Our Alaska Cruise

September 2006















The Cruise


Special Pages





Cruise To Seattle


We dropped all lines in Victoria at 11:29 p.m., Saturday night, and pulled away from the pier.

The trip to Seattle was 84 nautical miles.

By 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, we were tied up to the pier in Seattle.

It was a short trip, and we had slept through the entire thing.







ID CARD




As its background, the card fittingly has a photo of a deck railing with the ocean behind it. It has a bar code for laser scanning. (On the back it also has a place for your signature—I never signed mine—and a magnetic strip, just like a credit card has.) Along with your name it tells you where you will dine in the evening, and at what time, along with your table number. It has the dates of the cruise, the name of the ship, and finally the life boat you are assigned, which fortunately we never had to use.

We used this card as a room key and as authorization to leave and board the ship. We could charge things to it, like drinks or other items we might wish to purchase without having to carry money around with us on the ship. It was a very big part of our lives for 7 days. Soon it was going to be just a piece of plastic that will go in our scrapbook, of no value, except sentimental. But we still had to use it one more time: getting off the ship.



Our Cruise


We departed on Sunday, September 17 from Seattle.

We traveled 979 nautical miles to Glacier Bay, arriving Tuesday morning. After visiting the John Hopkins Glacier, we headed over to Juneau.

It was 108 nautical miles later, when we arrived early Wednesday morning.

We left in the evening and traveled the 207 nautical miles to Sitka, anchoring there Thursday morning before 8:00 a.m.

In the afternoon we pulled anchor and set off for Ketchikan. We traveled the required 210 nautical miles and anchored there on Friday at 6:30 a.m.

We pulled anchor and left Ketchikan at 1:08 p.m., en route to Victoria, 587 nautical miles away. We averaged 22.2 knots (25.5 mph) on that leg of our voyage, and were tied up at the pier in Victoria, BC at about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

We dropped all lines at 11:29 p.m. and were on our way the 84 nautical miles to Seattle.

We returned to the same pier that we had left the week before in Seattle and were tied up by 5:00 a.m..

That was the cruising part of our trip in a nutshell.

However, there was much more than that to the story.

I would like to thank Holland-America for making this cruise such a great experience for us. At every step along the way they did their best to make this a fun, exciting, and entertaining event.

It started years ago when they laid down the plans for the ship. It reminded me of the statement that we heard so many times during the Jurassic Park movie: "We've spared no expense!" The art, the carpeting, the furnishings, the lighting...everything was superb!

During the cruise, we were treated like royalty, and everything that could have been thought of beforehand was preplanned perfectly. (Even my bout with seasickness the first day at sea was solved quickly and permanently.)

The food was awesome, and the service at all levels was superb. The food we ate in our room was as hot and tasty as that which we had in the restaurant. Our room was cleaned and well cared for, while at the same time, our possessions were safe and untouched. The waiters in the Vista Dining Room were professional and attentive.

I could not possibly list everything here, but I just want to say THANK YOU Holland-America, you earned every penny we paid to you, and you went far beyond that in the service you gave to us!


Seattle & Home


September 24, 2006























I woke up early, at around 05:30 on Sunday morning. The other three were still sound asleep. So, I grabbed my camera and set off to take some final pictures around the ship.

We had been scheduled to tie up to the pier in Seattle at 05:00, and since, when I stepped out on the verandah to check, I saw we were already tied up, and members of the ship's staff were heading down the gangway, it looks like we made it.

All over the ship things were looking like they might in a movie where everyone else has disappeared and the main character is wandering around and finding everything abandoned. The spa was closed, and here in the Crow's Nest the chairs were empty. I saw a lot of empty chairs on this little expedition.

In the Crow's nest I ran into Daryl, the missionary from Chicago whom we had shot baskets with way back on Monday, our first full day at sea. He seemed to be doing the very same thing I was: giving the ship one last look before the cruise came to an end. He said he was going back home, and I said it was going to be getting cold there soon. He made a reply that I thought was very nice. He said, "With my family there, it will be warm enough." We said our goodbyes, and I continued on my way.



Later on, when I came down to the Lido Deck, I ran into Bob and Judy in the Lido Restaurant. They were early risers also and grabbing an early morning breakfast before heading back home. They live in Florida, and had a long flight ahead of them that day. I, along with my 3 traveling companions, were going to miss these two. We had bumped into them here and there throughout the cruise and they always made us happy that we had.

When I got outside I saw that the other entrance to the dual gangway-exit was not occupied yet. But a ship was on its way to fill that vacant spot as I snapped this picture.

Downtown Seattle was glowing in the distance. The sun was coming up in less than an hour, but all the illumination was still coming from artificial lighting.

