Subject: Re: Alaska Marine Highway
Vanessa, we have used the Alaskan ferry system twice, once coming toward Bellingham, the other leaving from Bellingham. Neither time did my wife and I worry about using the cabin. If you are able to board the ship early, you may be able to pitch a small tent on one of two decks. We never got there early enough. The tent has to be free standing. Many have been successful in using a good deal of tape to attach their tent to the floor of the ferry, but you have to be careful of a big gush of wind. They provide a shower room near the deck and the cafeteria is not that expensive. You have access to all the other areas of the ferry, including the ranger programs. It is really great.

We did purchase a free standing tent, but were unable to get there in time to locate a spot, but found out that we didn't really need one. As mentioned, the ferry has a great covered deck area with reclining chairs and heaters in the ceiling. Once you claim some chairs, you can actually sleep on the chair with your sleeping bag, etc. They have some small lockers, so you can store some items, but we never did. As in Europe, we keep the valuables near us at all times.

We have used the ferry system extensively, boarding the ferry at all hours of the day and night. Some times we could not locate a reclining chair, so we just slept on the floor. We have a small inflatable mat, but some folks did bring the big air mattresses to sleep on. They make you put it up during the day, but it is okay at night. Since we camp in a tent on our trips, we don't mind sleeping on the deck, however, if you get a recliner, it really is nice. The ferry from Haines to Kodiak didn't have the recliners, only benches, so we had to sleep on the deck the whole time to Kodiak and then back to Valdez, even though the tidal waves of a 6+ earthquake on the mainland near Anchorage. It was a little rough and I was thankful for a railing above the spot I had staked out. It gave me some stability, but I don't think you need to worry about that if you're just going from Bellingham to Skagway or Haines.

The last time we went from Bellingham to Skagway, we had a group of 10, including the families of my son and brother-in-law. We planned the trip. Since we had 'wimps' along with us, we booked two cabins from Billingham to Sitka. It was actually cheaper than from Billingham to Skagway, even though you make a stop over in Skagway on your way to Sitka. The south bound ferry stops in Sitka, while the north bound ferry doesn't. We went from Sitka back to Juneau and spent a few days in a hostel, then went back to Skagway. Took the White Pass &Yukon Railroad train up over the mountain to the summit, then switched to a bus to go to Whitehorse. Then in Whitehorse we took a two day bus trip to Fairbanks with an overnight in Beaver Creek. All of this is/was covered by the Alaskan Pass, although we used the point-to-point and booked it ourselves.

Please let me know if you need any additional information on the ferry. Oh, by the way, if you haven't booked your cabin as of yet, you may be out of luck, however, I know that they are planning on adding another ferry this year.

Wil Orlando, Florida