Info on Alaska Ferry

I hope to make the trip to Glacier Bay (Thanks Dogmaticus and Jackl for the excellent trip reports). Three to five of us are considering the AMHS ferry from Bellingham to Juneau and I wanted to ask for info here.

I have a few questions but other thoughts and tips are always welcome.

Looks like we’ll leave Memorial day weekend. and sleep in the deck chairs.

Here’s the questions I’ve thought of;

Are deck chairs in any particular areas best to get or avoid?

How early do you have to be to get a good place in line?

Will the shuttle from Seattle get you there soon enough or is it better to spend the night in Bellingham?

Can one early arrival save places in line or save seats?

Were there any items that you were glad you brought or wished you brought? We’ll ship most food and gear to GB.

Does someone need to stay with your gear at all time or can it be left unattended?

How’s the food onboard for price/quality? Do they have vegetarian menu?

Thanks in advance


For what it’s worth…
It’s been almost 15 years since I rode that ferry, but as I recall it doesn’t matter where you stay as long as you’re in the area with the heat lamps. Send one member of the party as a runner to scurry on board as quickly as possible with no gear so he/she can stake out a cluster of chairs for you in the warm area.

Theft was not a problem. I think as long as you keep all your small easily-swiped items in your drybags/packs, you’ll be OK. If your area looks squared-away no one will open your stuff to rifle through your gear.

Can’t remember enough to answer your other questions, sorry!


I hate the Alaska Marine Highway, but
unfortunately if you don’t fly, or take the long inland route it is the only way to go.

We drove with our kayaks and trailer and took the long inland route going and then the AMH on the return.

The only reason we were able to keep our sanity was the fact that we hop scotched from Hanes to Juneau, to Sitka, to Petersburg, to Ketchikan, to Prince Rupurt and then on to Vancouver Island, and spent several days at each place exploring by kayak.

If you arrive early at the terminal you shouldn’t have any problem since you will be a walk on, and will get a good chance at the lounge chairs.

We learned the hard way on our first leg, since we were driving on and ended up some of the last ones on. After that I would send Nanci on with the walk ons and she would grab a good spot while I stayed with the truck and trailer.

Your best bet is to get under a overhead deck, (solarium), in the stern and under one of the overhead heaters.

Make sure to bring your sleeping bags and pads, since the lounge chairs are bare and mighty uncomfortable.

If you can’t get under a overhead deck, get inside, (think rain!)

Also make sure that you don’t make the mistake that we made on one of our legs and get in the area where they show the movie. We got our “squatter right’s” lounges, and thought we had it made, until “movie time” came, and they asked that everyone who was not watching the movie to please give up your seat.

We spent the rest of that leg like lost souls wandering around looking for a place to sleep.

If I recall rightly, the food wasn’t that bad, but nothing to write home about.

I don’t know on the “veggie” situation. Why not give them a call?.

Can’t help you on the Bellingham question, since we came the opposite direction.

We didn’t have any problem with valuables, since they were all locked in our vehicle below deck, but I would always leave one guard at your “precious piece of real estate”. We watched one obnoxious person remove someones sleeping bag and duffle,place it on the floor and then claim the lounge for their own.

Hope this helps a bit. If I can think of anything else, I’ll post it

Oh, and did I tell you: I hate the Alaska Marine Highway ?



Its been six years

– Last Updated: Nov-09-09 6:22 PM EST –

but the people in deck chairs were very uncomfortable and wet when wind blew damp fog all over them.

Tenters fared a little better but the tents were wall to wall and difficult to get around. Duct tape is required yet one tent on the interior blew away. On the outside edge you can anchor to the railings but the winds are fierce there. One other tent ripped to shreds.

The ones who had the most sanity were those who had one cabin per group for a shower and warmth. Its possible to get a cabin and relax in warmth in shifts.

The food is not that bad but not gourmet either.

We did from Bellingham to Juneau..because of a breakdown it took a few extra hours. A minor problem but then all the tides were out of whack preventing us from leaving a port..cant recall which one.

