Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alaska Ferry

Juneau (and I am guessing much of Southeast Alaska) gets 271 days of rain/precipitation a year. Thus it is no surprise that it was overcast and cloudy on both the ferry ride from Skagway to Juneau and again from Juneau to Haines. However, it was so pleasant both ways that we didn't mind too much.

The Alaska Marine Highway System is quite an impressive public transportation system. Every day during the summer months boats are ferrying people, cars, campers, semi-trucks and more from one community to another. Most of the ferries are centered in the Southeast Alaskan arm from Skagway down to Ketchikan (also known as the Inside Passage since the boats are in channels between mainland and islands nearly the whole way), Prince William Sound and the Aleutian chain. There is a cross-gulf ferry that connects the two systems (the Inside Passage route appears to run independently from the Southcentral/Southwest routes). The rates were reasonable, and the boats comfortable.

Our boat, the M/V Malaspina, runs from Skagway to Haines to Juneau each day so it does not have any private cabins available. There were 4 floors that the public could access: the lowest is where we drove into and parked our car for the voyage. There was a solarium, recliner lounge, cocktail lounge, dining room, forward lounge, gift shop and cabins. Movies were shown regularly, showers are free and towels are provided, food in the dining room was priced right, and we could wander about at will. We sat in the recliner lounge which, along the windows, had 6 comfortable seats around a table, with plug-ins so we could charge all our electronic stuff. We shared it with my cousin and her husband on our way to Juneau (they were taking off for a 3 week kayaking trip), and on the way back spent it chatting and playing cribbage with a couple from Switzerland (they caught on quickly with Denver teaching them!) .

On the way to Juneau we saw one whale close to the ship, and many of them off in the distance. They were easy to spot as they would "blow" and the spray would hang in the air for a few seconds, looking like a small patch of mist above the water. We also saw a whole group of harbor seals in a cove along the shore. As I mentioned before, Alaska is a land of glaciers and mountains and waterfalls, and we saw all of these despite the low cloud cover. It was a very peaceful and comfortable journey. I could not even tell the ship was moving until I looked out the window. Then I thought the water was flowing by us like a river--not that we were the ones that were moving! We are already planning a trip out along the Aleutian chain and look forward to it!

No comments: