Bar service returns to 2 Alaska ferries

two people stand looking over the water on a ship
Passengers watch the scenery go by on the ferry Matanuska’s forward deck during a May 3, 2017, sailing from Juneau to Haines. (Aaron Bolton/KSTK)

The Alaska Marine Highway System has reopened bars on two state ferries. The ferry system eliminated bar service in 2015 as a cost saving measure.

The state ferry system started serving beer and wine again on two ships, the Matanuska and Kennicott, in late May and early June.

Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Dapcevich said existing personnel were able to open the bars on those two ships for limited hours.

“We’re serving like Alaskan Brewing Company beer in bottles and cans,” Dapcevich said. “We have some wines, seltzers. We’re also serving like popcorn, chips and pretzels, and we’re working towards offering pre-packaged mixed drinks. And so far the response has been very positive.”

Dapcevich said this year ferry managers were looking for ways to improve the travel experience.

“I think the consensus from our AMHS team was, yeah, if we can do it, let’s do it,” he said. “As you know, we’re already dealing with staffing shortages, so we wanted to see how we could do it without having to hire specific bar tenders.”

The Matanuska offers service between Bellingham, Washington, Prince Rupert, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska this summer. The Kennicott has sailings from Bellingham to Kodiak. The service could expand to other ships operating this year.

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Joe Viechnicki is a reporter at KFSK in Petersburg.

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