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North to Alaska! Live from Volendam (and Vancouver) - May 22-29, 2019

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7 hours ago, Cruise_More_Often said:

Loving your live review and your pictures!! We're cruising in 10 days, and you're getting me so excited. I agree with you about that little catamaran cruise up the Tracy Arm. It is the best excursion ever.


Hey, isn't Hanger on the Wharf where the PTZtv camera is located?


Keep enjoying yourselves.


Yes - the PTZtv is located at the Hanger on the Wharf.

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Y'all have me thinking I need to take that Tracy Arm excursion in July, especially with the photos.  Though I will say my grand niece thought the bear was a gorilla.....


FWIW, I too would choose Northern Europe over the Med but don't believe you can go wrong with either.


Thanks, Chris!

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We were on Volendam last week.  What has happened to the Royal Dutch Tea and the Indonesian Tea?  This was my 20th cruise with HAL.  I should have asked at the Front Desk but forgot as we were so happy that Park West Art Auction had disappeared!  No reason given for that,  passenger complaints or lack of sales?

We were perfectly happy with the normal Afternoon Tea so just wondering and not complaining....


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On 5/23/2019 at 5:05 PM, sppunk said:

Which is where you all come in. Due to work we are confined to 10-11 day trips (we have already done the Panama Canal, Canada/NE, Bermuda, all the Caribbean). So the Med from Rome or Northern Europe from Copenhagen? What day you?

I vote the Med from Rome.  But I'm sure either would be perfect. 


Really enjoyed your Tracy Arm photos and loving the daily menus.  We did Tracy Arm on the Oosterdam 7 years ago when the ship actually went to Tracy Arm itself and I see now it isn't that way.  I think you saw a lot more wildlife on your excursion than we did on the ship itself.  The glacier is beautiful just like it was 7 years ago, good memories. 

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On 5/23/2019 at 8:05 PM, sppunk said:

We kinda wandered aimlessly and ended up at the Future Cruise Consultant’s desk to grab some itineraries to get ideas for our next trip. 


Which is where you all come in. Due to work we are confined to 10-11 day trips (we have already done the Panama Canal, Canada/NE, Bermuda, all the Caribbean). So the Med from Rome or Northern Europe from Copenhagen? What day you?


For me the Baltic is all about the ports/timings and # of overnights in St. Petersburg.  I would choose not based on cruise line or ship but more on whom offers 3 days/2 nights in St. Petersburg and a LATE evening in Warnemunde.  If you do a round trip from Copenhagen it is definitely a place worth lingering for 2 nights pre cruise.  Better yet would be an open jaw between Copenhagen and Stockholm or reverse and tarry at both ends a few days :) 



With the Mediterranean always consider the additional logistics and time to get to Civitavecchia port as contrasted to Barcelona (which is one of the easiest in Europe!) for embarkation/disembarkation.  Venice has it's own unique challenges due to its geography (water taxis to/from hotels/airport if staying in Venice proper pre/post cruise).  You also need to decide if you want a Spain, France and Italy cruise or if you want more Adriatic ports and Greece/Turkey.


Europe is one place where itinerary is first and foremost and it pays to look carefully at port times and embark points when making decisions.  You really can't go wrong no matter which region, but sub optimal port times can leave you wishing for more, and as many itineraries are VERY port intensive you can arrive home utter destroyed from all the sightseeing!  Also Europe is one place where staying a few extra days before or after the cruise is well spent as the major port cities are  worth a deeper exploration.


PS - I would avoid the Med in high summer -it's unbearably hot in many places .... May, early June, mid to late September and early October are wonderful times to visit as the tourist sites are less crowded and temps are milder.

Edited by AtlantaCruiser72
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Day 4, Saturday, May 25


Greetings from hot and sunny Skagway, where the temps have pushed 75 or so degrees. 


A quick HAL note: straws are no longer given out - if you want a straw you have to ask for one. Great job, HAL! This makes me so happy. 


Last night’s dinner was surprisingly good. The crab cake was actually one of the better ones we have had (and we live close to the crab cake capital of the world). The halibut was cooked perfectly. The fruit plate for dessert hit the spot. 


And the nightcap gin and tonic in the Crows Nest while talking with HAL’s traveling safety officer was a great ending to a wonderful day. 


Today in Skagway we took the Chilkoot Charter to the Yukon and then the White Pass railway to Bennett Lake and then back to Skagway. I detest bus tours but this was a slam dunk and a well-executes trip. The weather was perfect. 


Here are a ton of pictures. 






















After we returned we were somehow drawn to Skagway Brewing Company for a terrific Spruce Tip Ale. 


