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Trip Report Holland America Northbound Cruise - 7/13-7/20/14

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I am a long-time lurker wanting to thank all the posters on the forums for all the tips on trip planning! Writing was never one of my better subjects in school so forgive me for any mistakes that are bound to happen.

This was our first ever cruise and we sailed with Holland America on the Statendam from Vancouver to Seward.

7/12 - Vancouver - We arrived a day early because Vancouver is one of our favorite cities to stay in. Since we've been here so many times and we were embarking on our Alaskan adventure the next day, we decided to just take it easy, go to Queen Elizabeth Park, and relax. Because we would only be in Vancouver for a day and a half, we decided to forgo renting a car and just use public transportation which turned out to be a great choice. The skytrain into Vancouver was straightforward and easy to navigate, bus drivers were incredibly nice, and people on the street were very helpful whenever we got lost. I snagged a deal for the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver through hotwire and while it is an older building with thinner walls, the location and staff were great!

7/13 - We were able to negotiate a late check-out so after a late lunch, we were off to board our cruise! Since the cruise terminal was all downhill and not too far from our hotel, we decided to walk. After hearing horror stories about long check-in lines from our friends, we wanted to get there a little earlier (around 2pm) and lines were practically non-existent. Lucky start? Check-in was quick, pictures were taken, we got our stateroom cards and our adventure started. This being our first cruise ever, we immediately dropped off our bags in the room and headed off to explore the ship. There were a ton of activities going on and it was hard to choose what to do but we ended up staying on deck watching the sail away, playing bingo, and then watching the show at night. Dinner was great and while we had great fun meeting new people at the shared table, we're not huge talkers so we ended up opting for a two-top every other time we ate in the main dining room.

7/14 - Cruise Inside Passage - This was an at-sea day and the first time we both experienced a little motion sickness! The ship rocked a little throughout the day but it was nothing too big and we both were fine after a little while. We were able to explore the ship a bit more, participate in some of the activities and watch some of the shows. Most of the people on the cruise were definitely older but HAL did their best to have activities for all the age groups. This night was also the first formal night and while I did see a couple of beautiful dresses, as long as you weren't in a t-shirt and jeans, they usually let you in.

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    7/15 - Ketchickan 7a-3p
    We were up early and off the ship in time to catch the 7:26 bus to Totem Bight State Park. While the lines to get off the ship were long, they moved quickly and we were able to get to the closest bus stop in time. $1/person via bus each way definitely beat all the prices of the excursions I had researched beforehand. It was about a 30 minute ride up to Totem Bight and the bus driver made sure to tell us when to get off and where to get back on. Note that for public transportation in Ketchikan, the buses only run once every hour so you have to make sure to get the times right.

    Totem Bight was really great. Some of the kids who rode with us on the bus looked like they were ready to get out of there after 30 minutes but we had a good time walking around the park looking at the totem poles and enjoying the great weather. We were even able to see our first bald eagle! Make sure to grab an information pamphlet to learn the stories behind each totem pole. We ended up deciding to go to Potlatch Park next door also. Potlatch is privately-owned but also free and was a good way to kill some time before the bus arrived to take us back to Ketchikan.

    Once in Ketchikan we walked up to Creek Street and were able to see some salmon at the mouth of the Creek. We walked around Ketchikan using the free walking tour map available online and in the visitor's center. For lunch, we headed over to Crab Cracker Seafood Bar in the Salmon Landing Market. While I understand it's a place that mainly caters to tourists, we were definitely still surprised by those Alaskan prices! We decided on some fish and chips and clam chowder. While the food really was pretty good, a 50 minute wait on our food was ridiculous. Multiple reminders and not-really-veiled glares yielded nothing and while we would have normally up and left by then, we weren't in a rush so we just decided to go with it. Good thing the food at least tasted good! Back to the ship to rest up, participate in some bingo, and watch the comedian.

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    7/16 - Juneau 10a-10p
    I really have to thank Eschew and his post on shore excursions for the planning on this port! We were looking to spend a lot of time at Mendenhall glacier so we opted for the Blue Bus instead of an excursion. The MGT Blue Glacier Express has gone up to $20/person roundtrip and it takes about 30 minutes from Juneau to the glacier. On the way there, our bus driver was kind enough to narrate the drive and so, with his help, we were able to see a lot of bald eagles on the way.

