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Vancouver Arrival

June 5, 2022 – Arrival in Vancouver and returning home to Victoria, BC, Canada

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I’m awake at 5:30AM, get dressed and go up to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 11 forward where the Explorations Cafe is located. The staff are preparing for opening at 7AM, but I’m interested in watching the ship pass under Lion’s Gate bridge as we sail into Vancouver. It is raining and gloomy outside, but I manage to take a time lapse video with my iPhone that captures the few minutes it takes the ship to pass under the bridge. The North Shore industrial terminal is on our left and Stanley Park is on our right as the ship makes its way to the Cruise Ship Terminal at Canada Place in Vancouver harbour, arriving right on time at 7AM.

Time lapse video of the Nieuw Amsterdam passing under Lion’s Gate bridge, entering Vancouver harbour

I grab my last cappuccino from my favourite barista and head back down to my stateroom on deck 5, where I’m facing the dock at Canada Place. My preordered breakfast arrives at 7:30AM, right on time – my last lox, cream cheese and bagel for breakfast while aboard the ship. My debarkation time slot is second to last, so I have lots of time to relax and let everyone leave the ship. No doubt some are in a hurry to get to flights home and other onward travels. When my turn comes to leave the ship for the last time, my keycard is scanned by ship’s security, and I’m soon in the Canada Place terminal with throngs of other travellers.

Cruise passengers make their way into the city from Canada Place

It is actually pretty well organized, with lots of staff to point everyone in the right direction, and keep people moving. The Canada Border Services officers are waving everyone through, taking our customs declaration forms, but they don’t want to see passports, vaccination cards, or our bags. I’m soon directed to a line to wait for the bus that transfers us to Vancouver Airport. A half hour later I’m dropped off with my bag at Domestic Departures, and walk a bit further outside to the shuttle pickup area. A free South Terminal shuttle soon arrives, taking me on a 20-minute drive out the main terminal area and back into the south terminal area.

The south terminal used to be Vancouver’s main airport, which I can remember taking flights from when I was a kid in the 1960s. Now, it is home to Pacific Coastal Airways and other small airlines serving people travelling to small BC destinations. I arrive at 11AM, but my flight doesn’t leave until 6:30PM, so I have the whole afternoon to kill before I fly home. I surf the Internet for awhile, but I’m soon bored, so I have a plate of fries at the Galiano Cafe for lunch.

Air France Boeing 777-200ER climbing out, bound for Paris
Air France Boeing 777-200ER climbing out, bound for Paris

I’m looking at a lot more waiting time before my flight, so I go outside and soon discover a plane spotting platform on the north side of the terminal. It has a great view of the executive jet facilities next door, and the main, southern east-west runway, which is being used for takeoffs this afternoon. Plane spotting using my long 100-500 lens keeps me busy for a couple of hours. I spot a couple of executive jets landing or taking off, an Air France flight taking off for Paris, a Japan Airways flight destined for Narita, along with the usual traffic. Vancouver is a very busy airport.

I clear security and wait for my flight in the only secure boarding lounge. My flight to Victoria aboard Pacific Coastal Airways takes off a few minutes early, since everyone has checked in and are onboard. The flight takes about 20 minutes, and it’s still reasonably light outside when we land, despite being 6:30PM. It’s also clear enough for me to take a few photos out the window with my iPhone as we fly over Georgia Strait and the southern Gulf Islands before arriving at Victoria Airport. We retrieve my bag and drive home, where my Jack Russell Terriers are waiting to give me a frenzied welcome.

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Inside Passage

June 4, 2022 – the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, Canada

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

Map of my photos taken between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, including the Inside Passage
Map of my photos taken between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, including the Inside Passage

I have breakfast in the main dining room, but they don’t have a group to seat me with, so I eat alone. The Nieuw Amsterdam emerged last night from protected waters after leaving Ketchikan into Hecate Strait, and is proceeding down the Canadian Inside Passage: Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnston Strait and Georgia Strait, where the ship will wait overnight. We arrive in Vancouver harbour the following morning around 7AM.

It is raining and foggy outside this morning, which I take photos of as I sip a cappuccino in the Crows Nest Explorations Cafe. I’m eventually driven out of there by the noise and crowds playing some game with a host, so I wander around the ship at loose ends. Since the shipboard Internet hasn’t worked for me for the last several days, I complain to Customer Service. They can’t get my connection working either, despite insisting it is working for others, so they give me a 2-day credit.

