Cruising Alaska with Holland America

HighroadCam and GeorgieJet

After a smooth Boston to Seattle flight on Alaska Airlines, we touched down, snagged our luggage off the carousel, and cabbed it to the perfectly situated downtown Sheraton – all the while anticipating an exciting new experience that was to come the next day!

GeorgieJet and I, Highroad Cam, were about to embark on our first cruise and thankfully it would be on the reputable Holland America Line. We would be spending the next week on a round-trip voyage along the inside passage of Alaska and off the coast of British Columbia, Canada aboard a luxury ten deck cruise liner that treats its passengers like ambassadors! We would also port in Alaska’s Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and B.C.’s Victoria.

JohnnyJet.com Tip: Alaska Airlines offer a free companion ticket for Alaska Airlines credit card holders – and friendly flight attendants too.

Seattle’s City Market

First Starbucks-Seattle

With all the excitement (or was it the aroma of the countless coffee shops?), we awoke early the next morning to a perfect blue sky Sunday in Seattle and strolled down to the wharf  to see its famous City Market.  The ship would not be leaving until the afternoon so we had all morning to experience the Seattle lifestyle. The market was buzzing with activity and commerce – freshly caught fish (often tossed and flying through the air to thrill customers), brilliant flowers, all types of food, and fun!

Of course coffee was on the agenda, but we could not brave the line at the original Starbucks. Instead, we had our coffee at Seattle’s Specialty Bakery on Union Street and Fifth Ave. along with a delicious egg and cheddar sandwich on a Portuguese roll. GeorgieJet also ducked inside the 36-year-old Crumpet Shop on Pike and First Ave which serves a bottomless cup of Irish Breakfast tea for the entire day for less than $2.50.

After our caffeine boost we strolled around on this crisp sunny day and watched the interesting and colorful Seattlites while listening to some talented musical buskers. Before we knew it, it was time to check out of the Sheraton and take a cab to the pier for our departure.

Stern View RoomAll Aboard

Getting on Holland America’s “Oosterdam” (pronounced Oaster like toaster) was a cinch. Their boarding staff was plentiful and extremely accommodating.  We were in our fourth deck stern (rear) cabin in minutes peering off our personal balcony at the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound. Before the mandatory safety meeting, and the ships departure, we did have some time to explore our first cruise ship, the Oosterdam – and what a ship it is!  It has pools, hot tubs, a spa, a huge theatre, a library, an internet cafe, a screening room, a weight room, bars, lounges, restaurants, nightclubs, shops, galleries, a walking deck and more. We were overwhelmed and impressed. Would there be more fun on the boat or off?

Bon Voyage – Time to Cruise

Walking Promenade

We set off around four that afternoon and watched the city shrink as we left the massive sound in which mountains seem to envelop us on all sides.  The scenery was spectacular here, and this was only the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun!). What was to come, after our first two days at sea, would reveal much more of the “iceberg”.  I am referring to the Southeastern Alaska’s majestic Tracy Arm.

Tracy Arm is a winding fjord scattered with floating icebergs that leads up to the North and South Sawyer Glaciers.  We were very lucky as the fog, which had engulfed the Oosterdam the entire day at sea, magically dispersed as we approached the long and deep “Arm.” What a magnificent sight!  Waterfalls were cascading down steep slopes into the beautiful green waters which held the mesmerizing blue ice that drifted with the current. The cool fresh wind that rushed out of the channel and wrapped around our faces put smiles on every passenger. The Oosterdam opened the fourth level bow deck for this special time and served Washington State wines and blueberry cheddar cheese.  This was a party – and what a venue!  Many of us now seemed to connect with “The Great Land” of Alaska and why it had called to us – a day none of us will forget.  Thankfully, the image is burned into my mind’s eye.

Poolside top deck

After absorbing this “any where you look” beauty for a few hours we leisurely motored out of the “Arm” toward our first port of call as the sun plunged into the horizon. We were destined for Alaska’s capitol, Juneau, about 40 miles to the north, and would be there by daybreak.

After some fine dining in the Vista Lounge (deck 3) we retired to our cabin and recounted the day as we lay in our extremely comfortable “Mariner’s Dream Bed”.  The drone of the engines and the gentle rocking from small swells in the ocean made for a great sleep.  We awoke tied to the pier (the ship-not us!).

