After booking our stay at the My Place Hotels location in Ketchikan, Alaska, it was time to get our ferry tickets in order!
The only way in and out of Ketchikan is either by boat or plane. Since we were bringing our dogs along (Thanks to My Place being super pet-friendly!), we opted for the more practical ferry option. Our ride into Ketchikan was five and a half hours, and our ride out was around seven hours.
We had heard that the city of Ketchikan was rather small and walkable, so we decided that leaving our car at the Prince Rupert landing would be our best bet. Since these ferry rides last quite a long time, here are some things we experience and learned during our ferry rides to and from Ketchikan.
Check Your Dates
The Alaska Marine Highway only runs certain dates to and from certain ports. We had originally booked our rooms at My Place for two days, but luckily they were able to work with us because it turned out there was no return ferry that day!
When doing your planning, be sure to go onto their website to check the ferry schedules.
Know The Time
This may not be a major point, but as soon as you are on a ferry using the Alaska Marine Highway, you are officially on Alaska time. This is especially important if you are coming from Canada or Washington.
The cafeteria is only open certain hours, so knowing the time can prevent you from missing out a meal. Since these ferry rides tend to be long, you’ll definitely want to eat.
Eating On The Ferry
Considering that we were on a ferry, the food was decently priced. I got a small cheese pizza for $6. The cafeteria had a surprisingly good selection of food. Considering that they could charge anything they wanted since they have no competition, the prices were more than fair in my opinion.
There are also vending machines on board. Keep in mind that they do not take credit cards, and they only take American money. If you only have large bills, you are able to get change in the cafeteria (as long as they are open).
There is no wi-fi on board, so don’t expect that! I did have cell service a majority of the time, but you will be potentially going between countries so keep that in mind if you were not planning on paying the extra data fees!
Downloading music or shows from Netflix before you depart is a great idea.
They also have a small movie theater on board that looked to fit around 15 people. While we were on board, they played a documentary about the Alaska Marine Highway as well as Tomb Raider. This definitely isn’t a bad option if you are looking to pass the time.
Perhaps my favorite form on entertainment on board was watching out for marine life. We were able to see dolphins and orcas multiple times. Definitely better than watching Tomb Raider in my opinion.
Cabin Or Not?
There are plenty of options to get cabins on board. These include beds, showers, and bathrooms. While you get your privacy, these definitely come at a significant cost. We decided not to get a cabin which ended out working quite well for us.
There are showers on board that you can use for free, as well as designated sleeping areas. There are no beds, however, so do keep that in mind. I recommend that if you plan on trying to sleep, you would definitely want to bring a small pillow.
Pets are only allowed on the car deck. If you are bringing a car, your pet will need to stay in the car for the duration of the trip. If you are traveling on foot, like we were, your dog will need a proper kennel. The kennel must be water-proof on the bottom.
Luckily for us, they actually carry larger kennels on board. We were so happy to see this because this meant that our pups would have more room to move around during the trip!
At no time during the ride are you allowed to go on the car deck, so please keep this in mind. If you are on a long ride, you will be allowed to check on your pets while the ferry is in port between stops.
I am so thankful that our dogs did great. Of course, they were very happy to see us after the ride, but they did not seem to be in any kind of distress. While the car deck is somewhat open to the elements, it is also somewhat climate controlled, so this wasn’t an issue for us.
Where To Sit
As I mentioned above, if you do not book a cabin then you don’t get a bed. That doesn’t mean you can’t sleep. On the level above the cabins, you’ll find a room near the front of the boat that is facing the water. There is no sleeping allowed in this particular area. There are plenty of chairs, huge windows for you to see out of, and a couple of tables in case you want to get some work done or do a puzzle. One huge benefit of this room is that you can see the water really well. This is the ideal place for wildlife viewing.
If you are looking to relax, head to the top floor of the ferry. This is a designated area for sleeping. Here, you will find windows with shades over them and a large number of chairs that recline to an extent. While you will not be able to lay back completely, it is definitely still relaxing. On certain chairs, there are no armrests so you can lay across them and sleep like I did. People also bring sleeping bags into this room and sleep on the floor. This is a quiet room, and they ask that you try to be respectful of those trying to sleep. In this upstairs area, we also had outlets by our chairs and a table. This is the perfect place to quietly work or to sleep.
The cafeteria is also an option, with a view at the rear of the ship.
There was a point in each of our rides where the captain warned us that we would be in open water and that we should expect a choppy ride. While it did get a little choppy for a few minutes, I never felt nauseous or uncomfortable. It was a little difficult to walk around during this time, so the captain recommends you stay seated if possible.
I recommend dressing in layers. The boat is quite warm before setting sail, but it significantly cools off during the journey. Also, if you want to go outside during the ride, it gets quite chilly very quickly.
If you head to the front of the boat while outside, be prepared for some pretty strong winds.
Overall, this was a fun and unique experience and I am glad that I got to see new parts of Alaska and Canada through this transportation method. I would definitely recommend the Alaska Marine Highway!