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From Cool Alaska to the Balmy South Pacific, Sail with Bill & Mary Ann on the Volendam 9-6-23 to11-22-23 77 days


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Report #1   September 5, 2023   Tuesday   Getting ready to go again   Home temperature:  89 degrees  Part#1 Of 1…….0 Pictures


It seems like just yesterday that we came back from the 2023 Grand World Voyage.  That was mid- May, and the days of summer have flown by faster than we could have imagined.   It is our busiest time of year with the cleaning up of the winter’s weeds, and fixing things.  The biggest job we had was taking down several old pine trees that decided to die after 40 plus years.  We got halfway through the job, but have several stacks of split firewood for many winters to come.   The rest can wait until we get back.  And besides, the weather should be a lot cooler in November than it was working in the hottest part of the summer.


So, we are heading to Alaska on the Volendam beginning tomorrow.  We booked three back-to-back 7 day cruises, followed by the 56 day Tales of the South Pacific.  Packing for this combination has been challenging.  Alaska will be chilly and wet, which is most welcomed after such a hot July and August we experience here.  Well maybe not the wet part, but cooler no doubt.  Then we will head south with a stop in San Francisco, then San Diego where we sail round trip to the South Pacific.  It is a voyage we have done often, but never tire of the beauty and exploring.  Looking forward to boarding the Volendam after our first cruise on her in 2002.  Since it is a sister ship to the Amsterdam, it will be like being back home, but with different decorations.


We tried to squeeze everything in three suitcases, but there was no way, especially with the arctic jackets, sweatshirts, and waterproof boots.  Four bags worked out nicely.


It will be an early wake-up call for us at 1:30am with a 3am ride to the SF airport and a 2 hour flight to Vancouver. 


Time for another adventure with some long time friends and meeting new people as well.


Stay tuned……


Bill & Mary Ann

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I'll be following along too!  My last HAL cruise started the same way from Vancouver to Alaska then down the coast through the Panama Canal and on to Florida then the Caribbean.  My packing wasn't the best because I brought way too much cold weather clothing and not enough warm weather things.  After 6 weeks I got very tired of the same few tee shirts and blouses over and over again!!  Lesson learned; I hope!


Have a wonderful time,


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I always enjoy your blogs; however, in this case I will pay particular attention.  In January I will embark the Volendam on the 2024 GAUS/NZ out of San Diego, my 1st cruise since the 2020 GWV.  I am looking forward to your usual detailed descriptions of the ship and daily life aboard.

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Great to see you on the move again. Was hoping we would see you on the Volendam for the Australia/NZ Grand  in January of 2024 but it looks like we will just miss you. Will be relying on you two to make sure that everything is shipshape for us. Safe travels!


Rich and Peg

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Oh, boy!!!  Looking forward to this trip with you guys!  We love the Tales of the Pacific cruises too; so beautiful and peaceful there.  Stay (reasonably) warm and dry for the AK part, first though! 



from various WC's and "Ganville".

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Yippee!  Another great Bill and Mary Ann voyage!  I am sailing the Volendam on the Australia and Grand Voyage in January. Could you do me a favor and check to see how many outlets (and which type, including USB) there are in the cabin?  I’m in an outside cabin on Deck 1 but I wasn’t sure which category you are sailing in. 

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Thanks for the encouraging words!  We are so happy to be able to cover the details, although today's details were full of them.  Had to keep notes.

Rich and Peg.....we will miss seeing you guys, but promise to keep this vessel in ship shape.

Hi Linda and Dave.  We also love this itinerary, although there is no "Ganville" here.

Denise and Howie.....looking forward to seeing you soon.  Will email you a bit later with news.

There are no USB ports in the outside cabins on deck one.  There is one 110 outlet on the desk.


Thanks for tagging along....


Bill & Mary Ann

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Aloha. Looking forward to your reports as always.  We have been blessed to have seen the world several times over as have you and have several 30 days voyages reserved but between shuttling back and forth Hawaii -NY and then missing the kids and my 90 year old mom with dementia in assisted living, longer voyages are not allowed lol.  That said, your reports are so enjoyable especially when you discuss food! Have a wonderful time and safe travels!

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Report #2    Wednesday September 6, 2023   Embarkation Day Vancouver, Canada On The Volendam   Mostly Cloudy But No Rain 70-75 Degrees    Part #1 Of 1........63 Pictures


Well, we were up super early at 1:30am to be prepared for a 3am home pick up with our driver.    He was right on time, and we were ready.  There was virtually little to no traffic, even on the Bay Bridge.  A few hours later, it would be bumper to bumper, so we did not object to getting out early.


