This was our first cruise and we loved it! From the perfect flight into Vancouver with great views and a beautiful airport to an easy flight home with more great views from the air including northern lights, it was all amazing!
We got into Vancouver a day early and absolutely loved the Pan Pacific Hotel which is literally part of the cruise terminal! This allowed us an opportunity to see one HAL ship sail away and for us to watch the Westerdam sail in! This was so special! We went to mass on Saturdaybat the Cathedral that is an easy walk and had a great dinner with a view at the Steamworks brewing company.
Our HAL hotel package included a yummy buffet with a view of our ship and luggage pickup at our room so we just needed to go downstairs, check in and we are on the ship enjoying the buffet by 11:30. Rooms were ready soon after and we unpacked, took a ship tour, and we were ready for the sail away party.
Loved the size and elegant ease of the Westerdam, very relaxing and good food. The shows and music venues were nice. The star was Alaska and all the wildlife. This was accented by the naturalist programs and the beautiful port adventures.
Our first port was Ketchikan. We loved watching sailing in and out of here and all the ports from our balcony.
We had a Totem Bight tour in the morning with a really informative guide. Then we had plenty of time to shop and explore the town.
Guess what? No rain! We had sunny clear skies throughout this trip and really comfortable temperatures! So lucky!
In Juneau we rented a car to go to Mendenhall Glacier. We walked out to the falls for some fantastic views and enjoyed the guest center. Then we picked up our friends, who did the helicopter ride out to the glacier (which they loved), had lunch at the Red Dog Saloon, then out to The Shrine of St. Theresa, which has beautiful views, and back to town for a little shopping.
In Skagway we loved the luxury car on The White Pass RR! Instead of 50 people on bus like seats we had 14 big comfy leather swivel chairs, our own guide, drinks, the best coffee, hot and cold snacks, a large platform outside, and we were first car up and caboose back for great views. It was a splurge but well worth it for the experience. Do it! Then we went into town, had a drink and snack at the brewery, and met a local carving soapstone and bought a seal from this artist. Great day!
Then the big day, Glacier Bay. I was so excited that I got up really early and we got to watch the park rangers come on board. With only a quick breakfast and lunch break, we spent all day on the deck and it was worth every freezing moment. We saw whales, orcas, bears, puffins, and the most beautiful scenery you could imagine including a giants glacier calving which I caught on video! I loved this whole day. Truly once in a lifetime experience!
We had another sea day...did I mention that we saw whales spouting several times a day...keep your eyes on the ocean and always go out when the naturalist is speaking on deck 10.
We were sad to end our cruise but excited to jump on a bus and head to Denali. On the way it was so clear that we saw Mt. Denali ( which is very rare) all the way there. We also saw baluga whales! We stopped at some scenic viewing spots and a Iditarod center and held puppies! We stayed at HAL lodge, had a great meal, shopped, and even roasted marshmallows.
The next day we explored the lodge area and then went on about an 8 hour tundra wilderness tour. It was epic! The guide told us to relax and enjoy and remember that we aren’t going to get real close to wildlife...well, at the first stop, she said that we had already seen more wildlife than most people see the whole trip...and that was just the beginning! We saw 3 young wolves playing in front of and beside the bus, a moose also walked right by the bus, we saw several bears, elk, and clear as can be Mt. Denali the whole trip! Oh, then that night, we saw the northern lights! Wow!!
Then we took the McKinley Exolorer glass top train back to Anchorage...again Mt. Denali was visible the whole way.
The guide said that in 10 years he had never heard of the views and wildlife we got to experience. He said it was more than a picture post card day...he said we got the whole brochure!
We stayed at the Westmark which was a fine hotel very well located to walk everywhere! We enjoyed dinner at The Glacier Brewhouse (everyone, but me, got a variety of their Mac and cheese which they loved). We had a late flight with transportation with HAL so we had a relaxing day, late breakfast at Snow City Cafe, and didn’t the day shopping and watching free movies at the Alaska Center in the Federal Building caticorner from the visitors center ( note, you have to get scanned for security so no ulu knife!).
Felt like we did everything we set out to do and more...we saw it all and ate it all.
Love cruising. Love Alaska.
Oh, try the hamburgers, hotdogs and fries at the Dive In! Yum!
You can see my trip info on YouTube. SSVacationista
We were close to aft with a balcony which was perfect for viewing sailing in/out of ports. You are so close to the land that there is always a gray view.
This position was great for getting to the lido buffet and this ship isn’t that big so everything seemed an easy walk.
Loved our cabin and felt pampered.