There are 2 camps: Pro or Anti "Cruise Ship Shore Excursions", or the excursions that are offered through the same company you are cruising with.
There is a large consensus that "Cruise Ship Shore Excursions" were NOT to be done. Why?
Too many people
Not as "intuitive" because it's not a "Local" company
There are less options on time, where to go, when to come back
There were also some good reasons IN FAVOR of "Cruise Ship Shore Excursions":
If the boat is late, you don't loose your money
If for any other reason that the excursion doesn't happen, you are also protected and don't loose your money
You can make your plans all in one place, all at one time
It's simple to check on your excursion as you are arriving...because the leaders are on the ship and know what the plans or changes in plans are. (keep in mind that there is no cell phone or internet access...so you have to go "Old School", trusting that your excursion people are waiting for you if you pay a local company)
I decided to go with a local company because I wanted a smaller boat that would help my husband want to come: less people, less boat motion, more freedom of where to go, and less restriction on what time to leave and/or come back.
Harv & Marv's had great reviews and they answered my questions quickly. Making a reservation was easy, and I decided to go for it. I chartered a boat that could carry 12 people, but we only had 8 go with us. The price was still comparable to the Cruise Ship options. They met us at the port and our round trip van ride included some sight seeing and a stop at Mendenhall Glacier, which is a great perk.
Here is my review of Harv & Marv's from TripAdvisor:
“Worth Extra to Have Private Tour!”
Reviewed June 30, 2013
Captain Sean took us out on the Alaskan, with hydraulic seats & big windows. Great ride! FYI, even though it was a heatwave of 78 degrees on land, we needed jackets to stay warm on the water. We were thankful that we brought them along.
Snacks & water/soda is provided if you are interested, but most of our time was spent watching the Humpback Whales bubble net feed over and over.
Thanks, Sean & Jaqulin for making it possible to witness up close such a wondrous show of these graceful animals. You are truly lucky to see this over and over.
As we watched in peace from our boat, asking questions of Captain Sean & learning oodles, the packed cruise boat next to us was tipping from side to side as groups of people rushed to one side of the boat for a glimpse of the whales.
Lines of people were jumping up and down in the back, trying their best to see something. Then, they would rush to the next sighting, rocking the boat again. This is exactly why we were happy to be on our own boat.
Video taping will get more out of your time than still pictures, in my opinion. I took 2000 pictures, yet the video taken by my 8 year old caught the moments better than the still pics.