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Holland America Maasdam Three Week Alaska/PNW May 2019

Holland America Maasdam Three Week Alaska/PNW May 2019

Jun 11th, 2019, 01:46 PM
  #1  
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Holland America Maasdam Three Week Alaska/PNW May 2019

I'm hiding in my house from the heat wave and US Open so thought this would be a good time to start my trip report I will preface this report by saying that we're not big cruisers and having sailed on Maasdam last year (got talked into that one by my parents), my husband swore he'd never set foot on her again due to her age and maintenance issues. Less than 2 weeks prior to departure, I was able to convince him that this unique 3 week itinerary which won't be repeated next year was worth suffering through any potential ship problems. The last minute bargain price and the fact that the cruise didn't sell out helped to assuage his fears since we knew we could change cabins if necessary. I very carefully chose our L inside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck in an area where I knew that the AC was semi-functional. I also requested a fan for our cabin.

6 days before the cruise we stood on a local beach and watched as 3 orcas fed on the carcass of a gray whale calf. My husband turned to me and asked "why did you book this cruise again?"

I'm happy to report that in the end he said he was glad we didn't pass on the cruise AND we had no cabin issues! The cabin directly across the hall from us wasn't as lucky as that one sprung a leak from the ceiling.

This report will mostly be about the ports we visited rather than other aspects of the cruise. However I will note the minor changes and one major change onboard. Our ports of call were Ketchikan, Sitka, Valdez, Homer, Kodiak, Haines, Juneau, Wrangell, Vancouver, Victoria, Port Alberni and Astoria. In addition we had 3 glacier viewing days at Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord and Endicott Arm which was a last minute substitution due to too much ice in Tracy Arm. We really enjoyed the smaller ports and were glad to have the opportunity to visit them. The downside is that we could've spent more time in each of them. Prior to booking the cruise, I'd considered taking the ferry until I priced everything out and YIKES.
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Jun 11th, 2019, 02:05 PM
  #2  
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May 7th San Francisco Pier 35

Getting to the ship was easy for us. We drove 2 hours from Carmel, parked at my sister's house in Oakland, took the ferry from Jack London Square to Pier 41 and walked to Pier 35. Check-in, security and boarding were quick which is one of the nice things about being on a relatively "small" ship. By July 1st Maasdam will be the smallest in Holland America's fleet at 1200+ passengers. It never felt too crowded onboard and we rarely waited for anything. It was a sunny day in SF and we had a beautiful sailaway.


New upholstery in the Crows Nest

The major announced change was the new EXC format which is on the Maasdam only https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US...h-voyages.html Instead of production shows we had guest entertainers and guest presenters. We skipped most of the former and tried to fit in as many of the latter as possible. We had a geologist, biologist, photographer, Tlingit artist and 3 local lecturers from Ketchikan and Sitka who all gave an interesting variety of talks and presentations. That aspect was definitely a positive change to us. Another change is that America's Test Kitchen had been replaced by 2 guest chefs. We went to one demo by each and decided that we preferred ATK but being a port intensive itinerary it would've been hard to fit in more anyway. There was also a fleet of 9 zodiacs on the bow which unfortunately they didn't receive permission to use this Alaska season. The first night's "show" was an introduction to the new format and each guest presenter and gave us a good idea of what to expect.
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Jun 11th, 2019, 02:09 PM
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May 8th-9th At Sea

We had two sea days to get up to Alaska, the first of which I spent half asleep because it takes me a day to get used to the motion. I don't get seasick but just cannot stay awake. By the second day at sea I was fine. We went to lectures, port talks, a cooking demo and ate a lot.

