We arrived at the Canada Place terminal around 11:15. Getting through Security and Customs took less than half an hour. We were then shown to chairs in the terminal where we waited while some computer problems were sorted out. There were terminal staff checking our documents and providing assistance when required. After around 3/4 hour, we were able to board the ship and proceed to the Lido for lunch. All in all, a pretty quick process.
At around 2 p.m. we were able to go to our cabins. Our cabin was lovely, an oceanview on the lowest deck. We'd booked an OV because my husband is a bit claustrophobic, and I thought an inside cabin might be difficult for him. (I usually travel "inside guarantee" and take what I get, always feeling the savings made up for "no window".) Now I'm totally sold on the window, and feel the extra $$$ is well-spent! The cabin was a good size and laid out very well. There was SO MUCH storage available, we didn't use even half of it!
Our cabin steward Bambang came by and introduced himself. He provided us great service throughout the trip, and will be an asset to the Eurodam, where he is posted next.
We sat in the sun by the aft pool for sailaway and watched Vancouver recede into the distance.
We'd been waitlisted for late fixed seating dinner and were delighted to get it. We met our tablemates and our waiter Herman. He is another asset to HAL and provided excellent service throughout our trip. Overall, I'd rate the food as "very good", not "excellent". There was always a good variety of choices, including a vegetarian entree, at inner. We found some of the desserts disappointing, but always managed to compensate at the Lido if necessary!
We aren't "joiners" and were on this trip for my husband to just r-e-l-a-x, so we spent a lot of time walking the deck and chatting with other travellers.
We checked out the Crows Nest a couple of evenings, and found it pretty lively. We also hit the Lido for the buffet from 11 p.m. to midnight. Each night featured food from a different area, i.e., Greek, Asian, Italian. The chocolate buffet was VERY special.
There was a real mix of ages, some young couples with infants, some multi-generational families, but mostly late 30s to early 60s, with a few seniors in the mix, too. We had the pleasure of 400 Australians on the ship with us; several Australian tour groups converged in Vancouver for the cruise. A delightful group, who were absolutely amazed at the beauty.
The shops on board had a fair variety at many price points. I'd not recommend planning on buying cold-weather gear onboard, though, as much better is available at lower prices on land.
First stop was Juneau, and we were in shirt sleeves! The sun was out, the water was shining, and the town looked lovely and fresh. We had no time to actually see much of Juneau, as our excursion (Whale Watching booked through HAL) took us out at 2:30 and returned us around 6:30 p.m. I can't say enough good things about the whale watch; we saw humpbacks (5 or 6), stellar sea lions, a bald eagle, and a pod of 8 orcas. Breathtaking!!! Definitely a 5-star experience. On our return to the dock, we headed out for a crab dinner at Twisted Fish. Good food, overcrowded restaurant, and quite poor service. We had truly very little time after dinner to do anything except get back onboard.
Skagway was next. Another nice day, and we were soon peeling off the layers we were wearing. We took a walk out to Reid's Falls and the cemetery, about 4 miles return, with no elevation gain. It also gave us a chance to see the residential and commercial areas of Skagway, and chat with a local couple.
Glacier Bay was next on the itinerary. We again had good weather, overcast but no wind and no rain. We saw a brown bear swimming, several people spotted whales, and a few said they'd seen seals. Marjorie Glacier was spectacular, and the captain got us in very close. We saw many, many calves, some of them huge, and the boat was rocked a few times by the waves the calves created as they fell into the water :-) Have been to Glacier Bay 4 times -- this was by far the best.
Ketchikan was our final port, and the weather was not as pleasant as we'd experienced until this point. We were very glad we'd packed waterproof and warm clothing! We did the "Bering Sea Crab Fishermen" excursion on the Aleutian Ballad. It was interesting but fell short of our expectations. I've done a fairly extensive review on the "Alaska" board; search for "Aleutian Ballad" or "Deadliest Catch". We both felt it was 3-star at most, and would not go on it again. We didn't do any touring around town, as the wind was whipping the rain parallel to the ground, making it fairly uncomfortable. This is not unexpected weather, and can be experienced in any or all of the ports. So bring waterproof and warm clothing, so you can enjoy Alaska in any weather!
We were rockin' and rollin' when we left Ketchikan, and the large swells continued through the night. We spent a good amount of time staring out the cabin window, enjoying the movement and the spectacle of the waves and wake crashing into each other.
The waves subsided dramatically the next day, cruising between the mainland and Vancouver Island. We arrived back in Vancouver at 7 a.m., and awaited disembarkation.
They've got this down to a science. We were called at 8:45, got into the terminal, found our luggage easily, and were at the airport by 9:30. The port has a number of staff to help pax find their luggage, but the luggage set-up and color-coding is so good, no one seemed to be using the "help".
An absolutely wonderful trip, and I'd not have asked for anything better. My husband is now a cruiser, thinking that it is the BEST way to travel. Thank you, Ryndam and Holland America, for showing him the way!
When you travel to Alaska, you must be prepared for inclement weather. Our cruise had exceptionally good weather, which is not the norm. Don't let that stop you though from experiencing one of the truly outstanding places on Earth. And the Ryndam was in my opinion the perfect ship to do it on.