The temperature was 52° and actually it was still dropping. It didn't begin climbing again until 07:00. (By 5:00 p.m. it would be 75°, but we would be home in Vancouver by then.) The wind was calm, and would remain so until we had left the ship and were on our way home. The skies were clear, and visibility was 10 miles. It was going to be a beautiful day for a drive.

But there was the catch. This was it. The cruise was coming to an end.

I had moved aft quite a ways before taking this shot. From here you can see the portion of the gangway that we would be walking down soon, as well as the rest of the covered walkway into the building where we would be collecting our luggage. The end of the terminal building facing the camera is where we had briefly parked the van on the previous Sunday, to drop off our luggage. We had then walked through those doors to wait in line to begin this wonderful journey. And there it still sits, waiting to bring it all to an end.

Beyond the building is the parking lot where I hoped our van would be safely waiting for us, and beyond that the city of Seattle. The horizon is showing a touch of color towards the east, which is on the right side of this picture.

Empty chairs; everywhere there were empty chairs. Through the double glass doors on the right, the Oak Room had empty stuffed chairs. The double glass doors leading through the wood paneled bulkhead isolated an empty Crow's nest bar from the outside, a bar with empty seats, and empty bandstand, and tables without patrons. These deck chairs were all intently looking outward without saying a word. There work was done. Their cruise was over too.

The Sports Deck, up those stairs ahead, was dark and lonely. I pretty much had the place to myself up here.

As I moved up to the Sports Deck, the sky began to lighten, and in the distance the color silhouetted the mighty Mt. Rainier: at 14,411 feet the tallest of the Cascade peaks. The lighting was so dim that I had to set the camera down on a solid surface in order to use a shutter speed slow enough to take the picture. With the shutter open for so long, the plane in the sky shows up as a streak of light.

It was getting close to 06:30, and that was about time for our whole group to wake up and get ready for breakfast —our final meal before heading off the ship for the last time.

When I got back I woke my lovely wife, and gave Jim and Tammy a call, to make sure they were up as well. And then we all went down to the Lido Restaurant.

I had a bowl of Special K cereal, 2 pancakes, some bacon, some fruit and a cup of coffee. I weighed a pound and a half less my last day on board than I had weighed when I came on. So, even with all the eating, it turned out to be an overall positive experience for watching my weight. The exercise we got was great!

Our departure window was 08:15 to 08:30, and that gave us about a half hour. The ship didn't want us to be hanging around the gangway before our departure window had come, so we went outside and took some final cruise pictures.

The sun is all the way up now, and the sky is blue. Dotti is looking beautiful as always with that wonderful smile of hers. All the colors are bright, and if you look closely, just to the left of Dotti's head, you can see the Seattle Space Needle sticking up over the hill.

Dotti and I are truly blessed to have such great friends as these two. After 28 years we still have a lot of fun every time we get together. They are very special people!

Jim has his Alaska shirt on, and we all 4 have one just like that. I originally intended to have us all put them on and take a group picture, but it never happened. Maybe one day in the future we can still do it.

Dotti and I swapped places with Jim and Tammy for this picture. I was wearing my America the Beautiful shirt that was a gift from Jim. This was the final picture taken of Dotti and I together for this cruise. The happy fairytale was nearly over.

One of the advantages of running the camera is that it is the others who have to look into the sun. You can tell that, with the sun so low on the horizon, they were not having a pleasant time of it. Still, Dotti is smiling through her squint, and Tammy is almost there. I think Jim just closed his eyes.

Things have really brightened up since the last time we were looking in this direction. The Seattle skyline is sharply lighted in the sun, and the buildings are casting dark shadows. Those with an earlier departure window time than we have are making their way down the gangway.

On Monday, Jim and I had been shooting baskets on that court two decks above us. We had seen those stacks rising high over the buildings of Juneau, and these decks washed in storm driven rain. We had looked off in the distance and seen the ms Westerdam appearing small at anchor, and blurry through rain splattered launch windows. It has been home to us, and was finally feeling like home to us, and now we had to leave.

The ms Westerdam was bound for the Caribbean next. The Alaska cruise season was over, and for the winter months this ship would be cruising warmer waters. This pool would no doubt be getting more of a workout soon, as the warm air temperatures would make outdoor swimming more attractive.

Although we didn't swim in it, we saw it many times during the cruise. Looking beyond it, we often enjoyed watching the wake that stretched out for miles behind the ship. It was hard to believe it was really over.

Is Dotti giving directions? I think she was saying, "It's time to go, " because it was.



Back in our stateroom, I laid my ID card on the table for a moment.