Get to know the naturalist. Sometimes you may have a few hours in port. The naturalist took us that were interested on a three mile walk to a salmon run..for free. Yes there were cruise ships in town. They did the same excursion for $168 each. Yes they did use a bus. We needed the exercise anyhow.

were cabin difficult to book?

Great Time
A) You will meet some super cool people on the ferry, it is a ton of fun.

B) I would recommend sending one person in ahead of the group with a tent and a roll of duct tape.

C) I would also recommend tenting rather than chairs. More privacy, more comfortable, etc. Pick a good spot on the lower of the two tent decks. Less wind. The ferry averages around 18 knots, that’s a serious wind all day.

D) The food is fine. There is a snack bar and a dining room. Not sure about the veggie option. Bring your own snacks and stuff though. Keep any beverages you bring in Nalgenes, Siggs, etc. You don’t want to advertise what you are drinking.

E) Enjoy the showers. You won’t have that luxury in the wild!

F) Go to all the naturalist talks. They are good, entertaining and informative.

G) If you’re awake, check out the narrows between VI and BC. Pretty cool stuff.

H) If you keep all your stuff in the tent you won’t have to worry about theft.

I) Give yourself plenty of time. I would plan to spend a night in Bellingham. It’s a cool city anyway.

J) If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me off line.


Loved the ferry rides
I’ve taken the Alaska ferry a few times, the longest leg of which was Skagway to Ketchikan. I greatly enjoyed riding the ferry, especially since this long ride (2 nights aboard) was AFTER we had paddled the reverse direction and appreciated the rest while still being on the water.

At that point, I had lost weight during the paddling trip and was grateful to refuel and sleep most of the day. Which is exactly what all the other passengers on the back deck were doing! They had all backpacked or paddled, with the bug bites and lean look giving them away first. Giving them away second was the fact that the back deck was literally talk-less despite being full. Everybody slept, read, or was munching. Seriously, the only conversation occurred when tourists wandered in there and gawked at us.

And that is why I didn’t worry about losing my sleeping bag/lounge chair “turf.” The only things I carried on me when I left the area were my camera (in a Pelican box) and my small shoulder bag containing wallet, eyeglasses, etc. The rest of the abundant gear was in dry bags inside the kayak hatches downstairs.

You probably should avoid putting deck chairs right at the end of the deck, because that part is exposed to spray and rain. If you put up a tent, it’d be OK but make sure the tent is securely tethered. Tents have blown away back there and gone into the drink.

How early you have to line up probably varies by month and location, so I’ll skip that question.

An early arrival can save a few chairs but I think it’d be rude to commandeer a large number.

I don’t remember about vegetarian menus on the ferry, though they had cheese and yogurt items. The food was surprisingly good.

I was glad I had brought two large PVC drybags to collect the smaller ones in for carrying. This makes loading at the ferry dock easier. Also nice for the daily kayak loading and unloading when you’re camping. By the way, this was the time when we kept one person “on guard”: during the ferry boarding and unboarding. Too many people walking around to feel comfortable leaving gear unattended.

Bring spares of important items. We had the following items fail during our trip: one watch, one water bag (she patched it), one paddle (should not have been brought in the first place due to poor condition of the joint), one tent floor (ditto), one tent pole, one water filter.

They post signs about daytime vs. night
Movie seats can be slept in but signs clearly stated that they had to be vacated during the day. Same for the lecture-area seats and certain other indoor locations. Just do what the signs tell you.

Some additional stuff on your trip

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 9:42 AM EST –

We have done several trips into Glacier Bay. -Some with outfitters, and one on our own.
I don't know your itinerary, but if you have the time and can hook up with a water taxi at Gustavus that can ferry your kayaks and gear out to Chichagof Island in Icy Straight. it is an awesome camping and whale watching place.
You camp right on the beach which is right at the Humpback Whales feeding grounds.
At night they sound like a herd of elephants as they parade back and forth just a hundred yards off the beach, and during the day you can paddle with them and watch them breach.