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"Driving" the Alaska Marine Highway

August 13, 2013 | Captain Christian Keller

The Alaska Marine Highway System is a ferry network that travels from and between Washington and ports in Alaska and Canada. If you can get a reservation, I HIGHLY encourage it! The Army generously paid my ticket as well as my car's from Bellingham, WA to Skagway, AK and let me pick my own itinerary so I picked one that had a full day in Ketchikan and then we got off and spent the night in Juneau so we could see the Mendenhall Glacier and go on a brewery tour of Alaskan.

You can get a berth, if there's any available, OR you can bring sleeping bags and tents and sleep in the heated, covered solarium on the top deck or in the movie theatre lounge below deck. I recommend the solarium since the berths sell out quickly. We commandeered deck lounge chairs and were quite fine with pillows and clean horse blankets since we didn't pack sleeping bags. A lot of people set up tents out on the deck but one night it rained and they weren't very comfortable.

There's a cafeteria and a dining hall on board but we brought our own food since there's hot water and a microwave. We failed to determine how repetitive food can be between ramen, oranges, and Velveeta cups of macaroni and cheese. Bring food, but bring a variety.

There's also a pretty good bar on board that opens at noon, but they sell out of Alaskan Amber quickly. The prices are very reasonable and tips are not allowed.

There are public use showers for a fee, but we didn't use them. It seemed that most people didn't, either and it wasn't bad. The people were all very nice and we met a lot of interesting characters, from a group of bikers taking the Alcan, to a woman who ate salads out of a pot and had brought her welding mask with her.

There's a movie theater on board and they played a few documentaries about Alaska and a couple of kids movies every day. There was also a book rack and a small gift shop but the best part of taking the Marinee Highway is the scenery. You take the same route that cruise ships take through the Inside Passage and it is incredibly beautiful. We saw lots of whales and dolphins and eagles as well and the captain would narrarate significant landmarks or whale sightings.

As I mentioned previously, I also brought my dog with me on the ferry. I thought it would be too hard on my cat but I actually saw a lot of cats on the ferry and they all seemed fine. You're not allowed to walk them anywhere except the car deck while the vessel is underway and my dog went a record 26 hours before he decided he finally would "go" but after that he was fine. They have plenty of deck calls throughout the day and one in the middle of the night so you can check your pets then and get anything from your vehicle that you may have forgotten. Also, once the vessel is docked you can walk them off the vessel. We had a full day in Ketchikan and he really enjoyed walking everywhere off the boat. Mostly he just slept in the car.

I absolutely loved taking the ferry and would recommend doing it at least once to anyone. It's a great trip and I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to experience it because of the Army.




pcs, alaska, moving

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