desk. It would sometimes take multiple trips to get it back on.
They offer a free shuttle service... but don't waste your time. I requested a shuttle 3 hours in advance and after it was over a half hour late, I gave up on it.
Check out was a nightmare and I almost didn't get my phone deposit back!
Unique Suggestions: The location is good if you're wanting to do the tourist scene. Bus stop within a 100 feet or so. Very good restaurant attached.
Fun Alternatives: Try the Best Western Landing Hotel. That's where I'm going next visit! (see my hotel tip in this catagory).
The shopping right on the waterfront... there's a mall and then a whole bunch of shops next to where the Princess Cruise Lines ship was docked. These shops are kind of touristy, and they all have pretty much the same thing. A lot of them sell totem poles which are very fake and many not even made in Alaska or the U.S. And some that are made in Alaska are very cheap and not worth it. If you want a real totem pole, there are a couple shops that do have authentic ones, but they are pricey. But these are the ones I'd buy if I was going to buy one! Don't buy the other crap!