Category Archives: Alaska Cruise

Ketchikan’s that away


Two Sisters at Sea … and in search of a bar

After a sound night’s sleep, we bounced out of bed, more or less.  In fact, we made it to the dining room by 8:30-ish for breakfast, but decided the long line wasn’t worth the wait, so we headed up to the Explorations Cafe and some coffee.  Some things you just can’t do without.

Half hour later, back to the dining room and we were seated almost immediately. More coffee and, in my case, two raisin buns (oh I do so love those!) and some breakfast later, feeling much invigorated, we purposefully walked the deck.  Well … that’s obviously an exaggeration (I can hear my husband snicker from here), but we did walk several laps, spotting whales in the distance.  We even tracked down the naturalist, Laura.  If she’s going to hide, she’ll have to do better than stand on the aft promenade deck with a bright orange backpack that says Naturalist. 🙂

Bit of a swell (the Captain – Ane Jan Smit – mentioned 6 foot seas), but other than occasionally lurching a step or two in the direction you weren’t intending to go, managed to spend most of the rest of the morning without incident.  The day was uniformly gray, but mostly dry.

For our first team trivia, we scored a whopping 10 out of 18, but that’s at least a passing grade.  Maybe?

Lunch at the Dive In, still the best burgers, dogs and fries on the ship. And no skimping on the Dive In Sauce, thank you very much! On our afternoon stroll (interspersed with a snooze on our veranda), we saw some Dall’s Porpoises, who have a knack for disappearing as soon as I get my camera in my hand.  So another successful day of wildlife spotting.

Tonight being Gala Night, after getting gussied up, we went in search of some pre-dinner cocktails.  Struck out at the Ocean Bar – great service, but the music, oh my, I’m not sure a piano can sound any more depressing that it did tonight. It managed to chase everyone away. So up to the Crows Nest, which was virtually empty.  A good sign … as long as you didn’t want a drink.  The wait staff seemed to be rather absent.  But determined not to be thwarted, we went back to the Ocean Bar where the Ocean Trio was now playing, people were dancing, and our quest and our thirst, was quaffed. I think we’ll make the Ocean Trio our pre-dinner routine from now on.

Dinner was good – especially the fillet of sole, paired with a nice Chablis Karin picked out. Then off to the Piano Bar, for another round of singing along with Mike.  Good thing we saw a couple of new friends who saved us a seat, because Mike’s getting awfully popular.  And it’s only night 2!

We get an extra hour of sleep tonight, as the clocks get turned back.  A good thing as we have to be off the ship and meet up with our excursion at 8:20 on the dock in Ketchikan.

A swell day


A pop of yellow in an otherwise gray vista


We really did make it to the promenade deck!


Another unusual and lovely flower arrangement, this one in the Crows Nest


Monday wrap up

After a strenuous afternoon consisting of unpacking (10 minutes), the mandatory muster drill (30 minutes), walking around the Zaandam getting oriented, and sitting at the Seaview Pool for sailaway (with a couple of delightful Australian sisters), we decided to head up to the Crows Nest and refresh ourselves with a delightful Admiral’s Choice (gin, St Germain Elderflower liqueur, cucumber, lime, lemon, basil and honey) and watch the Olympic Penninsula go by.  We did wave as we passed Karin’s house (more or less).  I got the first wildlife photo of the trip, some seals hanging out on a buoy. Whoo hoo!

Dinner was delicious.  We both had the Ketchikan Seafood Chowder, the citrus grilled rainbow trout, followed by apple pie for Karin and a cheese plate for me.  And coffee, of course. For me, a streaming hot cappuccino.

Then off to the piano bar, where we ran into one of the Australian sisters.  Hanging out in the back, safely hidden by the cluster of people surrounding the piano, we sang along, hooted and hollered, and generally misbehaved ourselves..  Mike is a fantastic piano player, and very entertaining.  We’ll definitely be back.

Having had too much fun at the piano, we headed back to the cabin.  Guess we’ll have to check out other night time entertainment tomorrow.

Our cabin


Ferries passing each other on their way to/from the ferry terminal in Seattle


The stunning center atrium pipe organ


And the organ from another angle


Turned the corner and bumped into these Indonesian masks.


Mid 18th century Delft plate. I keep running into artwork in the most unexpected places – this was by the elevator bay.


The Crows Nest




Ketchikan seafood chowder. I love this soup. And the mussel reminds me of a whale poking his head above the waves.


Seals on a buoy. First wildlife of the cruise. Not the best photo (taken through the window in the Crows Nest, but good enough for bragging rights)




A quick view of the Zaandam

Did a brief walk around the Zaandam, and she’s looking pretty spiffy after her recent dry dock. New carpet (though not throughout the ship, mostly the public areas) and new furniture.

The library (books, games and puzzles still exist aboard):

The piano bar, where I’ll be later:

The working, 3 story tall pipe organ in the atrium:

And always flowers.

More to come, as I snapped these with my phone for easy uploading.

