Having Guests in Alaska

Having Guests in Alaska

If you’re going to cruise Southeast Alaska by boat, you’ll probably want to invite friends to fly in and join you. This presentation offers helpful advice on hosting guests on your boat in Alaska. In this episode of the “Mastering the Inside Passage” series, Sam Landsman and Laura Domela share the lessons of numerous trips – leading flotillas up the Inside Passage from Washington through BC up to SE Alaska.


Set expectations. Boats get small fast. Much of the time, there’s nowhere to get off the boat, nowhere to go shopping, nowhere to eat a meal out. Resources — water, electricity, etc. — can be scarce. The weather is often rainy. Make sure that guests understand this before they arrive.

Provide packing guidelines. Rollaboard suitcases don’t generally store well on a boat. Let guests know in advance what kind of clothing they’ll need. Formal wear isn’t required, but rain gear is. Rubber boots are a must.

Don’t overcommit. Leave time between visits to fix boat issues, do laundry, and get some rest.

“Cities” are best. Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka are generally the cheapest places to fly, since they’re served by both Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines. Alaska Air is the only choice for Wrangell, Petersburg, and Gustavus, and prices tend to be higher.

Spend the first and last night in port. This helps ease the transition to boat life and allows guests to purchase anything they might have forgotten. We like eating out when in port since there are no restaurants at anchor. Don’t plan on arriving in port the same day guests are departing —trying to make the timing work can be stressful.

Consider a point-to-point itinerary. Arriving and departing from different cities means no backtracking.

Build in flexibility. Boats break. Weather prevents travel. Plan two nights at an anchorage and you can always scratch one to make up a day. We also like planning travel days as half days. If we get behind schedule, we can always cover two days in one, and when everything cooperates we get to spend time exploring anchorages.

Consider small planes. Can’t make it to the pick up or drop off point? Small airlines run seaplanes and small propeller planes all over Alaska. Much of the service is regularly scheduled and reasonably priced. Unlike big airlines, these small airlines don’t penalize you for booking last-minute. We’ve had guests book travel to Juneau, then, the day before they arrive, book a flight on a small airline to wherever we were on the boat. The guest gets a scenic flight, too.

Consider the Alaska Marine Highway. Ferries connect all the major cities and towns, and many small ones. They even run from Bellingham all the way to Southeast Alaska. Particularly useful for boaters: the daily (when it’s not broken down) fast ferry between Juneau and Sitka, which connects the two cities in just 4.5 hours.

What about Canada? We’re writing this from the perspective of U.S.-based cruisers. Although seaplane flights from the Seattle area to BC are frequent, they’re generally very expensive compared to jet travel, and few seaplanes from the U.S. continue north of Vancouver Island. What’s more, guests from the U.S. have to deal with crossing an international border.