Tips & News
Surprise! These Ships Are Infinitely Superior, and Certainly Cheaper, Than a Standard Alaska Cruise
By Arthur Frommer
In the summer travel season of 2016, vacation cruises of the coast of Alaska were a popular standout. Overreacting to terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, a great many Americans opted instead to book aboard a host of giant, 4,000-passenger cruises hips from which they viewed the pristine coast and wildlife of the nation’s 50th state.
The trouble with such vacations was their size. To descend with 4,000 passengers onto a small Alaskan village is not to enjoy the best rewards of travel. It is to view the wonders of history and nature in a raucous crowd.
Many years ago, Alaska confronted the fact that it has few roads connecting its many communities, and that an alternative system of transportation in Alaska was needed for the area’s inhabitants. Thus was born: the Alaska Marine Highway System, a ferry system connecting 35 communities up and down the coast of Alaska, enabling people to reach their choice of communities and sights.
Today, there are 11 large ferries that constantly travel up and down the coast, and an enterprising tourist can make use of them to visit their choice of as many or as few as they wish.
Unlike the 4,000-passenger cruise ships, an Alaskan ferry caries a maximum of 300 passengers and 53 standard automobiles, and is no more than 280 feet long.
These ferries offer both hot and cold meals, cabins for people desiring them, otherwise areas for sleeping bags and chairs. If you do not book a cabin, you can travel for ridiculously low prices up and down Alaska (as little as $25 for a very short itinerary), and the views you experience are surely much more varied than those enjoyed on a cruise ship.
As for entertainment, it is provided by the many Alaskan residents you will meet in the course of your trip, whose conversations are enlightening and fun, and the communities you can choose to visit are far more authentic than the fewer stops made by the 4,000-passenger cruise ships.
There are a number of website addresses for obtaining detailed information about the Alaska Marine Highway System, but the most productive one is simply FerryAlaska.com, which will bring you to a fascinating array of facts and answers to your questions. Once you view the explanations of FerryAlaska.com, which will enable you to enjoy a ferry cruise of the Alaskan coast starting in either Bellingham, Washington, or Prince Rupert, British Columbia, you will think long and hard about booking onto the Alaska Marine Highway System rather than a gigantic commercial cruise ship.