We arrived in Anchorage on May 24, and two-thirds of our 15-day journey was spent in Alaska and the Yukon. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing it all, despite all the travel (six hotels in 10 days, about 1200 miles). We wish there had been an ... Read More
We arrived in Anchorage on May 24, and two-thirds of our 15-day journey was spent in Alaska and the Yukon. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing it all, despite all the travel (six hotels in 10 days, about 1200 miles). We wish there had been an extra day in Whitehorse. The train ride to Denali was a relaxing day, and the Tundra Wilderness Tour was a good overview of the park. We enjoyed both Dawson City and Whitehorse in the Yukon, despite the former's touristy feel on its main street.
We tended to eat at the restaurants in the Westmark hotels we stayed in (usually for convenience). (Westmark is owned by HAL.) The hotel food was usually quite good, although we ate at other restaurants three times during the trip, and especially enjoyed the Aurora Inn restaurant in Dawson City, a short block from the hotel.
We enjoyed our last two land days in Skagway, especially the city museum on Seventh Street: it was a gem that would not have been out of place in a big city.
We boarded Volendam just before noon on day 11, had lunch in the Lido restaurant, and spent much of the afternoon in our (reserved) deck chairs soaking up the nice weather, having the knowledge we wouldn't have to get on a bus for four more days.
The ship is elegant and understated, and it was a real pleasure to arise early, get our coffee in the Explorations Cafe, and sit there watching the world go by. This was an especially nice morning location as we entered Glacier Bay on our second day on board. After breakfast that day, we moved to our deck chairs for the rest of the day.
On the third day, we arrived in Ketchikan around 9am in a drizzling rain. My wife went out briefly to find the local museum, but we otherwise stayed on board that day. Our general impression of Ketchikan's main street was that it had cornered much of the world supply of jewelry and souvenir stores.
Our last full day sailing was at sea through the Inside Passage and was generally enjoyable. However, a wind came up mid-afternoon, and the ship started rolling a little. This wasn't a problem until I spent about 30 minutes concentrating on a computer monitor around 4pm while trying to check in for our flight home the next day. Because I concentrated too much on the monitor for too long, I felt woozy when I stood up to go back to our cabin. I won't repeat this mistake.
I was very disappointed with the ship's Internet service. Since it was based on time rather than how much was downloaded, HAL has no incentive to improve the service. It took about 30 minutes to finish our Alaska Airlines check-in, and ended up costing about $1 per minute. I won't make this mistake again.
During our time on board, we ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido restaurant (with one lunch exception), and all dinners in the upper Main Dining Room. The Lido food was quite good and varied, and I appreciated the opportunity to have some Asian dishes (like congee, an Asian rice porridge breakfast, and a Malaysian stir fry for lunch). We thought the Main Dining Room dinners were exceptional, although the desserts seemed commonplace and merely workmanlike. We attended the tea service one afternoon, and were pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of the tea cakes.
Disembarking in Vancouver was smooth: we were in the first group off after some of the elevated Mariners (since we had to catch a flight at noon), but we were unhappy that we had to stand in line waiting for a bus to take us to the airport. Had we known about this, I'd have not packed our folding Walkstool to sit on (I have a problematic hip and knee).
Overall, it was an enjoyable, fun, and memorable experience, well worth any of the small glitches we encountered. Read Less