Posts Tagged ‘Ship’s Ahoy! – Experiencing an Alaskan Cruise for the Very First Time’

Ship’s Ahoy! – Experiencing an Alaskan Cruise for the Very First Time – Part III

November 1, 2009

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Ahhh, day 5. We’re more than halfway through our Alaskan adventure, but there’s still so much more to see and do. In this Part 3, we’ll be visiting Sitka, eating dinner at Pinnacle Grill, taking in a show, and fattening up at the Dessert Extravaganza.

Our boat docked near Sitka at about 8AM. I say “near” because unlike our other stops, disembarking would not be quite as easy. A bit of planning was necessary as we had to catch what was referred to as a tender, which was basically a small boat that took us to the shores of Sitka in style.

Animation of catching the tender off of our cruise ship to Sitka
Animation of catching the tender off of our cruise ship to Sitka

According to our newsletter, Sitka is known as “Alaska’s Little Russia,” even though at a glance, not much about the port looks Russian. Its most treasured asset, however, is its natural scenery and many people consider Sitka to be Alaska’s most beautiful seaside town.

Wifey and I slept in and got a bit of a late start so we didn’t really a lot of time in Sitka (last tender left from shore back to the ship at 4:30PM). We were able to catch some of the highlights of the town though, like…

Baranof Castle Hill

Baranof Castle Hill sign
Baranof Castle Hill sign

Steps leading up to Castle Hill (with some goon in the background)
Steps leading up to Castle Hill (with some goon in the background)

Scene from atop Baranof Castle Hill
Scene from atop Baranof Castle Hill

Sign stating Baranof Castle Hill is a Registered National Historic Landmark
Sign stating Baranof Castle Hill is a Registered National Historic Landmark

Totem Square…

Totem in Totem Square
Totem in Totem Square

Intersection near Totem Square
Intersection near Totem Square

The Sitka Pioneers Home

View of the Sitka Pioneers Home from Totem Square [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
View of the Sitka Pioneers Home from Totem Square [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

The Prospector Statue in front of the Pioneers Home [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
The Prospector Statue in front of the Pioneers Home [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

The Prospector Statue sign [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
The Prospector Statue sign [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

The Sitka Pioneers Home [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
The Sitka Pioneers Home [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

And various other sights around town…

View of Sitka town (and St. Michael's Cathedral) from Lincoln Street [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
View of Sitka town (and St. Michael’s Cathedral) from Lincoln Street [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

Interesting Sitka wear. Insert funny comment here.
Interesting Sitka wear. Insert funny comment here.

Wifey getting mauled, er petted by big bear.
Wifey getting mauled, er petted by big bear.

Alaska's own.
Alaska’s own.

Backside of St. Michael's Cathedral
Backside of St. Michael’s Cathedral

The Hanlon-Osbakken House (with the Sitka Rose Gallery and the Winterson Soap Company) [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
The Hanlon-Osbakken House (with the Sitka Rose Gallery and the Winterson Soap Company) [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

Russian Bishop's House, Sitka, Alaska
Russian Bishop’s House, Sitka, Alaska

St. Gregory Catholic Church, Sitka, Alaska
St. Gregory Catholic Church, Sitka, Alaska

Eventually, we met up with the rest of the fam, following their tour of the Alaskan Raptor Rehabilitation Center…

Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center Sign [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center Sign [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Baby Raptor [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Baby Raptor [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

Eagle at the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Eagle at the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

Eagle at the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Eagle at the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

… to check out the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium

Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium sign [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium sign [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

The hatchery is located inside the Sage Memorial Building on the Sheldon Jackson College campus
The hatchery is located inside the Sage Memorial Building on the Sheldon Jackson College campus

Inside the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium
Inside the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium

Evan, Travis and Chris getting hands-on with the sea life [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Evan, Travis and Chris getting hands-on with the sea life [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]


Chris really getting up close and personal

Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium
Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium

Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium
Miscellaneous sea life at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium

Crab at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Crab at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Face to face with a fish at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium
Face to face with a fish at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium

Shopping Cart and Bicycle pulled in from Sitka's Harbor
Shopping Cart and Bicycle pulled in from Sitka’s Harbor

The hatchery on the backside of the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium
The hatchery on the backside of the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery and Aquarium

One of the tanks at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery. Notice the widdle fishies swimming around with the toy gator?
One of the tanks at the Sheldon Jackson College Hatchery. Notice the widdle fishies swimming around with the toy gator?

