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Westerdam Alaskan Cruise/Tour Jun 2 - 13 2019

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June 6th Skagway continued

A bus driver's holiday


We only stayed in Carcross for about 30 minutes and then we boarded the bus at 2 PM for the drive to the train station in Frazer, B.C.  I retired from the transit industry many years ago and long rides on a bus are not my cup of tea anymore.  On the drive to Frazer we did see two bears but again our driver didn’t stop or slow down so we could get pictures.  This is the best picture I could get of one of the bears.




We arrived at the train station in Frazer around 3:15.  The passengers on our bus were assigned to two different train cars of your choosing.  We chose the car farthest from the engine and the train departed the station at 3:30.




It wasn’t long after leaving Frazer that the scenery became too beautiful for words.








I loved riding in these old railroad cars.




On the way back to Skagway we passed an old wooden railroad trestle and a beautiful little river.








Continued in my next post.

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June 6th Skagway continued

A bus driver's holiday


Just on the outskirts of Skagway, U.S. Custom agents boarded the train and went from car to car inspecting everyone's passport.


The train disembarked passengers in town but not by the cruise port.  We had the option of staying in town and walking to the ship or taking an awaiting bus back to the ship.  We chose the bus since it was a long walk through town back to the ship.  The Westerdam looks so big yet it is small compared to the newer NCL and Royal Caribbean ships.




We were back onboard just after 5 PM and I was tired.  We ate dinner in the MDR and once again the Maitre d asked us if there would be 14 for dinner.  Joyce had tried to cancel those reservations three times and I know others tried to cancel also but to no avail.  Regardless we were seated at a table near the windows so we had dinner with a beautiful view.




After dinner we went back to our cabin to relax for the rest of the evening.  The Disney cruise ship left port around 8 PM.




As the Westerdam departed Skagway I took one more picture of the port with the mountains in the background.




Up next Glacier Bay.  I'll try to post it tonight.

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Following.  Really enjoying your narrative.  Wish I had the talent to story tell like you.

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3 hours ago, ncshp955 said:

Following.  Really enjoying your narrative.  Wish I had the talent to story tell like you.


7 hours ago, cat shepard said:

Wow! It is not just your amazing pics, but your narrative that captivates!


Thank you both, you are way too kind.

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June 7th Glacier Bay

A wonderful day for most of our group.


I wasn’t going to write about this but I think I will to remind folks you never know what will be tomorrow and the importance of trip insurance. Yesterday (June 6th) my brother-in-law had a very inconvenient (non-life threatening) medical issue.  I’m not going to go into great detail but the issue ruined their trip and they missed the entire land portion of their tour.  The issue required a couple of trips to the ship’s medical center.  A very expensive cab ride from Seward to Anchorage, two trips to the ER in Anchorage, and then they had to find a last minute flight back home.  My brother-in-law is doing much better now but this issue points out how unexpected things can happen.


Now back to our regularly scheduled program.


I slept in again this morning and didn’t wake up until 6 AM and Joyce woke up soon after.  Since the buffet was already open we went there for our morning cup of coffee and tea.


After breakfast we went back to our cabin to spend most of the day on our balcony as we cruised Glacier Bay.  The cloud cover this morning was heavy and low hanging.  It didn’t look like it would be a good day weather wise.


We did see a few seals swimming in the water.  I mentioned this before and I’m going to say it again, bring binoculars with you.




We cruised past a number of very high rocky cliffs.  To give a perspective, in the picture below you can see a fishing boat in the water on the left.




On some of the rocks at the base of the cliffs there would be seals…binoculars are a must.




I don’t know when, but at some point a ranger/naturalist boarded the ship and described through the ship’s PA system what to look for and what we were seeing.  If you’re in your cabin like we were then you want to turn your television to the channel showing the bow camera view and turn up the volume to hear the ranger.  As we cruised, the lower hanging clouds began to lift and you could see higher up on the cliffs.


Our cabin was on the starboard side of the ship and at one point it was announced there were mountain goats on the side of one of these cliffs.  To the naked eye they looked like small white specs on the cliff…bring binoculars.  It was hard for me to find them with my camera but I did get one good shot of the goats.




By mid-morning the clouds began to break up and mountain peaks began appearing along with a hint of blue sky.  My pictures don’t do justice to the beauty of our views.




The skies continued to clear and the deeper we cruised into Glacier Bay the more spectacular the scenery became.  We cruised past other glaciers and I’m sure we were told the names of them but I don’t remember.  I was too awestruck by nature to listen to the ranger.






Continued in my next post.


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June 7th Glacier Bay continued

A wonderful day for most of our group.


We arrived at Margerie Glacier at 10:30 AM with clear blue skies and the captain turned our ship so that our balcony was facing the glacier.  It was stunningly beautiful.






