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Alaska Inside Passage
Embarkation and Disembarkation
Wow - I've never had to spend so much time in line waiting for customs clearance! We arrived around 11:30, and didn't get on board until just after 1:00pm. I'd recommend boarding later if you can be patient, as I've heard the lines get shorter as it gets later. The actual passing through customs was a breeze - we didn't even need to complete an immigration form, but it took a long time to get there.
Ship & Cabins
We heard that the Zuiderdam is going to dry dock for a few weeks at the end of the season - it really needs some upgrades. The cabins are well-used - lots of corrosion on the balcony doors and railings, and the bathroom and furnishings show a lot of wear. The public spaces, though, looked great, and the ship ran like a dream. We didn't make use of the spa or gym, but ate in all of the restaurants, and enjoyed most of the public spaces.
Service & Activities
The ship's crew is as friendly and solicitous as always. More
The entertainment was enjoyable, and there was always lots of activities to choose from. The offerings in the Computer Lab are more varied, and the Alaskan-themed info sessions - some given by Alaskan park rangers were very much appreciated. The food was as good as always - lots of selection - even more selection in the lido than there has been previously. The service in the main dining room was quite slow at times - and sometimes we had to wait as much as an hour for a table with as you wish dining. We will choose a set seating on our next cruise.
Ports of Call
This was a nice change from Caribbean ports - we did a ship excursion in Ketchikan, and booked two private excursions. There was plenty of time in the ports, and a good selection of things to do. The ship talks about the ports were informative. There is quite an animosity between the ship's "guaranteed shops" and the shops that are not "recommended" - in Juneau, they even put signs in their windows about kickbacks given to cruise ships. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
The glacier tour was part of a combo whale watching/glacier tour. After whale watching, we were driven to the glacier and given an hour there - we had plenty of time, and saw salmon, and bears along with time to see the glacier and tour the visitor centre. The bus was back on time, and brought us either downtown, or right back to the cruise ship.
The whale watching tour was part of a combo whale watching/glacier tour. We were met close to the cruise ship and headed onto a bus to go to the whale watching portion of the trip. On the bus, the driver gave us a great background about the city, area, and answered any questions we had. There were about 30 of us on the boat - it opened at the front and the back as well as had sliding windows that opened. We were guaranteed whale sightings - and boy did we see them! We saw great whites and humpbacks bubble-net feeding. There was a great captain on the boat, and a "naturalist" who ensured we knew about the area and the whales. Great trip.
Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour
This was the highlight of our trip. We watch The Deadliest Catch, and were not disappointed. The Aleutian Ballad was a short 10 minute walk from where we were docked (one of the ships in town was right beside), and we were greeted by the friendly crew as we boarded. We were offered stadium coats, and the stadium seating was covered and had overhead heaters. The 3.5h excursion took us out to an island area where the crew fed bald eagles so we could get some amazing pictures, covered how they fish, and catch various types of crab. All of the fish and crabs that were caught were shown to the guests - we could hold all but the Dungeness (they are vicious!), and allowed us to take pictures. We were shown how crabbing is done, the different types of pots, what life is like on the Bering Sea, and anything else we wanted to ask. The crew are REAL crab fisherman - not scripted - and can talk knowledgeably about what they are doing. It was obvious that they LOVE what they do, and love sharing it with us. They offered us complimentary coffee and hot chocolate, and there were small snacks to purchase, as well as t-shirts, etc. It was a GREAT day - but DRESS WARM - it is cold out there! At the end of the tour, they posed with us for pictures - taken on our cameras. Would do this one again tomorrow!
White Pass Scenic Railway
We booked the bus/rail tour. We went by bus up to the station, and then took the train back down. The bus met us just at the end of the dock, and drove us through town, giving us a history of the area, and some of the more interesting people that lived there. We stopped a number of times on the way up to the train station to allow us to take pictures. Our driver gave us a running commentary about the gold rush and the Chilkoot Trail. It was a great trip up, and we had ample opportunity to ask questions and see the sights. At the Alaska/Canada border, our driver even took our picture for us by the Welcome to Alaska sign :) The train ride down was interesting, and we learned even more about the area and history. The scenery was beautiful, and there was much to see from the train - especially the one side. We couldn't get very good pictures, though, because the windows were difficult to shoot through - although we were invited to stand on the platforms between the rail cars, these could only hold a couple of people who once set up there weren't going to move for others. The train dropped us off downtown, a short five minute walk back to the ship.