As its background, the card fittingly has a photo of a deck railing with the ocean behind it. It has a bar code for laser scanning. (On the back it also has a place for your signature—I never signed mine—and a magnetic strip, just like a credit card has.) Along with your name it tells you where you will dine in the evenign, and at what time, along with your table number. It has the dates of the cruise, the name of the ship, and finally the life boat you are assigned, which fortunately we never had to use.

We used this card as a room key and as authorization to leave and board the ship. We could charge things to it, like drinks or other items we might wish to purchase without having to carry money around with us on the ship. It was a very big part of our lives for 7 days. Soon it was going to be just a piece of plastic that will go in our scrapbook, of no value, except sentimental. But we still had to use it one more time: getting off the ship.




Acutally the process of getting off the ship was not as bad as I was afraid it was going to be. We had to wait until it was our turn, of course. Still, we arrived a couple of minutes early, but they said we could go anyway. We hopped on the gangway, and as we left they scanned our room key card one last time, just to make sure they had a good record of who was still onboard. (No stowaways for the Caribbean Cruise they were about to go on. )

We walked down the same gangway that we had come up seven days earlier and went back over towards the terminal 30 building. As we got down near to the terminal building someone was yelling, "Get your passports out!" and "Get your passports ready!" Unfortunately, all the friendly smiles were gone now. These were not the Holland-American people here, but the customs officials.

There were two uniformed officers standing at the entrance of the building checking passports. It became clear that the covered walkway from the ship was not intended just to protect the passengers from inclement weather; but it had a secondary purpose of making sure none of them took a route that bypassed these officials.

The one of the officers looked at my passport and said, "Sign your passport, Sir!" I looked at it, and sure enough, I hadn't signed it yet. (I seem to be setting a trend.)

After entering the building they ushered us into an area to the right where the luggage was placed. They had the luggage separated into red and blue groups. We had red tags, and so we were in the Red group. That group was divided into subgroups numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, but they were all jumbled together.

They had organized it into lines of bags with aisles in between them. There were 5 or 6 lines that were 10 or 15 yards long; in other words, there were a lot of bags to go through. We also had to work around all of the people who were looking through the bags trying to find their own.

Each bag of ours turned out to be completely by itself. It was as if the bags were all a deck of cards and they had been neatly shuffled. The bags in the 2-group were in no way associated with each other by physical location. So, we had to go down every one of the aisles, in order to find our bags.

Still, it didn't take too long, and we were still far too excited over our cruise and all of the fun that we had had to let the jumble bother us. Dotti and I had four bags and Jim and Tammy had two. (Yep they were smarter than us!)

At this point, I was going to run around and get the van. It was a bit of a walk to get to it, and I thought I could save time if I did that while the others rounded up a porter to load the bags on a cart and then transport them over to the car loading area. But customs wouldn't hear of it. They wouldn't let me pass through because we had only one customs form per family, and Dotti and I both had to pass through the check station with our luggage, and with the form, at the same time. So, until Dotti left, I had to stay.

We located a porter, loaded up his cart to full capacity with our luggage, since we had several, and a couple of quite large ones, and we finally headed for the door. (We were happy to learn before the cruise that there is no limit to the amount of luggage you can take on a cruise ship. However, as we left, lugging all this stuff, we were perhaps a bit less happy about that. ) Once we passed customs, and made it outside, I scooted around the building and out into the parking lot. I had set a landmark for myself when I left the van a week before. There were two major light towers in the middle of the parking lot, and I had parked right next to the one farthest from the ship. So, I had no problem locating the van.

It was okay, it hadn't been molested. I saw, when I got there, that I had left the passenger side rear wind wing open the entire time that we were gone. I was surprised that I had done that, but "No harm no foul," as Chick Hearn used to say.

There was some moisture on the windows of the driver's side and the rear of the car, because they were still in the shade, while the rest of the windows were already dry in the sunshine. I took out my squeegee and scraped off the water. I hopped in the car and headed off to the terminal.

Dotti had paid for our parking online before we left home. (She is really good about things like that!) As I exited the lot, I showed the lady at the gate the printed receipt Dotti had given me, and I was soon on my way to pick up the others.

When I got to the place where we had dropped off our luggage a week before, I saw Jim waving to me to get my attention. I pulled in and we loaded up the car, with Jim, the former expert aircrew cargo loader, doing the bulk of the loading. Then we all hopped in and drove out of the parking lot at about 08:30. We left ms Westerdam, Terminal 30, and the cruise behind us. But we held on to a lot of great memories as we followed the signs to I-5 South.



Later on, Dotti and I put on a couple of items that we bought on the cruise, and took pictures. I thought it might be nice to end this cruise with those shots.















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