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Westerdam Alaskan Cruise/Tour Jun 2 - 13 2019

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Holland America Westerdam Alaskan Cruise/Tour June 1st to June 13th

Of all the bears that could kill me, it will be the gummy that comes the closest.

 

I apologize upfront, I’m like that uncle that everyone has who, when he returns from vacation invites everyone over to look at his vacation photos and listen to his boring stories.  Yes, that means if you read my entire report you will be bored to tears.

 

Alaska has been on my bucket list for a very long time.  With my 73 birthday approaching, I decided  last year it was time to book an Alaskan cruise/tour before the Grim Reaper could catch up to me.

 

In May 2018 I found a cruise/tour with Holland America that would fit my budget and still provide me with the Alaskan experience I wanted.  The land portion of the tour was exactly what I was looking for.  I sent out an email to many of our friends and family about the trip and invited them to join us.  I was surprised by the rush of people who expressed interest and wanted more info about this Alaskan cruise.

 

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When the dust settled 7 couples, including me and my wife Joyce, booked the Alaskan Cruise/Tour.  With the exception of one couple, the rest of us could be referred to as seniors…and not the high school variety.

 

We booked the Holland America D5C – 11 day double Denali trip and at the time the gratuities were included in the cruise fare as part of a fare promotion.  We all put a deposit down and booked balcony cabins on the Upper Verandah deck (deck 6) of the Westerdam for the June 2nd cruise departing from Vancouver. 

 

In July ’18 we booked the shore excursions we planned to take through Holland.  I know, I know, it’s cheaper to do it on your own but I prefer doing things by the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method.  I’m willing to pay more for the convenience of not having to organize.

 

The land portion of our tour would go from the debarkation port of Seward to Anchorage for a night, then to Denali NP for two nights, then to Fairbanks for one night.  In Denali NP the Tundra Wilderness Tour was included in our cruise fare as was the Discovery II riverboat tour in Fairbanks.  For our second day in Denali and after our morning Tundra Wilderness Tour we booked the evening Covered Wagon ride and dinner.

 

In mid-January this year I fell off a ladder and broke my right ankle in three places and badly damaged the ligaments.  After the surgery to repair my ankle I wasn’t allowed to put weight on it for seven weeks.  The Orthopedic surgeon promised that I would be very mobile for the cruise/tour.  There was nothing for me to do for the next 7 weeks but watch television and eat snacks.  I kinda freaked me out when I saw the x-ray of my ankle and all the hardware that had been installed.  After 10 weeks I started physical therapy for my ankle.

 

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In April 2019 we booked one more excursion, the Anchorage Flightseeing Safari, through Holland America.  This would be a half hour flightseeing tour of the Anchorage area on a floatplane.

 

Yikes, in mid-May there were two different floatplane crashes in Ketchikan.  One crash was a mid-air collision of two planes resulting in six dead and 10 injured.  Some of the dead and injured were passengers from a Princess cruise ship.  The other crash involved a single plane and resulted in the death of the two onboard.  After discussing the crashes with my wife we decided to go ahead and take the death-defying Flightseeing Safari.

 

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At 6 AM on May 31st we did the online check-in with Air Canada.  We paid $30 each for each piece of our checked luggage. In the afternoon we drove to our hotel, The Marriott St. Louis, to spend the night and is very close to the airport we would be flying out of on June 1st.

 

JUNE 1ST, OUR ALASKAN JOURNEY BEGINS.

 

Although I was quite mobile, my ankle was still swollen and I had some residual discomfort from the surgery.  This discomfort affected me more than I wanted and because of it I didn’t take very good notes or as many pictures as I normally do on trips.  At least that’s the excuse I’m going to use.

 

Our alarm was set for 3:15 AM so we could take the hotel’s 4AM shuttle to the airport.  It’s was a very short ride to the airport and we were checked in at Air Canada by 4:30 AM for our 6:15 flight. 

 

Our flight departed on time and we arrived in Toronto at 8:45 AM EDT.  This was a small 48 passenger plane and when we deboarded we used the steps that are built into the plane.  That was a first for me, I’m used to walking off planes via skywalks connected to the plane.

 

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Passing through customs was quick and easy.  Unfortunately we had a seven and a half hour layover before our flight to Vancouver.  Killing time in an airport is never easy.  One of the couples that joined us on this trip had booked the same flights so at least we had another couple to talk to as we waited for our next flight.

 

Our plane departed Toronto for Vancouver at 4:15 EDT and we arrived in Vancouver at 5:58 PDT.  After retrieving our luggage we walked outside and caught a cab ($35) to our hotel, the Days Inn by Wyndham, which is located just a couple of blocks from the cruise terminal.  The cab ride was the most terrifying I’ve ever had and that includes the cab rides in Egypt.

