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Alaska Cruise / Ferry Trip
Old 07-10-2009, 12:53 AM   #1
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Alaska Cruise / Ferry Trip

I have just returned from a 23 day trip up and down coastal Alaska via cruise ship and ferry.

I flew into Vancouver BC Saturday (June 13), arriving about midnight. I found a nice lounge to kill 8 hours in - tables, outlets, toilets, water ftn, vending machines and read, watched movies (on netbook) and listened to music. I caught the Airporter Bus to cruise ship dock and in just a few hours was sitting in the Holland America Veendam. This was my first cruise in 23 years. I had to buy long pants for the formal nights, as I normally never wear them.

The next 7 days were very pleasant. I was up on the viewing decks several hours each day and watching movies / reading in my (seemingly enormous) cabin at other times. I had an omelet and smoked salmon for breakfast every day, and steak every night, twice in the upper-scale Pinnacle Grill. I brought along 2 excellent bottles of wine, and bought another when those ran out.

We docked in Ketchikan (where I stocked up on soda), Juneau, and Skagway, where I took the White Pass train to Frazier. Glacier Bay was very scenic. Everything ran like clockwork, very idiot-proof. I could see taking another cruise in the future as part of a larger trip, but probably not just as a destination in itself.

After 7 days of this routine, I disembarked in a drizzle in Seward Sunday morning and walked a mile up to the visitor center to catch a bus for the 5 hour ride to Homer. I stayed in Homer for 2 days, mailed home my suit, shoes and wine opener, did my laundry, and stocked up on food (16 cans of pop-top chili) and used books. I took a cab 5m to the end of the spit (I would have walked if it was not raining) and boarded the Tustumena that evening.

That was the last rain I saw. The next 12 days had perfect weather and little wind. The captain of the ferry said it was the best weather of any run he had made in years.

I was on the Tustumena for 7 days as it chugged down to Unalaska / Dutch Harbor, stopping at Port Lions, Kodiak, Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass, and Akutan on the way, and then back to Kodiak. The ferry started full, but emptied out at each port until we were maybe 20% full in Unalaska. We stayed 1 to 5 hours in each town, enough to walk around each one. I was glad I had sprung for a cabin since the seats were not nearly as comfortable as on the other Alaska ferries I had been one. In Unalaska I got on the Bobbie Lekanoff 5 hour tour - an must if you ever take this trip. Each of the little towns (some as small as 60 people) had their own charm. Chignik had a Donut shop, Akutan has boardwalks instead of roads, all were surrounded by incredible scenery. I had no trouble sleeping, never needed my Bonine.

I disembarked at 0315 in Kodiak and killed 12 hours doing laundry, at the library (free Internet), store, McDonalds, brewery, and reading. I then boarded the ferry Kennicott, where my home for the next 4 days would be a "roomette", much cheaper than a cabin. Only 6' * 8', but it has a convertible bed / table. It was almost empty at first and never got more than about 40% full. We stopped at Chenega Bay, Whittier, Yakutat, Juneau for a few hours each until I got off at Ketchikan, and I walked around each town except Juneau, where the ferry terminal is way out in the middle of nowhere.. More perfect weather, watched movies in my cabin and in the ferry's movie theatre, sat up on deck watching the scenery go by.

In Ketchikan I walked the 2m down to my B&B, then watched the July 4 parade and went to a BBQ hosted by the B%B manager. The next day, fly home. Overall, a very nice, relaxing trip
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 20090619 026 glacier bay.jpg (96.8 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg 20090624 046 tustumena cabin.jpg (121.9 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg 20090625 055 chignik.jpg (205.6 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg 20090625 058 chignik donut shop.jpg (146.9 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg 20090625 064 view.jpg (110.8 KB, 3 views)
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Old 07-10-2009, 12:55 AM   #2
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more photos
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File Type: jpg 20090626 068 king cove pier.jpg (204.9 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 20090626 075 view.jpg (110.6 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 20090626 080 cold bay skinny pier.jpg (117.9 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg 20090626 098 view.jpg (131.1 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 20090626 104 shipwreck.jpg (224.1 KB, 5 views)
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Old 07-10-2009, 12:57 AM   #3
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even more photos
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File Type: jpg 20090627 110 unalaska graves.jpg (169.3 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 20090627 136 akutan.jpg (169.9 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg 20090628 145 view.jpg (107.5 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg 20090702 171 yakutat park.jpg (276.1 KB, 4 views)
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Old 07-10-2009, 06:02 AM   #4
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A thousand thanks for taking us on your journey. We are retiring in a bit less than 2 years, and hope to celebrate with a 3 week trip to OR, WA and then Alaska. Your journal and pics make me want to get their now....

Any words of advice for someone planning a trip to Alaska??
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Old 07-10-2009, 09:11 AM   #5
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Very nice...I went on a standard cruise to Alaska 10 years ago, no shore portion except the usual 3 ports (Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan). I especially loved the whales and glacier trip.
I want to return to do the combined sea/land package. For future reference....
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Old 07-10-2009, 09:13 AM   #6
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Wow. That's a lot of sunshine and blue sky I'm seeing for that part of the world. Congratulations on the beautiful weather.
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Old 07-10-2009, 09:19 AM   #7
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Great pics and looks like a great trip. Thanks for posting the pics
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Old 07-10-2009, 09:56 AM   #8
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Thanks for the pictures. Fun to imagine what it would be like to live there.

I'm glad you didn't quit halfway through!
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Old 07-11-2009, 04:47 PM   #9
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I just completed a cruise/land tour and loved it. I didn't realize the ferries had cabins and movies. They sound like an interesting alternative. I assume they are a good deal compaired to cruise ships?
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Old 07-11-2009, 11:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donheff View Post
I just completed a cruise/land tour and loved it. I didn't realize the ferries had cabins and movies. They sound like an interesting alternative. I assume they are a good deal compaired to cruise ships?
If you get a cabin, then ferrying is about the same as a cheap cabin on a cruise ship, otherwise ferrying is cheaper. Also, no sales, no last minute discounts, etc. The schedule and price list is posted around December, and you make your reservations online. The general cost is about $100/day of travel, plus $100/day for a cabin (no matter how many people are in it).

The main difference is that you go to alot of places the cruise ships do not go, and the flexibilty to stay in each town for a few days if desired. The ferries do show a couple movies per day, but I mostly watched them on my computer.
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