My favorite hangout

After lunch on the dining room and our traditional celebratory glass of champagne, we’re at the Seaview Pool and I’m doing my favorite thing … taking pictures!

We interrupt the ms Amsterdam countdown …

Well, as if being excited for a cruise in August wasn’t enough, my sister just surprised me with a cruise to celebrate my recovery from multiple surgeries over the last 22 months.

We leave, get ready for it …. in 12 days!!  We’ll be doing a 14 day Alaska cruise on the Zaandam, a sister ship to the Amsterdam, so I’ll get a sneak preview of the changes that have just been made to the Amsterdam (I believe she comes out of dry dock tomorrow).

12 days and counting!

And here’s the Zaandam in Ketchikan, where I’ll be in 2 weeks.  Rain or shine, makes no difference to me. I’ll be on a ‘dam ship!!!

105 days to go – About our ship, the ms Amsterdam

A great webcam shot of the Amsterdam with the Zaandam behind her at Pier 91.

First, the facts.  Because I’m just that kind of gal!

Built: 2000
Guest capacity: 1,380
Gross Tonnage: 62,735 grt.
Length: 780 feet
Beam: 105.8 feet
Maximum speed: 22.5 knots

(For comparison – Titanic carried 2,435 px; 46,300 gross tonnage, 882 ft long, 92 ft beam. Max speed was 24 knots. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the largest currently in use, carries 5,479 passengers, with a gross tonnage of 226,963; 1,188 ft length, 217 ft beam; max speed 25 knots.)

The Amsterdam is the third of HAL’s ship to carry that name. She’s a beautiful ship, inside and out.  But the most breathtaking ship feature (I think) is the Planeto Astrolabium which spans all three stories of the atrium.  It’s a working sculpture and tracks constellations, the planets, world time and ship time.

Looking down at the ms Amsterdam's Astrolabe

Looking down at the ms Amsterdam’s Astrolabe

The top of the astrolabe, with the constellations

There’s a lot of artwork on all of Holland America’s ships, each with a particular theme. What’s fun on the Amsterdam is that it’s a wonderful mix of European and Asian artworks tucked into some of the most unexpected places, with lots of artifacts from the original ms Amsterdam, built in 1938. Take the self-guided audio tour so you don’t overlook any hidden treasures!

The Amsterdam will be in dry dock from April 29 – May 9, so it’ll be fun to see what changes they’ve made to her since my last sailing.  And here’s a link to her deck plan, post dry dock. (It’s a PDF.)

I’ve always thought the food was wonderful aboard HAL’s ships, but taste and flavor is subjective.  I can promise you’ll never go hungry!  The dining venues:

Main Dining room (breakfast served 8-9; lunch noon to 1; dinner – fixed seating at 5:45 or 8; and open “As you wish” seating – from 5:15 – 9pm)
Lido buffet (6:30 am – 11:30 pm, though it can vary a little bit depending on whether we’re in port or not)
Terrace Grill – by the Lido pool, limited buffet with offerings that vary by day; Mexican on day, Pasta another, etc. Usually 11:30 – 5:30.
Dive In – great burgers, hot dogs and fries, open from 11:30 – 5:30
Canaletto – a $10 per person upcharge, small plate Italian dishes
Pinnacle Grill – a $29 per person upcharge, steak and seafood; one night will have a “pop up” Sel de Mer with French cuisine, primarily seafood with a $49 per person upcharge. My main complaint with the Pinnacle Grill on the Amsterdam is that it’s interior, no windows.
**Note** the upcharge is based on my last cruise a year ago, so it may be more.

And if that’s enough, room service is available around the clock.

If you’re wondering what to do during our time at sea, don’t worry, you won’t be bored.  Every evening you’ll get a “Where and When” guide to what’s going on around the ship.  For some idea of what’s offered, you can see the daily program guides from our cruise with a similar itinerary on the Eurodam a year ago.

Things I always try to catch – afternoon tea, especially if they’re offering the Dutch Tea or the Indonesian tea.  The crew show – depending on the week, either the Indonesian or the Filipino crew puts on a show with dances and songs from their country.  It’s well done and worth staying up for (the show starts around 11pm).  The performers are all part of the ship’s crew and put this on after their working day is done.  (I can’t image where they get the energy.)  Any cooking demonstrations that I can attend are a lot of fun, and they hand out free recipe cards.  Talks and hanging out with the naturalist is a must for me. Team trivia – though be warned, it can get very competitive.  Evening for me is having a cocktail and appetizer before dinner, and then listening to either the BB King’s All Stars or hanging at the Piano Bar. There are nightly entertainment shows – one night might be musicians, the next a magician, the next a comedian.  It’s not my thing, but the few I’ve attended have been well done and entertaining. The Greenhouse Spa, with its heated ceramic loungers, steam sauna, dry sauna and hydrotherapy pool is wonderfully decadent (you can buy either a week pass; day passes may also be offered, depending on how many week passes they sell; cost is $150 for the week or $40 for the day, though that may vary.) For the super energetic, there’s a fitness center with cycles, stair steppers, etc. that’s free to use, though there may be a $10-$12 charge for classes.

