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Alaska marine highway system.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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Alaska marine highway system.

Anyone who rode from Haines to Bellingham on the ferry this year or last (2012-2013)? What can we expect. Right now we are planning on going august 26th-august 30th on the columbia.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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1. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

Expect, in what way?

what kind of information are you looking for?

haines, alaska
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for Haines
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2. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

The Columbia is the grand dame of the fleet......the largest and best equipped, and my personal favorite......

Book a cabin for the most comfortable experience or if you are more adventurous you can camp or sleep in lounge chairs on the top of the boat in the solarium......there is a portion that is protected from the wind on three sides that also has a roof, but you need to claim that area quickly.......

If you are traveling with your vehicle, you need to know that you cannot sleep in your RV and that you can only visit the car deck when you are in port.......you also need to know that you should reserve space for your vehicle ahead of time as that space often sells out......

You can expect very good meals in the restaurant and cafeteria, no tipping allowed.......and you can sit in the cafeteria without ordering meals, even use the microwave to heat any food you have brought with you and help yourselves to all the free condiments and ice water.........

Post any specific questions or concerns.........

Salt Lake City, Utah
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37 posts
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3. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

Thanks mombear for the response this was really helpful. We've heard nothing but good things about the columbia and thankfully we were able to book it for the day that we wanted. We have a 2.5 hour stop in sitka. Would you by chance no if thats enough time to check out the town at all?

Wasilla, Alaska
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for Alaska
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4. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

The ferry terminal is quite a ways out of town... But the last time I was there, there was shuttle buses waiting that would take you into town and get you back in time. I don't remember what it cost... And I'm not sure if they still do that...

You might find more info here: http://www.sitka.org/plan/transportation/ or here www.travelsitka.com/transportation.shtml

Blackpool, United...
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5. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

The tip about the cafeteria was really helpful, mombear - I had no idea you could heat your own food there. Does that apply on all the ferries or just the Columbia? We are on it, then on the Matanuska.

Also, does anyone know if there are electrical sockets in the cabins? I'm thinking about charging phones etc.

haines, alaska
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6. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

yes, microwaves on all ferries.......yes, electric outlet in ferry cabins.......

Blackpool, United...
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7. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

Great, thank you.

One last question: I know bedding is provided but are towels? Shower &/or hand? Thanks.

haines, alaska
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8. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

Yes, there are sinks in every cabin (even those without a bath) with soap, water glasses towels and wash cloths.......

There are shower packages available for travelers who do NOT have a cabin (like those camping on the top deck)......the shower packages can be purchased from the Purser for use in the public shower rooms......

Having a cabin is really the way to go, though, especially on a longer trip......I love the luxury of having my own private space to escape to, especially if I can afford one of the outside cabins........

Las Vegas, Nevada
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9. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

Blackpoolbell, The Columbia is definitely a fine ferry ... you'll be pleasantly surprised. Because it's public transportation people think it will be bare and utilitarian. The rooms are pretty sparse but the public areas are quite nice ... lots of great seating areas and the walls are practically floor to ceiling windows.

If you look thru this old trip report you'll find some photos of the Columbia's interior.

mytripjournal.com/travel-606143-chilkoot-lak…

Paxson, Alaska
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10. Re: Alaska marine highway system.

You do not need to purchase a shower package - for those who do not take cabins - you just need to supply your own towels. The hot water is REALLY hot! (This is my experience from three times on the Matanuska, which replaces the Columbia for that run during the winter season).

As for the Sitka layover, my suggestion is to exit the ferry yard turning left, walk to the small boat put-in (about 1/3 mile), then return to the ferry by the forest walk you will see on the other side of the road. There is nothing confusing about this when you are face-to-face witht he road and trail system. It provides a very nice, concise, walk through the coast rain forest, and is a great chance to stretch your legs and get off the boat for a while.

There is both a microwave and a toaster (not a toaster oven) available for your use, as well as access to very hot water. We availed ourselves of all this just one week ago (and six weeks prior to that) when we made the round-trip Haines-Bellingham-Haines. Of course, we fared much better with food on the northbound return trip, as we stocked up on a whole slew of great Trader Joe's frozen meals at the Bellingham store...nothing like that is available in Haines, or even Anchorage.....

Southbound, you'll have a small amount of layover also in Ketchikan. Our suggestion is to walk to the Landings (sp?) just opposite the dock, for a quite decent late breakfast, and then continue towards town. Our insider scoop in Ketchikan is to walk the docks of the small boatyard (about 1/4 mile towards town from the ferry dock). The boats themselves are good, but look down!!! The diversity and beauty and SIZE of the sea anemones, sea feathers, and other invertebrates that have atteched themselves to the wooden portions of the dock are as good as you ever will see.

Have fun!

Audubon L. Bakewell IV

Denali Highway Cabins

Paxson, AK

Edited: 21 March 2013, 03:35