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No/Low Frills Alternative?


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I grew up riding the ferries in Southeast Alaska. They run at inconvenient times, most ferry docks are way out of town. Cabins are basic, but you don't even really need a cabin if you don't mind sleeping in the lounge or up in the solarium. They aren't cheap though. But if you want to see Southeast via the water and avoid the cruiselines, then they can work.

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My Nephew moved from Athens, Georgia and Greenbelt, Maryland to Anchorage during the Winter several years ago after he graduated from the University of Georgia.  He was driving an "elderly" 4 wheel drive Jeep hauling a small U-Haul trailer boarding an Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.  It took him at least one ferry transfer--maybe at Juneau--to get to Seward?  (Don't remember where the last ferry terminated.)  It was an adventure for him; (I thought he was nuts at the time for doing it at the time of year he did; but, on the other hand, I was not 21-22, either).  He enjoyed the adventure; enjoyed the Winter experience and scenery.  And, he is still a citizen of Alaska with a family.  Doubtful that he will ever return to live in the Lower 48's.  

 

This is a long way of answering IRMO12HD's post.  Yes, it can be done and certainly would be different--and maybe more to your liking--than visiting Alaska on a cruise ship.  

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Have done some ferry trips in the past .1 out of Whittier to  Cordova r/t  and 1 from Homer to Kodiak r/t on the Vomit Comet. 16' seas on way to Kodiak causing some passengers heading to Dutch Harbor to turn around at Kodiak. Trip to Cordova was a whistle stop trip so we stopped at Chenega  to allow a resident to bring needed  supplies home( pick-up truck full of Miller Lite) She was met wih a crowd hugging and kissing her. Very interesting trips. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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7 minutes ago, diesel1973 said:

Trip to Cordova was a whistle stop trip so we stopped at Chenega  to allow a resident to bring needed  supplies home( pick-up truck full of Miller Lite)

 

😁 I would have chosen a different adult beverage, but the resident's priorities seem "right".  

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Yes! My first trip to Alaska was via the AMH. I flew from Vancouver to Port Hardy (northern tip of Vancouver Island), stayed overnight, boarded the BC Ferry (at some ludicrous hour, like 5am?) for a trip to Prince Rupert, stayed overnight, and then boarded the AMH ship and sailed to Juneau. I splurged on a cabin for the Alaska segment and yes, it's definitely no frills. There are plenty of places onboard to watch the scenery go by.

 

It was an adventure when I was 30. Not sure I'd want to do it again at 55 but then again...

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19 minutes ago, coastcat said:

Yes! My first trip to Alaska was via the AMH. I flew from Vancouver to Port Hardy (northern tip of Vancouver Island), stayed overnight, boarded the BC Ferry (at some ludicrous hour, like 5am?) for a trip to Prince Rupert, stayed overnight, and then boarded the AMH ship and sailed to Juneau. I splurged on a cabin for the Alaska segment and yes, it's definitely no frills. There are plenty of places onboard to watch the scenery go by.

 

It was an adventure when I was 30. Not sure I'd want to do it again at 55 but then again...

 

I did it maybe 12 years when I was in my 70's.  It was a great trip but we got off in Prince Rupert BC so it would not work under current circumstances.  Also expensive but I would like to do it again.

 

DON

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14 hours ago, donaldsc said:

 

I did it maybe 12 years when I was in my 70's.  It was a great trip but we got off in Prince Rupert BC so it would not work under current circumstances.  Also expensive but I would like to do it again.

 

DON

Luckily Bellingham WA to SE Alaska is still an option. My FIL did that a couple years ago and my husband is interested in trying it. The port in Bellingham is just a 1.5 hour drive from our house so... hmm. 

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It might be a nice trip but we understand that it is currently not possible for Americans to drive through Canada to get to Alaska.  The border is closed for all but essential travel.

 

Hank

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4 hours ago, Hlitner said:

It might be a nice trip but we understand that it is currently not possible for Americans to drive through Canada to get to Alaska.  The border is closed for all but essential travel.

 

Hank

 

Alaska residents can enter Canada by car and drive through Canada to Alaska, with some restrictions. However, you can also take the Alaska ferry from Bellingham, when it is operating.

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34 minutes ago, Heidi13 said:

 

Alaska residents can enter Canada by car and drive through Canada to Alaska, with some restrictions. However, you can also take the Alaska ferry from Bellingham, when it is operating.

