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.Submitted: June 09, 2018
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 cafeteriaSubmitted: June 07, 2018
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.Submitted: June 02, 2018
Be able to select your cabin online just like you select your seat on an airplane.Submitted: May 25, 2018
I have some suggestions:
- free wi-fi on board ferries so people can do work
- a mileage program similar to AK Air, including a club 49 option with discounts for Alaskans
- remodel the ferries to be more modern and aesthetically pleasing
- offer discounts for purchase of package deals (e.g. if you purchase stateroom, car, and fare together get a 10% discount)
- offer tours with classes by experts on subjects such as writing, knitting, birding, etc. (the cruise ships do this...)
- need to sell AMHS memorabilia on ferries and online
- bring back the gift shops and bars!
All of these things would increase ridership and reduce operating cost per rider.Submitted: May 25, 2018
Work a deal with community businesses to get product/merchandise onboard the ferry in Bellingham and Prince Rupert for them to sell their wares in their local communities. Prices should be comparable to freight rates or even a few pennies per pound cheaper.
Fred Meyer for example could provide their own "Van" loaded with product in Bellingham, and AMHS could charge accordingly for that van to transport it to Juneau.
Maybe this could be done seasonally only, October to May to compensate for the low passenger rates during the off season.
Just a thought. Feel free to add to or subtract from as you see fit.
Thanks for reading.
Submitted: May 15, 2018
Start charging for addition baggage/carry on. I recently watched a woman and her 6 children travel from Petersburg to Juneau on a Medicaid pass. While in Juneau she shopped at a local Fred Meyer and returned to Petersburg Several days later with no less than a dozen 50 pound boxes of groceries.
The airlines didn't charge for luggage for years while fighting bankruptcy the entire time. They reformed themselves a number of years ago. Part of that reform was to start charging fees for luggage. Maybe give customers one bag for free then $50 for each additional bag?
Just a thought. Add or delete information as you need to.
Thanks for reading.
MikeSubmitted: May 15, 2018
I feel that a great income producing mechanism would be to legalize a casino (ON THE FERRY SYSTEM ONLY), (maybe something along the lines of slots only for example) on a small part of the ship. To be accessed only while ship is underway. (similar to the paddle boat casino's in Mississippi)
The income generated is to ONLY be used inside the ferry system, completely independent of state funds.
This could potentially add to the already high tourism currently a lifeline to many Alaska communities if rules were placed to force the patron off for X number of days. Example: Joe buys a ferry ticket in Bellingham, gambles on the boat to anywhere the ferry stops, then must exit the boat until that boat returns on its south bound trip).
Joe not only contributes to the ferry system but for that 2-3 days he waits in Petersburg for example he contributes to the economy there as well. Its a win-win for Alaska!
Just a thought, build on it anyway you please.
Thanks for reading.
MikeSubmitted: May 15, 2018
Alaska state ferries have a great passenger safety record. The employees respect the passengers. I feel safe and welcome. I like that I am in Alaska when I board the boat. The security is good without being overwhelming or out of proportion like the airlines.They keep to a tight schedule.I can check on my pets or cargo while I travel.I liken my trips to a cruse.Submitted: May 12, 2018
I made some of these same suggestions to people involved with the AMHS in 2006 and they were rejected/disregarded then, and it's worse now!
"AMHS Issues: Things to consider
Cost the same to run the ferries empty as loaded. These costs are already paid by the residents of Alaska, so they shouldn’t have to pay excessive fares to be able to use the system. The fares could be reduced to 30 percent of the present rates (Jan. 06), and the overall revenue would rise, because the cost of use now is prohibitive to most of the residents.
Commercial and non resident should continue to pay the full rate.
I have been told of a program called “Elderhost” that allows persons to travel the system in the winter for free or a very small payment. They are provided staterooms and meals. These people are not even residents of Alaska, and sometimes not even residents of the USA! I ask, “why should we subsidize non-residents to use the system our own residents can’t afford to use”? I don’t know a lot about the particulars of this program, but this seems ridiculous! Any Alaskan resident should receive the same discount and benefits as the Elderhost program.
Not only the cost of passenger fares reduced, but cost of vehicle fares and staterooms reduced to qualified residents. The present passenger fare, Ketchikan to Bellingham is $231 and takes about 39 hours. This doesn’t include meals, (5 or 6 meals) $50 minimum, or the cost of a stateroom to sleep, $220. This makes the total cost about $500.
This cost is outrageous considering you can fly to Seattle in 2 hours for $435 full cost, and $230 supersaver with about 2 months notice."
Submitted: May 03, 2018