My eyes open, I hold my breath and press the shutter. The Zaandam is approaching Ketchikan. Just like two years ago, on the Ryndam, the chief purpose to this cruise is to capture Alaska in 35mm film. But this year, I am only shooting Kodak. Portra as principal film, Ektar for back up and out on the towns.
Embarkation in Vancouver, two days earlier had been flawless. My stateroom was ready by 11:45. The ship was familiar, so were the friendly smiles and the polite service. The Ryndam is a tough act to follow. The kitchen and waiting staff perform with military precision. The Alaskan cruise two years ago visited College Fjord, now it merely crosses the panhandle at a slower speed. The whole day is a sea day. Could the Zaandam measure up?
Most critiques of this ship have been negative: a slight exaggeration perhaps. The ship is not new, a fact I forgive, for when I myself gaze into the mirror, I no longer look twenty. Standards have been slipping. If I were to compare the food and service to the Ryndam of two years ago, I would have to agree. However, on its own merit this is still a great cruise with great service. Still great bang for the buck.
The voyage is smooth. We sail in Beaufort 8 and never feel uncomfortable. Glacier Bay is as breathtaking as always. I am happy with my pictures. I got over the fact we did not visit College Fjord. I redo my train ride in Skagway. The highlight of my trip is riding a Softail Deluxe in Ketchikan. Two ways in my mind to experience iconic Alaska: riding a Harley Davidson and shooting Kodak. The motorcycle ride was once an excursion and is no longer offered. This experience is a must. Panhandle Motorcycle Adventures can be contacted directly. The staff is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. Also, everything required is provided: helmet, rain suit, boots, and gloves.
The weather is variable, can't complain. Every town has its own charm. I continue to click away. I skip the Canaletto but book the Pinnacle twice for dinner, once for lunch. The wine list continues to impress me. In the end, disembarkation is smooth, customs clearance a breeze.
I am a two star Mariner going on three. Would I sail with Hal again? Yes, without a doubt. But I cannot help but notice that Hal is slowly losing its way. In its need to stay current and appeal to newer customers, it is loosing its identity and risks becoming less relevant to its core customers. But what do I know, anyway? I still shoot film.
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