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Ferries Times & Fares
The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is an extensive network of ferries, designated one of America's Great Scenic Highways, with routes stretching from Dutch Harbor at the end of the Aleutian chain all the way to Bellingham in Washington State. It's public transit for coastal Alaskan towns, many of which are unreachable by road and prone to weather that makes small plane travel difficult year-round. If you're interested in spending some time on the water, but don't have the time or budget for a full-blown cruise, the ferry can be a great option. You can take an hour trip between towns, or you can ride it for several days. There are some important differences between the ferry and a cruise. The ferry may stop in
more ports than a cruise (though this doesn't include Glacier Bay), but it's normally for no more than two or three hours, and there's no guarantee it won't be in the middle of the night. Cabins are available on most ships, but they're basic, and there aren't enough cabins for every party of passengers to have one. Travellers without cabins might sleep in the recliner lounge, which sports rows of airplane-like reclinable seating, camp out in the solarium, or even pitch their tents on the deck outside the solarium, a wonderful if somewhat windy option. The solarium is reached by a flight of steep indoor or outdoor stairs, which also separate the floor from bathrooms and showers. Staterooms and the recliner lounge are easily accessed by elevator. Though the ferries may be no-frills, they're also great fun. All kinds of people use the AMHS, from tourists snapping photographs at every turn to locals relocating their entire homestead, including chickens, from Hoonah to King Salmon (pets are allowed on the ferry, but must remain on the car deck, which can only be accessed at limited times). It feels a little bit like a summer camp for grown-ups, and the atmosphere is conducive to meeting new people. Ferries have a snack bar, open almost 24 hours a day, that serves cereal, salads, burgers, fish and chips, coffee, tea, soft drinks and more in a cafeteria-like setting. The sit-down dining room, open only during meal hours, serves cooked breakfast, a lunch buffet, and a traditional dinner featuring Alaskan seafood and seasonal ingredients. There's also a gift shop, laundry facilities, an arcade, play area for children, observation deck, and occasional movies, usually geared towards the younger set. The ferry is a great place to see marine life. Decks are closer to the water than those of a cruise ship, and smaller vessels mean the ferries are able to go through narrower passages where land mammals might be visible on shore. All AMHS ferries have an onboard interpreter from the US Forest
Service, who may offer short programs and is available for answering questions. Reservations are critical if you want a cabin. If you're willing to rough it, you can be more spontaneous with your dates. Staterooms are small but comfortable, and come equipped with two- or four-berth bunk beds. Some include in-suite bathrooms, but others don't; call ahead to confirm, and be sure to bring your own toiletries.
Alaska Ferry approx. running times and prices.
Adult fare per person is listed. 2 berth cabin—for two people, not per person
||2 berth cabin
* running time listed for mainline ferry—fast ferry approx. 4.5 hours
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