Duchess Digest: Planning A Trip To Alaska by Sea

By Jill Brown

Alaska Marine Highway SystemPlanning your dream trip to Alaska this summer? This Duchess Digest series for Single Minded Women is helping you plan your trip to Alaska by air, by land or by sea. Last week, we covered the easy and available flight options to Alaska. But what if you want to come to Alaska by ocean? Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the United State combined! So if you want to arrive by sea, we’ve got you covered!

Because so much of Alaska is only available by air or by water, we have our own Ferry System up here. It’s called the Alaska Marine Highway System. These state run ferries travel all over the state. But for you lower 48 folks, the most common cruise for you is going to be getting on the Ferry in Bellingham, Washington, and heading up Alaska’s famed inside passage. You can also choose to take the fancy (and more expensive) traditional cruise liners like Holland America or Princess. They all go up the coast here showing tourists a taste of Alaska. There are tons of options, but I personally prefer the Alaska Marine Highway option.

Why travel via the Alaska Marine Highway System?

  1. Cost. The Alaska Marine Highway is state run and less expensive.
  2. Local. I like supporting the local Alaskan economy over those big cruises. Also because it’s for locals, you can do a lot of things. Travel solo on foot, bring the family along or the family truckster or RV. Cars, motor homes, motorcycles and bikes are all allowed on the ferry. So if you want a surf and turf option with your own vehicle – the highway system can do that.
  3. Options. The Alaska Marine Highway is made for locals. So you can pitch a tent on the back of the boat, sleep inside in the recliner chairs, or rent a cabin berth. Your choice and the costs vary accordingly. But if you’re traveling on a budget or with a family, the Marine Highway system has you covered.

Click each photo to see a larger image.

When I came north to Alaska last fall, we staying in Bellingham, Washington the night before getting on the Columbia, one of the Alaska Marine Highway’s transport ships. We slowly cruised up Alaska’s inside passage from Bellingham, to Ketchikan, then Wrangell, St. Petersburg, Juneau and Haines. A word of caution. Because the Alaska Marine Highway system is for locals, some of the port times are early! Like 5am early. Pay attention to the route ahead of time and choose if you want to get on and off at any ports on the way up for a day or two ahead of time. You can unload yourself (and your vehicle) for a few nights at any port, then reload and head further up the inside passage. When you plan your trip, I can tell you from personal experience the folks answering the phones for the Highway System are the friendliest and most helpful customer service agents I’ve ever encountered. Ask them if you have questions –they’re there to help you!

Also, the Alaska Marine Highway System is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. And as such, they’re giving away $500 travel voucher “Golden Tickets” every month. Enter now and if you win, that could be $500 off your trip when you go! You can do so at their website: http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/.

I can tell you that traveling up the inside passage of Alaska is spectacular. It is like a magical world of pristine waters, silence and beauty. Truly the most tranquil and majestic scenery I have encountered anywhere in the world. It’s one of my absolute favorite options for seeing Alaska.

Jill BrownJill Brown is an Anchorage, Alaska based writer and blogger. She earned her Bachelors in Humanities and Sociology from USU and is the founder of “The Duchess Guide” a website dedicated to sharing the ups and downs of life in Alaska. For more on The Duchess Guide or Jill visit: http://theduchessguide.com/

More Duchess Digests from SingleMindedWomen.com

Duchess Digest: Planning A Trip To Alaska by Air

Duchess Digest: Visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Duchess Digest: The Last Frontier