Tour Focus: Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher’s Camp in Juneau, Alaska
Do you like cute puppies? Do you like to play with cute puppies. You have completed the prerequisites for the Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher’s Camp land excursion.
That’s basically what we thought when we booked the Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher’s Camp tour on a recent Explorer of the Seas cruise to Alaska. While browsing Juneau shore excursions, we decided to do some serious science research and spend a few hours playing with some puppies…and maybe learning a thing or two about the Iditarod breed.
There are many shore excursions in Alaska that incorporate dog sledding, but if all you want to do is just focus on the dog sledding aspect and playing with puppies, this is the tour for you. .
The Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher’s Camp excursion is offered directly by Royal Caribbean and can be booked before the cruise or once on board.
After disembarking from the ship in Juneau, we found our group meeting place in the parking lot adjacent to the pier. Once everyone arrived, we boarded a small bus that would take us about a 10-15 minute ride to the dog sledding camp.
The camp is located on the outskirts of Juneau, Alaska. We visited a real dog sled camp, where when the operators don’t offer tours to cruise passengers, they practice for dog sled races that will take place in the winter.
Upon arrival our group was split up to maximize our time and minimize the wait. The Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher’s Camp Tour has three basic components:
- Driving the dog sled
- Discover dog sledding races
- Play with puppies
In our case, we started with the experience of dog sledding while the other people in our group met the puppies. Later, we would exchange.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no snow in the ground in the summer in Alaska, so dogs practice pulling a cart supposedly evokes the same experience as a dog sled. A group of dogs pulls the cart around a track that crosses a large part of the forest.
You sit in the cart, strapped in and driven by a dog sled musher. The musher explains how the races work, describes the nuances of dog sledding and how dogs train to race, and takes you and the dogs out on the track.
The whole part of the run takes you around the track, with a break along the way for the dogs. The track area goes through a very wooded part of the camp and it’s quite pleasant and beautiful to be there. Meanwhile, the dogs seem to relish the thrill of the race.
Along the way, the musher will take your picture in the cart while you remain seated.
After the race is over, you have the chance to meet and pet the dogs that pulled you. The makeup of the canine team will vary from experienced dogs that tend to lead the pack, to inexperienced, brand new dogs that pull the rear of the team.
After the dog sledding portion, there is the opportunity to learn more about dog sledding racing.
You’ll learn about the history of the Iditarod race and the evolution of dog sledding to what it is today. During our visit, we also had the opportunity to meet a retired dog sled racer, who now just hangs out and gets petted by strangers.
The camp also has a suspension bridge for taking pictures.
After the dog sledding lesson, it’s time for the piece de resistance, the puppies!
During our visit, there were three groups of puppies of different ages: very young puppies, young puppies and teenage puppies.
A member of the camp team will distribute the puppies to the people in the group. Ultimately, it’s up to your fellow travelers to share time with the pups and keep them going.
You can pet them, hold them, take selfies with them, hug them, and probably try to convince your partner/parent/cousin/uncle to adopt a puppy as soon as you get home.
During pup petting time, you can also enjoy complimentary hot chocolate.
As the excursion promises, it’s an opportunity to see, play and pet puppies. I was a little skeptical about the number of puppies there would be (as opposed to older dogs) but they had quite a few and it lived up to expectations.
The racing portion of the tour was better than I expected, with a feeling of elation as we raced around the track. These dogs are the real deal and at the slightest hint of taking part in a race, they would all start howling and barking in euphoric anticipation of what they knew was to come.
Of course, meeting the puppies is what everyone is really there to see, and it’s quite an experience.
The only real problem with meeting the puppies is that it is entirely dependent on your other guests to share and be gracious over time. There is a limited amount of time with each group of puppies, and in our experience there were definitely some people who tended to keep puppies longer than others. There is no indication given about the time, nor any sort of rule. Just keep in mind that there aren’t enough puppies for everyone to have one at the same time, and so whoever doesn’t have a puppy is probably looking enviously at people with puppies during a lap. Be nice and rewind, uh, share the puppies.
I liked how they split the group at the start of the tour to minimize the wait time. It helped keep everything moving, and when it came time to meet the pups, having fewer people to compete with meant more quality time with the dogs.
Our tour lasted two hours, which was just the perfect amount of time, in my opinion. We had enough time to do everything without having this feeling of “when are we already going to start the next game?”.
As mentioned earlier, there are a few different excursions that integrate this experience into the whole tour. If you are looking to just meet the puppies, this is the tour for you. If you want to meet puppies and do other tours, consider one of the other tours. We ended up doing the tour on our own after this excursion, but it’s important to know that there are other excursions in Juneau and Skagway that offer very similar experiences.
Cost: $127 per adult and $127 per child (our three year old daughter was free).