After about 20 minutes the captain turned the ship 180 degrees so that the port side was facing the glacier.  He made this maneuver a couple more times and I thought it was funny that when the ship’s thrusters were used the sea gulls went crazy getting quick and easy meals.




Although the air was chilly, we had a perfect morning for viewing the glacier.  I thought we were hearing distant thunder while we were there but it was the noise of minor calving and ice cracking that I was hearing.  I can’t imagine how loud it must be when a major calving happens.  We spent a little over an hour at the glacier and just before we departed a small tourist boat and private boat cruised to the glacier.




As we were leaving that arm of Glacier Bay the Coral Princess was cruising toward the glacier.  It’s my understanding that only two cruise ships per day are allowed in Glacier Bay.




Just before we took time to eat a quick lunch I spotted an eagle perched on a cliff.  Did I mention you should bring binoculars on your cruise?  You'll be glad you did.




The scenery continued to be awesome after leaving Margerie Glacier.  We passed more glacier areas and I forgot those names also.  John Hopkins Glacier come to mind but I could be completely wrong.  If I’m wrong feel free to correct me.  As I said, I was too awestruck by scenery to bother with writing in my note book.






Continued in my next post.

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June 7th Glacier Bay continued.

A wonderful day for most of our group.


I’m not even going to guess what the name of this glacier was.




To give a perspective of the glacier's size, I've included a couple of photos of the large tourist boat that was cruising in the area of this glacier also.  The boat can be seen on the left of the picture.






Later in the afternoon we headed out to the open ocean and left the awesome mountain views behind.  We had been truly blessed with beautiful weather for our visit to Glacier Bay.




I forgot to mention that our room steward had set out these lap blankets so we would be warm on our balcony as we visited Glacier Bay.  Did you notice what's on the table?  That's right, binoculars...bring 'em.




At 3 PM we went to the Classic Afternoon Tea in the dining room.  Joyce loves hot tea and she was thrilled that this was offered on the ship.  On each table there were tiered trays of goodies to enjoy with the tea.  It just makes one feel civilized and sophisticated having afternoon tea.  As I sipped my tea I tried to hold my pinky finger away from the cup in hopes of looking very sophisticated.  I don’t think I fooled anyone.




It was Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar and we joined one of the other couples with us for a little happiness.  When our drinks were served our waitress also brought some appetizers on a tray.  Sweet, can things get any better?




On the dinner menu for tonight was surf and turf which was filet mignon and lobster tail.  Things just got better!  Both Joyce and I ordered it and since Joyce doesn’t like lobster I made the great sacrifice and ate her tail too.  I took this picture after our waiter had already removed the tail from the shell.




After dinner we had time to go to the 7 PM show in the Mainstage Theater.  Tonight’s show was the Illusionist James Cielen.  His show was very entertaining and definitely worth going to see.


At some point today I developed a dry hacking cough.  Fortunately I was able to control the coughing with cough drops.  In the theater I noticed other people were coughing too.   I was hoping I wasn’t coming down with the cruise crud.


When the show was over we went back to our cabin and relaxed for the rest of the evening.  Yikes, there was a monkey in our room.




Tomorrow morning I'll post about our sea day.

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You have the best story telling ability that keeps me coming back for more!  You and your camera are brilliant!  The shots you got were amazingly beautiful!  We just got back last month from our first Alaska cruise and wish we could've had your advice of "bring the binoculars"  because you are so right in that they can make a huge difference to your experience.  Thank you so very much for taking us with you on your adventure!

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Really enjoying your review, fantastic photos, bringing back many happy memories.

Thank you.

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3 hours ago, SempreMare said:

Hello @Oakman58,  Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.


Question about your Juneau Whale watching excursion with the too-big boat: 


Do you know if this is the company who ran it? 



Yes the boat was too big with too many passengers for good whale watching.  We booked this through Holland America so I don't know the name of the company that actually operated the excursion.

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June 8th Sea Day

I think we're party crashers.


I was up early as usual.  When I stepped out onto the balcony it was chilly and the skies were cloudy but the ocean was very calm.  Even though the buffet didn’t open until 7 AM I was able to fill our mugs with coffee and hot water in the buffet.


As we had done all week, we ate breakfast in the buffet this morning.  Another thing that I really liked about the Westerdam, every morning there were “newspapers” available with news from various countries in the language of that country.  I’ve really been impressed with the little things that Holland America does for its passengers.




There was a meeting at 8 AM this morning in the Mainstage Theater where they would explain how luggage would be handled for those of us continuing with a land excursion.  Oh boy, there were quite a few people with the same cough I had.  Not good.


After the meeting we went out for a stroll on the promenade deck.  We only did one lap because of the chill in the air and we really weren’t dressed for it.  I was impressed with the number of deck chairs on the promenade deck.  NCL ships would only have a handful of chairs available on the promenade deck.