Yes, AK residents can transit Canada (unless Justin changes the rules with no notice) but with many restrictions.  But your Prime Minister has prohibited Americans from driving between the Lower 48 and AK for tourism.  His rules only deal with residents.   So if we wanted to drive from the Lower 48 to Alaska to spend a few weeks as tourists it would be a violation of Canadian policy.   And Alaskans wanting to drive to the Lower 48 for a visit would also be prohibited except under limited circumstances.  COVID has certainly caused many interesting policies.   Just ask our Canadian friends here in Puerto Vallarta that had to quickly scramble to get PCR tests and grab seats on one of the few remaining flights back to Canada after Justin changed the rules with very little notice.

 

Hank

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Yes, AK residents can transit Canada (unless Justin changes the rules with no notice) but with many restrictions.  But your Prime Minister has prohibited Americans from driving between the Lower 48 and AK for tourism.  His rules only deal with residents.   So if we wanted to drive from the Lower 48 to Alaska to spend a few weeks as tourists it would be a violation of Canadian policy.   And Alaskans wanting to drive to the Lower 48 for a visit would also be prohibited except under limited circumstances.  COVID has certainly caused many interesting policies.   Just ask our Canadian friends here in Puerto Vallarta that had to quickly scramble to get PCR tests and grab seats on one of the few remaining flights back to Canada after Justin changed the rules with very little notice.

 

Hank

 

The additional restrictions on genuine Alaska bound travellers were introduced in response to the number of US citizens that flouted the rules and were found in Banff National Park, Whistler, Vancouver, etc.

 

With respect to Canadian snowbirds, lets not forget they elected to disregard the recommendation not to travel outside the country, so must be accepting of the associated risks and requirements for returning. It is unfortunate our Federal Govt took so long to implement the changes, which should have been implemented last December.

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8 minutes ago, Heidi13 said:

 

The additional restrictions on genuine Alaska bound travellers were introduced in response to the number of US citizens that flouted the rules and were found in Banff National Park, Whistler, Vancouver, etc.

 

With respect to Canadian snowbirds, lets not forget they elected to disregard the recommendation not to travel outside the country, so must be accepting of the associated risks and requirements for returning. It is unfortunate our Federal Govt took so long to implement the changes, which should have been implemented last December.

Well, given the recent Canadian announcement regarding both cruise and some pleasure craft, this might be an indication that Canadians will need to "hunker down" for at least another year.  It will be interesting to see if the enthusiasm the Canadians have for their government decisions wanes over the next year.  Our intent is to continue traveling as circumstances permit, using an abundance of both caution and common sense to mitigate the COVID risk.  While the risk to we seniors is certainly greater, the amount of remaining good travel years is also limited!  Sitting in our home for two years is not how we choose to live our lives.  Even within the US there are some excellent travel opportunities such as within parts of Florida and a few other States.  Assuming we can get vaccinated this Spring (very likely) and Europe reopens to some tourism, we might head in that direction.  But I guess our annual wine tasting trip to Ontario (which was obviously cancelled this past Fall) will likely need to be cancelled this coming October.  Perhaps we will be able to replace it with some time in France, Italy or Spain...assuming they reopen.

 

Hank

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Not being able to cruise is of minimum importance to me. Have done plenty in the past. My concern is flying to Alaska in the summer as I have been doing for the past 25+ years. Just as people fly south to escape the cold I fly north to get away from the heat. Alaska has changed their rules since last summer making it a little more difficult(and expensive). These rules expire soon and will see what they come up with before booking air. I hope they ease up a little. I'm sure Budget Queen is watching also!!

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Alaska is anticipating a big year for people flying in: https://ancairport.com/pr/ak-airports-respond-to-can-cruise-restrictions/

 

Spring of 2019 I took an Alaska cruise on the Royal Princess.  I had a good time, but had a lot more fun on my 2 ferry voyages in October of that year: 1 day and night on the MV Columbia from Sitka to Ketchikan and 2 days and nights on the MV Kennicott from Ketchikan to Bellingham.

 

No, they're not cheap, but they are crewed by US citizens making a living wage.

 

Part of the fun is being on a little ship that can wind along narrow passages seeing everything close up, like you could never hope to on gigantic cruise ships.  For me the best part is the feel of being on a working ship, not in a resort hotel.

