The maritime exploits of a suburban housewife … and her sister with a camera

I’m trying to decide what to do in Icy Strait Point, especially since I have no desire to try the zipline.  I’m a klutz, and I can just see myself falling over, fouling the line, and gumming up the whole works. My sister and I have cruised here before, in August of 2012 where we had to tender in (which I really enjoy), after the first cruise dock and Adventure Center was built in 2016 and tenders were no longer necessary, and yet again in 2018.

From the Icy Strait Point cruise ship schedule (PDF, as of July 23, 2021), I’ll have another first, as we’ll be docking at the brand new Wilderness Landing dock (built in 2020 in a partnership betrween Norwegian Cruise Lines and Alaska Native-owned Huna Totem Corp.). So I definitely plan to get off the ship!

Map from the Icy Strait Point website. 

Where exactly the new dock is located seems to be top-secret, other than the fact that the two cruise ship docks are a half mile apart. It’s not on the map above provided by the ISP website. I can’t find anything on the internet. Either I’ll have to wait until I get there.  Or … It may be time to send the bat-signal to my sister.

Icy Strait Point is rather unique. Originally a salmon cannery built in 1912, construction began on the cruise ship port in 2001, with the first ship, the Celebrity Mercury, arriving on May 23, 2004.  Located roughly a mile north of Hoonah, it’s the only private cruise ship destination in Alaska, owned by Huna Totem Corporation, which in turn is owned by about 1500 Alaskan Natives. 

One of things that make this stop different is that the excursions and shops are Alaska Native owned-and-operated. And it’s only open when cruise ships are in port. While you can book independent tours, they strongly encourage you to book excursions through the cruise line. Per the Icy Strait Point website:

While we allocate much of our tour inventory to the cruise ship that is in port for the day, Icy Strait Point does sell a limited number of tours directly from our website that may be booked directly. However, tours that are not sold on may only be purchased via their cruise line or after arriving onsite. Cruise ship guests are encouraged to book their tours at their cruise lines’ websites prior to arrival.

You may also book your tours from Icy Strait Point directly upon arrival. However, these bookings will depend on availability and many of our tours sell out. We strongly recommend booking tours in advance.

I looked at pricing for independent tours and through the cruise line, and the cost is virtually identical. Except that I get a $50 discount for each excursion as part of Norwegian’s Free At Sea program. So it’ll definitely be a ship’s excursion for me.

Just walking around Icy Strait Point and/or catching the free shuttle to Hoonah is fun. The walk involves no stairs (yay), there’s a beach, some great restaurants and shops, and there’s a good chance of seeing whales just walking around – in fact one of my best whale photos ever was from the shore, not a whale watch boat. It’s also a lovely place to walk, virtually no vehicles, other than ATV/cart vehicles available to take guests to the various stops. And there is the gondola and Hoonah Mountain 360 Tram Tour, which is similar to a Hop On-Hop Off experience, which I’ve never done. Hmmm, I think I may have convinced myself.

There are more bears in Icy Strait Point than there are in Yellowstone National Park, so taking the Spasski River Valley, Wildlife & Bear Search excursion interests me. Early September is the tail end of the salmon spawning season, but there’ll be enough salmon running to bring out the bears. (Crossed fingers). Though it will depend somewhat on weather – September can be sunny and warm … or cold and damp. Living in the Pacific Northwest, walking through the rain doesn’t bother me but holding an umbrella, a cane (which I’ve used off-and-on after my knee and hip replacement, mostly for balance on uneven surfaces) and a camera may be challenging. I’m bringing my little 7 year old Nikon Coolpix camera with me, so I could use that and leave my Canon Powershot SX60 in the cabin. I’m all about options – much to my husband’s frustration at times!

And of course, since we’ll be in port from 1pm to 9pm, if I plan it right, I’ll have time to take an excursion, a walk through ISP and even ride the gondola/tram.