The poor-mans cruise of the Inside Passage, Alaska – The Alaskan Marine Highway


Across Southern British Columbia





We boarded a ferry in Juneau and headed for ports South. This included a few days layover in Sitka and then on to Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and finally Prince Rupert, Canada. The Alaskan Marine Highway Alaskan Marine Highway is the name of the ferry boat service that connects the towns and villages along the Eastern islands and peninsula of Alaska. This area is called the “Inside Passage”. It is a busy waterway that supports these ferries, cruise ships, shipping boats and personal boats. But it is a wide, large water highway in most places. There are no roads to access these communities, so all commerce, trade and travel is by boat or plane.

For our travel plan, this worked out well. We trimmed many driving miles off of the trip and transported ourselves, the van, the dogs in a comfortable and affordable way. It cost us about $800 to move the van, two humans and three dogs down the Inside Passage. That includes our accommodations on the boat.

The dogs were not allowed off the car deck, so they rode inside the van for the entire trip.alta and dogs on cardeck   We were given the opportunity to take them for a walk at each port (about every 6 hours) and check their food/water. Each ferry dock had a grassy pet walk area, and was close enough to a field or neighborhood that they got to stretch their legs. During that walk the ferry was offloading and loading new passengers and vehicles. car deck  Before you panic, please know that there is NOWHERE the dogs would rather be than inside the van. They have learned that it is their home, their dog house, their security box, the place their humans return to, whatever you want to call it….. they prefer to be in the van over any other location. So riding inside the van for 32 hours was okay with them. No accidents. No attitudes. But the best part was a new port city to smell every time the van doors opened and they put on their leashes.

While the dogs were hanging out down below, we were enjoying the comforts of the poor-mans cruise line. The boat (Matanuska) was fairly new, very clean and spacious. There were a variety of regions to hang out in. And the staff was friendly and helpful. Mostly we ate our own food, but what we did eat in the cafeteria was delicious and reasonably priced. But the fun part was that we rented a stateroom so we could sleep in a bed instead of a recliner and take long, hot showers!

The boat had an enclosed solarium area with plastic deck chairs and heaters. It had a room full of recliners and big screen TV’s showing great movies. The cafeteria had plenty of seating and windows! The stateroom was comfortable, quiet and private. There were children’s play areas and an adult’s only lounge. There were decks with the ocean breeze blowing across. And there were windows everywhere which showed the view of the islands, villages, towns and wide open oceans. We spotted seals, dolphins, whales and birds at various times during the trip.

Cruising in the fast ferry

The view from the back deck of the ship. Quite a rooster tail being thrown by a huge ferry at 5 to 8 mph!

deck views

Looking at the islands and land mass from the sun deck of the Alaskan Marine Highway Ferry.

ketichikan pulling away

Storm clouds settling over Ketchikan Alaska. They get rain approx. 200 days per year!

looking out the window

The view of the Inside Passage from my reclining chair. We passed in and out of rain storms during the voyage.

our cruise ship in port

This is a view of our cruise ship from port. We snapped this one while we were on shore walking dogs while vehicles are being unloaded and loaded.

peril strait for fast ferry

The route map for a portion of the trip. It was a little scary to go through “Peril Strait” but the captain has probably done it a few times before!

pie in dining room

Pie and coffee in the cafe. Notice that even while eating there are great views of the scenery all around!

recling in the movie lounge

Mike is in his recliner in the reclining lounge. This is where we sat to watch movies on the big TVs and stare out the windows. This area was never full.

scratched on bunk bed in stateroom

This fantastic message was scratched into the bunk above where I slept in our state room. Keepin’ it classy on the Alaskan Marine Highway System.

Sitka harbor from a geocache on islan

This is the view of the Sitka harbor. Another bustling and rainy, Alaskan city that is accessible only by boat or airplane.

solarium with gas heaters

Mike is hanging out under the heaters in the solarium. This was open to the ocean at the back of the boat. A great place to view the scenery without getting rained on!

stateroom bathroom

Stateroom bathroom area. Just the basics in compact size- shower, sink, toilet. Quite luxurious for a van dweller.

stateroom in use

Here is a glimpse into our occupied stateroom. Bunks for sleeping. A place to hang clothes. A small desk in the corner. Very basic, but bigger than a VW van!

unoccupied stateroom

Here is the unoccupied stateroom across from ours. A little smaller in size, but same basic features.

vacuuming the floor in movie lounge

Geneva was so excited to see a real vacuum that she felt the urge to do traditional housework before the ship was underway!

view off side deck

If the ship sinks, it is a race to see who grabs the life ring first!! (nah, seriously there are a bunch of lifeboats)

views of inside passage

In addition to all the marine life we saw, the views of the Inside Passage were fantastic.

Wrangell harbor

Wrangell harbor. Another rainy city along the Southeastern coast of Alaska.


Southern British Columbia





(suggestions are always welcome)

4 responses to “The poor-mans cruise of the Inside Passage, Alaska – The Alaskan Marine Highway

  1. It seems that this might be the rainy time of the year along the coast. This was a nice many days were you on the ferry?

  2. Hi you two + 3

    Been following you since Nova Scotia…………..great trip and pictures.

    For your way back from British Columbia…………….

    Would recommend the ferry from Victoria BC to Port Angeles, WA (Blackball Ferry….) takes about 2:30 hours but saves a lot of driving.

    Then on to Seattle…Portland and suggest I-84 with an overnight in Cascade Locks (cute little town) … this can be done in one day if you take the early morning ferry. I-84 will take you to Boise… with lots of great scenery along the way along the Columbia river.

    Happy driving!


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