First, I refuse to go into much detail about the horrible experience we had with Continental Airlines and how they damaged my partner’s wheelchair and how the airport security treated Steve in both Houston and Seattle. (I guess I missed the news story about the group of paraplegics who took over and hijacked a plane) To be fair, the crew on the plane itself was very nice and helpful.
Not much time to explore Seattle, as we spend all of Saturday after our arrival trying to find a rental replacement for the severely damaged chair. Seemed like a great city though and on this day the weather was cool and sunny.
We arrive at Pier 91 and here our vacation begins. The Holland America staff greets us and escorts us through every step of registering and even have the rental chair secured in their office which they bring out to Steve for him to drive onto the Westerdam. They assign a gentleman to escort us onto the ship and he offers to take us to either the Lido restaurant or to the Neptune Lounge. (I cannot remember his name, but it floors me five days later to see him again on the ship in the restaurant where he calls us by our names!) We chose the lounge which was very nice but we left shortly after to go to the Lido and go outside on the aft deck. We were told in advance that it would be after 2 PM that the rooms would be ready for us, so it was a nice surprise when they announced they were ready by 1:30 PM.
We go to our suite (Deluxe Veranda aft # 6175) and see that it is very nice and clean. I notice the model ship I had ordered online was there waiting for Steve in gift wrapping. There is a bowl of fresh flowers floating in water on the bar. A bottle of champagne chilling next to it, and a bottle of some sort of fancy water. There are automatic buttons behind the bed to open and close the curtains on the window and veranda door! I found out by accident that another button behind the bed is some sort of panic 911 call and the front desk called to ask if we were OK.
As the ship departs from Seattle, we drink some of the champagne on the veranda and watched as Seattle faded into the distance.We take a nap, but miss the RSVP Bon Voyage party. We explore the ship some and eat in the Lido restaurant. (Every time we went into the Lido restaurant, the manager would spot us and assign someone to assist with food and drinks) Back to the room and we also meet Made (maadee), our room steward. Very nice young man who always smiles.
Wake in the middle of the night for some care giving duties, and push the blasted 911 alarm button again while trying to find the button for the light. They call and confirm we are OK and I apologize again.
Have a great room service breakfast and explore the ship some more. When back in the room, we notice a new addition of a fully stocked fruit bowl has appeared and is very welcome for snacks in the coming days. (Anytime we ate some of the fruit, it would be replenished later that day)
Once again, I push the “panic button” instead of the one to open the curtains. I briefly entertain the notion of faking a heart attack this time when they call me, but decide I can't pull it off.
The captain announces that a low pressure system has formed and the forecast is for the sea conditions to become “fierce”. Having never cruised before, I was worried but also assumed it was normal for ships to go through this. I am glad that I had went to my doc the previous week for the patch to prevent seasickness and had applied it that morning.
The sea does turn very rough with large waves and wind. The closet doors fly open and shut again, as well as the drawers under the bed and the wine glass cabinet doors fly open and spill the assorted sized wine glasses all over the floor. Trying to maneuver around the ship and down the halls was a little tricky during this time.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Beautiful and calm Glacier Bay cruising....great views from the verandah and also go the the other outside decks of the ship. They were serving hot chocolate or stronger drinks as well as handing out bowls of split pea soup to keep people warm.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We had two tours scheduled in Juneau. The first was a float plane trip to the TAKU Lodge. The tour was not a sponsored HAL wheelchair accessible tour, but we were assured by the salesman that they dealt with persons with disabilities all the time and had a great crew to help load him. The actual experience was quite different from what the salesman had promised. Upon arrival and down the the plane dock, the pilot comes up to us and asks Steve if he can walk up the steps and we say no, he is paraplegic. He” turns to me and says I hope you can lift him into the plane because I have a bad back”. I respond that I lift Steve several times a day but might need assistance since I usually don't lift him and carry him up a plane ladder. We did get Steve loaded, and the plane ride was nice and smooth. We arrive at Taku Lodge, and the people there are much more helpful than the plane crew and we have a great time and wonderful smoked salmon lunch.
