The sky: a promising cerulean blue. Bellingham Bay: calm. The passengers: swarming the decks of the M/V Columbia, thrilling to that landlubber’s hey-we’re-on-a-boat! novelty — the kind that sometimes attracts amused eye rolls from regular, workaday riders of state ferries.
And the Columbia is a state ferry — the largest in Alaska’s fleet — but pretty much everyone seemed kitted out for summer vacation up the Inside Passage with real cameras, crisp backpacks and Patagonia all-weather cargo shorts.
Nicknamed “the poor man’s cruise,” some tourists ride the Alaska state ferries for thrift and (relative) solitude from the cruise-ship casts of thousands, plus a touch of that riding-the-rails ambience. You can smell the engine grease; see smaller, more remote harbors; feel a little closer to something like a daring expedition.
Read full feature article here: Budget cruise from Bellingham to Alaska: one man’s account of his ferry deck adventure