First & foremost, there needs to a dedication to customer service on the part of Alaska State Goverrnment & Ferry Management. My experiences with dozens of the actual service providers was excellent, they seem committed to customer service. Telephone information & reservatons, Depot office workers & ticketing agents, ticket takers, luggage handlers, passneger & vehicle loading & offloading, on board crew & services, all of these were excellent.
However, it was readily apparent that State Government & Managers, including fiscal decision-makers in the State Legislaure & Governor's Office, have woefully failed to provide AMHS & its dedicated staff with adequate resources to provide safe, reliable & enjoyable services. This failure can only be rectified with additional funding for capital & operating expenses.
1. Existing ferries, particularly the original 1960s-70s ships, must be replaced or completely refurbished, preferably meeting the standards of today's modern "Fast ferries." There must also be a sufficient number of vessles so that if one must go out of service for days or weeks, another is readily available to fill in as necessary. Airlines do this, railroads do this, other ferry lines do this, AMHS can do this!
Reliability & dependability mus be a priority!
2. Given the tremendous amount of sales, hotel stays, income (both personal & business), & derivative revenues that are generated by AMHS & its passengers, a significant portion of all such revenues should be dedicated to AMHS, including hotel taxes, sales taxes, etc. In addition, to the extent that oil & petroleum based royalties & revenues are used to support State & local government, a percentage of these should also be dedicated to AMHS.
3. Reinstate the evening lounges on multi-day routes. These would provide an entertainment & socialization venue while providing an additional revenue source for AMHS.
4. All dock & mooring facilities available to cruise ships should be available to AMHS at no or low cost. The coastal waters & tidelands are historically public assets owned & controlled by the states; they should not be used as private fiefdoms to the exclusion of AMHS.
As but one example, AMHS customers disembarking at Juneau or Ketchikan should not be left 13 or 3 miles from those cities while cruise ships dock at the city centers. Furthermore, if there are AMHS operational reasons for disembarking away from town, then AMHS should bear some responsibility for the safety of its customers, by arranging for some transportation to town other than a $30 taxi ride each way.
5. Consider partnering with the local governments, private businesses, & the Alaska Railroad, selling trip packages that encompass both the Marine Highway & the Railroad.
In short, AMHS is a wonderful public asset that the State should whole-heartedly recognize, embrace, encourage, expand & support in every possible way.Submitted: September 22, 2018
I know that our Canadian neighbors could use a consistent reliable schedule from the AMHS so that their local businesses are not affected as they are now. When driving to Prince Rupert, BC I could see changes to places like Burns Lake and other communities that rely on business generated by traffic that passes thru their towns. From 1963 to 1968 the Marine Highway only went as far south as Prince Rupert. From May 1st until labor day the ships were full and this was without a reservation system in place. Too bad AMHS can no longer be that busy as they supported them selves in those busy times. I hope with this plan for reform we can at least be on track for providing service to the outlying communities of Alaska's coast.
Submitted: September 11, 2018
As you know over the years our fleet has changed to several different types of craft. There is a major problem in the fact that by having so many different vessels that when managing traffic on them can be a nightmare when a breakdown occurs. As a Chief Purser aboard the M/V TAKU during the planning stages of refurbishment in the '80's I tried to explain that we needed to also stretch the TAKU to be the same as her sister ships Malaspina and Matanuska but was told funding was a problem along with the age of the vessel at the time. So the TAKU continued its service by being the only one of original size and this was a major problem when a vessel was needed to take another vessels place. This happened way too many times. Say the MAT was late out of the yard status and we needed a vessel to be used on the posted schedule but the load already booked would not fit the TAKU and AMHS lost over and over again reliability to the traveling public. Pretty soon you lose customers as they do not want to risk taking the ferry and then ruining their plans when such things occur. Recently by building new ships they didn't even consider this problem as there is no Crew Quarters to use in case you had to use that vessel somewhere else in your scheduling.
