Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the United States combined. Seeing it – and Alaska’s abundant marine life and tidewater glaciers – is one of the most popular travel options in the state. There are two ways to reach Alaska by sea: cruise ship or ferry.
Cruising is the most popular way to explore Alaska, and for good reason. Cruise passengers travel in all-inclusive comfort on ships of all sizes and on itineraries of varying length, with abundant tour options in established ports of call. Cruise ships fall into two basic categories: large and small. Large cruise ships generally offer lavish entertainment, shopping and extensive shore excursions to create a seamless travel experience. Small ships offer more individualized services with custom or specialty itinerary options. Alaska’s Inside Passage is the most popular cruise route in the state, and is served by large and small ships alike.
Independent travelers may prefer to take in the same scenery via the Alaska Marine Highway, the state’s ferry system. Ferries offer the flexibility to stop and explore along the way, and to bring your personal vehicle or RV along for side trips to port cities. The ferry system travels from the Inside Passage across the Gulf of Alaska and all the way to the Aleutian Islands. Travelers can access the Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham, WA, or Prince Rupert, B.C., or from one of the dozens of Alaska port communities. Ferries offer cabins for private, overnight accommodations or public areas for laying out a sleeping bag; you can even set up your own tent on the back deck. Dining rooms and cafeterias offer hot and cold food for purchase, and travelers also enjoy the passing scenery from open-air decks, the heated solarium or forward observation lounge.