We had booked a seven day cruise up from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. Check-in was relatively quick and efficient but you do have to be patient lining up for US Border Control procedures, which for convenience are carried out in Vancouver (the Alaskan US/Canada border is a few hours sail time north from here).
So on a slightly overcast late summer afternoon we found ourselves boarding our floating home (or rather hotel) for the next week. This was our first experience at cruising and I must confess we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Our ship the Noordam, part of the Holland America line fleet, carried about 1900 passengers yet we didn’t feel our space was unpleasantly crowded. It was somewhat bewildering at first to get our heads round the vast number of possibilities – as well as several cafes, restaurants and bars there were gyms, a swimming pool, a spa retreat, libraries, talks, wine and beer tastings, concerts, musical entertainment – the list goes on! Rather than go into great detail you can read up about the various options here.
For now I just want to focus on our own personal experience. The itinerary cruises up the Inside Passage along the western Pacific coast of Canada, past the Haida Gwaii (also known as Queen Charlotte Islands) before crossing the US border into Alaska.
Near the extensive shopping area on one of the lower decks was an information board and map charting our progress and current nautical position.
It took a day and a half to reach our first port of call, Ketchikan in South East Alaska (a narrow strip of land, surrounded by the sea and British Columbia, Canada, dotted with settlements that just about clings on to the larger Alaskan land mass to the north west). Southeast Alaska is the northern end of the Inside Passage, a protected waterway that provides a passage between the many small islands and fjords in this area. Its southern terminus is in Puget Sound in Washington state. The waterway system was of great importance to the local First Nations peoples, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. We learnt a great deal about their heritage and culture during the time we spent in Southeast Alaska
I’ll cover the history, heritage and wildlife of the various small towns and communities we visited here in the coming posts.
Back on ship you certainly don’t have to join in anything on board that you don’t want to – the idea is to relax and enjoy yourself. We had booked a suite with a balcony facing towards the land side of the ship. I only took a few photos for some reason but this gives you an idea. It was incredibly comfortable and we were well looked after by our delightful valets – we got custom folded towels each night and they were friendly and helpful without being intrusive. Certainly you can just sit on the balcony and watch the world (or sea) go by if you like.
However we liked to get out on the main deck and soak up the pure fresh air – it was most invigorating and we covered a lot of steps on the Promenade Deck during the course of our trip. Laid out with attractive wooden decking it is designed so that you can walk laps to your heart’s content (or sit and relax on the deckchairs). There is a separate zone on an upper deck for joggers though a few did use the Promenade Deck as well. Three laps was equivalent to a mile so we made sure we got in nine laps a day at least!
We saw our first whales somewhere off the island archipelago – I managed a few distant photos. The ship’s crew are very good at announcing sightings over the loudspeaker – you just have to be in the right place at the right time to spot things though.
Our cruise package covered up to 15 standard drinks a day (which I certainly didn’t use, others though….). There were options for wine deals too but with an all-inclusive drinks package we weren’t tempted though I did go with one of our friends to a very interesting wine tasting where there was nearly a fight (nothing to do with us I hasten to add!). A couple of parties sculled their glasses of wine before the sommelier had a chance to explain the tasting notes thus rather missing the point of the event! However this hardly justified a couple of wine snobs having a go at them in the rudest manner possible – the situation was fortunately narrowly defused!
There were a couple of optional gala dinners on board and whilst I was a little apprehensive as we hadn’t packed anything too fancy (coming all the way from Australia with dinner jackets and ball gowns was not an option) it was actually more casual than I’d expected and a pleasant chance to a enjoy a gourmet dining experience.
I was also worried about potential seasickness beforehand as I have no sea legs whatsoever. I had bought some special bracelets from the pharmacist before I left home, which you wear on your wrist pressure points to ease any sickness. Whether it was psychosomatic or not I had no problem at all even on slightly rougher days. I heard later quite a few people had been sea sick on the first couple of days so I was glad I had the wrist bands with me.
So from being a sceptic I can say we would certainly consider doing another cruise at some point in future – not too long though, for us a week was just about perfect.
Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved