Ted K. Wade
Age: 41 to 50
Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: May 21, 2000
Itinerary: Seward to Vancouver
As first time cruisers, we sailed aboard the Ryndam from Seward to Vancouver on 5/21/2000. The documentation we received early on stated that we had to check in for the cruise in Anchorage, but we later found out that we could have taken the train down and spent the day enjoying Seward. When we received our final documents, we saw that we could have provided our own transportation, but at that point it was too late for a refund of the $110 we paid to ride down on the Holland America-provided bus.
We checked in early in Anchorage, and were on the first bus headed for Seward just after 11 am. (The final documents said the first bus would leave at 1:45 pm). Nevertheless we wanted to get through the checkin formalities and enjoy what we could of Seward. We arrived at the pier shortly after 2pm and went through a very efficient checkin process which took only a few minutes. We then passed through security gate, much like one at an airport, and were stopped for the obligatory photographs before boarding the ship.
As we boarded we found that we had to use our electronic passkeys each time we boarded and left the ship. This prevented further security checks and gave the ship's crew a good idea who was aboard at any time.
We walked up the gangway and were met by live musicians and many other friendly HAL staff. Beautiful flowers were everywhere. We were escorted to our deck via escalator and shown our cabin where we met our housekeeper, Budi. He was extremely friendly and provided excellent service to us throughout the cruise, cleaning our cabin twice each day. I looked around the 200 sq. ft. cabin and noticed the price for a can of Coke was $1.70.
As a veteran of visiting Alaska, I wanted to enjoy a bit of Seward before sailing which was scheduled for 8pm. We walked over to the boardwalk and had the usual excellent dinner at Ray's; their blackened salmon and view is the best there is. We did some shopping, including a 12 pack of Coke, and reboarded the ship about 5:30 pm.
We had been assigned the early seating for dinner the first night only, so we went down around 6 for dinner. It was quite disappointing in that the service was spotty and the prune-stuffed pork loin was really dry. I was surprised, since I had heard so much good about the food and service on HAL.
After dinner, the Captain announced that we would not be sailing until 10 pm since some passengers were late coming in from Anchorage. I've been to Seward at least 10 times and I've never seen a ship sail much before 10pm so this is a pretty common occurrence.
When we finally did sail, I stayed out on deck until we were out of Resurrection Bay. I was just about the only one, as apparently people were relaxing, enjoying a show, or chomping down at the 11pm snack. I noticed that the seas got somewhat rougher as we left the bay, and the swimming pool near where I was standing started getting whitecaps. Determined to avoid taking Dramamine (which we had brought with us), I just enjoyed the view until it got dark. We passed one of the huge Princess ships on its way into Seward and that was the only sign of civilization that I could spot.
The next two days we spent at sea. The first was spent cruising College Fjord, which had a number of glaciers named after, you guessed it, colleges. It was an overcast day, and I had seen glaciers from a day trip into the Kenai Fjords, so it was not as exciting to me as it might be to others. That afternoon we left the relative safety of the fjord and headed out into the Gulf of Alaska where the seas were quite a bit rougher. It was formal night for dinner, so I put on my suit and tie, and decided to take some dramamine-like drug supplied by the ship. Unfortunately, it seemed to be slow acting and I was somewhat warm in the suit, so I had about 8 bites of dinner (mainly an excellent filet mignon) and excused myself. After sleeping for a while I was fine, and enjoyed the remainder of the cruise without problems.
Glacier Bay was quite nice, but again overcast. Naturalists boarded the ship to tell us about the national park. We left and headed for Sitka through the inside passage.
We were having our usual excellent buffet breakfast in the Lido restaurant, and I noticed the Ryndam's lifeboats were afloat. At first I thought it was a drill or a test to make sure they operated properly. Howerever, since Sitka doesn't have a pier large enough for a cruise ship, they use the lifeboats as "tenders" (shuttlecraft). We boarded lifeboat #8 and headed over to Sitka and enjoyed a beautiful day there. We returned on lifeboat #9 which had engine problems and filled the cabin with blue smoke. I reported the problems when I returned to my cabin. We sailed about 6pm for Juneau.
We enjoyed an excellent dinner (they seemed to get better every day). We also convinced our dining room waiter Djammal that we were serious about having iced tea. Every night the glasses were on the table with extra lemons, and our assistant waiter Nana made sure they stayed filled. We were very pleased with the dining room staff after the first night.
After dinner we went to the 50's and 60's show they had in the lounge. It was a lot of fun. Somehow we found ourselves on stage doing the twist, but hopefully no photos exist of that.
Juneau already had 2 cruise ships in port when we arrived, but the Ryndam is parallel parkable! Without a tug the Captain was able to dock us right between a couple of huge ships, one a Princess and the other a Crystal. We walked out of the ship and found a city tour to the Mendenhall Glacier. The guide was part native American and gave us an excellent narration. The glacier was nice, but I had seen them before. Juneau was a nice town, and we shopped and went up the Tram located next to the cruise dock. The Ryndam looked pretty small next to those other ships, but I think I'll stick to this class of ship.
We sailed for Ketchican around 6, but didn't get there until about 11 am compared to the previous two ports where we arrived at 8am. A friend had highly recommended a shore excursion to the Misty Fjords, but it was sold out, so we shopped for a while and headed by bus to a lake outside of town. 24 of us rowed 2 canoes across the lake and enjoyed some local flora, including a carnivorous plant. The guides then directed us to a campsite where they served us excellent smoked salmon, clam chowder, and a variety of drinks. Afterwards we were treated to a nature walk through a rainforest which contained some beautiful plants, including some highly poisionous ones. We then rowed back to the dock and boarded the bus where we were told a bear had been sighted. We didn't see it, but nevertheless had a great time. We were glad we had the later seating for dinner, as we did not get back on the ship until 5:30 and it was another formal night.
Dinner was wonderful and baked Alaska was served in a ceremony you just need to see for yourself. At 11pm they had the chocolate buffet for the late night snack and we decided to attend this one. I wish I had taken pictures, because the deserts were unbelieveable. They had worked two straight days to prepare this incredible spread.
We spent the next day at sea on the way to Vancouver. We attended a "disembarkation" meeting where we learned we had to be out of our cabin by 8am the next morning. This did not make me happy. We played some bingo and watched part of a movie in the movie theater. I visited the casino and won a few bucks. We had goodbyes with our fellow dinner partners then had to pack since our bags needed to be left in the hall by 1am. This was definitely a downer.
We arrived in Vancouver the next morning and had to eat an early breakfast before disembarking. Since we had to be out of our cabin, we roamed the ship watching luggage being unloaded and fresh food being loaded for the cruise later that night. We finally ended up in the Explorer's lounge for the last 90 minutes and left the ship around 10:15 am. The disembarkation was the only major disappointment of the cruise, and I hope HAL will consider giving their late-disembarking passengers the opportunity to use their cabin until their disembarkation number is called.
All in all it was an excellent experience. I don't think I would take exactly the same cruise again, but I will cruise with HAL again. Their friendly staff, great food, and reasonable price, plus a ship that isn't overloaded is the way to go.