Volendam Cruise Review by Ieuanfawr: Terrific Alaskan scenery
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Terrific Alaskan scenery
We stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, and when we woke up on the day of departure, the Volendam was moored right below our room.
Embarkation was straightforward, with the ship's staff being very helpful.
My overall impression of the ship is confusing. It's some 11 or 12 years old, had a major refit a few years but has a retro-early 60s feel. The overall theme is flowers, but it's incoherent. The Pinnacle restaurant, the Theatre and the Crow's Nest are probably the smartest parts of the ship; our cabin with its beige/faded ivory bathroom needed freshening up although it was clean and fully functional.
We soon found our way around, and took advantage of the open seating in the Rotterdam Restaurant for breakfast and dinner. An early morning tea or coffee with (small) croissants in the cabin was good. The food was generally very good with the breakfasts, steaks and Indian evening being the highlights; the seafood was surprisingly disappointing. Service More was prompt and good. Tip: don't take up the offer of bottled water; ask for a jug of regular iced.
The cost of drinks (before the 15% surcharge) gave us a fright, though the bottle of gin for $30+ with tonic in the cabin wasn't too bad a deal.
The list of on-board activities included wine tasting, but we didn't take it up as it was really expensive for a the selection of bottom of the range/generic wines on offer. We did go to the Alaskan beer tasting, but $15 (+15%) for three small glasses of beer wasn't good value, even though I did win a bottle as a prize.
The highlight of the cruise was the scenery and the excursions.
The trip on the catamaran into Tracey Arm was superb. Th boat's captain turned of the engine when we were as near as was safe to the Sawyer Glacier, and we could hear the explosions as huge chunks of ice fell off the glacier into the fjord. There were waterfalls, sea eagles, seals and small icebergs - truly memorable experience - and given an edge by the transfer to the catamaran taking place in deep water, not in port! This is a must-do in my opinion.
At Skagway, we took the train on the White Pass & Yukon Railway. The weather was superb, and our tour guide said it was first time in years she'd been able to see the peaks and glaciers as there was no rain, clouds or mist. The views are splendid and make for great photos. We went on the early departure, which was a bit of a rush, but did mean the train was not crowded, there were no worries about which side of the train to sit on (left side on the way up) and there was space on the platforms between the carriages. We saw that the next train was really crowded. We had some fun in the Skagway Brewery and met one of the girls from the Red Onion!
At Ketchikan, we took the seaplane to the Misty Fjords and returned by boat. The ride in the seaplane was exciting but short (30 mins) and return to Ketchikan took over two by boat. Of the three excursions we took, this was the most expensive by far and the one that fell short of expectation, despite the excellent guide on the boat. If you want to do this excursion, fly out and fly back. Otherwise, save your money.
The Volendam's visit to Glacier Bay was exciting. The weather was warm and the glacier was breaking up faster than usual. The top of the bay had far more ice floating on the water than usual. The glacier ice is fresh water at 0Â° and the salty sea was a couple of degrees colder, so the ice bergs weren't melting. The captain explained that the Volendam wasn't equipped with a hull suitable for ice-breaking so had to keep off the edge of the ice flows. He did see a mother bear with two cubs off the starboard side and turned the ship completely around to get better view. After they disappeared, he turned the ship around again to continue with the planned route!
Our steward and house-keeping were excellent and kept our cabin in forst class order.
Would we travel again on the Volendam? Probably not.
Would we travel again up the Alaskan coastline? Probably yes! Less
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