We started seeing some minor cost cutting changes since last February. Things like no more amuse bouche on gala nights in the dining room that probably mostly go unnoticed. The crew is still excellent, the food about the same and the library and self service laundry are still onboard. We found it easier and quicker to eat in the lido for breakfast and lunch but ate dinner in the dining room where there's a bigger step up in quality in the evening. We found a waiter and wine steward that we liked and just stuck to their section.
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Jun 11th, 2019, 02:25 PM
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May 10th Ketchikan

We docked at Berth 2 at 10am where a representative and car from First City Car Rental https://www.firstcitycarrental.com/ were waiting for us. After some quick formalities we were off with instructions to park it back in the same lot when we were done.



Our first stop was the Lunch Falls Trail https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/a...ch-falls-trail at Settlers Cove. Hardly any other people were there but ugh, mosquitoes! We hadn't expected them so early in the season and hadn't done enough research to know about the unusually warm spring they were having in Alaska. We made quick work of the short loop, stopped at the falls long enough to take a couple of photos and decided not to hike any more trails.



Our next stop was Totem Bight State Historical Park Totem Bight SHP where they've instituted a $5 per person entry fee as of May 1st. It's sunny and nearly 70 degrees in Ketchikan! The breeze had picked up at this point so we were able to stay longer and enjoy the park.





Lunch was a quick stop for halibut and shrimp burgers at AJ's Gourmet Burgers https://ajsgourmetburgers.com/ at a picnic table by the highway with a view of float planes. They also have some indoor seating in case it's raining.



After lunch we drove to the other end of Ketchikan just to see what was there and then went back to town to check out Creek Street and the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center (the national park pass gets you into this one) https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tong...a/?recid=78948 Town was relatively quiet by afternoon as 2 of the 4 cruise ships docked had left.



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Jun 11th, 2019, 02:25 PM
  #5  
 
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Looking forward to this (its going to be crazy in your neck of the woods this week ). . . Suggestion - since this will be a lot about ports of call in Alaska -- to get more 'eyes' maybe post a thread on the US board something like " See my Alaska Cruise Trip Report on the Cruise forum" and include a link to this thread. We get lots of questions about Alaska ports on the USA forum and the cross pollination may bring more folks over here . . .
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Jun 11th, 2019, 02:35 PM
  #6  
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Thanks for the tip, janisj! Can you believe we have friends who want to drive down from San Rafael and back on Friday? And they aren't even interested in golf!
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Jun 11th, 2019, 02:53 PM
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Driving from San Rafael to Carmel on a normal summer Friday is gawd awful enough, but back on the SAME day (!) . . . what ARE they thinking??
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Jun 12th, 2019, 02:31 PM
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May 11th Sitka

We docked at 9am at the Old Sitka Dock about 5 miles north of town. There were complimentary shuttles running back and forth but we had a car reserved through Sitka Car Rental https://sitkacarrental.com/ with instructions to find it parked near the road with our name and keys inside. It turned out to be a really old Jeep Cherokee with 200k miles on it but it did the job and you can't beat dockside delivery. The morning was drizzling but clearing. Our first stop was Fortress of the Bear Fortress of the Bear a facility for orphaned bears located at a former wastewater treatment plant for the pulp mill. There were 4 adult brown bears, 2 juvenile brown bears and 3 black bears. The state of Alaska doesn't allow rehabilitation and release, something that the facility is trying to change, so these bears will remain in captivity. We weren't sure how we'd feel but were glad we visited and the bears seemed fairly content.





Next was the Alaska Raptor Center https://alaskaraptor.org/ where we were able to view non-releasable raptors, flight enclosures with releasable raptors where we could see them but they couldn't see us and a live goshawk demonstration. We took a trail that led to the release site with warnings about being in bear country, making noise the whole way.


Juvenile northern goshawk


Flight training

Just opposite the highway from the raptor center was a trail head for Sitka National Historic Park https://www.nps.gov/sitk/index.htm so we took stroll through the park and checked out the visitor's center which had native artists in residence.