… and cruise the rest of town…

Leaving the Sheldon Jackson College campus
Leaving the Sheldon Jackson College campus

Wifey reliving her hanabata days
Wifey reliving her hanabata days

Kerri-Ann, Evan, Lee and Travis having a blast on the 4-way seesaw. Poor Kerri-Ann! :)
Kerri-Ann, Evan, Lee and Travis having a blast on the 4-way seesaw. Poor Kerri-Ann! 🙂

Tree planted for George Washington
Tree planted for George Washington

Chris on the whale statue [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Chris on the whale statue [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

Wifey next to the sea lion statue
Wifey next to the sea lion statue

Yours truly riding the dolphin statue. Tell me again who's the most mature? :P
Yours truly riding the dolphin statue. Tell me again who’s the most mature? 😛

Dad Kojima and Grandma Kojima taking in Crescent Harbor [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
Dad Kojima and Grandma Kojima taking in Crescent Harbor [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

Crescent Harbor, Sitka, Alaska. [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
Crescent Harbor, Sitka, Alaska. [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

The crowd forming around the Reindeer Red Hot stand. Yep, Reindeer Hot Dogs!
The crowd forming around the Reindeer Red Hot stand. Yep, Reindeer Hot Dogs!

Perusing a gift shop for possible omiyage
Perusing a gift shop for possible omiyage

View of Sitka Hotel from The Sitka Pioneers Home lawn
View of Sitka Hotel from The Sitka Pioneers Home lawn

… before heading back to the ship for din-din.

We took a break from the norm and decided to splurge on dinner that night. Skipping the “included-in-the-price” Vista Dining Room, we dressed up and hit up Pinnacle Grill for an extra $20 per person. Still not bad for a change of scenery.

Pinnacle Ocean Platter - Carpaccio of lightly smoked salmon, accompanied with hot smoked salmon, sea scallops and wasabi cream. I think they replaced some items on this one.
Pinnacle Ocean Platter – Carpaccio of lightly smoked salmon, accompanied with hot smoked salmon, sea scallops and wasabi cream. I think they replaced some items on this one.

Lobster Bisque - Crème fraiche and aged sherry.
Lobster Bisque – Crème fraiche and aged sherry.

Dungeness Crab Cakes - Spiral shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce
Dungeness Crab Cakes – Spiral shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail - Brandy horseradish cocktail sauce
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail – Brandy horseradish cocktail sauce

(Broiled or) Poached Lobster Tail - On a bed of wilted spinach and argula, with mustard seed and "mangochurri" pesto sauce or melted butter
(Broiled or) Poached Lobster Tail – On a bed of wilted spinach and argula, with mustard seed and “mangochurri” pesto sauce or melted butter

Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake - The ultimate chocolate experience
Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake – The ultimate chocolate experience

Pinnacle Crème Brulee - Flavors of chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean
Pinnacle Crème Brulee – Flavors of chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean

The fam during din-din [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
The fam during din-din [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: Eating at the Vista Dining Room requires seating at specific times and is often crowded. If you’d like to avoid the crowds and try some of the ship’s varying dining choices, opt to pay the extra money and treat yourself to some yummy kine grindz once in a while. Sure beats the repetition.

Following dinner, we caught a show. Yeah, they actually have mini-Broadway type shows. I was surprised too! On this night, we watched what was called “Showtime: Stage & Screen” and it starred some of the ship’s talented singers and dancers.

The brother-in-law’s sole photo below is the only evidence we have. LOL!

Showtime: Stage & Screen - starring the Westerdam Singers and Dancers [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Showtime: Stage & Screen – starring the Westerdam Singers and Dancers [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

With a well-rested tummy, we headed straight to the Lido Deck for an event they were billing as a “Dessert Extravaganza.” Talk about setting a precedent for themselves. But, even for a non-sweet-toothed person like myself, they definitely lived up to the hype.