Crow's Nest - Explorations EXC & Explorer's Bar
Crow’s Nest – Explorations EXC & Explorer’s Bar

I meet friends on the Lido pool deck for lunch, which is protected today with a closed canopy. I have a Beyond Meat version of The High Dive burger and fries, along with a beer. They tell me the crew have said are only around 700 passengers aboard, but there are 1,700 passengers boarding in Vancouver tomorrow. I believe the ship holds about 2,100 maximum, so currently they are only one-third of capacity. Having so few passengers aboard but with a full complement of crew means we have been spoiled on this voyage with excellent service. Although some of the crew are new, and they are operating under new protocols like having to wear masks the whole time they are on duty, they have all done very well. I know the passengers have appreciated their work…I certainly have!

Lido Bar setup for evening service
Lido Bar setup for evening service

I go to my favourite premium restaurant this evening at 6PM. Tamarind is an Asian Fusion restaurant that offers superb service, very creative and tasty food, and it is located mid-ship on the top deck, offering wonderful views while dining. There is a dedicated sushi chef and eating area for those who go for that cuisine. Personally, I like my seafood cooked and served in a traditional way, so I stick to their main dining area. They also offer a lovely bar, which is a nice, quiet area during the day, since Tamarind only operates in the evening.

Mongolian barbeque lamb chops - Tamarind
Mongolian barbeque lamb chops – Tamarind

I have a Classic Martini to start, made with Tanqueray 10 gin. Some Shrimp Chips with soy sauce & sweet and spicy sauces goes well with my cocktail as I take in the view of northern Vancouver Island sliding by as we sail south through Queen Charlotte Strait. My starter is Lobster and Shrimp Potstickers, served with smoked shoyu and pickled ginger. Since my martini is finished, I have a couple of glasses of Le Grand Courtage Brut Rose French wine with my main course: very tasty and tender Mongolian Barbecue Lamb Chops, with baby bok choy, toasted sesame seeds, mirin plum sauce, and Dungeness Crab fried rice. I finish off with a dessert called Mango Posset – coconut macaroon, passion fruit jelly, mango sorbet. I leave a glowing review – JoeTourist recommended!

I go to see the Step One Dance Company: Presents Off The Charts in the main stage at 9PM. It is a pretty good song and dance show, flashing back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s performing artists. There is also a singer from the BB King venue adding her voice to the blues review part of the performance.

I walk around the Promenade Deck to get some exercise and fresh air before returning to my stateroom. It’s time to pack and put my bag out for pickup this evening, in preparation for disembarkation in Vancouver tomorrow.

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Ketchikan

June 3, 2022 – Ketchikan, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

Ketchikan is our last port-of-call before our cruise ends in Vancouver the day after tomorrow. This morning after having breakfast in the main dining room I go on a photo safari tour excursion, which gets me out of the city. The historic Creek district of the city is our first stop. We visit the outside of the Totem Heritage Center next, mainly to see the Fog Woman totem pole. We then go to the library for a scenic view before driving to the Totem Bight State Historical Parknorth of the city. This is a recreation of an aboriginal village, featuring a clan house, totems, and other decorated buildings, along with a gift shop. The excursion was fine, but it was certainly the most underwhelming of any of the activities I’ve experienced on this trip.

Calamari starter – Canaletto restaurant

After I return to the ship, I post my White Pass and Yukon railway videos from a couple of days ago since I now have sufficient bandwidth with the roaming mobile service I’m using today. I get dressed for a 7pm Italian dinner at the Canaletto restaurant up on the Lido deck. While I’m enjoying a pre-dinner martini in the Ocean Bar, I dictate my journal for today using speech recognition on my iPhone. I enjoy a Calamari starter, Veal Florentine Cannelloni main course, and Tiramisu for dessert. I’m finding it so decadent to indulge in such gourmet food accompanied with cocktails and wine! 

I attend BBC Earth Presents : Planet Earth II with the Lincoln Center Stage performers on the Main Stage this evening. The performance is well done, with the live performers doing a great job of syncing with the media being played, adding a welcome dimension to the work. I also stop in to enjoy the evening entertainers at the BB King’s Blues Club.