We headed up to the Explorers Lounge and bought some hot chocolate to warm our bones.  Then we went back to our room to change into better clothes for the Mariner Society Lunch we had been invited to.  We have never cruised with Holland before so we were at a loss as to why we received this invitation.




I’ve been to Norwegian’s Latitudes parties for members and it was nothing special.  I considered not going to the lunch but one of the couples that joined us on the cruise were members of the Mariners Society and wanted us to join them for the lunch.  I’m glad we did.




I ordered the beef pot roast and it was delicious.




Just before dessert was served a young man wearing a very retro uniform came by our table and gave us all a ceramic coaster complete with certificate of authenticity.  Now I did feel like a party crasher.




I loved the retro uniform that young man was wearing.




After lunch we went back to our cabin to start packing some of our clothes.  Tomorrow we would begin the land portion of our tour.  When I got back to the cabin I was feeling fatigued so I took a short nap.  My cough wasn’t getting any worse but it wasn’t getting better either.


At some point in the afternoon we went to the shops and loaded up on cough drops for me.


At this point my notes got sketchy because I was very fatigued for the rest of the day.  We had dinner in the dining room and I don’t know if we ate alone or had company.  Here are a couple of pics of the menu that night.






After dinner we went back to our cabin to finish packing.  Our bags had to be in the hallway by midnight.  One bag would be going directly to Fairbanks (dirty clothes) and the other would meet us in Anchorage the next day.  I think I had the bags in the hall by 8 PM and then I went to bed.  Since we had a meeting time in the morning at 6:05 AM in the Mainstage Theater we would be getting up early enough to have a breakfast before leaving the ship.


Next up later today Anchorage.


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2 hours ago, Oakman58 said:


Yes the boat was too big with too many passengers for good whale watching.  We booked this through Holland America so I don't know the name of the company that actually operated the excursion.


Having been disappointed by the mob scene on whale watching tours before, I now will only book a small boat (6 or less) tour in Juneau and Hoonah.

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Just got caught up with your reports -- which are great.


Looks like you really enjoyed your cruise.


Hope your cough gets better for the land portion.

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The Mariner lunch menu looks a lot better than previous ones, I may reconsider and start going again 🙂

Hope your cough gets better, smart to try to rest -- the land portion is tiring.  

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looking forward to hearing about your land portion. I have only cruised . In August we will be doing  our first land and sea combo. However we are doing the land portion first. Seattle to Seattle.   could use any tips .

Edited by lv2teach

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June 9th Anchorage

Disembarkation and Land Cruising.


We were up at 4:30 AM and after dressing and doing our other morning duties we went to the buffet for breakfast.  The buffet had opened at 5 AM this morning.


From breakfast we headed directly to the theater.  Wow, there were a lot of folks with the same cough I had in the theater.  Our group was escorted off the ship and to our train to Anchorage which was waiting right at the port.


The glass domed train car had booth type seating, two people facing forward and two backward with a table in between.  Since there weren’t many passengers in our car just about everyone was able to sit facing forward.




The train departed Seward at 6:45 AM.  Each car had a rail guide who would describe the areas we traveled through and what to look for.  The rail guide also helped serve drinks and food that was available for purchase.  The scenery on the way to Anchorage was absolutely stunning.










The train arrived in Anchorage at 11:25 AM and we were told the rooms weren’t ready at our Westmark Hotel.  At the train depot there were buses that took us to the Holland America hospitality room that was located in the Marriott Hotel.




Just before 4 PM our group was called to board a bus for the short ride to the Westmark Hotel.  We were assigned to room 418 and wow, I wasn’t expecting such a nice room.  Our luggage was already in the room.






Continued in my next post.

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June 9th Anchorage continued

Disembarkation and Land Cruising


At 6:15 PM we were picked up at the hotel for our flightseeing excursion of Anchorage.  This excursion was through Rust’s Flying Service.  After checking in, everyone on our flight had to get on a scale and get weighed.  OH SURE, after 7 days on a cruise ship and eating like a pig, now you weigh me.  Here’s a picture of the plane we would be flying in.




After boarding the plane our pilot gave us a little briefing and then we were off.




Once in the air I couldn’t believe how many private aircraft there were in this area.




Everyone on the plane had their own headset so that could ask the pilot any questions they might have.  The headsets were voice activated so there was no learning curve.




Soon we were flying over the mountains and the views were awesome.






At one point the pilot pointed out some sheep on the side of a mountain.  The goats are the white dots to the right of the photo.




The 30 minute flight ended and we headed back to the airport.  This excursion was well worth the money.  Back at the airport we boarded a van and we were driven back to our hotel.


We ate dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and then called it a night.


Stopping for now.

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June 10th Denali

Riding the rails.


We were up a 5 AM and we had to have our bags outside our door by 6 AM.




