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 > Alaskan Marine Highway Experience?

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SuperBus

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Posted: 09/16/23 05:27am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hello All,

I am in the very preliminary stages of planning a trip to Alaska. It is at the soonest a 2025 trip. One of the places we'd like to see is Glacier Bay National Park, which is only accessible by plane or ferry. Has anyone used the Alaskan Marine Highway with a large coach (one w/ a tag axle)? What was your experience if so? Reading the website, they can accommodate up to 48' (must book over the phone). We've had our coach on a ferry before (across Lake Michigan) and it was a fun experience.

Thanks.

wolfe10

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Posted: 09/16/23 05:34am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Juneau is the closest city to Glacier Bay NP and tours of the park can be arranged from there.

An option is to drive to Skagway and take the Alaska Marine Highway down to Juneau. Probably just do it as a walk on unless spending enough time in Juneau to warrant taking your toad or even coach.

BTW, there are other equally spectacular glacial areas further north if you are headed further into Alaska.

Glacier Bay is not as spectacular as it was even a decade ago. Many of the tide water glaciers (the ones that calf) have receded so they calf on land, not into the water. This was of May 2023 when we last visited.


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Posted: 09/16/23 10:01am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The Fjord Express is a 65' 30 knot passenger ferry from Skagway/Haines to Juneau. You could stay overnight if desired.

Juneau itself was a huge unimpressive place to visit. Unless of course you like transplanted Caribbean jewelry stores including expensive products and Caribbean clerks. Obviously the cruisers love them. We went to Alaska to see Alaska and we went to the Red Dog Saloon and enjoyed the locals.

But the Fjord Express was fantastic and the owner/captain went out of his way to see the animals, fishing boats actually fishing, whales and tales of an island for sale. Great trip.


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Posted: 09/16/23 10:05am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We've taken many ferrys including Newfoundland, 18 hours for the long ferry. You'll likely have to disconnect the toad and besides that's cheaper as otherwise you'll pay large vehicle rates for the entire length. And we do love boats and water.

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Posted: 09/16/23 10:34am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We've also had some great ferry dock experiences. One of the best was Port Angeles when we inquired what we could do with some firewood that couldn't go to Canada. The agent pointed to a truck with firewood and said "Leave it there, when the truck is full it's sold to an employee and the money donated to help local kids!"

Thermoguy

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Posted: 09/17/23 01:22pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have no experience with your question, but we did take an Alaskan Cruise. I said if I ever do this again, it will not be on a cruise ship but on the Alaska Marine Highway. My suggestion would be to find a spot to leave your RV, then take your tag on the ferry. Many of these ships have staterooms you can rent. If you wanted to stay longer in a place, get a hotel. With the marine highway, you can cruise overnight from port to port and sleep on the ship.

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Posted: 09/20/23 03:58am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the input, everyone. Seems like the ferries are a viable option, even if just for my toad. Perhaps I will follow-up on this post in the future with my experience after the trip.

valhalla360

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Posted: 09/20/23 05:30am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We looked into it for this summer.

Setting aside the fact the ferries weren't fully operating: It just didn't make sense when you added everything up.
- We found a last minute deal on a cruise. Including tips, drink package, a couple shore excursions, storing the RV and flying back from Vancouver to get back to the truck...we were $2200 for everything. If the ferry had been running, we would have been up around $8000.
- The ferry doesn't go up to see the fiords and glaciers. You don't have time to get off and explore the towns. Food is separate. No entertainment. If you want a cabin (you can't sleep in your RV), that's extra.

On looking at the big picture, it just didn't make a lot of sense unless you planned to stop in a few ports for a week each....but then the ferry prices go up and coordination gets more complicated.


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paulj

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Posted: 09/20/23 03:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

MILEPOSTS has been the best paper reference for Alaska trips for years. Lots of ads, but also detailed, and generally upto date travel info.

I may be wrong on this, but don't think you can get to Glacier Bay by ferry. The state ferry runs from Haines and Skagway in the north to Juneau, and places south - evenually to Washington. Glacier Bay is not close to any town, nor on the way between any.

Nost visitors see Glacier Bay from Cruise ships, which start in Seattle or Vancouver. Mileposts (and local ads) should guide you to shorter excursions, by air or boat (as passengers) from the northern ferry towns.

A ferry that get's closer to tidewater glaciers crosses Prince William Sound, Whittier to Valdeze. There may also be local excusion boats from these towns.

Again, review Mileposts (or equivalent) before putting too much effort into planning your trip around Glacier Bay itself. Also check out the park's own web site, paying attention to dates it's expected to be open to boats, etc. If there's too much floating ice, boats won't be able to get anywhere close to the glaciers.

valhalla360

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Posted: 09/20/23 06:32pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

paulj wrote:

MILEPOSTS has been the best paper reference for Alaska trips for years. Lots of ads, but also detailed, and generally upto date travel info.

I may be wrong on this, but don't think you can get to Glacier Bay by ferry. The state ferry runs from Haines and Skagway in the north to Juneau, and places south - evenually to Washington. Glacier Bay is not close to any town, nor on the way between any.

.....


30yrs ago when there were no online resources and you couldn't access them anyway...the milepost was likely handy. In the modern world, electronic resources are far superior and more up to date. (If you are worried about being out of cell range, it's easy to download maps for offline use.) We had a copy of the milepost and tried to use it this summer but it was poorly organized and had some much silly info (like, at MP XX.XX, there is a sign stating 234 miles to Whitehorse) that it wound up on a shelf and never used.

But yes, if you want to go up the fiords and see glaciers, it's a cruise ship or local excursion boat (bush plane is also an option but crazy expensive). The ferry system is about getting from town to town.

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