 

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2 hours ago, snaebyllej said:

Alaska is anticipating a big year for people flying in: https://ancairport.com/pr/ak-airports-respond-to-can-cruise-restrictions/

 

Spring of 2019 I took an Alaska cruise on the Royal Princess.  I had a good time, but had a lot more fun on my 2 ferry voyages in October of that year: 1 day and night on the MV Columbia from Sitka to Ketchikan and 2 days and nights on the MV Kennicott from Ketchikan to Bellingham.

 

No, they're not cheap, but they are crewed by US citizens making a living wage.

 

Part of the fun is being on a little ship that can wind along narrow passages seeing everything close up, like you could never hope to on gigantic cruise ships.  For me the best part is the feel of being on a working ship with real people , not in a resort hotel.

 

 

Totally agree w you.  The guy who had half of the bed of his truck full of beer that he bought in Seattle.  The woman who made a yearly trip south to buy supplies for her B&B.  The kids who were sleeping on the deck in their sleeping bags.  The families with well behaved young kids who had their toys spread out around them or were taking their naps on one of the couches.  Even the food is pretty edible.  You don't get that travel experience on one of those RMS Gargantuans.  

 

DON

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Another perk was the presence of a forest ranger pointing out the points of interest. I never got a room and also slept in a sleeping bag on deck. With 16 'seas I had to tie my sleeping bag to post to keep from sliding. When it got too cold I moved inside near the engine room to keep warm. Was quite an adventure!! 

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On 2/4/2021 at 11:55 AM, IRMO12HD said:

Given the latest Canadian guidance/restrictions, I am thinking about trying out the Alaska Marine Highway -- has anyone experienced this?

 

http://dot.alaska.gov/amhs/route.shtml

 

The border is closed! Even people with legitimate jobs in Alaska

have had a tough time getting through.

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1 hour ago, nini said:

The border is closed! Even people with legitimate jobs in Alaska

have had a tough time getting through.

Thanks for the update -- I was actually thinking about this summer/early fall, and boarding the ferry in Bellingham, WA.  

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18 hours ago, IRMO12HD said:

Thanks for the update -- I was actually thinking about this summer/early fall, and boarding the ferry in Bellingham, WA.  

LOL! We were thinking of that as well! I have not yet done any research on

it yet. We are on the WA coast and it would be a nice drive up to Bellingham. Keep us posted!

 

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The AMH would be a feasible way to see southeastern Alaska this year. As others have noted, it's not cheap (especially if you want to bring your car), facilities are meager, and service is minimal, especially by cruise ship standards. Some other benefits include getting to towns not visited by cruise ships (I'm thinking Wrangell or Petersburg - though tourist services will be minimal). The best part will be getting to see "Alaskans being Alaskans". You will meet real people, share real stories, and get a real appreciation for life in Alaska. Cruise ships just can't do this.

 

Of course, with the cruise season shut down, it may well be a good time to do a land trip. After my cruise was cancelled last year, I took advantage of really cheap airfares to fly to Anchorage and do a land trip instead to visit Seward and Girdwood where I lived decades ago. Yes, I had to be tested before I left and bring my negative results with me. Yes, you need to honor the state's health mandates, but Alaska is the best place in the world to practice social distancing! I had a great time! If the airfares remain cheap/reasonable, it will probably be a better value.

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On 2/12/2021 at 11:16 AM, nini said:

The border is closed! Even people with legitimate jobs in Alaska

have had a tough time getting through.

The Alaska Marine Highway ferries are still traveling between Bellingham, Washington & Southeast Alaska. No border crossing needed.

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I'm seriously considering this. The barrier to planning is that the AMHS doesn't publish schedules or take reservations more than about 90 days in advance, which could be a problem if you want to go places with few hotel rooms, such as Skagway (more rooms are available in Haines).

 

In the current schedule, it would be possible to board the Matanuska in Bellingham, arrive at Ketchikan on Sunday morning, stay a day and night, then board the Kennicott on Monday morning and arrive in Juneau on Tuesday (there is only one week in April when this works) and stay several days. From there I would probably fly to Sitka, where there is also enough to warrant several days, and fly home from Sitka. Ferry from Juneau to Sitka is possible but the sailings are infrequent and some depart in the middle of the night.

 

So I'll be watching for the summer schedules to be released.

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