Lunch was a delicious bowl of salmon chowder at Beak https://www.facebook.com/Beak-Restau...3122325364665/ and the sun was out by the time we walked up Castle Hill Baranof Castle State Historic Site Our last stop of the day was a short hike around the Starrigavan Estuary at the northern end of the road a couple of miles past the cruise ship dock https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/re...a/Starrigavan/



After dinner we saw our first humpbacks of the trip.



There was a talk on Sitka this evening that included the April Fool's prank of 1974 involving a volcano https://sitkahistory.com/2016/03/the...ools-day-1974/

Last edited by Patty; Jun 12th, 2019 at 02:36 PM.
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Jun 12th, 2019, 02:54 PM
  #9  
 
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Love your photos!

>>It turned out to be a really old Jeep Cherokee with 200k miles on it but it did the job <<. Alaska does march to a different drummer - LOL
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Jun 12th, 2019, 02:56 PM
  #10  
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May 12th Hubbard Glacier

At approximately 10:30 this morning we arrived at Hubbard Glacier on a clear, sunny day. The bow was opened for passengers and was less windy than the upper decks. We stayed for about 2 hours. It was an unbelievably beautiful morning and photos don't do it justice.







More distant whales this evening. An announcement was made that due to a medical emergency we would be docking in Valdez at 8am tomorrow rather than the originally scheduled time of noon.
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Jun 13th, 2019, 09:19 AM
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I'm enjoying your report. Love the April Fool's Story!

We have an Alaska Cruise booked for the first two weeks in September.
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Jun 13th, 2019, 01:38 PM
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May 13th Valdez

We got up early to watch the sail in. Valdez is in a spectacular location surrounded by mountains. We docked at 8am and I called Valdez U Drive Valdez U Drive - Home to see if they were aware that we had docked early and if it was possible to get our car before noon. They said they had no idea but that they'd be down at the dock as soon as possible. In the mean time we walked around the dock area as forklifts brought out sculptures and last minute touch up painting was being done on them. Apparently a big welcome had been planned for us but of course we took everyone by surprise.


Time to put the finishing touches on the kraken


One of the sculptures later in the day

We were able to get our car before 9am and set off for Worthington Glacier Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site The Richardson Hwy takes you through Keystone Canyon with its many waterfalls and over Thompson Pass, the snowiest place in Alaska. The road to the glacier hadn't opened for the season yet so we walked to get a closer look. We made it to the closed visitor's center before we started sinking through the snow and decided not to continue farther.





We made our way back to the car and headed back toward Valdez stopping at the top of the pass and at waterfalls along the way.


Horsetail Falls

After a quick lunch back onboard we headed out again stopping at Valdez Glacier Lake, the Original Valdez Townsite before town was relocated after the 1964 earthquake and Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery https://www.valdezfisheries.org/the-hatchery/ which had an outdoor self guided tour with signs and videos.


Valdez Glacier Lake


Why of course it's the mancamp!


Old Valdez


Interesting factoid

We also checked out the lifeboat from the former Prinsendam that sank in the Gulf of Alaska in 1980.






Up until this point I was complaining about the Maasdam lifeboats

The sun was out again and we had another beautiful sailaway. I'm getting sunburned in Alaska.



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Jun 13th, 2019, 02:23 PM
  #13  
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May 14th College Fjord

We entered College Fjord around 8:30 this morning. Our destination was Harvard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in the fjord, passing many smaller glaciers named after women's colleges on the northwest side and men's colleges on the southeast side along the way. Again the bow was opened for passenger viewing and we were able to get close enough to see and hear glacier calving. There were also many harbor seals and otters on the ice and swimming. By 1pm we had exited the fjord.


