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Daily Reports from the Westerdam to Alaska and Denali


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14 hours ago, oakridger said:

I mostly travel solo.  On my last Noordam cruise in April/May I took a folded notecard that said "I'll be right back!" and put it at my place when I left the table at the Lido/pool or bar.  The waiters thought it was a great idea and no passengers took my seat!  I'll bring it with me on all cruises from now on.  I may even get fancy and make a printed and laminated card. 

 

~Nancy

 

Love that idea.

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3 hours ago, Krazy Kruizers said:

Know that we couldn't do that kind of a bus ride any more.  Glad we did them when we were younger.

 

Rooms sound very basic.  They must not want you to spend any time in them.  The lunch stop sounded great.

 

Love the report.

The rooms aren't all the same.  We did the triple Denali in May -- our room in Denali had a nice sitting area w/couch and chair besides a bedroom.  Our traveling companions had the same kind of room OP has, 2 bedrooms.  So just the luck of the draw!

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51 minutes ago, Cruising-along said:

The rooms aren't all the same.  We did the triple Denali in May -- our room in Denali had a nice sitting area w/couch and chair besides a bedroom.  Our traveling companions had the same kind of room OP has, 2 bedrooms.  So just the luck of the draw!

We have the Double Denali next month and have our 10 year old grandson with us, we could use a little more space for the three of us. What can we expect for Denali accommodations?

 

Thanks,

Terry

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20 minutes ago, terrydtx said:

We have the Double Denali next month and have our 10 year old grandson with us, we could use a little more space for the three of us. What can we expect for Denali accommodations?

 

Thanks,

Terry

Since there will be 3 of you, I would assume (hope) they would give you one of the 2-bedroom or at least a sofa bed.  In our case we and our traveling companions were just 2 to a room and yet they got 2 bedrooms. Granted, I don't remember seeing anyone who was 3 or more to a party, so they probably just got it because nobody else needed it. I thought the rooms were quite nice.

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On 6/9/2019 at 1:28 AM, Crew News said:

 

 

 

  • ·        I must reiterate that I learned that Specialty Restaurants can be made via HAL PCC and do not need to be prepaid.  I will try this when I return home and my December Nieuw Statendam dining reservations open.
  • ·       

Fabulous review.  Thank you.  I hope you enjoy Denali as much as we did last year.  I just emailed my PCC about this wonderful feature and this was his reply.  Is this in regards to your complimentary dining or ALL Specialty dining.  Thank you for any further clarification you can give me. 

 

Regarding onboard dining.  Unfortunately, they actually do still require a credit card to book in advance and to select specific nights.  A perk for being a “Five Star Mariner” is that they receive automatically a couple complimentary dinners on each sailing.  This may be where the discrepancy lies that he is mentioning his perk.  Could this possibly be it?  I apologize that we still don’t have a way to confirm without a credit card via the online reservation system.  

 

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5 hours ago, terrydtx said:

Crew News, we are on a Double Denali next month (D5C) but we are taking the train to Anchorage for the night and then the train the next day to Denali. Do you know what time the train passengers had to be off the ship to catch the train? Are train passengers also only allowed one suitcase per person to take to each hotel stop like the bus? We end up in Fairbanks after Denali.

 

Thanks in advance

 

Terry

 

The train folks left the ship at 6:30 AM and had the same luggage requirement of one piece for each stop with all other luggage meeting you at your last stop hotel.

 

There are two end-of-tour luggage tags:  "Meet me in Fairbanks" or "Meet me in Anchorage" for those pieces of luggage not going to Denali.

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1 minute ago, FlorenceItaly said:

Fabulous review.  Thank you.  I hope you enjoy Denali as much as we did last year.  I just emailed my PCC about this wonderful feature and this was his reply.  Is this in regards to your complimentary dining or ALL Specialty dining.  Thank you for any further clarification you can give me. 

 

Regarding onboard dining.  Unfortunately, they actually do still require a credit card to book in advance and to select specific nights.  A perk for being a “Five Star Mariner” is that they receive automatically a couple complimentary dinners on each sailing.  This may be where the discrepancy lies that he is mentioning his perk.  Could this possibly be it?  I apologize that we still don’t have a way to confirm without a credit card via the online reservation system.  

 

Making reservations via your PCC was the solution from the PG Hostess for Specialty Restaurants and was not applicable to the "freebies" reservations that must be made onboard. 

 

As with most things, I will believe it when I see it.  It seems that this not pre-paying reservation solution is not possible.  I will try with my PCC, too.

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4 minutes ago, Crew News said:

Making reservations via your PCC was the solution from the PG Hostess for Specialty Restaurants and was not applicable to the "freebies" reservations that must be made onboard. 

