- Advertisement -
TravelWhat it's like to go dog sledding on an Alaskan cruise

What it’s like to go dog sledding on an Alaskan cruise

Dog sledding has been on my travel wish list for as long as I can remember. My fifth-grade teacher read our class Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” and I was captivated by the story of Buck and his journey as a sled dog. Although difficult to read at times, with themes of betrayal and the brutality of nature, the narrative of Buck’s survival, loyalty and trust left an indelible mark on me.

The hope of one day embarking on a thrilling snow ride led by a team of huskies never left me. And during a recent Celebrity Cruises sailing on Celebrity Edge, my dog sledding dream came true by way of the line’s Small Group: Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing by Helicopter excursion in Skagway, Alaska.

For more cruise guides, tips and news, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.

My tour was complimentary as part of a hosted press trip, so I hadn’t considered the cost of the excursion. When my excursion tickets were delivered to my room, I had to do a double take when I noted the price on the ticket — $913!

I’ve never spent that much on a cruise excursion. I’m a budget-minded girl who’s not typically prone to excessive spending — unless I’m left alone in a good thrift store for too long. I don’t recall spending more than $100 per person for cruise ship excursions I’ve taken in the past, which include guided snorkeling and kayaking tours, zip-lining adventures and catamaran tours.

The typical cruise traveler has to make hard decisions on Alaska cruises, where excursions are often pricey but also once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I was curious whether this experience would justify the ticket price for those considering a dog sled and helicopter tour.

Should you spend over $900 on one of the most iconic cruise excursions in Alaska, a helicopter flightseeing tour with a dog sled ride on a glacier? Read on to find out.

Details about my tour


The Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing by Helicopter excursion was offered during a seven-night Alaska Dawes Glacier cruise. The tour was organized by Temsco Helicopters Inc., and it took place during our port call at Skagway near the end of our sailing. The tour was around two hours long, including checking in, a 15-minute helicopter ride each way and roughly an hour to pet the dogs and ride the milelong course in the sled.

How much does an Alaska dog sledding and helicopter tour cost?

Celebrity’s Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing by Helicopter excursion in Skagway costs $912.99 per person. The price is the same for guests of all ages, from infants up.

Daily Newsletter

Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter

Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts

Yes, you read that right. There’s no minimum age for this tour, so babies can dog sled. I saw a family with their infant checking in for a tour when we were there. If your child is 2 years or older, you must purchase a ticket for them. If you can hold your baby in your lap so they don’t take up a seat in the helicopter, you aren’t charged for a ticket for them. However, if you’d prefer your 1-year-old to have their own seat, you must purchase a ticket for them.

Other vendors, such as Alaska Shore Excursions and Skagway Shore Tours, offer similar dog sledding and helicopter tours to Denver Glacier for around $659 per person. Similar tours through independent vendors in Anchorage, Juneau and other Alaskan cities range from about $589 to $900.

My dog sledding and helicopter tour adventure


On the morning of the tour, I woke up to clear skies and loads of sunshine in Skagway. Helicopter tours are weather-dependent, so I was grateful for the fair conditions. While you’ll receive a refund if your tour is canceled due to bad weather, you might be unable to book another dog sled excursion in another port. That would have definitely been the case for us, as Skagway was our last Alaska port of call on the itinerary.

Our group of five people from Celebrity Edge boarded a shuttle bus for the short ride from the ship to the tour meeting point at the Skagway waterfront. A representative from Temsco Helicopters met us and led us to a smaller shuttle, which took us to the company’s building and helicopter launch area. During our ride, we watched a mandatory safety briefing.

When we arrived, we signed our waivers and received glacier boots that went over our regular shoes. I was prepared with my grippy hiking boots, but I was glad to have something apparently more effective for walking on glaciers. The boots looked cumbersome, and I expected them to feel like awkward ski boots. However, they were easy to walk in, though I did feel like I was preparing for a moon landing.

They also gave us a fanny pack-type life vest and instructed us on how to activate it in the event of an emergency water landing. It was hard to pay attention to all the safety briefings as I was feeling giddy waiting for the actual tour to begin.


Weight distribution is important on helicopters, so the pilot assigned us seats based on how much we weighed. We didn’t have to step on a scale; they trusted us to tell them our actual weight. I was given the first spot; to keep my self-esteem intact, I didn’t ask if that was a positive or negative thing. Passengers who weigh 250 pounds or more must pay an additional “weight surcharge” of $150.

I was surprised by the many restrictions on what we could bring on the helicopter. We could not bring tablet devices, GoPro sticks, drones, extendable items or bags of any kind (backpacks, crossbody bags or small fanny packs). Thankfully, we could bring smartphones and smaller cameras onto the helicopter, so I could still take plenty of adorable sled dog footage and aerial photos of the stunning surroundings. Phew!

Before we departed the ship, I left my sturdy Nikon camera with the long zoom lens in my cabin, bringing only my iPhone and fanny pack. We were instructed to store our belongings in a locked cabinet during the excursion.

As we ascended above the Skagway harbor, I geeked out over our fantastic vantage point of the cruise ships docked that day. Then we flew over scenic Taiya Inlet, taking in ridiculously gorgeous views of the water below and the surrounding snow-covered mountains, some dotted with waterfalls. We spotted bald eagles and a few seals along the way. I’ve always felt the word “breathtaking” was overused and cliched in travel articles, but those views caused me to gasp more than once.


The ride was about 15-20 minutes long. On our way there, the ride felt longer — probably because even though I was in awe of the scenery below, I was anxious to get to those adorable dogs. (On the other hand, the ride back after our sled ride seemed short to me.)