Another sunny day





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Jun 13th, 2019, 03:03 PM
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May 15th Homer

Today was the first day we had any real rain in the forecast. We hadn't made any plans for Homer and thought about finding a boat tour once we got on shore but the weather didn't look conducive. In the end it stayed overcast all day but never really rained that much. We spent the day simply wandering and eating on Homer Spit. It was nice to have an unplanned day with no real agenda for a change. As we were early in the season many of the businesses were still closed. We did some souvenir shopping as we hadn't had any time up until now to shop and managed to find the oyster bar https://www.facebook.com/homerspitoysterbar/ inside the oyster co-op building and later had a bowl of ramen at La Baleine Cafe Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner in Homer, Alaska | La Baleine Café I was fascinated with the items in this store Jewelry Sculptures Knives Carvings & more! | Homer Alaska but struggled to figure out what I'd do with a seal bladder float once I got home so only left with some Christmas ornaments.










$30 a dozen


Ramen at La Baleine


There were black legged kittiwakes by the thousands here
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Jun 13th, 2019, 05:12 PM
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May 16th Kodiak

We docked at 8am at Pier 2 in Kodiak about a mile outside of town. We had another car reserved this time with Avis at Kodiak airport about 4 miles away. I called Avis as we walked down the gangway and their shuttle picked us up within 15 minutes. They don't bring cars to the dock but said we could leave it at the dock at the end of the day.


They're serious about getting to school



It was raining so we backtracked to the visitor center in town to pick up maps. In addition we got some good wildlife tips. We then headed one hour south to Pasagshak Bay Pasagshak State Recreational Site where we were told there had been gray whales feeding yesterday. Along the way we stopped for some Sitka black tailed deer and a pair of bald eagles. And indeed the whales were there. About a dozen of them scattered around the bay some very close to shore. The minute we got out of the car it stopped raining so we stayed and watched for about an hour. We were alone the whole time except for one local who made a quick stop before she had to go to work. We see whales often but it's still awe inspiring every time especially so close to shore.


Find the deer




Pasagshak Bay



We then drove through the Pacific Spaceport (we were wondering why the cell reception was so good here) on our way to Fossil Beach. It had started to rain again so we didn't stay long.






Fossil Beach

Back to the ship for a quick lunch and then off to Anton Larsen Bay to see if we could spot the brown bear sow and cub in the area. We weren't too hopeful as it was mid-day and the rain made it difficult to see very far. No bears but we got to see another part of the island.

We decided we had enough time to head to Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park The rain stopped as we arrived so we hiked some trails. As soon as we got back into the car it started raining again.






Last edited by Patty; Jun 13th, 2019 at 05:31 PM.
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Jun 13th, 2019, 06:08 PM
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May 17th Gulf of Alaska

Today's activities can be summarized as follows - laundry, eat, port talk, camera presentation, eat, salmon and kelp lecture, eat, stories about guiding in Alaska. We had a very calm crossing, even the captain remarked how calm it was. Canadian customs forms were handed out today to be completed and returned to guest services. We were told no other formalities were necessary.
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Jun 15th, 2019, 03:52 PM
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May 18th Haines

The sun was out when we docked in Haines at 8am.



We picked up a map and a few brochures from the visitor kiosk at the dock and walked to the Hotel Halsingland to pick up our car that we had reserved with Avis. This was our most expensive rental at $155 but we ended up with a brand new Honda CRV AWD with 17 miles on it. We had a 10am tour ($50 per person) reserved with Kroschel Films Wildlife Center https://www.kroschelfilms.com/home and as we'd been warned about road construction set off right away. We made a brief stop at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve It wasn't the time of year for eagles but we saw a black bear run across the sand bank in the middle of the river, unfortunately too fast for any photos. We had booked the morning tour thinking we'd avoid the busier ship excursion later in the day only to find ourselves among 40 people when we arrived. I guess everyone else had the same idea! The tour lasted an hour and a half and many of the animals are used for photography and filming. Steve was good at managing the crowd and positioning photographers and is quite a character.






Steve and the wolverine




Baby pine martens

After the tour we drove back to town and had lunch at Geno's Fish & Chips but the fish was overcooked. Next we drove to Chilkat State Park Chilkat State Park where in the brief time we stopped to chat with the camp host who had recently arrived from WA, I ended up with half a dozen mosquito bites.


