Port Comparison of Seattle vs. Vancouver Departures for Alaskan Cruises

Anne Vipond and William Kelly of the Vancouver Sun compare the experience of a Seattle departure vs. Vancouver:

It’s worth taking an Alaska cruise from Seattle if you would like to spend a day or two in Seattle and would like to visit Sitka. However, if you want to see all of the Inside Passage and visit the Klondike Gold Rush town of Skagway, take your cruise from Vancouver.

There is little or no difference in cost between a round trip cruise from Seattle or one from Vancouver, although the best prices from either port are usually offered on the May sailings. According to Harvey Strydhorst of Sea Courses Cruises, good pricing is still available on Alaska cruises, comparable to the bargains that were offered last year.

A Tale of Two Port Cities

Seattle Skyline view from Harbor Avenue, West Seattle Photo by Daniel Schwen

Seattle Skyline view from Harbor Avenue, West Seattle Photo by Daniel Schwen

The First Day at Sea on Our Alaskan Cruise

The first day on an Alaskan cruise is quite often a full day “at Sea”. Although we were excited to get ashore and to begin exploring Alaska on foot, it was the just right beginning to our trip. The ship sails up the Inside passage on its way to Ketchikan so we had shoreline on both sides of the boat for the entire day.

View from ship's bow as we travel north up the Inside Passage

View from ship's bow as we travel north up the Inside Passage

We were staying in a large outside state Room, aka standard exterior suite, and had a great view of everything we were passing by. After a very restful night, we awoke to the most calming scenery and couldn’t wait to get out on the deck. Well we couldn’t wait to go grab a cup of coffee first, but the deck visit followed shortly thereafter.

I think packing correctly was key for this trip. Although we were visiting Alaska during its warmer season, we definitely needed the layers we had http://www.alaskacruises.com/what_to_pack.asp

We grabbed our coffees, windbreakers, cameras and spent most of the morning on the deck chairs.

We grabbed our coffees, windbreakers, cameras and spent most of the morning on the deck chairs.

Breakfast and lunch were both very easy as well. I expected long lines, being told what to eat and who to eat it with, but we chose to eat in the open seating ‘cafeteria’ of the ship for both meals anyway. The food, although not five-star by any means, was excellent. The staff was everywhere, helping us find seating, getting us refills and letting us know when we may see a whale out the window.

We really just spent the day enjoying the ship. We found ourselves in the Spa for 90 minute massages (followed by naps).

Our stateroom on the ms Veendam

Our stateroom on the ms Veendam

We became hooked on working on the large puzzles in the library, spent some time in the indoor pool (with open ceiling), sat in on one jewelry seminar in the theater (I’d pass on that next time) and enjoyed more time on the deck with our cameras.

After dinner, we returned to our room to find our bed turned down, our towels shaped like monkeys with little mints seated in them and it was quite easy to fall asleep to the easy rocking of the ship.

Our Alaskan Cruise Begins – Departing Vancouver

Holland America Lines MS Veendam

Holland America Lines ms Veendam in Alaska

The ms Veendam has a passenger capacity of 1350 guests, housing an additional 580 staff. In comparison to many other cruise lines, we were looking at being in a relatively private environment. We didn’t encounter long lines at the buffet, crowded elevators, packed amenities.. it was really quite nice. The ship itself was dedicated in 1996, by actress Debbie Reynolds, but was very current in its services, facilities and furnishings. The gorgeous wood decks gave it the historic feel true to a established cruise ship.

We flew out of Chicago early in the morning on Friday, August 8th. After a very quick layover in Seattle, we were in Vancouver waiting for our next direction. After we had landed we were directed to a separate area in customs for cruise passengers and it was very relieving to soon realize that we were being directed to a much smaller group of travelers than many of the cruise partitions. It already gave our trip a personal feel.

"Seabus chooglin" - Vancouver  http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncleweed/112041062/ By: Dave Olson cc-by-sa-2.0

Seabus chooglin by Dave Olson -- Vancouver Harbour Center

Being bussed through Vancouver to the harbor was already the beginning of our vacation. We no longer felt like we were still on the journey to get there, but our cruise hosts were giving us a “tour” of Vancouver. We truly appreciated the narration as we traveled through the city, it was a beautiful day and actually made us question why we had never visited Vancouver before.

Once we arrived at the dock, we were very quickly escorted to the ship, no worries about our luggage as we knew that our bags would meet us in our suite. We boarded the ship, received an introduction to our “cozy” room and started to explore the rest of the ms Veendam on our own.

Looking aft from the Veendam as we disembark from Vancouver

Looking aft from the Veendam as we disembark from Vancouver

As we pulled out of Vancouver, we truly were lucky to enjoy warmer temps, sunny skies and a few well made cocktails on the deck. We ended our afternoon in the ships Crow’s Nest for free appetizers, mojitos and some quiet time. We were able to breathe, enjoyed each other and the spectacular scenery.

Drinks while disembarking Vancouver

Drinks while disembarking Vancouver

As you’ll see throughout the blog, the shores of Alaska are mainly untouched, only the landscape and its natural inhabitants to take in. The waters were full as well, with occasional whales, seals sitting on buoys and white capped waves hitting the ship.

Looking Fore over the Bow of the MS Veendam

Looking Fore over the Bow of the MS Veendam