Alaska - Zuiderdam - June 29th to July 6th 2013
This was my very first cruise and accompanied by my daughter. My husband was not interested in coming to somewhere with no beach!!
Our original booking was for the first week of June, but because of changing work commitments my daughter could not make it. So glad I took the cancellation insurance. We easily rebooked with a small penalty. This time however we had to take a guarantee for a VH - so glad we did as we were upgraded to a VB (6140).
Our anticipation grew each day as we awaited the day of our departure from Montreal. I was constantly on-line looking at reviews, comments etc. about the ship and itinerary. I pre booked two shore excursions (more on that later). I also, as a surprise for my daughter, pre ordered a wine package (3 bottles), bon voyage package (sparkling wine and balloons) and a bon voyage bouquet.
At last the day to leave Montreal arrived. We flew to Vancouver and stayed the night at the Blue Horizon Hotel which was an excellent location for walking around and an excellent price.
Day of embarkation arrived. We arrived a little early (we thought) at the terminal, but were not the first to. I was very impressed with the organization of the whole process of checking in. From exit from our taxi our luggage was whisked away to miraculously reappear a few hours later in our stateroom. After having picture taken and receiving the "all you need" on board card/room key, we patiently waited 20 minutes to board. Our stateroom was ready and everything I had pre-ordered was already there. Our steward Bagus came to introduce himself and my request for an extension cord for my CPAP machine arrived within 20 mins. Our stateroom 6140 was comfortable although a little cramped, but perfectly adequate for one week.
After dropping our hand luggage we went to the Lido Buffet for lunch as this was all that was open until dinner time. This was our first and last visit to the buffet as we preferred the Vista (main dining room) and we also had two meals in the Pinnacle. All but one morning we had room service for breakfast. The food on board was TRULY AMAZING, with only one disappointing dinner in the Vista (surf and turf) the lobster tail was good but the sauce on the steak was not to my liking, but hey what was one meal out of so many.
After dinner on the first evening we settled down in the Crows nest to enjoy the view and a fabulous sunset, only to be disturbed by the fire alarm. The Captain quickly explained that a fire had been detected in one of the life boats. A battery pack had apparently malfunctioned and started a fire. The lifeboat had to be lowered to deck 3 so that the crew could put out the fire and remove the battery pack. Those who were assigned this lifeboat (10) we given new lifeboat assignments. We could still smell the smoke on our balcony after returning to our stateroom, and all passengers on that side of the ship were advised not to open their balcony doors until morning. The Crow's nest was our favourite place on the ship to relax during the day and in the evening listening to the guitarist and having a glass of wine.
Our first day of sailing was very overcast and foggy, but enjoyed the day in the Crows Nest drinking coffee and enjoying the eerie effect of the fog and mountains and seeing many whales.
Juneau - low cloud and frequent downpours for the whole day, but we still enjoyed our tour of the Glacier Gardens and the Mendenhall Glacier. At first we thought we would not see the Glacier because of the fog, but after watching a video presentation in the visitors information center, we discovered that the fog had lifted and we had about a ten minute window to take pictures before the fog rolled back in again.
Skagway - a quaint town of 800 residents. We did not do a tour here but enjoyed walking around the town and had a great lunch, returned to the ship early afternoon for a quick nap.
Glacier Bay - another low cloud, foggy start to the day, but nevertheless the highlight of the cruise. The bow of the ship (deck 4) was opened for this day so that is where we stationed ourselves, appropriately dressed for a wet cold day. We were rewarded by witnessing the Glacier "calving" , a spectacular sight. On the way out of the bay and in the Icy straights we saw sea otters, sea lions, puffins and more whales. After leaving Icy Straights we entered the Pacific to begin sailing south again and back to Ketchikan. Unfortunately the seas were quite rough and my daughter had her first sea sickness attach, so it was a good dose of Gravol and an early night.
Ketchikan - Arrived in bright sunshine and had a wonderful walk around the town, watching the 4th of July parade and a lunch of Dungeness Crab before taking a tour to Saxman Native village where we were treated to a short video of their history, a show of their native dance and an visit to the Totem Pole carving center and viewing the totem pole collection. A very enjoyable day.
Last day sailing - saw all the scenery that we missed on our first night as we were sleeping.
Overall this was an excellent first cruise and it will not be my last. Holland America's standard of service, organization etc. was outstanding!!