We are about to head to dinner. Here is tonight’s menu. The entire intranet is down (including the security system and front desk system) so I took photos instead of a screenshot. 








Tomorrow we are in Glacier Bay, which is always a special day. 


More about dinner and the glaciers tomorrow.

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31 minutes ago, sppunk said:

Last night’s dinner was surprisingly good. The crab cake was actually one of the better ones we have had (and we live close to the crab cake capital of the world). The halibut was cooked perfectly. The fruit plate for dessert hit the spot. 

Thank you!!!!  Wonderful to know this in advance.  Your excursion looked beautiful.  Enjoy your cruise!

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Day 5, Sunday, May 26


Note: Due to the Volendam’s data center going kaput today’s report is being posted one day late. 


Last night was somewhat eventful. 


Dinner was excellent - the posted menu listed cod but the actual menu was snapper which was excellent. I was craving chocolate chip cookies and our waiter scored a plateful and they were warm and soft. Like a blanket. Or a hug. God, I love a soft, warm chocolate chip cookie. 


We went up to the Crows Nest around 9:15 and the entire IT system was still down. And we were still docked and no sign of rope release despite the 9 p.m. sailaway. 


Wanna know what HAL terminals look like when its entire IT system is down? Here you are! 




At 10:30 p.m. Captain Friso came on the speaker system saying that when they started the engines, the port engine tripped and blew out its electrical panel. Hence we hadn’t left on time. It takes an hour to reset the panel and engine, he said, and the reset went well so we are leaving promptly. By 10:40 p.m. we had cleared the Skagway port. 


He also explained that the data center went down sometime Sunday and they can’t get it fixed. More on this later. 


Sunday morning we woke up as we started sailing into Glacier Bay. If you’ve never been to Glacier Bay before I strongly encourage you to do so. One day it won’t be what it currently is thanks for climate change and human manipulation. I digress. 


Shortly after waking up a grizzly bear was spotted swimming across the bow of the ship. Now that’s a sight that’s truly rare! No photos unfortunately - iPhones can’t handle that type of action. 


We sailed up to Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers. I was last here in 2008 and I noticed significant change. The lack of snow this season is startling. 


It it was mostly sunny and temps in the low 60s - our run of perfect weather continues. 


Here are a slew of photos from Glacier Bay. 


















We hung out on deck or our balcony basically the entire day. Weather was superb - low 60s and not much wind. Can’t ask for better - Alaska has been kind for us this trip with warmth and no rain. It’s bad for them and forest fires will be a big problem this summer throughout the entire Pacific NW. 


During a late lunch Captain Friso came in the speaker system given his daily report but it was mostly about the data system outage. They can’t fix it onboard and need new hardware and technicians. HAL flew them to Hoonah (or Icy Strait Point depending on what you read) and we would be going there to pick the hardware and technicians up. So we get a special bonus trip! He said we would dock and pick everything he once the Queen Elizabeth departed. 


Haven never been to Hoonah it was a nice little excursion.




We didn’t actually dock though - instead a boat with a very large box and the technician met us. Captain Friso came on the PA system and said Queen Elizabeth wasn’t leaving in time so they had to hire a boat. I have a feeling the conversation between him and the QE captain would’ve been a fun one to eavesdrop. 


I’m sure the guests on Silver Explorer were highly confused why we stormed in next to them only for a small boat to come up to us for a whole 5 minutes. 


It’d be the perfect drug-running scenario.


After the transfer we were quickly off to Ketchikan. Captain Friso explained our small detour will have no effect on our 10 a.m. Ketchikan arrival Monday. 


After leaving Hoonah we worked out and readied for the last Gala night of this trip. Here is tonight’s menu:




More on dinner and Ketchikan tomorrow.

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Day 6, Monday, May 27


Greetings from a cloud-free, hot, entirely-too-crowded Ketchikan. 


Joining the little Volendam in port today was the Coral Princess, Royal Princess, Norwegian Joy and the extremely pretty Oceania Regetta. More on Ketchikan in a bit. 


Last night was the final Gala night. The Asian duck was absolutely excellent and our waiters know me well - when they took away my plate they immediately placed a plate full of chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. I love our waiters. 




After dinner we went up to the Crows Nest for a drink. We sat there for 20 or so minutes and not a single server paid any attention to us. This was the second time we had this issue there / the forty I went up to the bar and ordered but this time simply walked out and down to the Ocean Bar where servers care about passengers. 


The data center had been restore by this point too thankfully. 


Today in Ketchikan it was way too crowded. I generally dislike Ketchikan even on good days but today it was so overrun it was ugly. 


Also if you brought shorts, sunblock and flip flops you won today’s lottery. It almost hit 80 here and the drought continues. No climate change at all here ... 


