JUNEAU, Alaska -- As part of an effort to make itself more tourist-
and agent-friendly, Alaska's state-run Marine Highway System
published a 56-page travel guide and summer schedule.
"This is the first time in years that we have a stand-alone
brochure," said Sharon Gaiptman, marketing manager. The guide will
be made available to agencies upon request with a second run to be
printed in April, Gaiptman said.
The guide provides descriptions and Web site names of
communities served by the Alaska Marine Highway System.
The ferry system carried some 220,000 passengers and 62,000
vehicles last year along its two routes, which originate from
either Bellingham, Wash., or Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and
travel through the Inside Passage and along the Alaskan coast to
the Aleutian Chain.
"One of my goals is to make travel agents more aware of us,"
Gaiptman said. "I look at travel agents as most people would, as an
expandable sales force for us."
The Marine Highway System pays 10% commission.
An itinerary for two adults traveling with a recreational
vehicle can cost around $3,500, she said.
The summer fleet's nine ships range in size from the
220-passenger Tustumena, carrying up 36 vehicles, to the
971-passenger Columbia, toting up to 134 vehicles.
All of the fleet's ships have heated observation lounges and
solariums for the viewing of scenery and marine wildlife. Cabins
are available aboard six of the nine ships; all ferries have
cafeterias with meal and beverage service.
Research shows the Marine Highway System does not compete with
the cruise lines, Gaiptman said.
"If you take a cruise, you go from Point A to Point B," she
said. "With the Marine Highway, agents can tailor a program for
their clients. You get to have Alaska on your terms."
To make reservations, call (800) 642-0066 or (907) 465-3941; fax
e-mail [email protected], or visit www.alaska.gov/ferry.
New vessels to get fleet up to speed
JUNEAU -- Alaska's Department of Transportation and Public
Facilities awarded a $68 million contract to Derecktor Shipyards of
Mamaroneck, N.Y., for the design and construction of two fast
ferries, which are expected to enter service in 2004.
"It's a big step in revamping the Alaska Marine Highway System,"
said Dennis Poshard, assistant to the department commissioner.
One vessel will provide high-speed service between Sitka and
Juneau; the other will improve service to communities in Prince
When the ships come on line, many of those communities that
receive service two or four days a week will have daily
The new ferries, capable of traveling at a speed of 35 knots,
will be able to carry 250 passengers on the main deck and 35 large
vehicles on the cargo deck. With the new vessels, the ferry fleet
will grow to 10.
Because of their speed, the new ships will enhance travel on the
Marine Highway because "they'll be running as day ferries, where
you can do roundtrip service within a 24-hour period," Poshard
The Marine Highway's existing ferries, Poshard said, are
operated continuously on long routes, based on time schedules.
"It may be a five- or 10-day route. The times they get in may be
two in the morning. It's often inconvenient. The day ferries are
going to be operating on a pretty consistent, convenient
"These are the first two ferries of what we hope will be several
more to come." -- P.F.