A Volendam good time


1) the 34KM long tide water Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay with Mt. Root in background

I’m currently in Michigan – a long way from Alaska I know – and am uploading what is a mother lode of photographs with little narrative … apologies for that. We cruised the standard ports of call for Alaska – Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan (Salmon Capital of the World, apparently … though I saw but one dead salmon the entire day there … go figure). This trip was with Holland America Line’s Volendam, a mid-sized ship that holds about 1,400 souls. It’s a nice size and having cruised this same route previously on Princess’ Dawn Princess (considerably larger), I must admit I prefer the smaller ship and Holland America for that matter – the service is that much more refined; there are fewer young folks; next to no children; and the food – notably at their pricier Pinnacle Grill – is outstanding; we ended up taking four meals there.  Plus, with HAL’s Mariner Society status we get a few perks that make a difference (a Mariner’s luncheon before sailing and lunch with the Captain, who this time out was Peter Bos). On top of this, HAL permits you to haul on board as much of your own wine/champagne as you wish, which we certainly did. HAL’s wine list is good – and I must admit very reasonable (with lots of Oregon and Washington State wines) – but it is nice to bring on board some of one’s favourites. There is but an $18 corkage fee for bottles opened at table. Interestingly, HAL is not currently offering any British Columbian wines. I spoke with their sommelier about this deficit and advised that they are very keen to do so but HAL purchases centrally for the entire fleet and, as yet, BC producers’ stocks are assigned elsewhere. HAL hopes to have BC wine on board during the next round of sales contracts meaning you should see some of the brilliant wines by Blasted Church, Hester, and Nk’Mip on HAL ships by 2014.

The reality whilst cruising is that there is no reality. Reality is suspended purposefully by the cruise line to create a dreamlike world where money (the gaming tables aside) is useless and one roams the ship and shore signing this and that chit, blissfully unawares of the true costs being debited to your shipboard account. In a fashion, cruising is like Las Vegas – a postcard-sized fantasy where you can indulge yourself across all seven of the deadly sins … sans guilt.

As I sit and write this, I realize I spent an entire week eating three ridiculously-sized meals each day quaffed down with more alcohol than is morally or otherwise healthy, and, aside from an 8-hour hike out to, on to – and ultimately, under – the Mendenhall Glacier (no sizeable feat for the faint of heart true), I did well, nothing. But perhaps that`s the point.

Our proverbial ship came in one morning and by 11:30AM we were on board. We are fortunate that unlike many cruisers our travel to the ship involves but a 5 minute walk from home to Canada Place Pier.

2) the Volendam comes in (this is taken from our condo); 3) we like Holland America as the ships are smaller (this one holds about 1400 passengers)

4) G scopes out the view from the balcony; 5) on the gang plank

6) goodies await my folks on board; 7) our veranda suite before we asked our stewards to reconfigure the bed back to a king

8) ma and papa toast their bon voyage; 9) our table was …. 22

10) HAL logo on the Volendam; 11) mandatory lifeboat drill before setting sail

12 & 13) us practicing putting on the lifejackets

14) mine fits … sort of; 15) balloons marked the entrance to ma and papa’s cabin

16) Mariner’s luncheon before setting sail; 17) the obligatory shrimp cocktail but of course

18) tuna tartare; 19) mussels

20) touring the Crow’s Nest; 21) the aft pool … suitable for Polar Bear dips

22) we walked a mile each morning after breakfast; 23) our ship was made in Italy

24) the Captain toasts our departure; 25) the main gallery

26) goodbye Vancouver; 27) under Lions Gate we go

28 & 29) northward we go through the Georgia Strait

30 & 31) more of the Georgia Strait

32) so pretty from the bow of the ship

33) two fishing trawls head south; 34) G looks north

35) no photographia!; 36) another trawler

37) such pretty scenery

38) how’d you like to live here 3 months at a time; 39) our lifeboat is No. 4

40 & 41) G explores the ship

42 & 43) a stroll around the Promenade Deck on the first night out

44) ma and papa check out the menu at the Pinnacle Grill; 45) atop the ship

46) decisions, decisions; 47) beautiful sunset on the first night out

48) the 2nd morning dawns dark but still beautiful in its own way

49) a smaller day trip boat heads south

50) G taking our morning walk; 51) Orcas!

52) Alaskans welcome? the Volendam with Coast Guard boat complete with gunner (rolls eyes); 53) this is a better welcome

54 & 55) I watched the Princess ship dock right behind us in Juneau … it is such an art

56 & 57) the longshoremen prepare to moor the ship

578 & 59) the crew leads out the main line

60) Juneau’s cruise ship dock

61) along the Juneau shoreline; 62) the Mt Roberts Tramway

Arriving in Juneau G and I hired a guide and took a private 8-hour hike out to the Mendenhall Glacier. Once there, we donned crampons and ice axes and spent an hour and a half exploring the glacier before entering a glacial cave, which I must admit was oh-my-god cool. A real highlight!

