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Alaska Ferry

Riding the Alaska Ferry


The Alaska Ferry, also called the Alaska Marine Highway, offers a low-key, flexible alternative to traditional cruises. Alaska Ferry boats, 200 to 400 feet long with 40 to 100 rooms each, can get into places where big ships can't, making it a good way to get to smaller towns.

Alaska Ferry Routes run along the Alaska Peninsula, through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska, and through the Inside Passage from Bellingham, WA to Skagway and Haines.

Those who enjoy nature and life at sea like the Alaska Ferry, but the trip from Bellingham, WA, to Skagway is quite long, and the scenery doesn't change much along the way. Independent travelers may prefer to fly into Juneau or another city and use the ferry for short trips between cities, combining the Alaska Ferry with the Alaska Railroad and/or car rental. A good travel agent can be a big help in working out your itinerary.

Sleeping on the Alaska Ferry

Rent linens from the Purser's Office on most boats, or bring a sleeping bag. These are the options:
  • Most ferries have staterooms with private bathrooms and linens supplied. Rooms are not cleaned daily, but they collect trash and supply fresh linens on request.
  • The M/V Kennicoot has roomettes with 2 berths, no linens, no toilet or wash basin.
  • Coast Guard rules prohibit sleeping in vehicles.
  • Sleep in the covered, heated, solarium. Arrive early and board quickly to stake out your chair.
  • Set up a small tent on deck. Take along something to lash it to a railing, or use duct tape to secure it to the deck.
  • If all else fails, roll out a sleeping bag on deck. Bring a mat to put under it.
Reserve staterooms six months or more in advance. If you're too late, call (800) 642-0066 or (907) 465-3941 to get on the waiting list. Still no room by sailing time? Sign up for the Purser's standby list on board.

Alaska Ferry Tips

  • Arrive early: two hours in Bellingham, one hour elsewhere.
  • Traveling to/from Prince Rupert, BC, north of Skagway, or on Haines Highway, carry proper ID. If you have had a DWI (DUI) conviction or other legal problem which may keep you from entering Canada from the U.S., get entry permission before you travel.
  • Get organized. You can't go to your car while the ship is under way, so take out everything before it gets started. Think about packing two bags, one to use onboard and one for the rest of your trip.

Creature Comforts on the Alaska Ferry

    All vessels except M/V Bartlett have public showers.
  • You can smoke only on outside decks and in posted areas.
  • All vessels have public restrooms.
  • There are no organized activities on board, but some boats have movie theaters.
  • Some vessels have card rooms, video arcades and reading rooms.
  • U.S. forest rangers are often onboard to for free naturalist programs.
  • Meals are not included in Alaska Ferry ticket prices. Use the cafeteria on board, or bring your own food. All vessels have microwaves but no refrigerators. Mainline ones have coin-operated ice machines.

Taking a Vehicle on the Alaska Ferry

Any vehicle that can be legally driven or towed can go on the Alaska Ferry. Rates are based on size.
  • Cars. Know the height and length before you make a reservation. If you're renting and aren't sure about size, call (800) 642-0066 or (907) 465-3941 and they'll help you estimate.
  • Motorcycles (must be tied down on the car deck)
  • Bicycles, kayaks, boats
  • RV's. You'll need to know height, length and width, including trailers, overhangs or towed vehicles. If you can't fold the mirrors to make it 8 feet 6 inches wide or less, you'll pay a premium, and you'll pay even more for vehicles over 9 feet wide.
If you're taking a vehicle aboard the Alaska Ferry, you must arrive 1 to 3 hours early.

Alaska Ferry Costs

Alaska Ferry costs depend on the number of people traveling, the vehicle and its size, where you're going and where you sleep. For example, two people can travel round trip from Bellingham, WA to Skagway for $1,400. Add a cabin for $600. Meals are not included. A one-week trip on a big cruise line can cost less, but at the expense of flexibility.

The online reservation tool will calculate it all for you or call (800) 642-0066 or (907) 465-3941. You'll have to give personal information (date of birth, citizenship, full legal name) required by the Coast Guard. Pick up tickets at Alaska Ferry offices or ask for mail delivery.

May 1 through September 30, seniors over 65 years old can get 50% off travel within Alaska. Vehicles are still carried at full fare. Proof of age is required.

Pets on the Alaska Ferry

Pets are allowed for an extra charge, but must have a health certificate issued within the last 30 days to go through Canada or into Alaska.Pets must stay in the vehicle or in a suitable container on the car deck, and you can take care of them only in port or during attended pet calls, which are announced three times a day. Service animals accompanying a disabled person travel free.

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