If you’re going to do one cruise holiday in your lifetime, make it Alaska! This is one of the few places on earth where you’ll see more from the ocean than from land and I’m still raving about my girls’ week at sea years later. There are many cruises to Alaska and many ships drifting around these parts so have a good look around and see which ship is best for you. I went on Holland America Line and their majestic ship the Westerdam.
Here’s what our 7 day itinerary included:
Day 1: Depart Seattle
We arrived a couple of days earlier to take advantage of the home of Starbucks and the famous Pike Place market. Not to mention the Seattle grunge music scene with live gigs in various bars across the city.
Boarding the Westerdam cruise ship with the thousands of passengers proved to be a seamless exercise through customs, where our bags were tagged and miraculously arrived in our cabin within moments of us completing our life-jacket safety drill.
I was thrilled to discover we also had our own balcony (as does 67% of cabins) a 2-seater sofa, TV/bar and a couple of chairs. Our attentive cabin-boy separated the beds from a queen size into two singles while we were enjoying the first of many five-course dinners.
Day 2: Day at Sea
Today is reading in our cabin, playing Trivial Pursuit with our fellow passengers in the library, walking the decks and playing shuffle board with new-found friends. I checked out the kids clubs and was told by one family that their pre-schoolers were having more fun here than on their recent Disney cruise. I also checked out the gym at the stern of the ship with its amazing views. Note, I only checked it out I didn’t actually tread on the mill…
There is a demonstration kitchen for those wanting gourmet cooking lessons, and nightly shows in the theatre or movies by day in the cinema if your book is boring. And don’t forget the spa and hair salon! Book your treatments early though because they fill up quickly. There is an extra charge for this.
There are 4 restaurants onboard. The main Vista Lounge is part of your all-inclusive package, as is the breakfast and lunch restaurant and snack joints but you can also choose to pay a nominal $20 and dine at the fancy Pinnacle Grill for lobster and such. My fillet mignon was melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous, as were the fresh crab cakes that preceded it!
Day 3: Glacier Bay National Park
At 8am the enormous Margerie Glacier appeared through the mist. A mighty bang ricocheted across the water, causing much shrieking, and I unglued my eye from my camera just in time to see a huge piece of green-blue ice calving into the ocean from the 34km long glacier which stands 76m above sea level.
This area is the spectacular playground of humpback, minke and orca as well as dolphins, otters and other critters roaming the depths below. Standing on the stern a humpback leapt out of the water and crashed down on its side. According to those shrieking around me, they rarely do this in these waters, preferring Hawaii for such shenanigans.
Tip: bring spare batteries and an extra memory card for your camera. You’re going to need them in this hidden gems of wildlife wonderland.
Day 4: Juneau
I pulled back the curtains to be met by the cutest view of colourful quaint shops selling Russian knick knacks along the water front of this the capital city of Alaska. The Ruskies sold Alaska to America in 1867 but it didn’t become a United State until 1959.
Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, is a cute little town to potter around in, drink a beer at the local pub, buy handpainted Russian dolls, pat a husky dog and take a gazillion photos of things like signs warning there will be a $100 fine for “contributing to the delinquency of a bear” should you not secure your rubbish bin.
Day 5: Sitka
This Russian town has a wonderful orthodox church, St Michael’s Cathedral, which is a treasure trove and for $2 you can go in and look around at the antiques, gold, jewels and religious paraphernalia. We walked the neighbourhood, past its famous totem poles and fir trees, found a hot dog stand selling reindeer dogs and came across 2 girls having a bake sale on their lawn. Cute!
Greenpeace would kick up a ruckus here because real fur is sold in the form of mink coats for $4000, rabbit stoles and Daniel Boone-style hats. I’ll leave it you to decide that one!
Day 6: Ketchikan
This is where you can choose to go on an excursion by helicopter to the glacier for dog sledding or by seaplane to the river to watch bears. The fog had rolled in cancelling the sledding so we chose bears and I am sooo glad we did! It is still one of the highlights of my life seeing black bears wander out of the woods and catch salmon in the river about 30 metres away from me while Bald Eagles hovered overhead waiting for a morsel.
Day 7: Vancouver Island
A quick day stop here ensures our cruise is “international” and it’s another chance to explore a town I’ll likely never see again. The next morning we arrive back in Seattle full of memory cards and stories to entertain our friends ad nauseum.