We ate at the hotel’s breakfast buffet.  I believe the prices were $14.95 for continental and $19.95 for the hot buffet.  After looking at the offerings on the continental buffet we both chose to go with the hot breakfast.


I was definitely coming down with something and not feeling on top of the world this morning.  At 8:30 we boarded a bus and were driven to the train station.  The train departed the station for Denali at 9:20.


The glass domed railcars for this leg of our journey had two levels, the upper level was passenger seating and the lower level was a dining room.  Each car had a rail guide and the young man we had was very good.  Here’s a picture of our rail guide.




After leaving Anchorage the mountain scenery seemed to disappear.  We did pass by a number of pretty lakes and streams.




Because of the limited seating in the dining room, lunch service was done in groups.  Our lunch had been comped by our travel agent so no cost to us.  By this time I was feeling pretty tired again and I didn’t eat much for lunch.


The scenery for most of the train trip was unremarkable.  It wasn’t until we got closer to Denali NP that we began seeing mountains in the distance again.






Our train arrived at the station in Denali at 5 PM and by this time I was feeling pretty bad and very tired.  Also it was raining harder than we had experienced on this entire trip.  At the station we boarded a bus for the short ride to the lodge we would be staying at.


It was a little before 6 PM when we got to our room.  At this point I don’t remember how we were assigned a room or even how we got there.  My note taking ended.  I did manage to take one picture of the room we were assigned.




Pizza delivery was available at the lodge so at 7 PM Joyce called and ordered a pizza and beer for us.  It took an hour for the pizza to arrive but our drinks had been forgotten.  It took another 20 minutes for the beer to show up.


I ate one piece of pizza, laid down on the bed, and passed out.


June 11th Denali National Park

I become Rip Van Winkle.


Joyce woke me up at 8:00 AM and told me the Denali Urgent Care Center would be open at 9.  She called the front desk and they sent a van over to take us to the center.  There were already a number of people waiting to see the doctor when we arrived.


Joyce was beginning to cough too so when I signed in for treatment, she signed in too.  I was prescribed something for my cough and an antibiotic.  Joyce was prescribed something for her cough.  Fortunately they dispensed the drugs right there at the center.  This photo taken inside the center is the only photo I took that day.




Joyce called for a van to pick us up again and we were driven back to our room.  My feeling of fatigue was overwhelming and I laid down on the bed again and went to sleep. We didn’t get to do the included Tundra Wilderness Tour nor did we do the Covered Wagon Adventure with Back Country Dining excursion we had paid for.  I was down for the count.  I’m still bummed about that.


Up next Fairbanks


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Love your report and great pictures.


Sorry your cold has gotten you down and you missed a couple of excursions.


Hope you get well soon. It is no fun to be sick when on vacation.

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This cruise crud seems awful. Friends of ours who were on the Westerdam in late June were transported with other ill people from the ship to recover for a few days near Anchorage before traveling on to Denali. 

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June 12th Fairbanks

I'm alive...somewhat.


I was feeling just a bit better this morning but not great.  We boarded our bus at 8:30 for the ride to Fairbanks.  The scenery on the ride to Fairbanks was unremarkable for the most part.  There were a couple of scenic areas though.




Our included excursion today would be a riverboat tour on the Discovery III, a 900 passenger boat.  Our lunch was included with this tour and we would be eating in a dining room before boarding the boat. 




When we arrived at Steamboat Landing on the river we were herded into a large dining hall where we would dine with about 400 or so of our closest friends.  This was family style dining and we were seated at picnic tables that could seat 8 or 10.




After lunch we strolled through the gift shop and didn’t realize boarding had already begun for the Riverboat.  Darn, by the time we got on the boat the best seats were already taken.


At 2 PM the sternwheeler Discovery III departed the dock and employees came out to wave farewell as we began our 3 hour tour on the Chena River.  Glad to be rid of us I’m thinking.




I don’t think we had gone more than 100 yards when it was announced there would be a bush pilot floatplane takeoff and landing demonstration.  Naturally we were on the wrong side of the boat to get a good view.  HINT: grab a seat on the port side for a good view of the demonstration.




As we continued on the river an immature Bald Eagle was spotted high up in a tree.




We also came upon the Discovery I tied up to shore by the house owned by the Binkley family.  It was Jim Binkley who started the Discovery tours in 1950.




The matriarch of the family, Mrs. Binkley, was standing by the river and gave us a hearty wave as we passed by.  Notice that the satellite TV dish on the left of the picture is pointed at the horizon.  Fairbanks is so far north that the dishes have to be pointed at the horizon to get a TV signal.




Continued in my next post.

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So glad that the medication has (kind of) kicked in, and you are able to get on today's excursion. I'm thinking that a (new) bucket list trip is the Rocky Mountaineer, followed by the cruise/land trip from HAL. That's going to have to wait for about 5 years so that I can save up some $$$$$$.

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