    The guy who sold us our tickets couldn't understand why I kept asking when the last shuttle was (5pm) because there was no way we could spend that long there. But, even after a late start off the bust (around 11:30pm) we were able to mosey around the glacier until about 4. Now, I am the first to admit that we are slow walkers (my companion has bad knees) and we really love nature so we definitely weren't in a hurry to go anywhere. We walked all three of the easier trails and even paid the $3 for the visitor's center. If you have the time, definitely do the Nugget Falls trail! Also, I have to say that I really enjoyed the visitor's center. The talk was very informative and I liked the short movie so much that I donated some money so that I could get a DVD. The line for the shuttle back wasn't too bad and we were back in Juneau very quickly. The bus driver again narrated and he even gave some recommendations on where to eat.

    Back in Juneau we wanted to just walk around and relax. We decided to split a crab between the two of us from Tracy's King Crab Shack since we were planning on eating a full dinner on the ship. Some more exploring throughout the touristy part of Juneau around the docks. After souvenir shopping, we just wandered around watching floatplanes land and just generally hanging out. At the park near where the cruise docked, there are some free telescopes for you to use to see if you can spot any mountain goats up on the mountain. No luck for me but it was great fun! One of the guys passing by did say that he was able to see some that morning with his binoculars from the ship. Darn... Back to the ship for dinner.

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    7/17 - Skagway 7a-9p
    Skagway was kind of when my trip planning didn't go so well. I just couldn't figure out what to do in Skagway and all the cars from the one Avis in town were already rented out by the time we had decided on the cruise. In the end, we decided to book the White Pass RR trip (around $126/person) through the cruise ship since there wasn't much of a price difference and you could get on/off the train right next to the cruise ship instead of walking to/from the station in town. The 8:15a departure took around 3 hours roundtrip and while it was beautiful, I didn't think it was anything special. The scenery was very pretty and the weather was great which made for a good train ride. But that's just what it was, a train ride up and down a mountain. I do have to say that standing outside on the platform was a fun experience though and definitely recommended if the train car is getting a little too stuffy for you!

    After the ride, we had lunch on the ship before heading into town and exploring. Skagway really is not very large so it's an easy walk around. We decided to do the Lower Dewey Lake hike and got a map from the visitor's center. It is ranked a moderate but be aware that if you're afraid of heights, it does go up a bit on some uneven ground. Nothing major but my companion who is definitely afraid of heights was a little clammy by the time we reached the top. After a great hike and then some souvenir shopping we headed back to the ship for dinner.

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    7/18 - Glacier Bay (at sea)
    Today was the second of our at sea days and also the second formal dinner. The cruise ship had a park ranger board the ship early in the morning and she narrated throughout the day. The narration could be heard on all outer decks and through the TV in your room. At the Margerie glacier, the captain moved the ship around 360 degrees so both sides of the ship could get a view. It was cold up near those glaciers so definitely dress accordingly! We were lucky enough to see the glacier calving, two bald eagles, some sea otters, some sea lions, a porpoise (maybe? it moved too quickly), and some whales (though only spray). Some of the others with binoculars were able to see some bears and puffins too!

    7/19 - At sea
    Today was rocky throughout. It was cloudy and the waves were pretty big so my companion had pretty bad motion sickness throughout the day. We figured out that sitting outside on the decks bundled up definitely helped so we were out there for the majority of the day. For us, there really weren't many activities that we were interested in so today was slightly boring and it felt like we were just waiting for the next meal. The ladies next to us at dinner, however, had a great time at bingo so obviously everyone had different views on the day. Since more waves and wind were expected early tomorrow, the captain decided to increase speed and get to Seward tonight instead of early the next day. This was supposed to result in a better night's sleep except..

    6/20 - Disembarkation in Seward
    there was a 5am fire alarm. Apparently one of the galley's had a small fire break out which kind of put a damper on that better night's sleep. Either way, we were up for breakfast early and then just walked around again until our 9am disembarkation time. Disembarkation was incredibly easy and so ended our cruise adventure...sigh.
    Thanks for reading!

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