First of all, I wanted to say how wonderful Smitty is, both as a person as well as a travel agent. She was so helpful and knowledgeable. We cannot thank her enough for all the time she took to answer all of our questions before we left for our first Alaska cruise on the Westerdam (Holland America).
We were adamant about having a veranda (balcony) for this Alaska cruise, as that was one of the things we had heard was a must. We booked one and highly recommend it! The views from your cabin are priceless and it’s great to be able to get away from everyone else.
Our cruise left Sept. 17, 2016, from Seattle. We were the second to last cruise of the season for this destination. The cabin Smitty booked us in was on the 8th deck, towards the back of the ship. We loved the location due to the fact that it was just one floor away down the Lido deck (food court) and bars. We had purchased the drink package, so being close to a bar was very convenient.
Our first stop was in Juneau. Prior to our cruise, we had booked a helicopter/Glacier tour through Coastal Helicopters, to ensure we got a spot. We had heard this was a highly desirable tour. It was much cheaper than doing it through the cruise line, so always keep that in mind.
From what we heard from several locals, the weather in Juneau that day was the most beautiful in quite some time. It was sunny and not a cloud in the sky. We completed the tour and LOVED it! I was a little nervous about the helicopter, but after experiencing it, I enjoyed it better than flying in an airplane.
While in Juneau, we had also overheard several people talking about the northern lights and that night there was a good chance we would be able to see them! So we set our alarm and got up at midnight to go to the top of the ship to see if we could see them.
After hanging out in the front of the ship for 30 minutes without seeing any activity and as cold as it was, we decided to go back to our cabin and relax on the veranda. We ordered room service (hot cocoa and cookies). Right when Tony picked up the phone to order it, I looked back and saw the northern lights happening right from our balcony! It was so amazing. We were so thankful we were able to see them right from the ship, and right from our balcony none the less!
Glacier Bay followed Juneau. We LOVED Glacier Bay! That was one of the other best parts about having a veranda. Hearing the ice break off (calving) was an incredible experience. It sounds just like thunder! … and it was gorgeous!
Unfortunately, our second port (Sitka) was canceled due to a terrible storm. It would have been really rough and unenjoyable, so the captain decided to skip Sitka and add more time to our last two stops. So we cruised the Canadian Straights instead.
Ketchikan was our next stop. It was a cute and quaint little town. We had arrived five hours earlier than expected, so most of the town was still closed up, since they were not expecting us till later. Luckily, lots of little shops and tours were open for business anyway.
We got off the ship to see what tours were available. We decided to try the Bear tour (even though they couldn’t guarantee we would see a bear). They told us it was about 95% likely we would see one though, so we decided to try it out. Thankfully, we got to see two bears! One came down to the river to catch salmon and eat and one was up the hill tending to her two new cubs. We also got to see lots of eagles! Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining, which added to the experience.
Our last stop was Victoria, Canada. Originally we were only going to be there from 6 pm – midnight, but with the change of schedule, we docked at 8:30 am and were there until midnight. We loved having the extra time here. The town is beautiful and we could actually see ourselves living there, we liked it so much.
We decided to see the Butchart Gardens. It was lightly sprinkling that morning, but nothing we couldn’t handle. After the gardens, we walked around town for a bit and found a whale watching tour that guaranteed orca sightings (one of the things I had wanted to see while in Alaska). That was amazing as well! We also got to see humpback whales and seals as well as orcas. It was a 3 1/2 hour afternoon tour.
We had cruised on Holland America back in 2004. Our experience had been a little better back in 2004, but it was still good. The food quality could have been a little better on the Lido deck, but the dining room food was delicious! Room service food was also not what we remembered either – definitely not what we remembered. So we didn’t order room service after that. The crew was very friendly though and it was a very clean ship. We would cruise with Holland America again.
Thank you for reading! For who ever takes the time to read, I hope this was informative. 🙂
Jenny & Tony Burrows