Fly back to Juneau in time to meet the people for our Jeep tour , http://www.juneaujeep.com. They are great to deal with and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a tour in Juneau. We saw a lot of great sights in and around Juneau from the Jeep.
Back on the ship, and see Made in the hallway and mention the wind and waves a couple nights back. I tell him I figure he was used to that weather by now. He responds that he had been with HAL for 4 years on different ships, and that was the worst he had ever seen it.
Later in the evening he comes into the suite with these wood wedges and we ask what those are for. He says they are to keep the drawers and cabinets from flying open again. because the weather is supposed to get worse then the first storm we had. I start to worry a little now, ( if a big wave hits the ship and knocks it over, I admit to myself that if I push the panic button once more, no one will pay any attention) :>)
I replace the patch for seasickness and we go explore the ship some more. (At this point, I am regretting showing Steve the glass elevators on the side of the ship because he likes them and insists on riding them whenever possible) As the weather gets rougher, we ride up to the LIDO deck and go outside. The water is spilling out of the pool as the ship rocks, and the HAL people are busy stacking up the deck chairs and lounges away from the wind.
We decide to go to the front desk to ask for our account balance. As we ride the glass elevators down, Steve proclaims “wow!! look at those waves!”. I tell him not to speak to me, because I am trying to use whatever latent psychokinetic ability I may have to help hold the ship together.
On the way to the front desk, I notice the lights in the hallway are very bright and hurt my eyes. I ask for our account balance at the front desk and the lady looks at me warily as she prints out the account for the room. On the way back to the suite, I notice the patch is missing from behind my ear. Back home, I go to wash my face and notice that my eyes are dilated totally black, with not a trace of the green they usually are. I remember the warning on the patch prescription that says not to rub your eyes after handling the patch because it contains the drug that eye docs use to dilate your eyes. Great, now the front desk people think I am some sort of drug addict that enjoys pushing panic buttons.
I will never forget the beautiful sound of the waves hitting the front of the ship, sounding like thunder..and then several seconds later looking out the aft deck windows and see the back of the ship rise and fall. We actually ended up enjoying the storm. :>)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The captain announces that due to hurricane- force winds over 60kts will prevent us from docking at Sitka. Instead, we will plot a course directly to Ketchikan and spend the night at port there. We had planned a shore excursion with Allen Marine through HAL, which we were credited for immediately on out account. I really liked dealing with Allen Marine, as they went out of their way to show us accessible tours they offered.
Friday, August 28, 2009
After a calm night at dock in Ketchikan, we go into town and just stroll around and shop. Is a wet day in town, but we have a great time.
Saturday, August 30, 2009
Milder seas and dock at Victoria. Not too much to share here, as we elected to stay onboard. Had a great dinner at the Vista dining room.
Observations from first time cruisers
I) If all of Holland America’s ships are as beautiful as the Westerdam, I look forward to our next cruise with them. Everything looked so new and nice. (They may have spoiled us from ever trying the cruises from other lines that leave from nearby port of Galveston)
2) The food was far better than I expected, including the LIDO, room service, and the Vista Dining Room. We never tried the Pinnacle Grill, even though we were kindly invited by our travel agent who was also onboard. We would not have felt comfortable in that setting, although I am sure it is very nice.
3)The people, including our steward and all the other HAL people were excellent. This includes the great attention we always had in the LIDO from attentive staff. The room service people always called an hour or so after the meal to ask if it was good.
4) This was also an RSVP gay charter cruise and the RSVP people were very nice and always around if we had questions. We didn't participate in most of the events or see any of the shows but I hear they were great.
5) One lesson learned the hard way...never take a shower in the morning and fall asleep looking out the veranda window soon after without getting completely dressed. Otherwise , you may wake to see you have docked within yards of people from the deck of another ‘dam ship (Veendam?) who can easily see into your room. __________________ RSVP Alaska Westerdam 8/23/2009