 

As with most things, I will believe it when I see it.  It seems that this not pre-paying reservation solution is not possible.  I will try with my PCC, too.

My PCC said he called Ship Services to make sure he was not missing something new.  Ship Services says there is no new way to do this.  Please update if you learn differently.  Thanks and have a wonderful rest of your trip.

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3 hours ago, CATandSQUID said:

We are doing the Land first in a couple weeks.  Where is the best place to purchase souvenoirs, specifically knives, totem poles (small), and canned salmon.  Thank you

 

Tongass Trading Company right on the pier in Ketchikan.  Most Tongass souvenirs are made in China but not all.  Ketchikan has a working salmon cannery so all stores will have canned salmon.

 

Tongass has  reindeer socks/hats/shirts/ties for kids and adults.  Same for bears, salmon, reindeer, eagles, etc.

Edited by Crew News
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The first full day in Denali began under warm, partly cloudy skies and the threat of rain did not materialize until nearly 5:00 PM.

 

Today was the Tundra Wilderness Tour for me.  Buses left every 15 minutes and attendance is taken for those boarding the bus. 

 

The 8-hour tour was truly amazing for wildlife viewing.  A baby moose was spotted near the Park entrance, caribou were spotted several times, and a mother grizzly with cub were seen only a few hundred yards away.  The highlight was a mother grizzly  and cub eating grass at the edge of the road in front of the bus.  They proceeded to walk within three feet down the side of the bus.  The bus was eerily silent and only the sounds of cameras taking photos of the bears broke that silence.  The bears ignored 40 humans just a few feet away.  For ten minutes, every inch of window space was filled with cameras and cell phones.

 

As the tour bus neared the parking lot entrance at the end of the tour, a female moose with two newborns strolled past the cars.  A few on the bus got pictures as we drove past with our windows up to avoid the newly-beginning showers.

 

The tour animals spotted included:  ravens, grizzly bears, caribou, golden eagles, and moose.

 

Dinner at the Karsten's house in Denali Square demonstrated huge food portions on every plate that passed near my table. 

 

Tomorrow is flightseeing around the big mountain with a glacier landing.  If my weather luck holds, I should get some good photos of the summit.

 

On a side note, I have decided to describe my dissatisfaction with the Westerdam Guest Services in spite of receiving an inscribed  ("thanks for sailing with us" from Hotel Director) cookbook during my last hours on board when I receive my end-of-cruise-survey.  I feel a responsibility to all 3,4,and 5-star Mariners to ensure the Sel de Mer Loyalty discounts are granted to those sailing on the Westerdam.

 

More tomorrow.

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4 hours ago, Crew News said:

Today was the Tundra Wilderness Tour for me.  Buses left every 15 minutes and attendance is taken for those boarding the bus

Just a couple of questions about the Tundra Tour, I am really enjoying your blog since we are doing this next month on the Noordam and I have learned so much on what to expect. For example nothing we have read said that only one suitcase per person can be taken to each hotel, we have hotels in Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. I am also glad we are on the train for the Seward to Anchorage and Denali trip instead of the bus.

 

Are seats assigned on the tour bus when you board?

Was the included box snack/lunch adequate for lunch or do you recommend the optional full lunch box from the resort? We will have our 10 year old grandson with us and he eats a  lot of food.

 

Thanks,

Terry

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5 hours ago, terrydtx said:

Just a couple of questions about the Tundra Tour, I am really enjoying your blog since we are doing this next month on the Noordam and I have learned so much on what to expect. For example nothing we have read said that only one suitcase per person can be taken to each hotel, we have hotels in Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. I am also glad we are on the train for the Seward to Anchorage and Denali trip instead of the bus.

 

Are seats assigned on the tour bus when you board?

Was the included box snack/lunch adequate for lunch or do you recommend the optional full lunch box from the resort? We will have our 10 year old grandson with us and he eats a  lot of food.

 

Thanks,

Terry

 

Here is a link on the HAL website that you will find very helpful:

 

https://www.hollandamerica.com/content/dam/hal/marketing-assets/manage-my-cruise-already-booked/faqs/Tour_Tips.pdf

 

Feel free to post any additional questions that I can answer.

 

The train is very slow, seats are assigned, and the food is really good.

 

TWT seats are not assigned.  There are two styles of buses:  one with sliding windows and one with drop-down windows from the top.  Buses have drop-down TV screens that will be inches from hour head if you sit underneath them.  The bus wheels are located more toward the middle of the bus, unlike normal tour buses.  Be careful to assure you are not seated over a wheel well or your knees will be higher than your waist. 

 

The seats are poorly designed for passengers on their knees to stick their camera lenses out of the open windows.  Bottled water is provided on the TWT so no need to bring your own.

 

TWT tours are numbered.  Appear early and get in the back of the previous tour line to be first on your tour and get a choice of seats based on the above criteria. 