BBC Earth Presents : Planet Earth II with Lincoln Center Stage performers at the Main Stage
BBC Earth Presents : Planet Earth II with Lincoln Center Stage performers at the Main Stage

It has been a relaxing cruise, but the land portion was more active and stressful, mainly from the required COVID-19 testing, since failing a test would mean quarantine, the end of the planned travel, disruption and extra expense. Now that I have an ArriveCAN receipt, I’m clear to enter Canada in Vancouver without further testing. Traveling without a smartphone and connectivity would prove to be very awkward, since using apps and online form filling are required to travel right now during the pandemic.

As is usual with cruises, the older people are hacking and coughing in the common areas of the ship. I am hopeful that they do not have the COVID-19 virus. It was a cloudy day today but we had some sunny periods and no rain, so much better than the forecast indicated.

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Juneau

June 2, 2022 – Juneau, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

The ship arrives in Juneau at 8AM and my floatplane excursion doesn’t leave until Noon, so I have plenty of time to have breakfast and look around the city. Juneau is the state capital of Alaska, so in addition to tourism, the city has the government and some industry to base their economy on. There are nice plazas, a developed waterfront, the shops are plentiful and appear to be prospering. Before returning to the ship, I check out where Wings Airways dispatches their seaplanes from, which is only a 5-minute walk from where the ship is docked.

Five Glacier Seaplane Exploration

The pilot selects me to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, so that’s a real bonus, allowing me to see out the front of the aircraft as well as having a side window. We soar over the lush wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, catching our first glimpse of five distinctly different and majestic glaciers making up a section of the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field. We fly over the deep crevasses and azure blue meltwater pools of the Norris, Hole-In-The-Wall, East and West Twin Glaciers and lake, plus the impressive five-mile-wide Taku Glacier. Of the 36 named glaciers comprising the Juneau Ice Field, the Taku Glacier is the largest. The Annex Creek power station is visible as we fly along the Taku Inlet. There is a verdant valley between the foot of Norris and Taku glaciers and Taku Inlet.

We end the flight by overflying the harbour and city before landing on a southerly heading, returning to the dock. I buy a souvenir t-shirt and ball cap combo from the seaplane office before returning to the ship. I have lots of photos and video taken with my iPhone 13 Pro on this spectacular flight in clear and sunny weather – well worth the expense for this excursion.

I have a pizza and a beer from NY Pizza aboard the ship, sitting in the shade beside the Sea View pool on the stern, overlooking the city and harbour. It’s a lovely warm and sunny day…in fact, Juneau breaks a record today set back in 1946 for the hottest day:  28ºC (82ºF). Our Belgian cruise director complains about getting a bit of a sunburn today!

Since I have the drinks package, I’m making a point of ordering cappuccino and alcoholic drinks anytime I want one. Today I had two cappuccinos with breakfast, the beer with lunch. I also have another cappuccino in the late afternoon at the Explorations Cafe, where Maria, the young barista thanks me for leaving a complimentary comment using the Navigator app a couple of days ago. 

I skip dinner or even a snack this evening, since the personal-sized pizza I had this afternoon was 6 slices, which filled me up. I attend the 7pm Step One Dance Company Presents: Humanity and send a comment through Navigator app: “This is my first MainStage show viewed on this voyage, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Please pass on my congratulations to the performers. I know it must be tough to play to a mostly empty house, but their enthusiasm and professionalism shone through.”

I spot my first small Humpback whale at 9:30PM this evening from my verandah as we pass through Frederick Sound. The ship is making 20 knots to Ketchikan, so there is only time to grab binoculars, not my camera.

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Skagway

June 1, 2022 – the White Pass & Yukon Railway – Skagway, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I have a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room this morning: vegetable scramble (eggs) with a cappuccino. There is no rush, since my excursion doesn’t leave until 12:10PM. I have lots of time to wander around Skagway, which looks a lot like Dawson City, since the storefronts are all historic looking, but mostly modern buildings inside. The first few blocks of State Street (the main street) has all the tourist shops and services, but walk further up the street a few blocks, or divert a block or two either side, and the real town reveals itself. Dominating the town are the deep sea docks for cruise ships, which once were also used for ore loading, and the multiple railway tracks of the White Pass and Yukon railway, which run from the docks along the eastern side of town.