 

I don’t recommend the Days Inn, the room was very small, expensive ($331.54), and there was only one small elevator to serve the 7 or 8 floors of the hotel.

 

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Three of the other couples going on the cruise with us were staying at this same hotel so we met in the lobby and went to dinner together at a nearby restaurant.

 

After dinner Joyce and I called it a night and went back to our room where Joyce made an ice pack for my ankle.  In hindsight I should have cancelled the cruise when I broke my ankle and planned a much later cruise.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

 

I have to stop for now I will continued this report tomorrow.

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I'm reading and will be following and so far I'm not bored to tears! Thanks for posting, I look forward to reading more!

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looking forward to more....I was on this cruise too!

 

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Hope your ankle is not giving you too much trouble.  I hope your very interesting report continues.

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Hi Uncle Oakman.  Love your writing style......you have done this before, perhaps?

Much better than sitting through the click, click, clunk, click of 'uncle's' transparency 35 mm slide show! (remember them? 😉)

Looking forward to the rest of your report!

 

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Hi, we were on the same cruise, but did the D3C tour.  We also stayed at the Days Inn, and booked our tours through Holland.  We did the Anchorage Flight Seeing tour..was great!   Cant wait to hear your stories!   

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Looking forward to the rest of your review.  We board the Westerdam a week from Saturday, so I’m excited to hear everything you have to say!

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Can’t wait to see more, but I feel really bad for you regarding your ankle.

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We are on the same D5C cruise land tour on the Noordam leaving Vancouver July 21, so I cant wait to read more. Nothing boring so far.

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Thanks for beginning your review.

Hope your ankle is improving.

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Enjoying your report...sorry about your ankle...hope it's improving every day!  

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Thank you everyone for the kind words.  Sorry it takes me so long to do these entries but I'm slow on the keyboard and sorting and resizing photos is time consuming too.

 

June 2nd Embarkation Day

 

Due to our excitement of this cruise we were awake by 6:15AM.  Although Joyce and I have been on a number of cruises, this would be our first on a Holland America ship.  We are Platinum level cruisers with NCL so we were looking forward to experiencing a different cruise line again.

 

We took advantage of the hotel’s free continental breakfast this morning.  Considering what we paid for the room the breakfast really wasn’t free.

 

We shared a cab ride with my brother-in-law and his wife to the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal which was just a couple of blocks from our hotel.  I’m glad we took the cab because the luggage porters for the Westerdam were located in the basement of a parking garage.  We decided to drop off both our checked luggage and our carryon.  I forgot that my camera was in the carryon luggage so pictures I took after boarding the ship were taken with my smartphone.  On the plus side it was nice being unencumbered with my carryon.

 

It was just 9:45 and Holland wasn’t checking in Westerdam passengers yet.  We were ushered to a seating area to wait for the check in to open.  The other couples going with us on this cruise showed up early too.

 

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When check in began it was all very organized and easy.  Once we had our room cards we were sent to another area to await the call for boarding. 

 

Boarding began around 11:30 and again it was very smooth and organized.  This was the most organized of any check in and boarding we’ve experienced. We were onboard and at the buffet on the Lido deck by 11:45.  While we were eating it was announced that the cabins were ready.  My notes are sketchy but I believe five of our seven couples ate together in the buffet.

 

After lunch Joyce and I headed to our balcony cabin 6153.  The cabin was similar in size to what we’ve had on NCL Jewel and Dawn Class ships but the balcony was obviously larger, a real bonus for an Alaskan cruise.  I loved the little foot stool with the chairs.

 

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On the bed there was a little tote bag gift from Holland.  That was a nice touch.

 

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On all of the cruises we’ve taken with NCL the door to the balcony was a sliding door and it was always difficult to slide open.  I think those doors were designed to be a training aid for Highland Games participants.  Our balcony on the Westerdam had a hinged style door and it was very easy to open.  Being an old man I loved that type of door.

 

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Another feature of our cabin that I liked a lot was the floor lighting under the closet by the bathroom that was motion sensitive.  It was very helpful for trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

 

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The only negative for our cabin was no coffee maker.  NCL provides a coffee maker in balcony cabins and above, I did miss that.  However room service is free 24/7 on Holland so I was able to get coffee and tea with just a short wait.

 

Continued in my next post.

 

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June 2nd Embarkation Day continued

 

The two large checked luggage pieces were delivered to our room around 2 PM and our cabin stewards, Son and Umy introduced themselves to us.  I was concerned that our two carryon pieces weren’t delivered at the same time since my binoculars and camera equipment were in the carryon and Son assured me they would be delivered soon.