Also by downsizing the new vessels they will be a tough ride in the winter when crossing Dixon Entrance. The TAKU would cross this body of water 4 times a week and in some cases we did not have enough toilets and sinks, and staterooms to go around with all the sea sickness that happened on such trips. The "Fast Ferry" idea was tried in the State of Washington and B.C. Canada before Alaska build our two and we knew they would not handle rough winter weather and used way to much fuel but were built anyway and now hardly ever used and of course not compatible in size with the mainline fleet just as the TAKU was. Originally the planning of the 235's (LeConte and Aurora) were the East/West runs so that the Mainline North/South runs had more time but the Mainliners still went to Sitka so that original plan was never put in place let alone tried out. I have a lot more info and comments to make but don't want to make this too long. FYI: Not too many of us are still around that worked on the M/V Wickersham and for me as a Jr. Asst. Purser on that ship I got to learn a lot. I was on the fleet for 36 1/2 years and have experience that I would like to share in this major undertaking that may occur with this "REFORM" - thank you for reading this post.Submitted: September 07, 2018
The key to saving this system is ridership, not jacking up the price of everything from passage to a cheeseburger. In case you have not noticed we have had a massive drop in people taking the ferry. Anymore it is cheaper to fly and rent a vehicle when they get to their destination. I have been out here with the marine highway for almost 30 years as a steward and deckhand. I have noticed a huge drop in ridership. Have any of you ever considered a frequent floater program? So many miles gets a discount on a meal or room or even passage fare. Alaska Airlines does it and it works wonderfully. This might be something worth implementing. We need to bring our ridership back up or we are going to die. Please consider this idea.Submitted: September 03, 2018
You should provide internet service on the ferries (for a fee). There are several possible companies who can help do this: for example: https://www.gogoair.com/commercial/
Do something with the (closed) cocktail lounge on the Columbia. It is wasted floor space. Go consult with Royal Caribbean or Carnival on what you could do. Even an "entertainment lounge" with individual cubicles where you could rent movies and view them would work.
Submitted: August 31, 2018
We had a great time on the Columbia. We had some great meals in the dining room. We are going to plan more trips. We want to take the ship all the way up and back. Steve the purser was very helpful. Keep up the good work.Submitted: August 29, 2018
*offer packets of season coupons to increase ridership and reward those who make annual investments in travel
*resist efforts to privatize like the akrr; from my understanding, that has not been a successful fix to anything
*do not cut operating staff (ie shipboard) to save money; that would be a losing proposition and stress an already overworked staff
* resist efforts to measure success by income stream; our mh system is a service and should not be designed as a for profit businessSubmitted: August 24, 2018
Should have been notified of change of boat because ours was still being serviced
Lounges need to be opened instead of people sleeping in them
Great friendly staffSubmitted: August 23, 2018
On July 30, 2018, four of us boarded the vessel Columbia at Haines, AK for a trip to Bellingham, WA (Booking Number1320261, Code QHWY). During the four night trip we were impressed by your staff's courtesy and attention to detail. Notably were two individuals that took care of us in the restaurant: xxx and yyy. I would like to commend these two individuals as great representatives of your company. Jon Wiese 1141 Buckskin Drive Hailey ID 83333
Submitted: August 13, 2018
The AMHS is trying to provide too many services in too many ports with too many boats. I would suggest eliminating the runs to Bellingham, Skagway, Valdez, Homer and Seldovia. All of these ports can be reached by vehicle except Seldovia and transportation between that port and Homer can be accomplished by a private entity. The reason for the connection to the lower 48 was due to excess rock slides on the Yellowhead Highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert and since then, highway conditions have been upgraded. The fast ferry to and from Sitka can also be eliminated; traffic can be handled easily with the two mainline boats arriving and departing here per week. This will require a little trip pre-planning by customers rather than having the luxury now provided. Please run my suggestions through your computers and let me know via email what the potential savings are. Thank you.Submitted: July 29, 2018