The Alaska Marine Highway System has published its new summer schedule, both on-time and featuring new service to Bellingham and Gustavus.
Ferry officials said one of the biggest features of the 2011 summer schedule is its lack of changes from past years, as the system tries to improve service by providing schedule consistency.
The most dramatic changes to the summer schedule had been signaled in advance, including the service by the Kennicott to the system's southern terminus in Bellingham.
The Kennicott will supplement service by the fleet flagship, the Columbia, following cuts to a single vessel a few years ago. The Columbia frequently traveled at capacity during popular summer months, leaving tourism officials fearing they were losing valuable independent travelers and local officials saying it was inconveniencing residents.
The Kennicott will continue to provide cross gulf service from Bellingham to Anchorage every other week. Anchorage will be served through the Port of Whittier, and will also stop in Juneau on that run, before continuing on to Southwest Alaska.
The ferry system will also begin summer service to Gustavus, following the recent completion of a new dock there.
"Adding Gustavus to next summer's schedule provides an additional travel option to Gustavus and Glacier Bay National Park." said Jim Beedle, deputy commissioner of marine operations at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
Gustavus has road access to Bartlett, inside the park.
Gustavus service will be provided by the LeConte.
In 2008, after major schedule revisions, the year's summer schedule was not released until the end of January, which Southeast Alaska public officials and tourism industry representatives said hampered trip planning for visitors.
This year's schedule is nearly four months earlier than that. Previously AMHS officials had a December deadline for producing schedules, in order to make the printing deadlines for publications such as The Milepost, and to enable trip planning to Alaska.
The Milepost is published by the Morris Magazine Network. The network is owned by Morric Communications Co., the parent company of the Juneau Empire.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or email@example.com.