Dessert Extravaganza on the Lido Deck
Dessert Extravaganza on the Lido Deck

Various Cakes and pies at the Dessert Extravaganza
Various Cakes and pies at the Dessert Extravaganza

Fruit carvings at the Dessert Extravaganza
Fruit carvings at the Dessert Extravaganza

Display at Dessert Extravaganza
Display at Dessert Extravaganza

White chocolate fountain with a dragon ice sculpture in the background at the Dessert Extravaganza
White chocolate fountain with a dragon ice sculpture in the background at the Dessert Extravaganza

Ed’s Tip: Bring your camera. Scheduled for a 10:30PM release, they actually opened it up for photo opportunities at 10PM. Those dessert chefs did amazing work.

Aww, is that really the end of day 5? Just a few more short nights on the boat and we’ll be heading home. How sad.

Dat’s a-ight. Tomorrow, we’ve got an exciting Ziplining adventure in Ketchikan lined up to start off our day. Should be fun! See you in the next (and final?) part in the Alaska series. Shoots!

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Ship’s Ahoy! – Experiencing an Alaskan Cruise for the Very First Time – Part II

September 1, 2009

Part I |  Part II  | Part III | Part IV

The 4th day started with the eager anticipation of finally seeing land. Our first of two land tours wasn’t to start until 12:30PM, so we had some time to catch a bite on board and roam the quaint little town of Juneau.

South Franklin Street in Downtown Juneau
South Franklin Street in Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau
Downtown Juneau

Police Car in downtown Juneau
Police Car in downtown Juneau

Ed’s Tip: The Alaskan Fudge Company is right in the heart of downtown Juneau and seemed to be a popular place for picking up omiyage. They even have a cold marble slab where they put their own chocolate concoctions together in front of interested patrons.

Alaskan Fudge Co. employee making some sweets on a marble slab
Alaskan Fudge Co. employee making some sweets on a marble slab

Additional attractions of this city – that some of our other family members enjoyed – included: riding the Mt. Roberts Tramway,

Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

eating at Taku’s Smokeries & Store,

Aunty Amy, Uncle Mike, Kerri-Ann and Chris enjoying the eats at Taku's [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
Aunty Amy, Uncle Mike, Kerri-Ann and Chris enjoying the eats at Taku’s [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

eating at Tracy’s King Crab Shack,

Tracy's King Crab Shack [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
Tracy’s King Crab Shack [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

doing the Juneau Highlights – City, Glacier & Hatchery land tour,

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center [Photo Credit: Andi Kubota]

and doing the Historic Gold Panning Adventure land tour.

Lee and Leanne Gold Panning in Juneau, Alaska [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]
Lee and Leanne Gold Panning in Juneau, Alaska [Photo Credit: Mom Kojima]

As for wifey and I, it was off to our first “land” tour: Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Walkabout! Woo hoo!

Description: No experience is necessary for this non-strenuous, one-hour interpretive walk! Your guide provides detailed explanation of the glacier environment, the surrounding area, and teaches proper use of the mountaineering equipment provided. There is plenty of time for photo opportunities. The amount of walking is moderate, over relatively flat to rolling terrain. Your pilot will choose the glacier landing site. Please note: Rain and windproof outerwear, boots, and gloves are provided. Minimum age is 8 years. Trips are conducted in small groups to facilitate an informative in-depth glacier experience. Guests weighing 250 lbs our more will pay an additional surcharge over the published fare. Every guest and his/her carry-on items on helicopter tours may be weighed during the check-in process. The tour operator will endeavor to be discreet during this process but please be aware that individual circumstances may not allow for complete privacy.

From the dock, we were bussed to a helipad near the airport, briefed, dressed up in odd looking attire, and led to the tarmac where our chopper awaited us!

Our helicopter pilot giving us the thumbs up!
Our helicopter pilot giving us the thumbs up!

After boarding, the pilot lifted off and flew us towards the glacier (I believe it was the Mendenhall glacier).


On the way to the glacier

Flying over Mendenhall glacier
Flying over Mendenhall glacier

Before long (about 20 minutes or so), our chopper was touching down on the huMANgous Mendenhall glacier…

Helicopter landing on Mendenhall glacier
Helicopter landing on Mendenhall glacier

… where we were greeted by guides who made their temporary home there.