We arrived to the San Francisco airport by 4am, expecting little activity.  We were wrong as Air Alaska was buzzing with activity with many travelers like us.  Our attempt at logging the info into the kiosk failed.  No problem….the agent did it all at the desk.  It was nice that each piece of luggage weighed under 50 pounds, because many people were removing articles to get it under the 50 pound limit.  It does help to own one of those hand-held scales.  We got our boarding passes and headed towards the security checkpoint.  In the past, we sometimes lucked out and got the TSA free symbol on the passes, but no more.   These days you can pay for that perk.  If we flew more often, we think it would be worth the price.


At the security line, there were no signs dictating the rules such as take shoes and jackets off, show small liquids in a baggie, or take computer devices out of their case.  One warning sign we did see was not to pack your gun going through security.  We were OK there.  We have been told that those who are 75 and older do not have to remove their shoes.  That applied to us more or less, so we left them on.  No one questioned that.  Of course, the new knee did set off the alarms, and one of us had to go through the super xray.  Piece of cake….no wanding or pat-down. 


We stopped at Lark Creek for some breakfast and hot coffee.  They actually opened up at 4:30am, and the food was good.  There was no pressure to leave after eating, so we lingered over several cups of coffee. 


Our flight to Vancouver was on time at 6:45am.  It was totally full.  It took both of us 20 minutes to figure out how the TV screen worked, but then, one of them had no sound.  We landed before the movie “65” ended at 8:36am.  There were no snacks…only juice, water, or coffee unless you paid for some food items. 


We had a long hike to the customs kiosks, where we scanned our passports, answered some questions, and had our photos taken.  Leaving this area, we showed an agent the slip of paper we got, then we went to collect our four bags.  We loaded them on the free carts near the carousel.  Before leaving this area, we handed the slips to another agent, then proceeded to the desk area where another agent was holding a sign for HAL, Princess, and Regent.  Taking our names, they took all of the luggage, and promised we would see it in our room later.  Fine with us.


The last set of doors brought us outside where we sat or stood with a group of Princess and HAL guests. Regent guests had their own line.  We had all purchased the ship’s transfers instead of taking a taxi or Uber.  The bus left the airport by 10am for a pleasant 40 minute ride to the pier at Canada Place.   We were among the first coach to arrive for this sailing.  With our boarding passes and passports in hand, we went up an escalator to HAL’s check-in counter.  We had expected to fill out a health form, since we never did get the request to fill out one online 3 days prior to sailing.  There were signs on the countertop saying that if you felt ill, please let them know.  In addition, we were never asked to show our Covid booster cards like we did last year and also on the 2023 world cruise.   By the way, we saw very few people wearing masks.


Back down the escalator, we proceeded to the security checkpoint, which was getting pretty busy now.  Our bus driver had mentioned that with three ships in port, there were between 8 to 9 thousand guests going and new ones coming. Besides the Volendam, the other vessels were the Sapphire Princess and Regent’s Explorer.  Even though it was crowded, the line moved quickly.  We had been handed a different color slip to show the reps along the way to the next stop.  They identified us a President’s Club members.  From there on, we were given the royal treatment.  Seeing us coming, one of the agents took two chairs and set them aside and away from the other guests.  We felt like we were in the “naughty” chairs.  Shortly after, the assistant guest relations manager came to greet us, and escorted us onboard.  Using our boarding passes with the code printed on them, the security gal scanned it and we were on our way to another set of greeters at the entrance on deck two.  The Hotel General Manager, Francois Birarda, welcomed us back.  We had met him on the N. Statendam in 2022 and he did remember us.   One of the guest relations gals, Jennifer, led us to our room, leaving her direct phone number if we needed anything.  We remembered her from the 2020 world cruise, and were glad to see her back on another “Dam “ ship. 


Gifts of flowers, sodas, champagne on ice and more shipboard credit greeted us, as well as a pile of mail and a daily newsletter called The Daily.  One of our room stewards came and introduced himself.  He is Imam and Subri is his assistant.  One of the nicest housekeeping staff officers came to see us, and actually assisted us in logging onto the internet, using our credit.  We think it will be a combined package for the entire 77 days. 


Since there was no luggage yet , and it was already noontime, we headed for the dining room.  Even though it was labeled a Mariner lunch, everyone was invited to attend.  Much to our surprise, Komang, a favorite head waiter we have known from past cruises greeted us.  He is now the maitre’d of the dining room…well deserved.  We last saw him on a world voyage in 2011.  My gosh, the time has gone by fast.  Enjoying the view from a window-side table, we ordered spring rolls and a club sandwich.  All of it was delicious.  A nice couple from Canada sat near us and kept us deep in conversation for an hour. 