I tick off a long-standing bucket list item today: riding on the White Pass and Yukon railway from Skagway to the White Pass Summit. The breathtaking scenery is a counterpoint to realizing the Klondike gold miners had to struggle up this steep mountain pass mainly on foot. When they got to the top, they had to go back down and up multiple times to haul their one ton stake to the summit before the North West Mounted Police would let them into Canada to seek their fortune in Dawson City, some 500 miles further! I think the excursion description is a great summary of my experience:

“Experience an unforgettable journey along the eastern side of White Pass aboard the world-famous narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, built more than 100 years ago. You’ll pass through some of the North’s most rugged terrain on board a comfortable rail car as you retrace the original route through breathtaking scenery to the summit of White Pass at 2,865 feet. Relax on the 40-mile roundtrip journey along steep grades and cliff-hanging turns as your train agent shares stories from the past.

Back in Skagway, board a motor coach and travel the historic streets of downtown Skagway, part of the Klondike National Historical Park. Visit The Lookout, a photographer’s delight offering a panoramic view of the Skagway Valley, glacier-clad mountains, Lynn Canal and your cruise ship.

Stop at historic Liarsville, a gold rush trail camp nestled beside a waterfall at the foot of White Pass. Liarsville is named for the journalists sent here to report on the Klondike Gold Rush, whose articles included tall tales of the prospectors’ exploits. Browse the authentic camp exhibits, including antiques and garments left behind by the prospectors and those who profited from them. A cast of ‘sourdoughs’ and dance hall girls will entertain you with a hilarious melodrama and a poem by Robert Service, the Bard of the North. 

You’ll also have a chance to try your hand at the art of gold panning in the Liarsville gold fields, where you are guaranteed to find some gold to keep. Enjoy a snack, shop for souvenirs or have your photo taken with a dance hall girl.”

White Pass & Yukon Railway – Skagway to White Pass Summit route map

Would-be gold miners had a choice of two routes: the shorter but steeper Chilkoot Trail, or the White Pass trail, which promised a less steep but longer route. Both were punishing routes which lead to the interior lake region where the stampeders could begin their 550 mile journey to the promised gold to be found in the creeks and rivers of Dawson City. The White Pass and Yukon railway was built a few years later by an Irish-Canadian named “Big” Mike Henry, who built the 110 mile route over just 26 months for $15 million. He is quoted “give me enough dynamite, and snoose, and I’ll build you a railroad to hell.” 

In 1982 world metal prices plummeted, so the ore from the mines the railway transported to ships dried up. The railway suspended operations until 1988, when they reinvented themselves as a narrow guage tourist excursion train between Skagway and the White Pass Summit. The active line was later extended to Bennett Lake (1990s) and Carcross, Yukon (2007). Due to pandemic border restrictions, currently only trips to White Pass Summit are offered.

After returning to the ship, I have dinner in the main dining room with a couple from south Texas. I start with corn and crabmeat fritters, panko-crusted hake for the main course, and strawberry pavlova for dessert. The hake is really nice – a new fish for me. I see the Belt of Venus and the Earth’s shadow in front of us after sunset, as the ship makes its way slowly south down the Lynn Canal to tomorrow’s port of call, Juneau.