Tents where our guides stayed
Tents where our guides stayed

Soon, we were strapped up…

Wifey getting strapped up with her boots with the fur, er spikes.
Wifey getting strapped up with her boots with the fur, er spikes.

… given some rudimentary tools…

Our walking sticks
Our walking sticks

… and sent on our way!


What it’s like to walk on a glacier in spiked boots

As the guide led our group around, we were able to take some artsy fartsy shots.

Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Walkabout images

Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Walkabout images

Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Walkabout images

Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Walkabout images

If you didn’t pay attention to where you were walking, you really could’ve been in some deep, deep trouble (pun intended).

Our group checking out some of the glacier's moulins
Our group checking out some of the glacier’s moulins


Our guide talking about moulins and melt water.

After 1/2 and hour to an hour of “walkabouting” we had some time to rest and drink fresh glacier water…

Filling up our bottle with 100% natural glacier water.
Filling up our bottle with 100% natural glacier water.

and pose for a photo or two…

Wifey and I after conquering Mendenhall Glacier
Wifey and I after conquering Mendenhall Glacier

… before heading back to base camp.

On the way back to base camp.
On the way back to base camp.

Wrapping things up at base camp.
Wrapping things up at base camp.

There, we took off our boots and waited for our choppers to come and pick us up.


Helicopters picking us up on the glacier

We boarded them up…

Boarding the helicopters to head back
Boarding the helicopters to head back

And headed back to the airport…


Leaving Mendenhall Glacier

… for a quiet landing.


Landing softly at Juneau airport

Not long after being dropped back off at the seaport, it was time for our second land tour in Juneau, the Alaska Salmon Bake. So we quickly re-boarded the boat, dropped our stuff off in our room and headed back out towards the van pick up area where we were shuttled to the Salmon Bake near Gold Creek.

Description: An Alaskan feast, this salmon bake features Alaskan-caught wild salmon grilled over an open alder wood fire. Also enjoy Cheechako baked chicken, Pasta Primavera, Chilkoot baked beans, wild-rice pilaf, a variety of fresh salads, corn bread and lemonade, coffee or tea. (Beer and wine are available for an additional charge.) Dine beside Salmon Creek in Southeast Alaska’s rain forest and listen to a local musician – a translucent roof protects you rain or shine. After dining, toast marshmallows over a crackling campfire and walk to view the beautiful Salmon Creek waterfall. Remnants of the historic Wagner Mine are evident here. Return to ship by shuttle bus. Please note: Tour not suitable for wheelchairs due to uneven terrain at the salmon bake. Bring warm jacket. Restrooms are available.

Alaska Salmon Bake at Gold Creek, Juneau, Alaska
Alaska Salmon Bake at Gold Creek, Juneau, Alaska

The area was wonderfully spaced out, with soothing folk music (performed by Betsy Sims of the Glacier Erratics) and plenty o’ options for food as well as seating.

The picnic area
The picnic area

We started off with fresh, clam chowder, then, made our way to the buffet station where a bevy of choices awaited us…

Wild-rice pilaf and Chilkoot baked beans
Wild-rice pilaf and Chilkoot baked beans

Corn bread
Corn bread

Penne Pasta Primavera
Penne Pasta Primavera

Cheechako baked chicken
Cheechako baked chicken

Orange wedges and pasta salad
Orange wedges and pasta salad

Caesar's salad
Caesar’s salad

… before making our way to the main attraction, the salmon, baked over the open alder wood fire.

One of the chefs prepping the salmon to be grilled
One of the chefs prepping the salmon to be grilled

Salmon pieces ready to be gobbled up!
Salmon pieces ready to be gobbled up!

Salmon patron comin' to get his
Salmon patron comin’ to get his

After loading our plates up, we found a seat to enjoy our meal. I’ll let ya guess which plate was mine. *grin*

Normal plate
Normal plate

My monstah plate
My monstah plate

There was a dreamy glaze that they used over the salmon, and believe you me, it was to die for! We concluded that it was some kind of concoction made up of what tasted like butter and brown sugar.