Our helicopter touched down on the Denver Glacier next to the dog sled camp, where about 240 sled dogs live from April to around August or September. At the end of the season, all the dogs and equipment are transported from camp by helicopter. (Can I volunteer to accompany the dogs during the trip?)


We were encouraged to interact with the sled dogs, and this dog lover didn’t need to be told twice. I petted and cuddled every single pup on our team as many times as I could, and I might have shed a couple of happy tears while doing so. Some folks in my group said guests weren’t allowed to pet or interact with the sled dogs on similar tours in other destinations, so I was thrilled that I took an excursion where I could get some puppy love.

I forced myself away from my new canine friends to turn my attention to Trace Drake, our musher (i.e., the sled team guide or driver). He was friendly, funny and informative and shared details about the lives of the sled dogs. They begin training at around 6 months old and work for about eight to 10 years before they retire. When they retire, they are most often adopted by a musher or guide and live out the rest of their days as house dogs.

Temsco Helicopters operates up to 10 dog sledding and flightseeing excursions to Denver Glacier daily. The sled dogs at the Denver Glacier camp typically do two runs, then rest for four before working another two.

It’s happening!


Finally, the moment I had been waiting for arrived — we boarded the dog sleds for a ride on the glacier. The dogs were eager to take off, and the cacophony of excited barks and yelps was almost deafening.

Each dog sled had two seats in the first section and one seat in the second, with a space in the back for a person to act as the musher. I wasn’t brave enough to attempt mushing and capturing video, so I stayed seated. It was a wise decision, as I proved incapable of hanging onto my iPhone even sitting down. It flew from my hand at one point during the ride (a reminder to always secure your belongings when dog sledding).

Before the trip, I’d never walked on a glacier and had envisioned it as a mass of sky-blue ice. While we had visited Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau a couple of days before, we only saw it from a distance. Denver Glacier looked more like a field of snow encircled by towering snowcapped mountains, but it was a remarkable sight. The seemingly endless span of snow made me feel like I was on an ice planet in a “Star Wars” movie.

I felt a rush of adrenaline and elation when we took off. The symphony of sounds filled my ears — the musher’s commands, the clink of the leashes, the scrape of the sled blades gliding along the packed snow — and kept me present in the moment for the entire ride. I did my best to capture as many videos and photos as I could but I knew nothing could replicate the awe I felt. I’m not ashamed to say my eyes welled up more than once along the way.

Our ride was about a mile long, with a couple of stops to pet the dogs, take photos and let me run back and grab my wayward iPhone. The entire ride took about 40 minutes. The tour company also took a group photo halfway through the ride, which we could purchase for $35 (one photo) or $50 (two photos). I was able to capture several photos and videos, so I declined.

Is an Alaska dog sledding and helicopter tour worth the cost?


Whether you shell out hundreds of dollars for a cruise excursion is a personal decision based on your budget and how you travel. For me, the rare opportunity to take two helicopter rides over some of the most gorgeous landscapes, spend time with real working sled dogs and take photos of a seemingly endless field of snow would definitely be worth the splurge.

If given the chance to do this epic cruise excursion again on my own dime, I would budget in other areas to make it happen, including not doing excursions in other ports. For example, at Juneau and Ketchikan in Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada, one could easily explore independently. In Juneau, we took a public bus to the entrance of Tongass National Forest (only tour buses are permitted beyond the entrance), walked to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and bought a daypass ($5 per person) to hike to Mendenhall Glacier and to the base of Nugget Falls.

Other ways I would cut back to accommodate a bucket-list excursion include not paying extra for specialty dining and not purchasing a drink package or other add-ons. Celebrity had plenty of delicious restaurants that were included, so I would rather prioritize the tour over fancier meals.

If I earned enough airline miles before my cruise, I would redeem them to pay for my flights to and from the cruise departure port. Similarly, I could save up points for my precruise hotel stay.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

One of the perks of being a Celebrity Cruises Captain’s Club loyalty program member (for Classic tier members and above) is receiving a 5% discount on Small Group Discovery Tours like our Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing by Helicopter tour in Skagway. If you’re a frequent cruiser, you might be able to shave some dollars off your tour price that way.

If a $900 tour is not in your budget, check prices in other ports and for tours booked through an independent operator to see if you can find a more affordable option. Temsco Helicopters offers a helicopter and dog sledding tour on Mendenhall Glacier, with prices starting at $659 per person (still pricey but not $900).

Another cheaper option is a sled dog experience without the flightseeing. Alaska Shore Tours’ Skagway Sled Dog and Musher’s Camp excursion takes guests to an authentic dog sledding summer training camp. The tour features time in historic downtown Skagway before an 11-mile ride to the Musher’s Camp in Dyea, once a thriving gold rush town. The sleds have wheels for rides without snow. Tickets start at around $184 per person.

Temsco Helicopters also offers an excursion to a dog sledding summer camp in Juneau with a dog sled ride on a dirt course for about $159, but it doesn’t include a helicopter ride.

Bottom line

The Alaska dog sledding and helicopter tour was a bucket-list travel experience that I won’t soon forget. Soaring above the Taiya Inlet and between the mountains was thrilling. The feeling was matched only by the intoxicating sled ride across a snow-covered glacier driven by some of the strongest and most beautiful canines I’ve ever met.

I would love to share this adventure with my husband and daughters on a future trip to Alaska. I guess I’ll start squirreling away money now so I can afford a repeat experience.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Subscribe Today





Get unlimited access to our EXCLUSIVE Content and our archive of subscriber stories.

Exclusive content

Latest article

More article

- Advertisement -