Then it was time to get our cards scanned for the muster drill, which doesn’t happen as a group event outside anymore.  By luck, we were the first ones there.  Later in the afternoon, the Captain was begging for folks to attend this mandatory drill.  Without 100% compliance, we would not be allowed to leave.  Back to the room, we played the drill on the TV to the end, and then regular programming was restored.  That is, until we lost power at least three times.  We were “plugged” in with the shoreside power source, and testing was taking place according to Captain Ryan Whitaker.  The interruptions were short-lived, and provided a good reason to head for the Crow’s Nest for an exclusive reception for 3, 4, and 5 star and President’s Club members.  Jennifer from guest relations greeted us, then we took seats at the bar.  Sparkling and red wines were offered and became bottomless.  A jar of honey roasted peanuts were given.  There were no more than 40 people present. 


Sail away was at 4pm, and being that we do not have a veranda room on these Alaska cruises, we went to the Seaview Pool to watch the activity.  It was well-attended with both young and older folks who liked the piped-in music and line dancing led by the explorations staffers.  Wildlife expert, Kainoa, was present, although he is half the size he used to be.  He will become the South Pacific expert once the Tales cruise begins out of San Diego in three weeks. 


One by one, our luggage began arriving.  We had most all of it stashed well before dinnertime.  There were wooden hangers in the closet, but we switched many of those for wire hangers.  There are no felt hangers, at least on this deck.  It is worth mentioning that this class of ships offers much more closet space, compared to the Zuiderdam for instance.  They were built with longer cruises in mind.  And our empty suitcases fit easily under the bed.


Dinnertime has been moved up to 7:30pm, which is fine with us.  Greeting us on deck five, was Pande, another familiar face from numerous grand voyages.  Our requested table # 81 was ready for us.  Our waiter will be Mario and Risman as his assistant.  The first thing we noticed had to be the rolls in the basket.  They were fresh and tender, unlike what we were served on the Zuiderdam.  Obviously, they have a baker who knows his job well.  Our meal did not disappoint us with Caesar salads, and mains of roasted chicken and pork tenderloin.  The portion size was conservative, but that is really a good thing.  The desserts were tempting, but we have decided not to indulge.  The best surprise was seeing both Komang and Pande, who checked on us frequently.  The head sommelier also invited us to a wine tasting tomorrow, even though he recalled we did not drink wine. Sure made us feel at home.


The one and only show at 8:30pm in the World Stage was Origin Story, a look at HAL’s 150 years of sailing.  We have seen it, but since today was such a whirlwind day, we called it a day.  There were two pillow chocolates waiting for us on the bed, even though Imam said that they only hand them out on dressy nights.  He promised them daily.  Slept like babies.


Bill & Mary Ann


Blog Site For Pictures

"Treasures of Cruising the World" with Bill & Mary Ann



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Glad Day One was a good one!! Food sounds promising. Hoping the chef stays on board for the Tales. Great photos!!! Enjoy every minute in Alaska. 


Happy cruising, 

Denise and Howie, too

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Great read.  Thank you for taking the time to post on your wonderful cruise.

We are new to HAL, taking our first cruise in 4 weeks time from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale.  We are Celebrity refugees having sailed 40 cruises with them and getting fed up with the direction they are taking!!

I envy you sailing for 77 days.  If I were able to do that, I would never get sick of my T-shirts etc, as I would have to keep throwing them away for larger sizes!!

Bon Voyage!

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Jennifer isn't a "guest relations" person, she's the Mariner Society rep. Cool lady. I've sailed with her a few times.  Anyway, tell her that Susan Kennedy says hi (if you remember).  Thanks.


Anyway, glad you're doing this blog and happy to be following along with you.

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Report #3    Thursday September 7, 2023    Sea Day Enroute To Tracy Arm  Overcast Skies With Some Sun  75 Degrees With A 15 mph Wind .......Part #1 Of 1.........51  Pictures


We woke up to heavily overcast skies and cooler temps.  At least it was not raining.  The seas have been rather smooth as well as we head towards our first port of Juneau tomorrow.  


Breakfast for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, but instead of 8am, breakfast was served at 7:30am in both dining rooms.  Another wonderful surprise occurred when we entered the restaurant.  We discovered that Endrian, a former head waiter on the Amsterdam, was the manager here.  We have known him for many years, although it has been a while since we saw him last.  Of course, he recognized us and greeted us with handshakes and hugs.  We had expected there to be a line of folks waiting to enter the room, but there were only two guests so far.   Unlike the Zuiderdam, the Pinnacle Grill is located on deck four with no outside windows.  We figured the Neptune folks might prefer the windows in the Main Dining Room or room service.  We did get our favorite “window” table, with a view of the hallway.  And fresh-squeezed orange juice, mimosas, and Capuchinos are complimentary.  We ordered the All-American breakfast, and they came perfectly cooked.  The best was the Greek yogurt with large fresh berries.  Endrian kept us company keeping us up-to-date on cruise news, and we did the same with guest news.  Before we left, we decided it was a good time to make reservations for two dinners here before the week ends.


