Monday, May 1st, 2017
Cruise to Alaska Like a Local – On the Ferry

Calling all adventurers seeking to see the real Alaska: The best highway is on the water! In fact, the only highway to most of lower Alaska’s villages is by sea. Each Friday, year-round, the Alaska Ferry (officially called the Alaska Marine Highway System) departs from Bellingham, WA to access America’s remote north through the awe-inspiring Inside Passage. This is how the locals travel, and visitors seeking an authentic experience are welcome to share the ride.

The Kennicott, the Columbia and the Malaspina are three of the system’s 11 ferries that generally make the voyage to and from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal to¬†Ketchican and Dutch Harbor. Additional departures on some Saturdays are also offered during the summer months.

The Alaska Ferry departs from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Bellingham, Washington.

The Alaska Ferry departs from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Bellingham, Washington.

While touring the vessel, we learned that the Kennicott was named for an Alaskan glacier, as are all AMH ferries. The ship carries vehicles and up to 499 passengers. Although it is large, it is much smaller than today’s “cruise ships” which generally carry 2,000 to 3,000 passengers. The ferry is big enough to comfortably navigate the waters, yet small enough to pass through the most scenic and direct routes.

Accommodations on board include 100 cabins and roomettes. Cabins are clean and comfortable, but not lavish. Cabin choices include the 4-berth with a private head (restroom), the 2-berth with communal restrooms, or the roomette, which is a very cozy, yet private spot resembling a camper with a table that converts into a bed.

Alaska Ferry Kennicott 4 berth room with 2 bunks, a couch that converts into a bunk and a 4th bunk that folds down from the wall.

Alaska Ferry Kennicott 2 berth rooms feature a bunk bed.

Alaska Ferry Kennicott roomette

Rooms are not required on the ferry. Many passengers also choose to sleep on the deck, with or without a tent, and lockers are available for securing belongings.

Food service is offered on the ferry in a beautiful cafeteria and dining area. The Kennicott also features a movie theater, children’s playroom, bar, gift shop and a forward-facing salon with large windows for viewing the spectacular scenery on the multi-day trip.

Alaska Ferry Kennicott food service.

Alaska Ferry Kennicott salon.

How long does it take to travel from Bellingham to Alaska? It depends on where you’re going. The ferry runs 24 hours a day. It takes 36 hours from Bellingham to reach the first stop at Ketchikan. Visitors often disembark in a variety of towns, stay a few nights on land, then continue on the ferry. The full route reaches from Bellingham to Dutch Harbor and Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, with vistas that appear as untouched as the Galapagos.

Alaska Ferry Arrival in Bellingham, Washington

Visitors also enjoy spending the night in Bellingham and exploring the area before and after their trip. Although located in another state, and separated by another country, Bellingham and the Alaskan villages have a shared history and culture. The Bellingham region at the far northwest tip of the continental U.S. (including Fairhaven, Blaine, and Semiahmoo) was the original destination of the Alaska fishermen bringing in their catch to large salmon canning operations that would distribute to the nation and the world. Native peoples have traveled these routes for centuries sharing family ties and trade. To this day, many Bellingham residents have commerce ties to Alaska in a variety of industries.

The Alaska Ferry continues the tradition of tying us all together.

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About the Author:

Annette Bagley is the Director of Marketing for Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism. As a writer and media relations consultant, her work has appeared in local and national media. She has been enjoying life in the Bellingham and Whatcom County region for more than a decade. Her ideal escapes include water, mountains, a farm visit, or a history lesson, accompanied by good food and a glass of wine.


  1. Hello Annette,

    I am emailing you from Ireland where I am trying to organise my honeymoon. I’m trying to make a dream come true!

    We intend traveling to Seattle for a few days stay and we would love to take a ferry to Alaska in order to take in the scenery and hopefully see a whale or ten.

    I cannot seem to find any information on how, when and how much it would cost for us to travel in July. I’ve been googling everything for hours without any success. Is it even possible to travel in July? Also, where in Alaska would you recommend us to visit fro a few days. Peace and tranquility is on the menu.

    I know this isn’t your job, but if you can offer us any help or suggestions, we would be greatly indebted to you.

    Sincere thanks,
    Orlaith and Noel

    Comment by Orlaith — January 20, 2016 @ 5:55 am

  2. Hi Oralith,
    Yes, it is possible to travel in July. It appears that the website for the Alaska ferry is currently down for some reason. I will keep checking it for you and let you know when it comes back online.

    The ferry departs once a week on Fridays at 6 p.m. from Bellingham, WA, which is about 90 miles north of Seattle. Bellingham is a beautiful city with a population of only 80,000. Three beautiful waterfront hotels in Bellingham I highly recommend are Fairhaven Village Inn , The Chrysalis Hotel and Spa , and Hotel Bellwether .

    Daily whale watching is also available in Bellingham on San Juan Cruises and Island Mariner Cruises

    It is easy to get to Bellingham by plane on Alaska Airlines, by train on Amtrak, or by car on Interstate 5.

    July is a beautiful time to be here, but do make your reservations early, as our hotels fill up quickly. We welcome you to explore our website and let me know if I can assist with any other questions.

    Congratulations on your wedding. This will be a fantastic honeymoon!

    Comment by Annette — January 23, 2016 @ 7:45 am

  3. Hello Annette .
    We are planing a trip from Bellingham to Juneau on November 17th . I understand the ferry runs year round . Is there any advice you could give us east coasters on what to expect that time of the year for the sail ? Weather , clothing needed , etc. ?
    Thank you Jay

    Comment by Jay Whitmeyer — September 11, 2017 @ 6:18 am

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