Bellingham or Ketchikan

Dec 6th, 2007, 12:56 AM
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Bellingham or Ketchikan

Hi everyone, (or as we say down under "gooday mate".) Would appreciate some advice on travelling the Inside Passage on the ferries. As we are limited to the amount of time we have for our Alaskan holiday we thought instead of boarding the ferry at Bellingham (and taking 37 hours to get to Ketchikan) we would fly from Seattle to Ketchikan and start from there - the question we have is are we missing the best part of the trip or is "what you see while at sea only the sea !?"
fromaustralia is offline  
Dec 6th, 2007, 06:15 AM
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The sailing out of Vancouver is fantastic, and you will find a cruise ship another option to perhaps consider, since it is packed with 7 days of excellent Alaska travel.

For your timeframe, yes, I would fly into Ketchikan and skip the ferry.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Dec 6th, 2007, 07:34 AM
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What's your itinerary?

If you get on at Ketchikan and plan to get off at Juneau, that's just one day of sailing; a day and a half or so to Haines or Skagway (on most itineraries.)

Personally, I think the day and a half from Bellingham to Ketchikan, with no stops, is the best part of the trip. There's plenty of excellent scenery, and the absence of port calls makes for a very relaxing time - watch the trees, mountains and occasional large beasties in the water...

But it depends on where you're going before, where after, how much time you have, your personal tastes, etc. As BQ says, there are excellent values to be had on cruise ships, which will make port calls during the day instead of the middle of the night as the ferry sometimes does; they'll get you into bays and inlets where the ferry doesn't go (no passengers to collect or drop off) and the price can be very favo(u)rable compared to ferry + cabin + food + shoreside activities and accommodation, etc.
Gardyloo is online now  
Dec 6th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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G'day---it sounds like you wish to sample a bit of the Inside Passage trip, but not do the whole trip from Bellingham on up, saving a day or two to use elsewhere on your Alaska holiday.

If that is so, then your plan makes sense. The scenery the whole way is spectacular, and as you are cruising inland waters between the mainland and an island most of the way, you don't just "see the sea". There is an open stretch of water north of Vancouver Island and south of Prince Rupert, but I think we always passed through there at night. But you would not be missing the best part by skipping the journey between Bellingham to Ketchikan.

There really is no "best" part. Gardyloo described the charms of the southern portion of the journey. I always liked the northern part, from Ketchikan north, because that is where the channels become narrower as the ferry weaves its way through the islands. Sometimes you feel like you could almost touch the shore. The port calls can be interesting for watching the traffic---boats, float planes, etc., come and go. We never actually got off the boat to visit a town o nthe way; I don't know if the ferry schedule allows you time to do this.

Just be sure that the partion of the journey you choose is during the day (although if this is a summer trip that won't matter too much as you go farther niorth into the extended saylight hours.
enzian is offline  
Dec 6th, 2007, 12:10 PM
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Thanks Budget Queen, Gardyloo & Enzian for that info, much appreciated. Not really interested in cruise ships as we much prefer just to do our own thing. We have allowed 16 days for our trip (and you are probably thinking good heavens they could go up and back twice in this time) but what we would like to do is spend a few days in each town - namely Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau and Skagway. We realise that this itinerary may not be feasible but until the ferry schedules come out (January, 15th they told me) really can't do much more at this stage. Plan to leave Australia about 15th May. Also, can anyone recommend good B&B's or Hotels in the towns I have mentioned. Thanks
fromaustralia is offline  
Dec 6th, 2007, 03:26 PM
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We stayed at the Goldbelt Hotel in Juneau and it was very comfortable.

Juneau is a very walkable town. To get to Mendenhall Glacier, just catch a Mendenhall Glacier Transit shuttle from in front of the libray. But be careful. This costs only $6 but there are kiosks selling "tours" for $22 from shuttles which look very much like this. You do not need a tour. The visitor's center is very informative, with interactive exhibits. The MGT's leave from Juneau on the half hour so when you are ready to return just walk out to the visiot's center parking area.

Don't be tempted to take a city bus. The leave you off about a mile from the vc.
jtrandolph is offline  
Dec 6th, 2007, 04:54 PM
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I took the ferry from Bellingham to Haines and it was one of the highlights of my Alaska trip. I'd do the Bellingham departure again as it really felt like I was on an adventure and I liked having the few extra days at sea to relax. I got to know some of my fellow passengers and ended up traveling with a couple after we got off in Haines. The ferry was a lot of fun.
iamq is offline  
Dec 8th, 2007, 12:43 AM
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Hi iamq - did you stop at any ports along the way for any length of time?
fromaustralia is offline  
Dec 8th, 2007, 07:19 AM
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I got off the ferry for a couple of hours in either Sitka or Ketchikan (or was it both?). We saw some totems and explored a bit. We also got off in Juneau long enough to go see the glacier and go for a short hike. I got off in Haines, spent a few days in Haines exploring that area, then flew back to Juneau for a couple of days.

I went in mid July and the weather on the way up through the passage was spectacular, sunny and warm. I actually got a suntan from sitting out on the deck of the ferry! I wasn't planning on that.
iamq is offline  
Dec 8th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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I realize you say you are limited on time, but we took the ferry south from Haines and Skagway to Bellingham. But we took various ferries so we could spend a night or two in several of the ports, feeling we saw and enjoyed a LOT more. I'd agree that perhaps the prettiest part of the "cruise" is the part south of Ketchikan though. I hated to go to bed.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Dec 15th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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NeoPatrick -- We are planning a similar "hop-on-hop-off" trip on the AMHS ferry system next year. Unfortunately, the ferry schedule won't be out until Spring, so advance reservations -- both for the ferry and for overnight stops -- aren't possible (yet). My question is: Were you able to get ferry and hotel/B&B accommodations with little or no advance reservations?
gjkayak is offline  
Dec 15th, 2007, 12:38 PM
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If I remember right, the ferry schedule came out in January (we went in July/August) and we booked immediately. But they had told us that there would be little change from the schedule the year before, so we had already made some tentative hotel reservations even before the ferry ones, without incident.

Will you be taking a car? Some of the ferry reservations are difficult with a car at the height of season. Passengers only, seem to have little problem booking just a month before -- at least that was the impression I got. But as I said we booked as soon as bookings were possible.

NeoPatrick is offline  
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