Back in our room, we had a gift of one canvas HAL tote with the 150 years of cruising printed on it.  In addition, we had an invitation to a complimentary James Suckling’s Great Wines of the Andes tasting.  It started at 1:50pm, and we would have attended if we drank wines.  Always nice to be invited however.


One of us took a long walk on the promenade deck, while the other got caught up with yesterday’s blog.  Some work was in progress on this deck with the removal of the old fluorescent light fixtures.  They were being replaced with LED fixtures….much brighter and more efficient we suspect. 


Looking for signs of wildlife, Bill and some others spotted a huge rare sunfish.  It was close to the ship, right below the surface.  Looking it up on Google, it said they can wonder up this far north due to slightly warmer sea temperatures.  Of course, we looked all throughout the day, but never saw another one.


After finishing the blog, the job of stashing our stuff continued.  In case anyone is curious, the magnetic hooks will work well on the ceiling, and both doors.  Could not find any steel in the walls other than around the ocean view window.  Another tidbit is about the remodeling of the bathrooms, at least on this Dolphin deck.  The tubs are gone, and new glass-doored showers were installed.  The counter and sink are new, as is the flooring.  There is a motion light under the hallway cabinet at night, but there is no night light in the bathroom.  We brought a small night light that plugs into the shaver outlet. Perfect.


The has been rather warm in our outside cabin with the temperature staying at 75 degrees.  At least we have a tower fan to keep the air circulating.  We really miss that veranda where we could pop outside for fresh air.  However, we will be able to do that when the Tales of the South Pacific begins, because we will be moving to a room on deck six.  In the meantime, we will be spending more time on the public outside decks.


When Bill came back, he finished the job of rearranging the desk area and adding the plug strip.  We have a small refrigerator that was placed under the desk, leaving us a small space to sit at the desk.  Moving it on top of the deck against the cabinet wall worked perfectly.  While we are on the subject of changes, the safe here is operated with a card, such as an old hotel card, or anything with a strip on it.  We were asked not to use the room key, as it might not work or may be erased. 


Today we opted for a room service lunch of chicken Caesar salads and a shared club sandwich with fries.  As much as we like them, we stayed away from the chocolate chip cookies, and ordered some red apples instead.  Time for a walk outside, we found our way to deck nine aft and enjoyed some relaxing time on the lounges.  The sun had peeked out and it was so nice.  Looking down on the Seaview pool, we found that many more people were doing the same as us.  Too cool for a swim, but perfect weather to use a blanket and relax.  We followed that up with cups of hot chocolate with coffee in the Lido. 


Today was full of activities – a mix of tai chi, pickleball, trivia, and lectures.  The other half was promotions, which is great for the revenue.  The one activity that interested us most was wildlife sightings at 4pm.  We should have worn the arctic coats, but we did see several whale sightings with breaching, diving, and blowing.  The best spot for us was forward on deck six, even better since we were the only ones there.  Several types of seabirds were in the area, which can indicate the presence of humpback whales actively feeding.  We were not disappointed, but when the chill sunk in, we left after 5pm. 


Dinner this evening was ‘dressy”.  And we are happy to say the majority of folks complied.  There were no tuxes to be seen, but there were fellows in suits and sports coats and ladies in the sparkles.  We only saw one couple that appeared at the entrance dressed in shorts, sweatshirts, and a baseball hat.  After speaking to the head waiter, they turned around and left the room.  We have no way of knowing if they were trying to get a table or just asking a question.  But it is possible they were turned away.  We have seen that happen in the past, but not so much recently. 


Once again, the meal was excellent.  We ordered a shrimp cocktail, mixed green salad, one tomato bisque soup, and mains of beef tenderloin (one with grilled shrimp).  Conservative serving portions, but more than enough.  We said no thanks to desserts of flourless chocolate cake,  blueberry cheesecake, and apple pie a la mode.  Humanity was the featured show on the World Stage, but since we have seen it more than once, we turned in early.


The best news was that the clocks went back one hour….more time to write and get to sleep before midnight.


Tomorrow’s port will be Juneau, with a brief stop in Tracy Arm for a tour.


Bill & Mary Ann


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