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  • Four of us traveled on the Columbia, Malaspina, and LeConte during our trip to Alaska from May 18 through May 30. We were pleasantly delighted by the accommodations (we slept on board 3 nights), the food, and even more, the friendly and attentive crew. Our only concern was the lack of choice in the ships' schedules. It was apparent to us that a more frequent schedule would be welcomed not only by tourists such as us, but by the residents of the lovely towns we stopped in. We thank you for a lovely experience and highly recommend that you publicize how great travel by ferry can be, especially if you increase the trip schedule.The benefits of ferry travel far surpass those of cruise ships as far as I am concerned.

  • I've made several trips up to various points in Alaska via AMHS and have always enjoyed it immensely. I applaud the move to turn AMHS into a public corporation, with subsidies from the state in order to provide service to communities which would otherwise be completely cut off. That is the only realistic way to fund critical infrastructure. In general, it must be recognized that AMHS competes against: cruise ships, seaplanes, airlines and barges. However, AMHS fills a unique niche in that web of transportation options. Aside from the basic service of moving the locals and their vehicles from one location to another, AMHS provides those of us who are repelled by giant cruise ships with the opportunity to take a quiet, relaxed, extended voyage by sea, in one of the most scenic corners of the planet. Play it up. Sell that. German and Japanese tourists could fund your entire operation. You're going to have to make one very important change, though, if that's going to work. Alcohol must be available. Your passengers are adults on vacation, and they want a drink. Re-open the lounges, and serve beer and wine in the snack bars. I was somewhat appalled to discover on my most recent trip (Columbia, Bellingham to Auke Bay) that I could have a hamburger and fries but no beer (in the snack bar), or fries and a beer but no hamburger (in the dining room). That's nuts. Get real. You'll definitely drive passengers away with that policy. Price alcohol like restaurants do and it will pay for itself.

  • 1) Sync schedules to work with flights in and out of communities. 2) Hire some new website designers and programmers. Create a seamless, easy-to-use website like airlines and replace people working at the counters with kiosks similar to airports. The purser should be able to handle all questions and people when entering boat. 3) On-board wifi would be a huge perk 4) Raise the price of coffee 5) Smaller portions in the cafeteria

  • In marketing, one has only four variables, product, promotion, place, and price. In the theater or sports business there's the old saying, "You need bottoms in seats." And, this is what you need, people in rooms and cars and trucks in the hold. It is necessary to promote what you have. I recently traveled from Juneau to Bellingham and had a fine time. EVERYONE who works on your boats has to be in customer mode all the time. I realize that an Able Bodied Seaman might not think of outstanding customer relations as a requirement to move the boat around but it is. Role models for excellence in customer relations are Purser Monica, Don Allen and a gentleman named Bryan. Everyone else was fine but in a competitive environment such as yours, everyone has to be be in customer mode. A good place to start to understand these principles is the Disney Training. There are videos out there explaining how the show must go on no matter what. I was first exposed the the Disney training over thirty years ago and if you take the time to explore the Disney way, you'll see what I mean. I have a background in marketing. I spent most of my career working on the right combination of product (your ships), place, price and promotion. Hence, my principle suggestion is go to market with someone at the helm who understands the marketing mix, give them budget, set goals and begin the process of restoring the Alaska Marine Highway to full function with people who seek you out among all the other transportation alternatives. Begin with your people; put them all in customer mind set.

  • I think there are a couple of areas where the Alaska Marine Highway can improve to increase ridership and revenues. First, it needs to be remembered that the backbone of any system like this is the people who live in the communities that are served by each vessel. Revenue from tourism is essential, but in order to be sustainable the local communities must be willing and be able to afford to ride the ferry often. It used to be that when we traveled on the Marine Highway system, the driver of any vehicle went for free. At the time, it was about $350 to take my truck and use the ferry for a quick trip to Anchorage now and then. Now in the winter, the driver goes for 50% off, but that still raises the price to about $450. In the summer time when there is no driver discount, the price raises again to about $550. Add on one other family member and the price is now about $750. This has decreased our ridership on the marine highway by about 2/3 since the change went into effect, and I don't think that will change unless the rates go down. The money we used to save by riding the marine highway and buying groceries and other supplies in Anchorage has become negligible when you consider the added costs of traveling. It is hardly(or in most cases not) worth the hassle of spending the weekend traveling. The clear beneficiary has been the airlines. It has become more convenient and cost effective to travel by plane and rent a car. The price is now comparable and the schedule is much more convenient. Speaking of schedules, I know the Alaska Marine Highway accepts public comment into their schedules, and they are really terrific at accommodating our school activities, but sometimes their schedules are real head scratchers. I recently rode the ferry from Cordova to Whittier and the starting time of the trip went from 5:00am until 5:30am. Not that I care about the later start time, but this schedule does not seem to take into account the schedule of the Whittier tunnel. The 5:00am departure time puts the ferry into Whittier at 11:45am which is 15 minutes before the Tunnel opens. On this schedule, a person can hit the Whittier dock and head straight through the tunnel and on to Anchorage. It makes appointments easy to make and gets you into Anchorage generally around 1:00. The 5:30am start time means you now arrive in Whittier at 12:15pm, narrowly missing the tunnel opening(12:00 to 12:15) and now you have to wait in Whittier until 1:00 when the tunnel opens again. But just when you thought you would get to go through the tunnel at 1:00, you realize that the train is also waiting to go through the tunnel now at 1:00 and despite all of the announcements that the tunnel would open at 1:00, now you are delayed so the train can go through. We were finally allowed to go through the tunnel at about 1:20 which put us in Anchorage at 2:30 instead of 1:00, all because they moved the start time up 1/2 hour. Maybe it would make sense to move it forward an hour, but 1/2 hour makes no sense at all. It would also be nice if the two state owned entities in the tunnel and the ferry could learn to communicate with each other a little better. In the winter when there is little or no traffic(through the tunnel), if the ferry gets into Whittier late, I am not sure why the tunnel can't just open to allow the people who get off the ferry to go through. Just my two cents.

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