Alaska is a beautiful place that sites incredible scenic beauty all along its vast coastline. Many tourists from near and far come to revel in its beauty, and if you think what would be the most satisfying way to enjoy it, let us give you the answer to that – Alaska ferry.
If this piqued your curiosity and you want to know more about it, then scroll down and read the guide to riding the Alaska ferry.
What is the Alaska Ferry?
The Alaska ferry or blue canoe is formally termed The Alaska Marine Highway system. The government and functions operate it as transportation for people.
MV Tazlina, MV Aurora, MV Columbia are the few vessels working in this system. They offer multiple voyages due to the massive distance between the ports.
It’s advised to buy tickets and make reservations beforehand via online websites or phone calls due to the limited cabins and car deck space to ride the ferry.
What are the Routes?
Three major routes are covered in the Alaska Ferry system.
1) The Southeast Alaska Route:
This system further can be divided into two parts the Day Boat routes and the mainline routes.
Let’s first talk about the Dayboat routes; and these routes are short routes that reach their travel destination and return to the port on the same day and therefore why it’s called Day boats.
For example the vessel, MV Lituya travels between Ketchikan and Metlakatla, and the time it takes is about 45 minutes.
Some other places that come under the Day Boat route system are Juneau, Skagway, and Haines.
On the other hand, the mainline routes aim to travel towards far distanced ports that take up more than a day to travel from homeport to the final destination and back. Some of the vessels traveling the mainline routes are MV Columbia, MV Malaspina, and MV Kennicott.
The mainline routes connect Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Bellingham, Washington, and Skagway, Alaska. On the way to these ports, the vessel stops at Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan.
2) Cross-gulf Route:
This route is also called “inter-tie trips,” It covers the roads across the Gulf of Alaska, joining the southcentral and southwest region of the state and southeast Alaska. Communities of Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula come in the South Central region.
During the summer season, Southeast and Southcentral areas are connected by the MV Kennicott to the Gulf of Alaska area.
3) Southwest Alaska Route:
This route includes societies beyond the Aleutian Chain to the Dutch Harbour and regions by the Alaska Peninsula like the Kodiak Island Archipelago.
During the winter season’s adverse weather conditions, service isn’t provided to some communities in this region, but Port Lions, Ouzinkie, Kodiak receive service all year round. These regions usually receive regular service by MV Tusutumena.
Cabins of the Alaska Ferry
The Cabins in the Alaska Ferry can accommodate both usually and specially-abled people, and all the vessels, therefore, have an elevator facility available to reach the cabin decks.
The cabins’ size differs according to the vessels, but they are usually equipped with double or single bunk beds like berths. Some rooms have no windows and no private bathrooms, while some come with a big window or a picture window with a private bathroom.
The cabins can be a two-person room or a four-person room. Shower facilities and public restrooms are also available on the vessels. The Alaska ferry provides clean pillows and blankets on the payment of a small amount.
The trash is also collected daily by the Alaska ferry staff, even if they might not provide room service daily. The cabins are the first to sell out, so it’s advised to book them in advance.
Camping on the Ferry
The answer is yes, and you can camp on the ferry. Some people couldn’t book a cabin or try to save some money or opt to camp on the deck. For this reason, people bring with them tents and sleeping bags on board.
Tents are allowed on the upper deck, but the place is limited. Thus, these covered solariums are famous for sleeping purposes.
People also sleep on the lounge chairs, but these places are usually occupied almost instantly, and therefore one should board early if he/she plans to occupy these.
What Can you do on the Alaska Ferry for Fun?
The most obvious activity one can do here is sight-seeing the beautiful waters and the scenic coastline along all the Alaska Marine Highway System routes.
In the summer, experts from the forest service and Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States board these vessels to impart information about the wildlife and vegetation.
You can also find theaters that show documentaries and films of common interest. The gift shop on these vessels sells souvenirs of Alaska, some books, and magazines for the passengers to entertain themselves with.
The vessels also contain reading rooms, card rooms, and small arcades, while some ships might even have a play area for toddlers.
Meal Arrangement on the Alaska Ferry
The vessels contain a dining area; self-serving or full serving depends on the vessel. All the vessels include vending machines for light snack items.
A wide variety of food and fresh seafood is available on the menu, and the price is also reasonable.
You can indeed bring your own food and beverages and a cooler along with it as the Alaska ferry doesn’t provide your cabins with a fridge. A microwave facility is provided on all vessels in the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Things to remember to do Before Boarding the Ferry
Remember to keep warm clothes as it usually gets chilly even in the summer season, especially at night. Some thick jackets, socks, and leggings are a must. It would be best if you also keep in mind to take some rain clothes and shoes according to the weather forecast.
This can help when you want to sit on the deck and enjoy the rain without falling sick. In the summer season, the sky turns dark only for a few hours, and people find it difficult to sleep on the deck; therefore, carrying a sleeping mask and a sunglass is advised.
You might also consider bringing a small binocular for sightseeing and observing wildlife. Some medicine and basic toiletries are essentials that you should carry while traveling, not just on the ferry but on any trip.
Remember to keep a power bank for your electronic devices as the deck contains very few charging points or outlets, but you will indeed find at least one in every cabin.
Traveling with a Vehicle on the Alaska Ferry.
Passengers find it very convenient to sail with a vehicle on the Alaska ferry as it makes it easier to travel after getting off the ferry.
Suppose you consider taking your car and then remember to reach the port earlier for check-in as the Alaska Marine Highway System requires it.
Once the vehicle is on board, you can only go to the car deck area when it is allowed and announced by the staff or accompanied by them. The time limit for this is around 15 minutes. Another rule of the Alaska ferry is that you cannot sleep in your vehicle.
Cellular Phone Service on the Alaska Ferry
The cellular phone service on the Alaska ferry is weak almost throughout the route.
It might get some Canadian connections in an exceedingly few places; however, if you don’t have their plan, it’ll cost you an excessive amount of money.
Therefore, it’s suggested to keep your phones on airplane mode that also helps save the phone battery. Thus, the passengers usually download shows, movies or podcasts, etc., to keep themselves amused even without the internet.
Alaska Ferry Fare
The fare changes consistently with the route, the vessel, the cabin, etc. However, there’s an additional charge for the passengers’ pets, unaccompanied vehicles, and if the vehicle is more expensive than 8.5 feet.
There’s some discount for senior citizens over the age of 65, and youngsters below the age of six can board the ferry free from cost, whereas those above the age of six and below the age of twelve travel at almost half the actual fare price.
The remaining twelve and above must pay the complete adult fare.
The Alaska Ferry or the Alaska Marine Highway system is a typical transport facility popular among people traveling or visiting Alaska.
We hope to plan your trip on the Alaska ferry abundantly easy by reading this thorough guide about Alaska ferry everything aboard it.
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