Salmon glaze
Salmon glaze

Unbelievably, we still had room for dessert: a light, sweet blueberry treat.

Blueberry dessert
Blueberry dessert

On the backside of the salmon bake area, in an inconspicuous corner, a trail presented itself.

Where does this trail go?
Where does this trail go?

Walking alongside a river to our left, we approached a sign that gave us a hint.

Salmon Falls sign
Salmon Falls sign

At the end of the short, several minute walk, we arrived at the crown jewel: Salmon Falls. What a gorgeous, post-dinner spot!

Salmon Falls, Gold Creek, Juneau, Alaska
Salmon Falls, Gold Creek, Juneau, Alaska

Miscellaneous old school relics surrounded the area near the falls to take you back to the historic gold panning days.

Gold panning equipment
Gold panning equipment

Panning for gold
Panning for gold

Pelton Wheel - Some old school mining contraption ;)
Pelton Wheel – Some old school mining contraption 😉

Chilkoot mine
Chilkoot mine

With some time to spare, we decided to cook up some marshmallows – over their open campfire – before our shuttle arrived to take us back to the boat…

Where's the marshmallow you ask? It fell off!
Where’s the marshmallow you ask? It fell off! LOL!

… the perfect way to close out day 4 of our Alaskan adventure!

Roasting marshmallows over the open campfire
Roasting marshmallows over the open campfire

Part I |  Part II  | Part III | Part IV

Ship’s Ahoy! – Experiencing an Alaskan Cruise for the Very First Time – Part I

August 1, 2009

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV

For someone who’s spent his entire life on an island completely surrounded by water, it’s amazing that your boy has never traveled much on one of them floaty things… What are they called now? A yes, a boat.

I mean there were those times on fiberglass-infested kayaks, small fishing boats, and touristy catamarans all over Hawaii, or that local ferry in Seattle, or even that Honshu to Kyuushu hovercraft in Japan… but nothing really to write home about.

So when the fam wanted to get together for a little family bonding on the water – Alaskan Cruise ship style, I was in like flint!

Now because the ship’s first port of call was out of the Port of Seattle (Smith Cove Cruise Terminal on Pier 91 to be exact), we “Hawaiians” had to fly over to our Northwest neighbor in order to start our Alaskan adventure.

Ain’t no thang. All it meant was that we’d have a bonus night (going) and whole day (coming back) in the Emerald City. Sa-weet! Two vacays in one!

After a quick stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites SeaTac – which was preceded by a high class meal at the Silver Dollar Casino Restaurant & Lounge, and followed by a visit to the “International Festival” at nearby Angle Lake Park the next morning, we were shuttled off to the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal.

Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, Pier 91 - Seattle, Washington
Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, Pier 91 – Seattle, Washington

Much like the airport terminals across the country, this seaport terminal could get confusing and hectic real quick if you aren’t paying attention.

Choose the right boat!
Choose the right boat!

Expect to stand in line for like 20-30 minutes.
Expect to stand in line for like 20-30 minutes.

Following the long wait and mandatory paperwork, we were ready to board yo!

Sign for Holland America Line's ms Westerdam (7 Day Alaskan Explorer)
Sign for Holland America Line’s ms Westerdam (7 Day Alaskan Explorer)

Not sure if this is typical of cruiselines, or we were just waaay too early, but our rooms were not ready when we got on the ship. We decided to kill some time familiarizing ourselves with our home for the next 7 days, and its many amenities.

The Lido Bar
The Lido Bar

The Sea View Pool
The Sea View Pool

Alas, our rooms were ready… If you’re claustrophobic, your stateroom may be a bit tight for you. Check it.

View from the "hallway" to the bed (front door is behind)
View from the “hallway” to the bed (front door is behind)

View from the "bedroom" to the hallway and bathroom
View from the “bedroom” to the hallway and bathroom

Pretty tight quarters for the potty and shower/tub, but it worked.
Pretty tight quarters for the potty and shower/tub, but it worked.

Our luggage was not delivered to our room yet and we wondered where in the heck it was. Turning the corner to get to the elevator answered all of our questions.

