When we decided to drive through Alaska, we did not realize how much of the “road” was going to be on a ferry. If you want to explore the inside passage of Alaska with a vehicle, the only way to do it is on the Alaska ferry. It is not a cheap way to travel (but considering that we were not paying for gas it was not horrible). It was also a great break from all the miles we put in driving through Canada and the Alaskan mainland. We spent approximately $1500 for all of our ferry trips in Alaska. If we skipped Sitka is would have been about $400 cheaper (but we absolutely loved Sitka). The ferry ride from Sitka to Prince Rupert Canada was the longest stretch, it lasted two full days at sea after the six hour ride back to Juneau which had an overnight stop. We did not book an overnight stop over in Ketchikan because the ferry to Prince Rupert stops there for almost six hours, which is more than enough time to see this slightly touristy city.
Since we were at the end of the high season, we did not book any of our ferry rides in advance. That gave us the flexibility to wait out the rain at a location, or spend more time if we really loved a place. We never had a problem getting on a ferry, and would just call the day before to get the schedules and book our trip.
When you have a vehicle on the ferry you can only access the car while you are stopped at a port, and animals have to stay in the vehicles while the ferry is moving. For the two day jaunt, we booked a cabin that had a small bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower and bunk beds. It was our first nights not sleeping in the XP and we missed the comfort of our XP bed. We also packed food (and wine) so we did not have to over spend in the cafeteria or bar.
While were really glad we had a private place to sleep, most of the overlanders we met were sleeping on the sun deck on top. We don’t have sleeping bags or a tent, so that was not really an option for us.
Another thing I liked about the ferry was meeting other travelers. Surprisingly, we met TWO different groups of people who were doing the PanAmerican that we did not know about. The first person I met was Paul, a Brit who is BIKING the PanAm. He was really great and I really hope we go slow enough that we will meet up with him again. We also met two German guys on the ferry who are driving to Rio whose Land Rover we first camped next to in Denali. It is crazy how already we are bumping in to fellow overlanders.
However, my absolute favorite part of our ferry rides in Alaska was the down time to reflect on the trip so far and absorb all the amazing things we have seen.