We took a 14 day cruise aboard the Zaandam, a Holland America Lines ship, round trip from Seattle to several ports in Alaska. Neither of us have much cruise experience but we were thrilled with the level of service and the quality of the food aboard this ship. We heard similar comments from more experienced cruisers as well. Every evening in the main dining room was a fine dining experience with a varied menu that changed every day. And they even had selections that suited our particular food preferences. With a 14 day itinerary we were able to visit ports that don’t get a lot of cruise ship traffic. The following is a summary by day of our experience.
Day 1: Departure from Seattle at 4:00pm with approximately 1,300 passengers aboard. It was a picture perfect day with blue skies and light winds. Before nightfall we sailed north through the Puget Sound and could see the peaks of Olympic National Park at sundown.
Day 2: This was a sailing day with mostly foggy conditions. We spent some time in the gym, attended a cooking demonstration presented by “America’s Test Kitchen” and listened to the shore guide give an overview of our next 3 days of ports of call and points of interest while sailing.
Day 3: We arrived into Ketchikan, AK, at 8:00am with light rain falling. Rain is a near constant here with an average of approximately 160 inches falling each year. Ketchikan calls itself the salmon capital of the world. Well, it is true that Ketchikan’s early days were certainly based almost entirely upon salmon fishing and canning. Ketchikan is also known for the many totem poles which can be seen here. We visited the Totem Heritage Center. This museum houses a priceless collection of 19th century totem poles retrieved from the Tlingit and Haida villages on the nearby islands. These totem poles were carved by these Native artists during the height of the totem pole carving period. Totems were usually carved from western red cedar. Departure from Ketchikan was around 4:45pm.
Day 4: This was a sailing day in the “Inside Passage” of Alaska. We were scheduled to sail into Tracy Arm but conditions prevented this so the Captain took us up into Endicott Arm instead, at the end of which is the Dawes Glacier, so named for the 30th Vice President of the United States Charles G. Dawes. Endicott Arm is a fjord with beautiful shoreline, lots of waterfalls and other glacial valleys branching off on both sides. This is a tidewater glacier, meaning that it terminates in a body of water. Dawes Glacier stands about 175 feel above the waterline and is about 1/2 mile wide at the opening. You can see the dark lines in the glacier called “medial moraine”. This is the result of two glaciers merging, sort of like tributaries that flow into a river. While there we saw one rather significant event of ice breaking off from the face of the glacier with the distinctive cracking sound that goes with it. The weather was quite nice, a little cold but with partly cloudy skies giving us a nice view of the glacier and the surrounding scenery.
Day 5: Juneau is the capital city of Alaska, designated as such when Alaska was made a state in 1959. This was 92 years after William Henry Seward, then Secretary of State for the United States, made a deal to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Juneau can only be reached by water or air, no roads to anywhere. The Capitol building was completed in 1931 to serve as a Territorial and Federal Building. When Alaska became a state, it was given to the state to serve as the Capitol. In Juneau you will also find the Sealaska Heritage Institute which honors the native nations of Southeast Alaska: Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian.
Day 6: Icy Strait Point and Hoonah, AK. In spite of the rain, this was our favorite stop at this point in the cruise. The village of Hoonah is located on Chichagof Island which has more than 700 miles of coastline and is only 40 air miles west of Juneau. Hoonah (or Xunaa) is the largest Tlingit community in Alaska which enjoys a rich variety of sea life in their waters that are in the southern end of Glacier Bay: all 5 kinds of Pacific salmon, halibut, herring, crabs (including king crab), shrimp and more. While walking to and from the village we saw whales just off shore, sea lions in the shallow waters and several bald eagles. The Hoonah Indian Association is a federally recognized tribal government that is working to keep alive the language and traditions of Hoonah’s Native community. We had a very enjoyable visit listening to the volunteers talk about Tlingit history and traditions.
Day 7: This was a sailing day, steaming west across the Gulf of Alaska from Icy Strait Point heading to Anchorage.
We continue this post in Alaska Cruise – Week 2