Mystery solved: the pile of luggage (ours is in there somewhere) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Mystery solved: the pile of luggage (ours is in there somewhere) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: If you love your luggage, buy a hard case. They stack everyone’s luggage near the elevator, on the floor you’re on, before room delivery.

Before we could even catch our breath, it was time for the all-ship, mandatory (yes mandatory!) safety training, where we geared up in our lifejackets (provided in each room) and proceeded to the 3rd floor deck for some instruction.

Cousin Evan in a sea of orange
Cousin Evan in a sea of orange

After roll call (yes, roll call! 😛 ), we were trained on what to do in case of an emergency. Although it was supposed to be serious, we were able to find humor in our fashion.

This is how we roll [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
This is how we roll [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: Be sure to study the chart on the back of your room’s door. It shows the quickest, shortest route to your designated meeting area outside, in addition to how to properly wear your life jacket.

Emergency Information on Holland America room door
Emergency Information on Holland America room door

Following the training sesh, we further explored the ship, discovering the Hydro Pool, Thermal Suites, Fitness Center, Lido Pool, and all-important basketball court!

Going left on the Brother-In-Law
Going left on the Brother-In-Law

Brother-In-Law made the mistake of challenging the Sugimotos to a 2-on-2 game of hoops, which led to the following victory and defeat photos. *grin*

2-on-2 champs! [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
2-on-2 champs! [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Maybe next time? :) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Maybe next time? 🙂 [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: If you try to hoop it up and it’s insanely windy, don’t give up. The wind up there on the 11th floor varies, depending on the weather and what day of the cruise you’re on.

Before long, it was time to get ready for dinner. Since it was casual night, we decided to just eat BBQ food (served next to the Lido Pool) and follow that up with some dancing at the Northern Lights Nightclub on the 3rd floor.

Party animals aboard the ms. Westerdam
Party animals aboard the ms. Westerdam

Holland America’s reputation is that it is more for the older crowd, and nowhere was that more apparent than the empty nightclub that night. We owned the dance floor baby! Later, we were told that formal nights are when the club (and everywhere else) gets crowded.

Ed’s Tip: Party on formal nights. You’ll have more company.

Every morning, you’re greeted with a “Today at a Glance” daily itinerary in your room’s mailbox. Itemizing various activities hour by hour, you’re never short of possibilities to fill your day (e.g. Basketball Shootout, Ping Pong Challenge, No Limit Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournament, Bingo, Digital Workshops, Wine Tasting, Culinary Arts Presentations, Broadway-esque shows, etc.).

On day two, we decided to make it a true vacation and fill our time with long overdue pampering, courtesy of room service for breakfast and the Hydro Pool and Thermal Suites for hard core relaxation.

Room Service for breakfast
Room Service for breakfast

The Hydro Pool
The Hydro Pool

Our view from the Thermal Suites (beds are heated)
Our view from the Thermal Suites (beds are heated)

Ed’s Tip: Part of your fees includes a daily charge of $11 for tip. Since you’re paying for it anyway, you might as well order up room service for those times when you just don’t feel like going out. For the Hydro Pool/Thermal Suites package ($40 per person), order this to start the morning of a full day on the cruise (no docking) to make the most of your money. This way, you’ll have all day and night for in and out privileges. For the Thermal Suites, try to pick an off-peak time to go. With just 6 beds, you will hardly ever find a bed open during peak hours.

And then it was formal night!

I was probably in the minority on this one being that I was fairly excited. How often do we get to play dress up and grind good kine eats like this?

The wifey and I on formal night at the Vista Dining Room
The wifey and I on formal night at the Vista Dining Room

The Crab Cake was a winner for all of us. I ordered two for good measure.
The Crab Cake was a winner for all of us. I ordered two for good measure.

Surf and Turf combo
Surf and Turf combo

Crab Legs!
Crab Legs!

Ed’s Tip: If you’re a big eater, portions will be small. You may want to order up several rounds to satisfy the ol’ appetite.

But don’t forget to leave room for dessert!

Leanne and Lee enjoying their dessert
Leanne and Lee enjoying their dessert

... But not as much as us!
… But not as much as us!

After squeezing in another session at the Thermal Suites, we decided to put day 2 to a close in preparation for the next day’s festivities.

