Ferry service along coastal Alaska including the Inside Passage with a terminal in Bellingham, WA and Prince Rupert, B.C.
Vehicles, walk-on passage, pets and children are all welcome aboard! Fares vary by itinerary. Berths available for most sailings.
The "state ferry" as it is often referred is a great way for families to have the Alaska "cruise" experience, but often at a fraction of the price and most times with more freedom and adventure than the cruise ships can offer.
- bring your vehicle (and your pet!)
- socialize on the ship
- visit the solarium
- bring binoculars and watch for whales/wildlife
- plan a few days at each port
- bring G or PG rated movies and the staff aboard will often play them during the movie time
- bring a sleeping bag & pillow
- bring snacks
- plan ahead (trips to your vehicle below deck are limited)
We enjoyed sacking out on the floor and catching a few Zzz's during the night-time sailings. We did make the mistake of having mostly nocturnal trips, so whale-watching was limited. If you want to see marine life, do make sure that you will be sailing in the daylight!
- If you have a long sailing, spring for a berth. Having a bed for the kids is worth the extra few dollars! You also have a private bathroom/shower, which can be nice with kids in tow. I know it made bedtime a lot easier for us on a night-time sailing between Petersburg and Sitka.
- Just like an airport, get there early (go by the recommendations posted by AMHS for each port.)
Each ship is a little different but the Taku stood out for us, having the biggest, best area for kids to go. Pretty much an entire room (large) for parents to decompress and read a book or lounge while kids roll on mats, play games, and socialize!
The cafeteria food is reasonably priced and is pretty darn good! It's also cheaper than most of what you will find in the really tourist-heavy destinations like Juneau and Ketchikan with half the wait, so lunch-up on board!
Some folks camp on the Solarium level - we found it neat for a visit but chilly and loud, though the views are outstanding.
Bottom line: Save your money and skip the fancy cruise -- the ferry system takes THE SAME route at a fraction of the cost and you can bring your dog and car and kayak or motorhome... This is the best way to see Southeast Alaska just like a local and make some BIG memories along the way. *Bonus* the ferry can go places that the cruise ships can not get to because of water depth, so you can see even more!
Disclosure: We received complimentary fare aboard the AMHS for the purposes of this review and experiencing how the locals cruise with kids. All opinions are our own and we ADORE the ferry system.