Sunday, April 29, 2012

Life on the Alaska Marine Highway (aka Alaska Ferry)

            Life on the 400 foot Matanuska is good! While not a fancy cruise ship, our home for two nights is clean and comfortable with food and a warm bed to suit our needs. The crew is “Alaska” friendly which means warm and helpful.
Our "deluxe cabin"
We slept well with the gentle pitch and roll of the ship lulling us to sleep.
There are just four decks of interest. The vehicle deck, with room for 88 cars greets drivers. After boarding you must take what you want from your vehicle as access is not allowed while underway. If you have a pet you are allowed three escorted visits per day plus time spent in intermediate ports of call.
Next up is the cabin deck. 109 Spartan cabins are available for an extra charge. Ours is very basic; window, bunk beds, chair, drop down desk, in-suite facilities. (Think dorm room from 1960’s.) Full figured passengers might find the “compactness” a challenge.
The cabin deck clean and bright.
          The next deck, from fore to aft (that’s front to back for you landlubbers), begins in an observation lounge with a cinematic, 180 degree view (where I now write.) Next is a well appointed cocktail lounge. A small gift shop sits at the entrance to a full service cafeteria that connects to a spacious dining room aft.
The top deck has an outdoor solarium aft and a “recliner” lounge amidships.
That’s it. No pools, hot tubs or casinos but all that one would need for an enjoyable cruise up the inside passage. (We are told there are also enough life boats/rafts for all!)
We believe the surrounding scenery is spectacular but, with the low hanging clouds and rain, we can only imagine what the dark shapes on either side of our passage conceal. But we are in Alaska so the weather is neither a surprise nor disappointment.
We made our first landfall, Ketchikan about 4:00 a.m. and departed at 5:45 a.m. We chose not to do any touring. Next stop will be Wrangell then Petersburg.
The Solarium or "Roughing It" area.

Accommodations On Board: The Matanuska offers four levels of nighttime accommodations.

Super Deluxe: Cabin, described above, with outside window.
Deluxe: Cabin, described above, without window.
Semi-Roughing It: A reclining chair in the “recliner lounge.” Guests just dump their gear beside a chair and sleep in the chair or, at their option, on the carpeted floor of the lounge. Showers and rest rooms are nearby.
Roughing It: A personal tent or place on a plastic lounge outside in the solarium. If there is space, everyone can sleep under the solarium roof. No tents on this trip but later in the summer many will stay in tents erected on the deck. Guests are advised to bring duct tape to anchor their tents since conventional stakes are ineffective on the steel deck.
The two “roughing it” alternatives are typically Alaskan and available for no extra charge. Camp stoves are not permitted!
The on board cafeteria offers a full range of choices throughout the day. The cod and pot roast for Saturday dinners were home cooking at its best.
Life on the Matanuska is just fine and quintessential Alaskan.

Navigating the twisted Wrangell Narrows requires skill and nerves. Note the watchman on the bow for added insurance.

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