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Old 12-28-2010, 06:57 AM
 
Location: Lake Gaston, NC
1,713 posts, read 2,365,727 times
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I am at the beginning stages of trying to develop a plan to see some of Alaska. Seattle is as close as I've been so far. I know I could book a conventional cruise and see the inside passage but I'm thinking I may want to see and visit some of the smaller cities and towns in the south central served by the Alaska Marine Highway instead.
I have a few questions regarding this form of travel. 1) Is it flexible? by that I mean could I purchase tickets in advance but have flexibility as to how long I stay at any given location. 2) If I explore a town and want to stay a day or so are rooms available without making reservations well in advance. 3) Has anyone done something like this and be willing to share your itinerary/experience

I am retired/male/widowed traveling alone. Still in good physical shape and looking to enjoy the wonderful fishing as well as getting a feel for life in Alaska. Thanks
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Old 12-28-2010, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Dangling from a mooses antlers
7,306 posts, read 12,791,222 times
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Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) :: Official Site :: Alaska DOT&PF

This is where you get your start.
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Old 12-28-2010, 07:25 AM
 
Location: Lake Gaston, NC
1,713 posts, read 2,365,727 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stiffnecked View Post
Thanks .... I actually have researched that site. I guess what I'm looking for is first hand experience, good & bad plus suggestions.
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Old 12-28-2010, 07:32 AM
 
Location: Lyons, France, Whidbey Island WA
15,428 posts, read 12,680,975 times
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The ships vary in size but from Bellingham to Haines or Whittier the larger of the ships the Malaspina is comfortable. Takes about 4 days. Food is adequate to good, accomodations are spartan you can bring your vehicle which solves a lot of issues. Brief stops in many small towns and Juneau. A very good way to see the inside passage and arrive with your car to drive around Alaska. Bring your camera.
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Old 12-28-2010, 09:03 AM
 
Location: Alaska
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A "walk-on" has the most flexability in scheduling and changing your mind later, a person with a motorcycle has it a little worse (I've been told by ferry employees that motorcycles are really easy to squeeze in), but a person who gets on the ferry with a car is very limited in the schedule flexability, changing your mind once arriving etc.

Think of the ferry system as one big "city bus system". It just simply runs. It's not a cruise, but it can be fun if you want it to be.

Summer time is the worst time to miss a ferry if you have a car. You could be stuck (or your car will) for days, even weeks. A walk on simply shows up (or calls) and re-schedules. I've done it myself. No penalty if you have a paid ticket.
BUT....for an extra fee you can walk on and they will send your car "unescorted" later....in the summer it could be very later.

Call the 800#, the web site is good for basic info and scheduling, but talking to them will give you real time info.

Last edited by DannyL; 12-28-2010 at 09:11 AM..
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Old 12-28-2010, 10:38 AM
 
Location: Deltana, AK
865 posts, read 1,782,629 times
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Yeah definetely don't take your car unless you want to go straight through. If you're going from Bellingham, WA, you'll want to reserve that first LONG leg to Ketchikan in advance, and spring for a cabin on board (it's 2 full days - roughly 48 hours). Alternatively, fly to Ketchikan. After that, just walk on the ferry and hop between the little towns in southeast, overnighting in town rather than on the boat. Don't miss Sitka even though it's a ways off the mainline. Hotel reservations may be an issue in peak season (Memorial Day - Labor day). It just seems to depend on the town and the day. A shoulder season trip would be enjoyable maybe 3 weeks on either end of peak season, though a lot of touristy stuff will be closed in the beginning of May and end of September.

I always tell people not to try and fit both the inside passage and southcentral (Anchorage) into the same vacation. Alaska's huge and those regions are quite separate. Focus on one or the other and give it the time it deserves. If you want to get inland, do the loop from Skagway through Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and back to Haines. Either get on a tour or rent a car in Skagway.
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Old 12-28-2010, 11:52 AM
 
Location: Alaska
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My suggestion would be to fly to Juneau and see the area. Then fly on a small plane to Skagway for a day or two, then buy a SeeAlaska pass and travel south to Ketchikan and Prince Rupert. The pass allows stops along the way as long as you're traveling in one direction. Once in Ketchikan, you can fly south to Seattle or take the ferry to Bellingham (requires buying a new ticket).
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Old 12-28-2010, 01:14 PM
 
Location: Approximately 50 miles from Missoula MT/38 yrs full time after 4 yrs part time
2,309 posts, read 3,566,133 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pitroad View Post
I am at the beginning stages of trying to develop a plan to see some of Alaska. Seattle is as close as I've been so far. I know I could book a conventional cruise and see the inside passage but I'm thinking I may want to see and visit some of the smaller cities and towns in the south central served by the Alaska Marine Highway instead.
I have a few questions regarding this form of travel. 1) Is it flexible? by that I mean could I purchase tickets in advance but have flexibility as to how long I stay at any given location. 2) If I explore a town and want to stay a day or so are rooms available without making reservations well in advance. 3) Has anyone done something like this and be willing to share your itinerary/experience

I am retired/male/widowed traveling alone. Still in good physical shape and looking to enjoy the wonderful fishing as well as getting a feel for life in Alaska. Thanks
As you've already noticed, "ask 10 people this question, and you'll get 10 different answers". Here is my response, for what ever it's worth!

