It's been a week since the cruise and oh my it is so hard to get back into the swing of normal life - this vacation was so relaxing. The weather was not great for two thirds of the days but that was not a problem. It's over a hundred degrees back home so 60 degrees and showers was not all that bad. There were several sunny clear days which more than made up for the weather woes. The Statendam is well maintained, though certainly not new, and the crew exceptionally accommodating. The cuisine as good as any ship we've experienced. H class cabin 700 is way up front and has a large loft area between the bed and portholes. The "1ST" tour is bare bones bus hotel & ship ... will take the 11 day Denali Train package next time.
We flew from San Francisco to Anchorage non stop; arranged the flights on our own. One way on United was just $150 pp which is outstanding for a 4 hour trip. We picked up a rental car at headed north at 930PM. We had wanted to get to Denali that evening but it got after midnight and with daylight dimming it we still had a couple of hours to go so we gave up opted to stay at the Talkeetna Lodge instead.
Talkeetna Lodge was a nice lodge somewhat similar to Tanaya Lodge in Yosemite but not quite as polished. Pricey $330 stay but so is everything in Alaska. It was cloudy .. bummer ... no views of Mt. McKinley and we skipped taking an air tour. We tried to hike around the lodge but the mosquitoes swarmed us and even stinging through clothes! After walking around Talkeetna we headed back to Anchorage and enjoyed the rustic forests. On the way back south we visited Wasilla and got close to Sarah Palin's home.
We join up with the official HAL tour by checking into the Westmark Hotel. We checked in and got our bags up to the room. Took rental car back to airport and then hopped on a HAL bus outside of baggage claim to the hotel. This hotel is owned by HAL and they have cruise office near the lobby so it felt like we had started the cruise! The restaurant at the hotel is excellent! Happy hour $1 appetizers and $3 drinks were well received by us. The next morning we walked about the downtown and enjoyed the weekend flea market a few blocks away. At this hotel you set out your bags with HAL tags and they take them to the bus. Around 11AM it was time to get in the bus to Seward.
On the bus to Seward.
It's a four+ hour ride from the Westmark Hotel to Seward. Grab a right side seat if you want the best views. Also get a breakfast or lunch before getting on. On this ride we had Great Granny Jo as our driver who has been in Alaska longer than it has been a state and knows all the sites, stories, and every turn in the road. There's a stop halfway at the Portage Glacier. They stop at a gift shop/cafe that is way too small to handle the crush of 3-4 buses stopping. The restrooms have long lines for the women which can be avoided using the National Forest facility a five minute walk across the parking lot. The weather was not great so the glacier view not happening. Back on the bus and two hours later we get to the Windsong Lodge on the outskirts of Seward for an overnight. The lodge runs shuttle buses to town which we immediately used to get to the Safeway Store and load up on a few items for the cruise e.g. booze. Dinner was at the Lodge's restaurant which was fine.
Embarking in Seward.
The next morning we put our labelled bags outside our room where they would be taken by HAL to the ship and not seen again until in our cabin. HAL cruise tour has a great advantage in that your bags are handled at every stop by HAL. By 10 AM were on the bus to the ship. Check in was a breeze, we were among the first on board and in our rooms by 1030AM. That was the easiest cruise check in ever! We spent the rest of the day on the Lido. Dinner was at 530 at the Pinnacle Grill. Muster Drill at 7PM - no life vests - just standing under our lifeboat for 20 minutes.
We hing a tag out the door the night before for breakfast room service. It would come right on time. Room service was slow in wee hours of the morning - at 4AM you have to call the front desk as no one was answering the room service line at that time.
Day at Sea
Cloudy overcast day so not outdoors much. Went to see a movie at the nice theater. Fairly large screen but show up early if yu want the unobstructed middle seats. Thought about taking a computer class at the nice classroom next to the library - but it looked like they were Microsoft Advertising class (HAL and MSFT are Seattle area neighbors and I figure they worked a deal). Wife found a book in the very nice library. The leather recliners with Ottomans are very comfy and have nice views.
Now this is what the cruise is all about! This is what you don't see when you take a round trip out of Seattle or Vancouver. Our conclusion - We will never take an Alaska cruise without a Glacier Bay visit. It was so awesom and teh calving was excellent - a thnder clap goes off before a big chink crackles and crashes. We watched from the front deck when a huge chink crackled off. A memory of a lifetime.
It is here that you are informed that glaciers have been coming and going for centuries. In this bay the glacier has been known to recede tens of miles, only to advance all the way back and more. So this latest round of global climate change is just that ... the latest round. We live in a world of change and Alasks shows that all too well.
We've been to Haines before and knew the local sights pretty well. Nice sunny day today! It was great for us to get exercise and walk to and from town, visit the Bald Eagle Foundation, walk around the former Army base, and enjoy the hospitality of Fred at his Wild Iris home and gift shop. Fred is former mayor of Haines. The shop is straight up from the pier and to the left of the Smoked Salmon store. At low tide the beach has round marbles the size of ping ball balls that are perfect free souvenirs.
HAL ships get the best parking spot in the center of the wharf since they pioneered the modern Alaska cruise industry. Six other ships in port that day and many were a long walk from the center of town. Walked all the way to the State capitol and took a 45 minute tour. We walked to the governor's home and all the way back for lunch at the Twisted Fish. The King Crab was about $60 and enough for two: well worth it. Outside a very large bald eagle was perched on the dock. Dock hands were unloading a salmon fishing boat and offered a free tour of the processing plant. 19,000 pounds of salmon came off that boat they said.
Rained in. Hard steady rain all day. Tried to take a walk but headed back after a short while. Spent the rest of the day at the Crow's nest lounge. Discovered the Happy Hour 4-5 pm. A bit more than half price and best deal.
Day at Sea
On the way back we had the wind to our back and a sunny 70 degrees. It was as if a Caribbean Cruise broke out! We hung out the pool all day and got suntanned. the views of the inside passage were fantastic.
Tied up to the dock by 7AM and off the ship with the third group, Grey 3, by 815AM and at the bus stop. Two hours later we were at the US border and an hour later at Bellingham were we picked up a rental car to tour Seattle and Portland. From Portland we flew home to face reality.