 

There will be a snack box with cookies, beef stick, cookies, pretzels, almonds, and trail mix in airline - packs.  I survived with a few extra granola bars.  IMHO the box lunch was a waste of money for a sandwich and apple.  A lot depends on when your tour is scheduled and you won't find out until you arrive.  I ate a good breakfast at 9:00 AM at the Karsten's House just a short walk from my lodge and then at dinner at 6:00 PM. 

 

Wildlife avoid heat so early morning tours are much better than those in the heat of the day.  Caribou like snow patches to keep cool.  Moose live in trees to avoid the bears.  Grizzly bears are at the top of the survival chain and can be found anywhere. 

 

As a side note, the bus drivers told passengers with a fear of heights to ride on the driver's side of the bus EXCEPT the bus returns on the same road.

 

Enjoy your cruise planning.

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18 hours ago, Crew News said:

 

Tongass Trading Company right on the pier in Ketchikan.  Most Tongass souvenirs are made in China but not all.  Ketchikan has a working salmon cannery so all stores will have canned salmon.

 

Tongass has  reindeer socks/hats/shirts/ties for kids and adults.  Same for bears, salmon, reindeer, eagles, etc.

Thank You!  BTW, how was the temperature in the Westerdam MDR?

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56 minutes ago, CATandSQUID said:

Thank You!  BTW, how was the temperature in the Westerdam MDR?

 

Unlike most HAL ships, the MDR did not require any additional coverings.  The Lido Market was chilly with the aft deck doors opening and closing so often.

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26 minutes ago, Crew News said:

 

Thanks for the notification.  It is certain that I would not have known without your post.

 

I only saw the thread by accident and then noticed that their tagging hadn’t worked so I posted in case you hadn’t seen it.  Congratulations!

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My last full day in Denali National Park began under partly cloudy skies and ended the same.  Tomorrow’s forecast for my train ride to Anchorage is showers most of the way.  Of course, rain was predicted for every day of my land cruise and I have had sunshine almost every day.

Taking a shower taxed all of my engineering skills and ingenuity. While standing in the bathtub with the faucet water set to the ideal temperature, I realized there was no visible way to divert the water flow to the overhead shower.  After several minutes of twisting and turning every plumbing feature to no avail, I found that by holding my hand over the flowing faucet, I could temporarily activate the shower.   I discovered that if I rotated the faucet, pulled and twisted the inner workings of the faucet opening, the shower would activate.  Have I been living in a plumbing alternate universe to not know this?

A late breakfast at the Karsten’s House in Denali Square with fellow CC members started my day.

The Fly Denali shuttle picked three of us up at the McKinley Resort parking lot and delivered us to the small Healy, Alaska, airport.  What a surprise that only three passengers would be riding in the Beaver aircraft!

Our pilot confirmed that he had already made a glacier landing early this morning and foresaw no problem landing again.  After donning our snow boots over our shoes, we headed for the plane and the pilot told us to remove our coats to leave them in the back of the plane until landing on the glacier.  I was given the copilot seat.  Strapped into our seats, I had a unique view of the details of flying the aircraft.  What was a great seat to see the scenery of Denali proved to be bad for photography with the smaller and curved windows of the cockpit.  We did see the top of Denali before landing on the up slope of a glacier snow field where two other planes were preparing to depart. Our pilot turned the plane to face downhill before we stepped out onto the snow.

The pilot wore only a t-shirt so I left my coat in the back of the plane and did not feel cold even at 6000 feet in the deep snow.

As recorded the first aircraft takeoff down the slope, I saw it disappear for a few seconds before reappearing above the edge of the hill.  Knowing what to expect, my second recorded takeoff was better quality.  After 30 minutes walking around the snow and taking photos, it was our turn to climb aboard the plane and experience the sudden jerk as the plane escaped the deep snow.  We swept down the hill and lifted softly into the valley of glacier rocks.  After our two flight hours, we returned to the Healy airport for another smooth landing/takeoff.  This glacier landing ranks right at the top of my Alaska experiences with dog sledding in the snow.

Dinner was at the Karsten’s house, just a short walk from my lodge.  Again, I noted the huge portions of every meal that passed my table near the windows.  Lots of guests were enjoying the warm fires, rocking chairs, and singer on the patio.

The rest of my evening will be spent repacking my 80-pound suitcase for its truck ride to  Anchorage at 7:00 AM.  My backpack with camera and lenses, MP3 player, and snacks leaves with me for the train station at 8:45 for the 9-hour ride to Anchorage. 

After 26 hours of sitting on buses/trains, I will have the memories and photos of grizzly bears mere feet from my camera lens and a glacier landing in deep snow.

 

More tomorrow.

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