Cruises to Alaska can be pretty expensive, depending on which cruise line you take, how long it is, and other considerations.
Perhaps you’re considering taking a cruise, but you’re concerned you wouldn’t have a lot of money to spend while you’re here.
Or perhaps you’re already on a cruise and you find that you have left your bank card at the Walmart in Ketchikan when you went in to buy postcards for your friends back home.
If either of these situations (or a similar one) apply to you, don’t worry! There are plenty of cheap and free things to do near the cruise ship docks in every port.
Let me arbitrarily define “cheap” as an activity that costs $15 or less per person and will take up at least one hour of your time in port.
I’ve seen too many of these guides online that have some five-minute activity that costs $20 on it.
If I’m paying $4 a minute, I don’t consider that cheap, unless it’s a doctor’s visit and I’m only paying for the time I’m actually being examined. In almost any other context, $4 a minute is a bit much.
I almost guarantee that in every port you’ll visit, there is at least one free museum and/or one that operates on a “pay as you can” donation system.
Either way, these are excellent places to spend your time, especially if it’s raining (and being that a majority of Southeast is part of the largest rainforest in North America, there’s a decent chance it could rain).
Even the most expensive museum in Southeast Alaska (at least that I know of, based on my years of living here and the research I conducted on Google) is the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. It’s $14 per person and you could easily spend over an hour looking at the hundreds of exhibits inside.
There is a lot of Native Alaskan history in these museums, plus artifacts from Russia, the territorial days, and much more. If you’re into any kind of history at all, I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Walking or Hiking
This one sounds rather simple, but it can be a great way to spend a good amount of time while spending no money.
There are a lot of walking trails in Southeast Alaska, with varying levels of difficulty. Some of them are all on (relatively) flat ground, while others will lead you to the top of a mountain.
It’s a great way to enjoy nature and get a chance to stretch your legs after spending so much time on the ship. You can also take some pictures and show them to your friends back home to make them extremely jealous!
Lay on a Beach
People are sometimes surprised to learn that we have beaches in Alaska, which seems logical since most people think of Florida or Hawaii as beach destinations before they’d think of Alaska.
Since every city or town you’ll visit on your cruise is near the Pacific Ocean or one of its arms, there will be plenty of public beaches for you to visit (weather permitting!)
Beachcombing in Alaska is much like the rest of the Pacific Northwest and many people spend all of the cruise time wandering up and down the rocky beaches.
Historical Artifacts and Ruins
All over Southeast Alaska, you’ll find the remnants of old mining equipment, houses, vehicles, and many other things. Many of these can be seen with just a short walk (or bus ride, followed by a walk, depending on which city or town you’re in.)
I once went on a walk with a woman on the trail behind Sandy Beach, which features a lot of old equipment and things from the now-defunct Treadmill Gold Mine, which caved in and has not been operational for over 100 years.
We walked past the structure that used to be the sleeping quarters for the miners and, as there are no longer any doors or windows, we walked inside to take a look around.
She started telling me of her plans to rebuild the house and begin living in it with me. I was very confused and about a minute later, she was the one in shock.
It turns out she was quoting Ryan Gosling’s character in “The Notebook,” a movie that I had not seen at that point in my life. We eventually watched it together, it was pretty good.
Anyway, the point is that there are a lot of historical artifacts all over around here that are easily accessible.
Almost every place in Southeast Alaska will have at least one art gallery downtown near the cruise ship docks, with artwork available to look at and/or purchase.
Many of the art pieces you will see, although not all, will be traditional Alaska Native designs, including the wood carvings for which they are best known.
The one thing you can definitely be sure of, though, is that all the art you see will have been created by local artists.
Summary (Plus a Few Bonus Ideas)
There are a lot of things you can do for free or for pretty cheap while in port during your Alaskan cruise, but these are the ones I recommend the most.
There are churches open in every town during the day for those who would like a quiet place to pray or read the Scriptures. There are a lot of Russian Orthodox churches that were built when Alaska was a Russian territory as well.
You could also go into a bar, order one drink, and play a few games of pool or darts.
There are a lot of towns in this part of the state that have a bowling alley and many of them offer discounts during the week when there are fewer customers.
No matter what you choose to do during your visit and no matter which city you’re in, there is a lot of rich history and beautiful scenery to take in. I hope you have a wonderful time visiting us on your next cruise!