Spending winters 20 minutes away from Port Everglades has enabled me to take many last minute cruises at very attractive prices. Call me on Wednesday and tell me there is an opening for a Saturday departure and I'm there!
At the urging of several friends who still are tied to a work schedule and who wanted to join me on one of these cruises, I planned an Eastern Caribbean cruise on Holland America's Eurodam last November for an April sailing. We ended up with 13 people who enjoyed the experience immensely and Holland America was superb in it's service, so when we returned in May I casually mentioned to my daughter, who is a teacher, that I wouldn't mind seeing Alaska on Holland. Well, she said her school ended on May 24th and she'd be my cabin mate. I booked a small suite (SC) for the May 26th sailing and then about two weeks later two of my other children said they could go too. When I added the 3rd and 4th passenger I was told that the SC cabin didn't accommodate that many so they upgraded us to a Deluxe Suite(SA). Long story short, the Penthouse wasn't sold and they emailed me a chance to up-sell to it. After talking to my kids, who are in their 30's, we decided it would be a great opportunity, as who knows if the chance would ever come again. We took it.
We arrived in Seattle the night before and on Saturday morning took a Pike Place Tasting Tour. I recommend it for anyone who wants to get samples of the best the Market has to offer and be in a small group with a tour guide who gives a good history of the Market. It was a two hour tour that started at 9:30 and ended around Noon. We went straight to the Pier 91 dock and were escorted to the ship where the concierge met us and took us to our suite. Since there were four adults the extra room was really appreciated. We had a kitchen, dining room equipped with Waterford crystal and two bathrooms. Also a large bedroom, living room and huge veranda that had a hot tub on it. I will post a link to photos on the Holland America site when I get them uploaded.
FOOD: We ate dinner in the MDR four times, the Pinnacle Grill once and Canaletto once. The bone in rib eye in the Pinnacle is hard to beat. It was easily the best meal I had on board. Osso bucco in the Canaletto was passable and the rest of the pasta dishes were good. Not a real high end type Italian menu was offered and I don't know whether the test of charging ten dollars for the experience to dine there will be successful.
Breakfast was best in the Pinnacle Grill only because the Lido was a difficult place to get a table on an Alaskan cruise. In warm weather climates many people that use the Lido take their food out to the rear deck to dine but in Alaska, the inside is where you want to be.
ENTERTAINMENT: The main showroom used the first night to acquaint you with what types of entertainment would be on the cruise. A little performance by the Adagio Strings, the HALCATS, the singers and dancers, and a monologue by a very personable Cruise Director, Jason Venner. There was a couple of variety acts, which were a comedian juggler who was entertaining, and a comedian magician who had Indy the Dog in his act. Both were fine. The singers and dancers worked themselves into a tizzy and their last night performance was outstanding. They could easily perform on Broadway or Las Vegas finest venues. Costumes were designed by Bob Mackie who did many of the top shows and entertainers including Cher.
PORTS: Alaska is the star of the cruise. The scenery is awe inspiring and the chance to see wildlife is always there. Make sure you have binoculars with you, they are supplied if you are in a deluxe suite. In Juneau we panned for gold, (I think they salted the gravel because we all found a few specs of gold to bring home). The salmon bake was interesting especially because a big Momma Bear and her three little cubs came walking by on the other side of the stream from where we were eating. Ketchikan and Juneau both had their share of touristy shops. If it was sunny you would think you were at any port in the Caribbean, i.e. Diamonds International, T Shirt shops, etc. In Sitka however, they have no pier and the town is pretty real. We booked a private wildlife cruise on a small boat called the Esther G that we found out about on the boards here. It only holds 6 people and the Captain Davey Lubin really knew the area. It was wonderful and we saw eagles, whales and sea otters galore!
We were only in Victoria in the evening so we walked around the town and saw some nice sights like the Empress Hotel and beautiful gardens. Had dinner there in China Town and back to the ship for a midnight departure.
ACTIVITIES: My daughters enjoyed spa treatments and my son spent time in the Explorers Lounge reading and playing chess. He took some cha cha lessons in the Crows Nest. One daughter took the tennis challenge. I played team trivia and did a culinary preparation with my two daughters that was served to us in the Pinnacle with a wine pairing. Three of us took the "Behind the Scenes Tour" a three hour walking tour that included the galley, laundry, mechanical rooms and bridge. Watched the glaciers with a cup of hot pea soup served while the Park Rangers described the area. Had a lot of laughs with my adult children that we really enjoyed.
I'm sure I missed some things but I don't want to put you to sleep!!
To sum up my experience:
Round-trip airfare for 4 from Chicago to Seattle....200,000 frequent flier pts.
Gold panning and salmon bake in Juneau...............$89.98 each
Wildlife tour in Sitka on small private boat.........125.00 each
Seeing the majesty of Alaska with your family........PRICELESS!!