The adventure: Vancouver to Seward and back. Fourteen days on the Ms Ryndam with my sweetie and the Alaskan landscape, enduring great food, and even greater service. Did I survive the year's first cruise?
Please allow me to take a step back. Why Alaska? It is part of the United States, English is spoken and any of the destinations are amongst the safest in the world. Am I being somewhat narrow-minded in my choice, an accidental tourist of sorts? Hardly. Alaska is one of the prettiest locations on Earth. The voyage is one of the most beautiful in the world. Also, consider Alaskan culinary ingredients prepared the Pacific Northwest way, mated with the Ryndam's impressive wine list...
The Ryndam is a smaller ship by modern standards. She is but 720 feet long and hosts 1200 passengers. Many of whom thought my sweetie and I were newly weds, but truth be told, we've been together longer than this ship has been around. I love this ship. I love the way she looks; the newer ships leave me a tad indifferent. The crew takes pride in her; she is the best run ship in the fleet. Every function is performed with military precision. Never a sour note when she moves, and the Rotterdam dining room is akin to a complex yet delightful symphony. From the kitchen to your plate and everywhere in between, the Ryndam matches and surpasses all your expectations.
Entertainment on a cruise ship, as many of you know, is an acquired taste. I enjoyed the Adagio Strings after dinner, took one or two movies. The Broadway shows were not my cup of tea. The shows, movies and menus were repeated on the Southbound cruise. Two must do activities: visit the kitchen and do attend the chief engineer's lecture. Many younger people complain about the lack of entertainment. The Alaskan scenery is the entertainment.
Most Alaskan towns are launch points to other activities, i.e. whale watching, fishing, glacier exploration, wildlife viewing, hiking. Consider these destinations like the appeal of cruising in general, where one can do as little or as much as one desires. In Skagway, do enjoy the trip on the White Pass and Yukon Railway. Some call it expensive. You only live once. It is an engineering marvel of American, Canadian and British cooperation. Guys, your ladies will complain somewhat about going. In the end they'll love it and wished they had suggested it.
The Pinnacle Grill is worth the extra $20 per person. But you will find it hard to get a spot. Many passengers get a free night from their travel agents. So the place is always packed. I enjoyed a Lobster tail with a Puligny-Montrachet. No trip to Alaska would be complete without a healthy dose of wild salmon and Dungeness Crab legs. Three words will enrich your experience: Mondavi Fume Blanc. Do yourself a favor and skip the Canaletto's lasagna. Still, some enjoy the cotton candy and dipping the bread.
Photography is my passion. And every day by 4:30 am I'd be at my post shooting away. I opted for May because I was looking for more snow capped mountains and a white covered White Pass. College Fjord is only rivaled by Glacier Bay National Park. Upon arrival, a ranger boards the ship and answers questions about all aspects of the park. Memorable. Haines was my favorite town.
Disembarkation was a breeze and you will find Vancouver is a lovely city. If time permits, visit Stanley Park or Granville Island. If a culinary experience is more to your liking, try the Boat House in Horseshoe Bay. View and flavor will regal your senses.
In conclusion: best 14 days you'll ever spend and best bang for your buck. Do it again? In a heartbeat.