I am looking to travel from Vancouver Island to Seward in August 03 and am thinking of doing it on a budget by going on the BC ferry from Port hardy to Prince Rupert, and then Prince Rupert to Seward (stopping in Ketchikan and Juneau) with AK Ferries (Alaska Marine Highway). I am weighing up if this is a good budget way to go rather than fork out a lot of cash and go with one of the big cruise liners. Are there any experienced travellers out there that have done it both ways or at least the way I have mapped it out? Personally i would rather stay a night in the Alaskan towns than spend a night on one of the ships.
I have a friend who has done this twice and he greatly enjoyed it. But his costs were significantly more than mine going on a cruise. With meals included cruise ships can be a bargain. Also the ferry ports are out of town in some areas and they arrive and depart 24 hours / day. But certainly a great way to customize your travel.
Done the Inside Passage between Hardy and Rupert lots and will be going again at the end of the month. Basically your cost is $100CAN per person and a cabin will set you back $50-60. Meals are extra. The summer run is from 0730-2230. I will point out that cabins are limited and may be sold out by now. As for hotels in Hardy and Rupert, they book up quickly on ferry days.
They seem to be even more scarce on the AK ferries. I took that run from Skagway to Rupert a few years back and it was quite relaxing, but only enough time in ports to unload/load vehicles. You would have to co-ordinate ferry scheds to see if you can stay a night (and hotels). You may be boarding at 3AM!
It does sound like an adventure by ferry, and would be cheaper esp if travelling solo (no single surcharge on the ferry). Have fun :-)
Although I've taken and enjoyed luxury crusies, not in Alaska.
Last summer we spent 17 days in Alaska, and travelled on three marine highway ferries. Loved them!! It's a relaxing way to travel, the food was better than we expected, the cabin was small and utilitarian, but clean and comfortable, the people were great fun, the naturalist talks were interesting, and the captain pointed out wildlife.