Several years ago (shortly after retiring at age 62), my wife and I did "the inside passage trip on the Ferry system"..I had been to several areas, cities, islands, etc in Alaska in the preceding 20 years as related to business trips, hunting & fishing trips etc., so I was familiar with a lot of the state and "back-country, but had never been up the Inside Passsage). Had a wonderful trip on the Ferry System, great scenery, fantastic fishing, met some wonderful folks and we took 5 weeks to do it. (My "tips" and suggestions and comments will follow at the end of this post).

At the time I had a very reliable 10' slide in camper on a two year old Dodge Cummins Deisel Pick Up. We drove to Prince Rupert, BC., boarded the Ferry there and our first stop was Ketchican--stayed there about 3 1/2 days. Next stop was Wrangell--stayed there 3 days. Next stop was Petersburg--stayed there 3 days. Next stop was Sitka--stayed there 10 days...AND did all our fishing while there...best decision I could have made!!!.... Next stop was Juneau--stayed there for 4 days. Next stop was Haines--stayed there 2 days.

After leaving Haines we went up into the Yukon and then routed ourselves to the north-end of the CASSIAR Hwy for our return trip down through BC and back into MT. (NOTE: On a previous trip to various cities in AK by vehicle, we had gone up and back via the Alaska Hwy, thus our choice to return via the Cassiar---great choice, even though back then, it WAS NOT PAVED!!!!!)

When on the Ferry you cannot stay in or use your vehicle/camper in any way.

We stayed in our camper in State Forest Service camp gounds adjecent to the various cities(towns) we visited. (MAJOR TIP: When boarding the Ferry...be one of the last vehicles to board (at all your stops)......that way you will be one of "the first vehicles off", thus allowing you to quickly & immediately get to the camp ground and have a choice of several spots to pick! The choice and available spots go very quickly.

Oh by the way, we timed out trip so that we would be in Sitka from June 15th to the 25th....(The "peak" of the King Salmon and Halibut fishing.) We ended up sending back to MT, (via Delta AL, 90 pounds of vaccum packed King Salmon filets and 100 pounds of Halibut filets.....along with 20 pounds of Ling Cod and 20 pounds of Red Snapper (Yellow Eyes). It took 13 hours for the fish to get from Juneau to Missoula....via Seattle and Spokane. All of it was still "rock-hard" frozen when a family member picked it up. Admittedly it took some phone calls on our part to "Passenger Service Managers" at Seattle and Spokane to make sure that the fish was put into freezers inbetween flight connections..

With proper planning for your Ferry Connections, acquiring Camp Ground info ahead of time, doing as much "research" (of all kinds) on the various aspects of a trip such as this and certainly doing " all the "necessary steps and contacts" to make sure your frozen fish "make it back home" rock hard,......you can have "the trip-of-a-life-time."

All the towns (and surronding area) were very interesting and enoyable. We found Sitka to be extremely interesting, clean, friendly and a dream for photos, and naturally we could not have experienced better fishing anywhere...IMHO!
Also the photo opps while on the Ferry(s) are numerous. In addition to several shots of whales and Orcas, we got some fantastic shots of many scenic vistas that you can only get when on a trip such as this. Good Luck......and start your detail planning NOW!!!

All of the above info is my personal opinion(s), and not to be construed as "what you should do". It worked for us and I wouldn't change a thing if I were to do it over again.
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Old 12-28-2010, 07:02 PM
 
Location: Lake Gaston, NC
1,713 posts, read 2,365,727 times
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I appreciate all the input. Lots of really good info to help in my planning. Think I will concentrate on a 'Inside Passage'
AMH itinerary this year and save the Southcentral trip for another time.
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Old 12-28-2010, 07:31 PM
 
Location: Bliss Township, Michigan
6,423 posts, read 11,730,056 times
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Taking the ferry up through the inside passage is one wonderful trip, it takes you through places the cruise ships can't. Yes, spring for a cabin if you go. We took the ferry from Bellingham, WA to Whittier, AK. and there is no doubt I would do it again.
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