 

Son and Umy were the best cabin stewards we’ve ever experienced and it was almost like having a butler they were so attentive to our needs.

 

After unpacking we spent some time on the balcony enjoying the beautiful weather.  There were two other ships in port with us, the Holland Amsterdam and the Celebrity Eclipse.

 

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I love just sitting on the balcony even while in port, there’s always some interesting activity to watch.  I love watching planes and there were quite a few floatplanes taking off and landing in the harbor.

 

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We attended the Muster Drill at 4 PM which was held outside on deck 3, the Promenade Deck.  The drill was quick and painless and with the great weather wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

 

When we returned to our cabin our carryon luggage was waiting for us so we finished our unpacking.  With our clothes all hung and stowed we stepped out on the balcony just as the Celebrity Eclipse was leaving the harbor.

 

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When we booked this cruise none of us chose to have assigned dining yet somehow this night we all wound up at the Maitre d’s station at the same time.  Our group of 14 was seated at two tables next to each other in the main dining room on the first floor.

 

After dinner I have nothing in my notes so I have no idea what we might have done.  I guess we sat out on the balcony and watched the ocean roll by.  We did have a beautiful sunset that first night.

 

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Stopping for now.  Thanks for reading this report.

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Our room was on the port side, so we didn't  see any of those sea planes...my "neighbor" on the flight to Vancouver was from there...he told me we might see whales in the port.  We looked, but didn't see any.  (Sad face)

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I am still not bored, so when do you get to the boring part? LOL

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Fantastic.  The ride for YVR to Downtown Vancouver is scary.  3 narrow lanes up Granville can be a race course, not fun at all!  And the bridge, eek!   Whales are not common, but when they show up the city goes crazy!

 

Loved our 2 weeks on the Westerdam and will follow daily! Thank for taking the time!

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Loving your review!  We disembarked the Westerdam after our land/sea tour the day you boarded.  I'm happy you're finding the crew as wonderful as we did, some of the best!  I'm not surprised you had a little wait to board, we couldn't disembark until nearly 10:00 and others were still waiting....not the usual with HAL.  

 

Looking forward to more, and I'm far from bored 🙂  

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I always love reading your reviews and seeing your pictures.  Did you watch sail away from your balcony?  I enjoy the perspective of the photo showing the Celebrity Eclipse leaving the harbor.  It appears a set up for another flight plane accident.

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June 3rd Sea Day

I become an ol' salt

 

When I woke up this morning I looked at my smartphone that was on the nightstand next to the bed and the time was 5:45AM.  I got dressed and decided to call room service for coffee.  Unfortunately the phone was on Joyce’s side of the bed and she was sleeping.  I need coffee first thing in the morning so I decided to risk life and limb and call room service…as quietly as possible.  I’m an early riser and Joyce likes to sleep in so on cruises we compromise and she gets up early too.

 

I tippy-toed over to her side of the bed and picked up the phone and pushed the button for room service.  I tried to order coffee as quietly as possible but Joyce woke up, got out of bed, and told me to order some tea for her also.  As she was getting dressed she asked me what time it was.  I looked at my wristwatch and, OH CRAP she’s gonna kill me.  It was 3:55 AM, I discovered my smartphone was still in airplane mode and hadn’t updated the time.  It was such a ridiculous mistake that instead of killing me, Joyce just laughed at my stupidity.  To be honest I think both of our bodies were still on Central Daylight Time.

 

After some coffee and tea it was time for a shower.  The bathroom in our cabin had a tub with a shower curtain.  I prefer to have just a shower with a sliding door instead of a curtain.  One nice feature was the shampoo and conditioner were separate, on NCL it’s an all-in-one.  Although I think most women bring their own shampoo and conditioner so it’s probably a moot point.

 

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Even though the rear elevators were close to our cabin we walked to the mid-ship elevators so we could take the glass enclosed elevators up to the Lido deck for breakfast.  I loved those elevators and rode them as much as possible. 

 

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I don’t think I would like to have a cabin next to those elevators since you can see into some of the balconies as you ride.

 

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I found a station in the buffet that made my favorite breakfast food, eggs benedict.  The eggs were prepared as you waited and perfectly cooked which was unlike Norwegian where they would have a quite a few eggs already floating in hot water getting overcooked.

 

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During breakfast we could really feel the ship rocking and rolling.  Passengers looked like drunken sailors as they walked through the buffet

 

With the heavy motion of the ship cookie bags appeared at strategic locations throughout the ship for those who might “toss their cookies.”

 

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June 3rd continued in my next post.

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