First Docking-Juneau

Juneau is a great place to walk and explore, and that is what I, Highroad Cam, did while GeorgieJet opted for one of the many shore excursions offered-a whale watching boat trip. I was happy to shake off my sea legs and wander up the hills away from the shops.  I was even invited in for a drink by a lifelong resident and enjoyed the views of the Gastineau Channel from her deck (she was 87 years young and still cuts her tall hedges from a ladder by hand-hearty Alaskan!)

I also happened upon the Governor’s Mansion and some other incredible vistas in the hills.  I wrapped up my shore leave with a pint of Alaskan beer at the historic Red Dog Saloon.  GeorgieJet, meanwhile, had a great excursion with some whale sightings but many more soundings (it was a little foggy) with Allen Marine Tours.  We met for lunch at Tracy’s King Crab Shack on the pier for some of the best Dungeness and Snow crab in the world and washed it down with an Alaskan Amber beer.

Best View from our room!

Other Juneau Attractions

There is also a tram in Juneau only steps from the pier that brings you up Mt. Roberts, close to 4000 ft high, for more superb views (hikeable too). Other attractions include the Alaska State Museum, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, and the immense natural landmark Mendenhall Glacier.  Juneau is a lovely approachable city and despite how comfortable you may be aboard the Oosterdam, a must see.

The Shipping News

We spent a little time that afternoon enjoying the ship.  We had a delicious mojito-like concoction at the outdoor bar on the Lido Deck, #9 (thanks Adolpho), took a swim and a hot tub, and lay in the sun as the Oosterdam was uncleated and put in motion for our next cruise port-Sitka, Alaska.  The staff, many from the Philippines and Indonesia, were gracious, smart, remembered your name and available to serve you in an instant.

The ship itself is so large that, although there were around 2000 passengers aboard (and 800 staff), we rarely felt crowded and often found a quiet space to ourselves. GeorgieJet and I enjoyed the exterior walking deck (#3) daily for exercise and scenery and were usually alone (three times around equaled a mile).  Of course that could be because of all the temptations on the ship- especially the food!  The Lido deck, for nearly the whole day, had a wide variety of great food available (buffet style) and not a bad table in the house. For those tea lovers, high tea is offered daily on the Oosterdam. Meals could also be delivered to your cabin at any time of day with no extra charge. There was elegant dining at the Vista Lounge and high-end dining for the true gourmand at the Pinnacle Grille and Canaletto (a nominal charge for these two restaurants).  We tried them all!

My favorite meal was a Linguini Frutti di Mare in The Canaletto -great seafood at sea. The world renowned “Le Cirque” menu at the Pinnacle Grille was also superb, head chef Michael Mohr prepared the Le Cirque lobster salad with haricots verts and citrus followed by Chateaubriand with horseradish flan.  GeorgieJet loved her butternut squash soup and seared Alaskan black cod. Crème brulée and chocolate soufflé were served for dessert! Holland America is proud to offer “As You Wish” dining, giving its passengers the flexibility of choosing how, where, when, and with whom they wish to dine.

Lido Buffet Table

Song and Dance Man?

That evening, before reaching Sitka the next day, we did have time for a song and dance show in the theatre-just like a Broadway production to me.  The great talent and intricate stage with many moving parts made me forget that I was on a ship at all.  We ended our evening with a bang……that is, an ABBA dance party at the ships Northern Lights nightclub – MAMA MIA! Here I go again, my my…..  We still got the moves….or one of us does, anyway.

Stay tuned for our next JohnnyJet installment covering Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria, and maybe even a night with dancer extraordinaire Highroad Cam, as he moves to the nitty gritty rock of The HALcats ( the Holland America Line ship band)-they rock!

~ JohnnyJet Correspondents GeorgieJet and Highroad Cam

Cruising with Whales

About Georgie Jet

Hi, I'm Georgette, a writer and artist based in Connecticut and Vermont. I'm also Johnny Jet’s older sister, who quite possibly ignited his first spark of interest in traveling to exotic places, when at the impressionable age of 14, he saw my two-week trip to Australia last four years! Whether skiing in the mountains, snorkeling in the tropics, or exploring faraway cities, I'm always game for traveling and the privilege of writing for my baby brother's website JohnnyJet.com. Of course, coming home to my husband Cam, our dog Baci, and my two cats Ace and Chammy is great, too! Check out my site on pet-friendly travel at dogandcatfriendlytravel.com and my art at georgettepaintings.com.