We had a float plane trip booked but due to the fatal accident a few weeks ago our plans obviously were cancelled. We instead decided to just wander around. That was a mistake. 


People on top of people. Crowded streets. Might as well be in Times Square. It’s about the same level of tackiness at least. 


If you can’t tell, it wasn’t the best port day but we still made the most of it. 


We took the walking tour - about an hour or so walk around the city. After the walk I wanted a beer but the Arctic Bar and Bawden Street Brewery were mobbed with humans and no space anywhere to sit or stand. 


Despite the crowds I got some photos. 














We ended up at Annabelle’s for a whole Dungeness crab and halibut and crab Mac n cheese lunch and an Alaskan Amber. It was delicious. 






After lunch we ran and bought smoked salmon. Be careful here buying salmon - most places sell them packed with sugar. *****? We bought a six pack of the good stuff from Chinook and Co. 


The crowds greatly emptied by 3 p.m. (the NCL and Princess monster ships left) so we stopped back at the brewery for a beer. It’s tiny but a fun little brewery. 




We then headed back to the comfortable confines of the Volendam and did a lot of nothing until we worked out and readied for dinner. 


Tonight we are at Sel de Mer and are excited. But here is tonight’s menu in the dining room. 






I’ll not be posting tomorrow so my final full day post will come on Wednesday from the Vancouver airport. 


Until then ....


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Just got caught up with your latest reports.


Have been to Glacier Bay and Icy Straight Point several times.  Icy Straight has some excellent whale watching tours.


That's too crowded for Ketchikan when you don't have a tour and you are there with Mega ships.


Great pictures.

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I'm so jealous ... you have had the weather we have experienced in our past late May cruises.  We board tomorrow...and the forecast ... well ... rethinking our excursions but know it will still be a great getaway!

Thanks for posting

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Day 7 (and 8), Tuesday, May 28 (and Wednesday May 29)


The final day of any cruise is always bittersweet. The final day of an Alaska cruise that saw zero rain, sunny skies and temps in the 70s is even more bittersweet. 


Last night we ate at the Sel de Mer pop-up restaurant. We are at Sel de Mer on our Koningsdam trip (twice to be precise) and fell in love and tonight was no exception. 


We had the seafood tower, the escargot, the salt-crusted branzino, lamb chops, a bunch of sides and a few desserts. Everything was superb. I don’t take photos of food on ships but damn was it good. 


After dinner we met some newfound friends in the Oceans Bar and had a few drinks, lots of laughs and just enjoying the night. 


This morning we slept in. To 10:30 a.m. RuthC would be impressed. 


It was a very lazy day. We had onboard credit to burn so had lunch in the Pinnacle Grill (the burger is still excellent) and attended the Meet the Captain event at 2 p.m. Nothing new to report but Captain Friso is a lovely man with a great sense of humor. You’ll see him in the future as he is a young captain and an excellent master. He has a big career ahead of himself. 


All day we danced with the Coral Princess. Gotta love the inside passage scenery:







I took a long nap on our balcony after a 5 mile walk. It was shorts weather again today. So bizarre. But the views this afternoon were perfect. Early today we were in heavy fog with zero visibility but once we sailed out of it - bam! Beauty!


We also packed. Boo. 


Here is the final menu: 






Tonight’s final dinner we decided to order the Alaska Crab Feast. For $29 you get crab legs, crab and corn chowder, and shrimp and crab cakes. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cakes but the wife loved the crab legs. The chowder was pretty good too. 


After dinner it was time for the final Wang Wang, always a depressing moment. 




This morning we did self-disembarkation. The ship was cleared at 7:40 a.m., we were in a can at 7:55 a.m. and now sitting in the airport lounge at 8:50 a.m. awaiting our 12:30 p.m. flight to the U.S. 


What an insanely easy disembarkation and airport pre-clearance. I’ll sail from Vancouver in a cocaine heartbeat. 


Overall we had an excellent cruise. The Volendam is a happy ship. 


It has some heating issue so if you have a cruise on her this season be ready for very, very cold cabins. 


And I have to point out the Explorers Lounge on Volendam is a depressing venue. Adagio played here nightly but we never saw more than 15 or so people in attendance. I think the institution-like setup is why. Look at his exciting venue. 




But everything else was great. If you have a Volendam trip scheduled, you’re in for a great time. 


That ends my live report. If you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer. 


I hope someone found my review interesting, fun or at least helpful!

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2 minutes ago, 1ANGELCAT said:

Safe travels home. Eastern Pennsylvania has been hit with bad storms yesterday and more for later today. We had a tornado touch down in Berks county (Morgantown) yesterday afternoon.


Yea we fly into BWI tonight - hoping for the best. 

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