My second cruise this time was on Holland America was June 1- 11, 2014 to Alaska on the Statendam. My family includes my wife and two daughters (19 and 23.) Our northbound sea – land, Double Denali, trip departed Vancouver, which is this recommended port because the inside passage is the way to go. We had stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and ended at Seward. This included a stop in Glacier Bay which was beautiful and spectacular. Although the Statendam is older, it is still an elegant ship. Interiors are tastefully decorated and all is kept immaculately clean. As expected, our quad interior was a bit cramped but it is most economical for those on a tight budget. A concerted effort is made to avoid the spreading of communicable disease with hand sanitation stations and attendants with sanitizers everywhere. The meals were excellent. Gourmet meals in the main dining room, and the Lido buffet provided endless varieties of American and International fare. The only complaint I had was that there was no pizza station or pizza available at any time. The Explorations Café provide reasonably priced flavored coffees and other beverages. The Lido deck had a variety of shops and lounges and the casino was for the most part smoke free. The table betting limits were low but the slot machine appeared to be tight. The Piano Bar featured Damien who was our favorite entertainer on board. We heard him every night and many times it was standing room only in the “Mix” bar. Other featured performers were nightly jazz, guitarist, violist and piano duet, and the HALCats in the Crow’s Nest. Daily programs included the usual art auctions, bingo, trivia contests, cooking demos, and other sedate activities. I say sedate because the clientele for HAL appear to mostly senior citizens. Of the 1,200 plus guests aboard; only 60 were children. In comparison to Carnival Legend the programs tend to be more low keyed, but overall, not a deal breaker. I would recommend families with young children to go with Carnival over HAL. The staff were very attentive, friendly and courteous, but they failed to bring room service on the day of disembarkation so we had no breakfast that morning due to our tight time schedule to get on the bus. Is there no room service available on disembarkation day? If not, why did they take our food order on the door hanger menu? The shows featured a comedian, magician, two full cast shows and the exclusive “Dancing with the Stars at Sea” which featured guests paired with the ship’s professional dancers. The final dance-off was fun to watch. The opening and closing full cast shows are good but a bit over the top in terms of being a bit campy. Our port excursions were all booked on our own and included Kayak Eco Tour with Ketchikan Kayaking, Whale Watching with Harv and Marv in Juneau. Harv and Marv is a great way to see whales and other ocean wildlife! In Skagway we did a free tour on the history of the town lead by the NPS ranger. We also attended the “Days of ’98 Show” a fun, frolicking, campy stage show on the legend Soapy Smith. The Red Onion was an original Skagway brothel and provided staff in period costume and music. Family dining but expect a long wait to be seated. For the most part Skagway is all centered on souvenir shops and Alaskan arts and crafts. Our sea portion ended in Seward and we boarded our motor coach to Denali. The 7 hour trip was narrated by a very informative driver who added historical notes along with personal anecdotes. This included a very good lunch buffet and stop at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, AK. Here you can see an interpretive museum and see the dogs in action pulling carts with wheels. A short ride is available for $20 per person. We arrived outside of Denali and stayed at the McKinley Chalet. Eating options are available on site but you can also cross the street to various tourist traps and eateries. As always in Alaska, be prepared for extra high prices for food and other necessities. Our only complaint about the lodging was they failed to make up our room the second day. They came and took the towels and never replaced them or cleaned the room. Very inconvenient after spending a day away and returning at midnight. Free bus shuttles are available into the National Park with stops at trailheads, but be sure to see the Interpretive Center for historical exhibits of Denali. The Tundra Wilderness Tour, which is part of the HAL package was fantastic! Although you ride in a refurbished school bus it was fairly comfortable and our tour guide/driver was excellent. The trip is four hours in and four hours back. It’s a long day but there is always something to see. Unfortunately due to cloud cover we could never see Mt. McKinley. We had close up views of two bears and for a total of 9 bear sightings. Also saw moose, Dall sheep, caribous, bald eagles and other assorted birds. Next day we departed Denali and boarded the train to Anchorage. The trip is about eight hours and it was a very comfortable with glass dome ceilings and undivided attention from the bartender and tour guide. Food service is quite nice in the dining car. Tour guide was knowledgeable and fun to listen to. We arrived in Anchorage early evening and ate at local restaurant. Final day in Alaska allowed us to rent a car and do sightseeing on our own. We traveled along the coast to Mt. Alyeska. There we took the tram to the top for spectacular views. Our day ended with a shuttle to the airport to depart at 8PM. Overall, it was a once in a lifetime experience. Cruising seems to be the most economical way to see Alaska with opportunities to experience the various port cities and take guided tours of the inland. There are several excursions available for all types of adventures but Denali is a “must see” stop but the long trips on bus and train may be a strain for children. As I see it, you have to experience Alaska once in your life. A cruise with extended land options is a great way to do it.
Fantastic! Close up views of whales and other sea life.
Very friendly an knowledge tour guides. Unfortunately did not see whales, but did see unique sea creatures clinging to rocks.
Free and very informative of the town and the early gold rush.
Historical overview of the legend Soapy Smith. Fun and entertaining show with singing, dancing and audience participation.