Skagway
46 photos, 2 videos
Sunset panorama looking west to north from my verandah
Sunset panorama looking west to north from my verandah
After sunset looking north up the Lynn Canal from my verandah
After sunset looking north up the Lynn Canal from my verandah
"We Love Alaska" sign on the bow of the Nieuw Amsterdam
“We Love Alaska” sign on the bow of the Nieuw Amsterdam
White Pass & Yukon Route train station and other shops in downtown Skagway
White Pass & Yukon Route train station and other shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Parks Canada and US National Parks Klondike information center
Parks Canada and US National Parks Klondike information center
Historic Skagway Inn's Back garden
Historic Skagway Inn’s Back garden
Historic Y.M.C.A. Gymnasium
Historic Y.M.C.A. Gymnasium
Cute house with white picket fence, flag and snow-capped mountains behind
Cute house with white picket fence, flag and snow-capped mountains behind
Snowmobiles stored on top of a container box
Snowmobiles stored on top of a container box
Looking down Broadway to the valley from the stern of the ship
Looking down Broadway to the valley from the stern of the ship
Vintage steam engine and rotary snowplow
Vintage steam engine and rotary snowplow
A new engine pullling a White Pass & Yukon train from the Ore Dock
A new engine pullling a White Pass & Yukon train from the Ore Dock
Boarding the train
Boarding the train
Railway equpment on a siding
Railway equpment on a siding
Our train waits on a bridge over a moutain stream for hikers to board
Our train waits on a bridge over a moutain stream for hikers to board
Stove to heat the car in the winter
Stove to heat the car in the winter
Railway maintenace yard
Railway maintenace yard
Looking down the valley towards Skagway from Rocky Point
Looking down the valley towards Skagway from Rocky Point
The highway across the valley
The highway across the valley
Inside our train car
Inside our train car
The front of the train and a siding
The front of the train and a siding
The railway grade above us
The railway grade above us
The railway grade above us with wooden trestle and tunnel
The railway grade above us with wooden trestle and tunnel
Picking up hikers
Picking up hikers
Snow-covered mountain peaks
Snow-covered mountain peaks
View down the valley to Skagway and the Lynn Canal
View down the valley to Skagway and the Lynn Canal
Train passes over a bridge, through a tunnel and another train passes at the summit
Train passes over a bridge, through a tunnel and another train passes at the summit
Our train entering the tunnel to the summit
Our train entering the tunnel to the summit
The trail of '98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
The trail of ’98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
The simple sign marking the trail of '98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
The simple sign marking the trail of ’98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
Canada-USA border marker
Canada-USA border marker
North West Mounted Police NWMP replica cabin at the summit
North West Mounted Police NWMP replica cabin at the summit
A stream running through the snowy White Pass summit
A stream running through the snowy White Pass summit
The snowy White Pass summit
The snowy White Pass summit
Our train looping back at the White Pass summit
Our train looping back at the White Pass summit
Liarsville welcome sign with camp behind
Liarsville welcome sign with camp behind
Saloon tent
Saloon tent
Shopping list for 1 Ton of goods at Madam Jan's Fancy Goods
Shopping list for 1 Ton of goods at Madam Jan’s Fancy Goods
Laundry tent
Laundry tent
Robert Service skit
Robert Service skit
Robert Service skit
Robert Service skit
Blacksmith and hardware tent
Blacksmith and hardware tent
Panning for gold
Panning for gold
Press tent
Press tent
Overlooking Skagway and the cruise ships
Overlooking Skagway and the cruise ships
Venus' Belt as we head south after departing Skagway with a cruise ship ahead of us
Venus’ Belt as we head south after departing Skagway with a cruise ship ahead of us
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Glacier Bay

May 31, 2022 – Glacier Bay National Park, Gustavus, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I ordered breakfast from room service last night (continental, bagel and lox, coffee), so I don’t have to contend with the inevitable crowds that will be up at the Lido this morning. By 9AM we are into the Glacier Bay channel, heading north to the glacier viewing area. The bow is opened up on my deck 5, so lots of people are going by my door to access that forward view. I’ll go up there later, but I’m quite happy observing all the beautiful scenery going by from my verandah. It’s great to be able to duck into my stateroom to warm up, work on my journal, consult the maps to determine where the ship is located, and sip cappuccino. I’m so glad I decided to go for a verandah stateroom!

Our Timing (port side)

  • Northbound – proceeding NW, facing SE
    • Geikie Glacier (snow-covered) – 9:45AM
    • Gilbert Peninsula – 10:45AM
    • Reid Glacier (snow-covered) – 11:10AM
    • Lamplugh Glacier (blue) – 11:30AM
    • Johns Hopkins (blue) – 11:45AM
    • Margerie (blue) & Grand Pacific Glaciers (dark) – 1:00PM – 2:45PM
  • Southbound – proceeding SE, facing NE
    • Rendu & Queen Inlets (Rendu & Carroll Glaciers both snow-covered & dark) – 3:45PM
    • Muir Inlet – 4:45PM
    • Bartlett Cove

I go up to the Explorations Cafe mid-morning to get a cappuccino, and end up being given some Dutch Pea soup as well, which is a very good mid-morning nourishment break. I won’t bother with lunch! It is crowded and noisy in the Crow’s Nest, since the park rangers have setup there, and believe it or not some people are playing board games as well.

Cruise ship route map in Glacier Bay
Cruise ship route map in Glacier Bay – Glacier Bay National Park

Our ship slows to give way to kayakers, who are paddling from the Safari Endeavour excursion boat by Lamplugh Glacier. We then enter the narrow Johns Hopkins Inlet to view the beautiful glacier by the same name. I go to the bow viewing area on my deck and take a few people photos and a couple of selfies, but quickly retreat back to my stateroom, since I have great views from there without the crowds.

As we round the corner and head into Tarr Inlet, the National Geographic Quest excursion boat is heading south out of the inlet, and the Seabourn Osyssey cruise ship is at the head of the inlet giving their passengers a closeup view of Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers. I take some photos of Grand Pacific Glacier, which is already visible in the distance on our Port quarter. Since Grand Pacific Glacier is quite dirty-looking, the star of the show is Margerie Glacier, which still has lots of blue-coloured ice on a distinct wall close to the shoreline. There is also a significant ice field above with dramatic chunks of ice sticking up. Mt. Fairweather is visible behind the glacier – the tallest peak in British Columbia, my home province!

The ship stays in position for at least an hour with the port side facing Margerie Glacier where my stateroom is located. The ship then turns to give the starboard side staterooms a view of Margerie Glacier for another hour. The ship sails SE down Tarr Inlet away from the glaciers at about 2:45PM. I take the opportunity to grab a cappuccino from the Explorations Cafe. By 3:45PM we are offshore from Rendu & Queen Inlets. The toe of Carroll Glacier in Queen Inlet comes into view first, then the viewing angle for Rendu Glacier is favourable about 10 minutes later.

This is the end of the glacier show, as we sail SE to Bartlett Cove, where the park rangers disembark to return to their headquarters. The US Parks Service only allow two cruise ships per day to visit Glacier Bay, with Holland America and Princess having priority since they have cruised Alaska the longest. Obviously Seabourn also gets some slots.

The view from my west-facing verandah on the northbound route through Glacier Bay is nothing short of spectacular, however the east-facing southbound view isn’t too exciting. We make our way eastward through Icy Strait and then turn north at Point Couverden into the Lynn Canal, on our way to Skagway tomorrow.

After having an early dinner in the main dining room, I go to the first performance in the Lincoln Center Stage. There are three performers: a cellist, a violinist, and a pianist. The cellist plays an innovative piece, while both the violinist and pianist play more traditional chamber music.

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Hubbard Glacier

May 30, 2022 – Turner and Hubbard Glaciers, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

The ship sails past the very impressive St. Elias mountain range enroute through the Gulf of Alaska to Hubbard Glacier this morning. I attend the Mariner Society Welcome Reception at 11AM, where I meet some of the officers and chat with my fellow passengers with 3, 4, and 5 star Mariner status as we sip wine and snack on peanuts.

This afternoon, the ship turns into Yakutat Bay and then into Disenchantment Bay, where I spot more glaciers, taking photos as we get closer to Hubbard Glacier. The ship eventually gets very close to the ice pack in front of the glacier face, slowly turning to allow all passengers to get views of this magnificent area.

Daniel E. Lawson – map of the Hubbard Glacier area

There is commentary from the Explorations Lounge on Deck 11, which can also be heard on outside decks. I go down to the Promenade Deck to have a look, but quickly realize I will see everything from my verandah, with the added benefit of being able to duck inside my stateroom to warm up. 

Filet mignon main course in Pinnacle Grill

As the ship starts pulling out of Disenchantment Bay, I get dressed in a suit and tie for my dinner reservation in the Pinnacle Grill. I have a lovely Tanqueray 10 Gin martini to start, then crab cakes, filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms and loaded baked potato, finishing off with creme brûlée. I have a sparkling French rose with my main course. Despite the daily program saying attire is “dressy” this evening, it’s obvious that HAL no longer enforces a dress code, since I see people seated in the Pinnacle Grill who are wearing winter coats and jeans, and all manner of dress that is certainly not even close to “dressy”.

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Anchorage to Whittier

May 29, 2022 – Anchorage to Whittier, Alaska and board the Nieuw Amsterdam

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

We don’t leave the hotel until 12:10PM, so I finish annotating my photos this morning, posting a new Denali-Anchorage album to my Flickr account before I leave. The hotel Wi-fi is pathetically slow, so I’m glad I have my mobile LTE roaming from Fido to work with.

I say goodbye to our Tour Director Cassandra Joy, encouraging her to look me up if she finds herself in Victoria. We board our bus to transfer to the rail station, and take an Alaska Railway dome car to Whittier, which is a 3-hour scenic trip. There is snack and drink service to the seat offered by each car’s attendant. We pass through a tunnel that is shared by road vehicles and trains – a unique approach to saving the expense if having two tunnels!

The Nieuw Amsterdam is waiting for us at the dock. Check-in is slow due to the health check requirements before boarding, but it takes well under an hour before I’m in my lovely verandah stateroom on the ship. A short time later, my checked bag shows up, so I unpack and settle in.

First order of business is to find my Muster Station and register with the crew there, and then watch the safety video in my cabin. Gathering all passengers on deck at their muster stations is no longer done, in order to avoid crowding and risk of infection. I have a wonderful dinner with 4 others in the main dining room: snow crab cocktail, Alaska salmon fillet, and strawberries with ice cream. Since I have the drinks package, I have two glasses of Italian Pinot Gris with dinner. The ship leaves at 6:00PM or so, while I’m at dinner, which is earlier than the scheduled departure time of 10PM stated in my itinerary.

I can’t stop taking photos and video on this trip, and today is no exception. The train ride down was through a scenic inlet and moose flat wetland, and then the ship sails past snow-capped mountains and through a lovely channel with lots of islands as the sun sets behind us. I can already appreciate the charm of an Alaska cruise, and we are just starting out!

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida

March 31 – April 1, 2020 – Sailing from the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale

2020 South America cruise

Ship’s route – sailing from Panama Canal to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

I make no journal entries and take no photographs for the two days it takes to sail from the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, since by that time I am pretty well shut down mentally. I concentrate on surviving the ordeal of being confined to our cabin for nine days, so I am able to ultimately return home to Canada. As can be seen by the ship’s route map, both ships proceed at full speed on a northerly course across the Caribbean Sea, rounding Cuba to the west by Havana.

April 2, 2020 – arriving in Fort Lauderdale

9:15am – We are 22 miles offshore from Fort Lauderdale, and still awaiting permission to land, so we can start the pre-clearance process today. We put our main checked bags out this morning, which are taken to a holding area on board the ship, ultimately to be transferred ashore for us.

1:50pm – Both Zaandam and Rotterdam are approved to come alongside and dock at the cruise port terminal within the next hour. We sail up the shipping channel to the cruise terminal, with lots of friendly waves coming from people on shore, however under the watchful eye of the US Coast Guard (see banner image above). We are designated to disembark the ship tomorrow morning – the first wave of Canadians leaving the ship to return to Canada!

People ashore waving to us as Rotterdam sails up the channel to the dock.
People ashore waving to us as Rotterdam sails up the channel to the dock (Shot through a dirty cabin window!)

Once docked, the pre-clearance process aboard the ship involves yet another health questionnaire and submitting to a health screening. We are then given the treasured “Approved to Disembark” card, walk off the ship into the terminal where we are waved through by US Immigration and Customs officers. We then walk back on board the ship, where we will stay overnight until tomorrow’s actual disembarkation. What a strange procedure!

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Panama Canal Transit

March 29, 2020 – Transiting the Panama Canal in the dead of night

2020 South America cruise

The Rotterdam and Zaandam are at anchor in the bay just off Balboa today. At dinner this evening, the captain informs us we have approvals for a canal transit, so both ships raise anchor and proceed to the Canal entrance after dark.

I have transited the Panama Canal on three previous occasions, but I find this is without a doubt the strangest. First of all, apparently the reason we were approved to transit is that Panama considers this a medical humanitarian mission. Both ships are proceeding after dark with minimal external lighting – no veranda deck lights, cabin blackout curtains are pulled, and we are transiting using the more remote, but new Cocoli Locks. I’m speculating, however I think it’s likely these measures are in place so the Panamanian public and canal workers don’t see our ships. There is great fear of mass protests by governments during these strange times we now live in…

The banner image above shows a webcam view of the Zaandam passing through Cocoli Locks. Note there are no canal workers in sight, since these new locks are designed to allow ship’s thrusters to be used instead of the labour-intensive towing that is required in the old locks.