An Alaska ferry in the middle of a waterbody in Juneau, Alaska during the evening time. An Alaska ferry in the middle of a waterbody in Juneau, Alaska during the evening time.

Unlocking the Allure of Alaska’s Ferries

Alaska is a beautiful place with incredible scenic beauty along its vast coastline, and what better than to explore Alaska in the most peaceful way possible?

Many tourists from near and far come to revel in its beauty, and if you think about the most satisfying way to enjoy it, the answer is the Alaska ferry.

A picture of tourists traveling on Alaska Ferry.
Photo by Jackson Hirsch on Unsplash 2021

If this piqued your curiosity and you want to know more about it, scroll down and read the guide to riding the Alaska ferry.

Things to Know about Alaska Ferry in 8 Points

1. 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, and MV Columbia are the few vessels working in this system. They offer multiple voyages due to the massive distance between the ports.

Buying tickets and making reservations beforehand via online websites or phone calls is advised due to the little cabins and car deck space to ride the ferry.

2. What Are the Routes?

Three major routes are covered in the Alaska Ferry system, they are:

2.1) The Southeast Alaska Route:

This system can further be divided into the Day Boat and mainline routes.

Let’s first talk about the Dayboat routes; these routes are short routes that reach their travel destination and return to the port on the same day, which is why it’s called Day boats.

For example, MV Lituya travels between Ketchikan and Metlakatla, which takes about 45 minutes.

Juneau, Skagway, and Haines are other places under the Day Boat route.

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 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. The vessel stops at Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan on the way to these ports.

2.2) Cross-Gulf Route:

This route is called “inter-tie trips,” It covers the roads across the Gulf of Alaska, joining the southcentral and southwest regions 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.

2.3) 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, and Kodiak receive service all year round. These regions usually receive regular service from MV Tusutumena.

3. Cabins of the Alaska Ferry

A blue-colored Alaska Ferry with cabins at rest on the deck.
Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash Copyrights 2022

The Cabins in the Alaska Ferry can accommodate both usual and specially-abled people, and all the vessels 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 private bathrooms, while some come with a big window or a picture window with a private bathroom.

The cabins can be two-person or four-person rooms, and 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.

4. Camping on the Ferry

The answer is yes, and you can camp on the ferry. Some people couldn’t book a cabin, try to save some money, or opt to camp on the deck. For this reason, people bring tents and sleeping bags on board with them.

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 lounge chairs, but these places are usually occupied almost instantly, so one should board early if one plans to occupy these.

5. What Can You Do on the Alaska Ferry for Fun?

An Alaska ferry with multiple stories and lights on during nighttime.
Photo by Artak Petrosyan on Unsplash Copyrights 2018

The most obvious activity here is sightseeing 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 theatres 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.

4. 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 bring your food and beverages and a cooler 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.

5. Things to Bring Before Boarding the Ferry

  • Remember to keep warm clothes as it usually gets chilly even in the summer, 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, 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.
  • Remember to keep a power bank for your electronic devices, as the deck contains very few charging points or outlets, but you will find at least one in every cabin.
  • Some medicine and basic toiletries are essentials you should carry while traveling, not just on the ferry but on any trip.

6. Travelling with a Vehicle on the Alaska Ferry

An Alaska ferry at rest at the seaport before departure.
Photo by Danika Perkinson on Unsplash Copyrights 2020

Passengers find it very convenient to sail with a vehicle on the Alaska ferry, making 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.

7. Cellular Phone Service on the Alaska Ferry

A close-up view of a person using her phone with her hands.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash Copyrights 2017

The cellular phone service on the Alaska ferry is weak almost throughout the route.

It might get some Canadian connections in a few places; however, if you don’t have their plan, it’ll cost you excessive money.

Therefore, keeping your phones in airplane mode is suggested, which also helps save the phone battery. Thus, the passengers usually download shows, movies, podcasts, etc., to keep themselves amused even without the internet.

8. 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 6 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 full adult fare.

Closing Thoughts

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 by reading this thorough guide.

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