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

The Decision: to Cruise or not to Cruise

Flag of Alaska

Flag of Alaska

My husband and I are travelers by nature. Not ones who like to follow the beaten path, but we like to set our own goals and timelines. We would never have guessed our travel plans could ever include a trip on a cruise line, but after several months of researching our desires, our financial limits and our time constraints through work, we determined a cruise would be the best way to experience Alaska.

We were interested in the culture of Alaska current, the history of the people, but mostly the sites and sounds of Alaska’s frontier. We both enjoy our visits to warm beaches, don’t misunderstand, but something about seeing a new great mountain range, calving glaciers, rainforests in the northern hemisphere, peaceful fiords really had us excited. We also couldn’t wait to try the fresh ocean-side cuisine. Alaska isn’t an easy land to travel via car. Getting to many cities can only be accomplished via boat or plane. We wanted to best orientate ourselves along but knew without an unlimited budget and over a month of time, we would never see everything on our list.

Denali - Mt. McKinley

Denali - Mt. McKinley, highest point in North America

Once we started getting serious about our plans, we contacted a travel agent who had helped us with a few trips in the past, including our unbelievable honeymoon to South Africa Our travel agent works with executive clients out of Manhattan, helping to plan their dream vacations. She and her husband travel frequently themselves and we knew they would be best suited to help us put our ideal cruise together.

She suggested a few lines based on our desire to find a line without the masses of people or preplanned itineraries. We wanted to come and go as we pleased, eat what we pleased and enjoy a few quiet nights on the deck of the ship. We ultimately selected Holland America Lines and were very pleased with the results, as you’ll learn through the continuation of this blog. We also scheduled several on-shore excursions through the cruise line and ended our journey with two days on our own in Denali.