Day 3 called for us to turn our clocks back one hour (from Seattle time to Alaska time) and involved many on-boat activities, including the highlight: majestic Glacier Bay.

Huge glacier wall near Glacier Bay
Huge glacier wall near Glacier Bay

My attempt at an artsy fartsy shot near Glacier Bay
My attempt at an artsy fartsy shot near Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay, Alaska [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Glacier Bay, Alaska [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Glacier near Glacier Bay (notice the relative size of the ship in the water and the gushing waterfall in the cave?) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Glacier near Glacier Bay (notice the relative size of the ship in the water and the gushing waterfall in the cave?) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Family shot in Glacier Bay
Family shot in Glacier Bay

Ed’s Tip: Give yourself enough time to eat so you’re not rushing to finish eating in order to get a good view of the scenery. The Glacier Bay Park Ranger Commentary, for us, began at 1PM (check your daily schedule). Also, dress warm. During certain hours, staying outdoors to experience Glacier Bay for long periods of time may prove to be too cold for some.

And then, it was time for socializing with our tour group at the Captain’s Corner of the Crow’s Nest (10th floor Observation deck)…

Our tour group with one Michael W Perry! [Photo Credit: Mark & Carolyn Yasuda]
Our tour group with one Michael W Perry! [Photo Credit: Mark & Carolyn Yasuda]

… with dinner to follow at the Vista Dining Room again (9th floor).

Sitka Sound Dungeness Crab and Artichoke en Bouchee appetizer - Tender pieces of crab and artichoke, braised in shellfish sauce and served in a pastry shell, topped with lemon-Hollandaise sauce
Sitka Sound Dungeness Crab and Artichoke en Bouchee appetizer – Tender pieces of crab and artichoke, braised in shellfish sauce and served in a pastry shell, topped with lemon-Hollandaise sauce

Fairbanks Seafood Platter appetizer - A fine selection of Alaskan spotted shrimp, salmon jerky, clams, hot-smoked salmon and smoked halibut.
Fairbanks Seafood Platter appetizer – A fine selection of Alaskan spotted shrimp, salmon jerky, clams, hot-smoked salmon and smoked halibut.

Ketchikan Fisherman's Chowder - Halibut, salmon, cod, shrimp, thyme, celebry, red-skin potato and corn braised in a creamy clam soup, served with sourdough croutons.
Ketchikan Fisherman’s Chowder – Halibut, salmon, cod, shrimp, thyme, celebry, red-skin potato and corn braised in a creamy clam soup, served with sourdough croutons.

Reindeer Sausage and Vegetable Soup - Rich beef broth with sausage, diced carrot, onion, potato, green beans, peas, cabbage, fresh herbs and finished with sherry pepper to add a little extra spice.
Reindeer Sausage and Vegetable Soup – Rich beef broth with sausage, diced carrot, onion, potato, green beans, peas, cabbage, fresh herbs and finished with sherry pepper to add a little extra spice.

Halibut Caddy Ganty entrée - Topped with sour cream, onion and fresh breadcrumbs, served over olive oil red-skin mashed potatoes, broccoli florets and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Halibut Caddy Ganty entrée – Topped with sour cream, onion and fresh breadcrumbs, served over olive oil red-skin mashed potatoes, broccoli florets and roasted cherry tomatoes.

Razor Clam, Bay Scallops and Manila Clam over Noodles entrée - Tender egg noodles, diced tomato, garlic and parsley, tossed in a white wine cream sauce, topped with sautéed razor clam, bay scallops and streamed Manila clams.
Razor Clam, Bay Scallops and Manila Clam over Noodles entrée – Tender egg noodles, diced tomato, garlic and parsley, tossed in a white wine cream sauce, topped with sautéed razor clam, bay scallops and streamed Manila clams.

Ahhh… the end of day 3. By now, you’ll be getting used to the VERY long days.

Bright blue skies at almost a quarter to 10PM!
Bright blue skies at almost a quarter to 10PM!

Tomorrow, we are expected to see land for the first time in 3 days, as we hit Juneau Alaska at 6AM in the morning. See ya bright and early!

To be continued…

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV