Taking the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry) from Bellingham, Washington to Haines, Alaska or Skagway, Alaska through the Inside Passage was a great way to do an Alaska cruise on the cheap. If you want more time to explore Alaska, book each leg separately as we did on our return trip. We took about a week at each destination to camp and then hopped back on the ferry.
On the way back south we also wizened up and reserved a three bed stateroom instead of just two beds in a bunk bed formation. The three bed stateroom has a lot more floor space and the extra bed makes a nice couch. If you travel early or late enough in the year the second passenger is free.
After taking the ferry to Haines or Skagway there are still nearly 1,000 miles of Alaska Highway if you are heading to Anchorage as we were. Before heading north be sure to pick up the latest edition of the Milepost guidebook.