And of course, my very favorite is hanging outside on the Promenade Deck with my camera. Or on the bow if it’s open, something I always check for.  Three and a half laps around the Promenade Deck is a mile, and it’s a great way to stretch your legs while watching for whales.  Like this one.

Humpback whale


Only scratching the surface of the lovely ms Amsterdam and the things she offers. Can’t wait to get back on board – in 105 days!!!!


The When & Where

And since we couldn’t be everywhere, at all times, here’s everything we could have done. (In PDF format)

May 20, 2017 – Seattle
May 21, 2017 – At Sea
May 22, 2017 – Juneau
May 23, 2017 – Glacier Bay
May 24, 2017 – Sitka
May 25, 2017 – Ketchikan
May 26, 2017 – Victoria

Victoria and disembarkation Seattle

Another sunny day — we’ve been so lucky this cruise, as the weather forecast was rain, rain and more rain.  But other than the first sea day and Juneau, it’s been dry and often sunny.  Hardly warm (mid 50s to low 60s) but that suits us Pacific Northwesterners … we start melting when it approaches 80. 🙂  So it was perfect day to sit in the cabana, have a Bloody Mary and pizza for lunch and just take in the sun.

A final Bloody Mary in our cabana, complete with heart. Guess we made a friend of the bartender!

Karin went to a matinee performance of the Lincoln Center Stage playing only classical music (Brahms) while I simply read on the veranda, sipping coffee and sweets from the Neptune Lounge.

Tea time goodies in the Neptune Lounge.

Karin did her initial packing, and then off to a final evening of cocktails and dinner as we sailed into Victoria.

Wine Country Collins – I rather like this one, but it’s too sweet for Karin.

Pilot boat in a hurry

Tug boat interception

Rather than open seating for dinner (there is no fixed seating since we arrived in Victoria at 6:00 pm), we opted for another meal at the Tamarind, where the food is delicious and the views outstanding.

Satay sampler

Rice pudding and caramelized pineapple.

Watching the Black Ball Ferry arrive . We’ve ridden on her before but much prefer the Eurodam 😀

The view of Victoria from the Tamarind

Getting back to our cabin, one more good piece of news – I’m now a 4-star Mariner.

Thanks Karin, for drinking enough cocktails with me to push me over the limit 🙂

I threw my clothes into the suitcase and Karin wheeled our bags out to the hallway, where we’ll be reunited with them in Seattle. (Speaking of Seattle, disembarkation was a mess. With both the Eurodam and the Ruby Princess offloading passengers, there were 5,100 passengers milling through Pier 91. To top it all off, the escalator was out of order, so it was either stairs or elevator. So the elevator got a thorough workout … and by the time I finally got downstairs about 10 minutes later (I was tempted to throw the rollator over the railing and take the stairs, but figured that was probably akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face), the lines to clear customs were huge. There was an officer from the Eurodam with 4 stripes on his sleeve (Karin says possibly the Hotel Director) in the midst of the mayhem looking rather grim and barking into his comm unit. I’m thinking the pier officials may be getting an earful!

And Victoria night’s dinner menu:

Ketchikan Roundup

Made it off the ship in Ketchikan — shopping can be a powerful motivator!  We were in Berth 1, so it was an easy trip.  Of course, I brought the rollator, because it makes for such a convenient way to cart purchases!

off the ship in Ketchikan

Peeking at the arrival of the Neiuw Amsterdam between the Eurodam and the Coral Princess.

We had to visit our favorite store, the Arctic Spirit Gallery, to add to our respective collections of Alaskan Native art. For me, it’s the birds of Alaska.  For Karin, it’s a little bit of everything.  Then over to  visit Maida Kelley, a wonderful watercolor artist, and add another print to my collection.  She captures the colors and feel of Alaska and her art reminds us of our trips.

And of course, no stop in Ketchikan would be complete without popping in to Blasphemous Bills or Sam Magees for Alaska goodies for my hubby and mom.  And well, a jar of the Kahiltna Birch syrup and caramel topping for me.  It’s fantastic over cobbler, ice cream, on a scone or frankly, just spooned out of the jar.

The Eurodam looks huge from the shore!

Short stay in Ketchikan, but the afternoon was bright and sunny and the views just keep coming.

Leaving Ketchikan

Off to listen to the Lincoln Center Stage and the fabulous quintet, then music and drinks in the Ocean Bar, met some friends for cocktails in the Pinnacle Bar, and finally, to the Tamarind for dinner.

Tropical Cable Car in the Ocean Bar

Floral arrangement in the Tamarind Bar

The Tamarind Bar. The few times we’ve been by, it’s always been empty, which is surprising. The view is fantastic.

Peking duck with chinese crepes

Vietnamese lamb and mint. Super spicy (well, I did ask for extra spicy), but delicious.  Honestly, I think I finally met my match in the spice-o-meter.  

Mango, passion fruit and yazu sorbet.

And the 2nd Gala Dinner menu:

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