Chilkat State Park

We decided to head back into town instead and ended up at the Haines Brewery https://www.hainesbrewing.com/ for a beer tasting. Our favorites were the Spruce Tip Ale and the Black Fang.



We wandered around town and shopped and in the late afternoon took a drive along Lutak Road to follow up on another brown bear sow and cub tip. Again no luck with bears but it was a beautiful drive ending at Chilkoot Lake.


Chilkoot River


Chilkoot Lake

Back to town again and this time we headed to the Port Chilkoot Distillery Port Chilkoot Distillery


$12 flight

Our ship was docked until 10pm so we decided to have dinner ashore. The food isn't bad onboard but is becoming monotonous. We sat on the porch of the Pilotlight https://www.facebook.com/pilotlightbakery/ and shared a salmon bisque and mussels and clams. The latter were a tad overcooked but the bisque was delicious and so was the house made sourdough that came with everything. For dessert we shared a very rich chocolate torte. Desserts onboard are weak and I've been mostly skipping them so this was such as nice treat. As we were getting ready to leave, the woman sitting at the table next to us exclaimed "This beats the [email protected]%# out of the Lido!"

We walked around Fort Seward in the evening light, returned our car and were back onboard by 9pm.



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Jun 16th, 2019, 10:57 AM
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May 19th Endicott Arm & Juneau

This morning was our third and final glacier viewing from the ship. We got up early to be on the bow as we were entering the arm before 6:30am. Our original destination was Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm but due to the amount of ice this early in the season, Endicott Arm had to be substituted. Endicott was also icy so we only got a distant glimpse of Dawes Glacier. But it was beautiful sailing through the arm with its many waterfalls and we spotted gray whales.







We hadn't planned anything specific for Juneau and just wandered in the afternoon drizzle. Franklin Street was a madhouse but once we got away from the immediate dock area, it was actually pretty quiet. We walked along Gastineau Avenue, one block and a long staircase above Franklin, and you'd hardly know that there were 5 cruise ships with a capacity of 13,000 passengers directly below.


House along Gastineau

As it was Sunday, downtown was also very quiet. We went to Sealaska Heritage https://www.sealaskaheritage.org/ to see their exhibits. They had a nice gift shop too.







We're the last ship to sail at 11pm tonight so another dinner ashore was in order. We stumbled upon Tracy's King Crab Shack's outdoor location at Egan & Whittier https://www.kingcrabshack.com/ and had a relaxing meal with a handful of locals overlooking the Maasdam.







Back onboard by 8pm, we headed to the Crow's Nest to spend the rest of our evening watching seaplanes.

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Jun 16th, 2019, 12:52 PM
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May 20th Frederick Sound

There were two excursions offered today that picked up passengers directly from the ship, one to the village of Kake and another one to find humpback whales. We opted to stay onboard. At 9am the bow was opened for wildlife viewing with the biologist. This happened a few times throughout the cruise. Today is very calm with no wind. We spotted humpbacks and Dall's porpoises and a very distant speck of a black bear. The rest of our day was spent attending a wolf presentation, another cooking demo and a killer whale presentation. In the evening we went to an Iditarod talk.

Frederick Sound
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Jun 16th, 2019, 12:58 PM
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I must have accidentally deleted the part about our Juneau tendering fiasco from the above post:

The schedule was to anchor in Juneau at 2pm and tender as all four berths were already occupied. At 1:30pm an announcement was made that we were anchored and ready to tender so we headed to the Ocean Bar to collect our tickets. We ended up with #7 tickets and waited, and waited, and waited...
Passengers who booked shore excursions as well as 4 and 5 Star Mariners get priority and don't need tickets. Finally #7 was called and we were ashore at 3:15pm, an hour and 45 minutes after we collected our tickets.

We later learned that there was a mechanical problem with the first tender which also prevented other tenders from using the tender dock until it was sorted out.
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