63) the Mendenhall Glacier seems so far away at this point!; 64) G and Dawn chat as we hike out to the Glacier

65 & 66) before reaching the glacier, you have to scramble up and over a small escarpment

67) on the other side the glacier appears; 68) nearing the ice

69) mountain goat skin and hair … was it a wolf or bear me wonders; 70) this is a telling marker Dawn is standing in front … it marks the limit of the glacier in August 2002 … 10 years later in August 2012 the ice had receded near a kilometer

71) putting on our crampons; 72) and heading onto the glacier

73) G negotiates his way onto the ice … it`s SO cool!

74) G and I exit a very large ice cavern; 75) I`m last out … you can see an ice pick above my head I was using to pull myself up and out

76 & 77) heading further up the glacier to re-fill our water bottles with glacial water

78 & 79) got it! … it tastes like … well, water! hehe

80) G picks his way down

81) Dawn heads down to the entrance to the glacial cave; 82) in G and Dawn go … you do not want to linger very long at the entrance as the glacier continues to melt and move

83) inside is a surreal world … here is G. It sort of reminded me of something out of an Alien movie

84) Dawn moves out ahead of us in the cave

85) G and Dawn pick their way deeper into the cave

86) there is G with the entrance further back past him

87) here we are at the entrance …. it truly is another world

88) a short video from inside the cave so you can see and hear what it was like

89) leaving the glacier behind now

90) … and hiking back to the car taking the alpine route … this was very similar to hiking Quirpon Island (in Newfoundland) I thought

91) Dawn and G ahead of me

92) way up now with the waterfall on the left

93) a wary sign; 94) my only injury from the hike is an abrasion I received sliding down a rock face


95) lifeboat drill for the crew; 96) welcome to Skagway – during the Klondike Gold days this town had some 30,000 people … today, 895 live year round


97) I was going to mail stuff but the office was closed!; 98) I`m staying here next time


99) at the faux Starbucks in Skagway you can order this; 100) an Alaskan State ferry pulls into Skagway from Juneau


101) my folks took the White Pass & Yukon narrow gauge railway to the Yukon and said it was amazing; 102) Starbucks and jewelry store all in one in Skagway


103) where you want to go… ; 104) me with nitwit Sarah in town


105) here`s the train they use to clear snow from the track; 106) the original railway building


107 & 108) the (im)famous Red Onion Saloon (read: brothel) is still in operation today


109) G among the poppies… poppies with make them sleep


110 & 111) Glacier Bay touring morning dawned very foggy but slowly cleared as we arrived at the glaciers


112 & 113) eerie and beautiful I thought

114) G admires the view from the stern; 115) up on top I watch the last of the fog disappear

116 & 117) the stunning Lamplugh Glacier – 13km long

119 & 120) a large sail boat is dwarfed by the glacier


121) the Fairweather Range of Mountains in Glacier Bay here so-named by none other than Captain James Cook

122 & 123) the 40-km long Great Pacific Glacier


124) watching the Glaciers from ma and papa`s balcony; 125) Great Pacific Glacier


126) in Tarr Inlet; 127) we SO wanted to see a puffin and lo and behold … there he was!

128) the marvellous Margerie Glacier


129) moi with Margerie in background

130) leaving the Tarr Inlet


131) we even were lucky to watch the Margerie Glacier calf whilst there … the sound when this happens is amazing


132) this humpbacked whale was right beside the ship; 133) if you look close, you`ll see a sea otter lying on his back eating


134) Captain Bos sees whales


135 & 136) humpback whales breaching just for us

137) and large harbour seals sunning themselves on the rocks


138) this was a whole pod of whales … I counted 5 blow holes at one point; 139) ma and papa enjoy the view on a formal night


140) moi getting ready to head down to dinner; 141) we were chasing the Sea Princess this evening


142) random picture of the lights in the lounge; 143) ma readies herself for dinner


144) steak tartare; 145) beef wellington


146) salmon appetizer; 147) leg of lamb


148) dessert art; 149) celebrating the anniversary in the Amsterdam dinning room with Chef


150) celerbating the anniversary again in the Pinnacle Grill


151) a short video of the anniversary celebrations in the Amsterdam dinning room


152) our room stewards – Ughi and Suruya- left animals for us each evening – a turkey; 153) an elephant


154) a dog; 155) a monkey which scared the hell out of me when I opened the door


156 & 157) taking a tour of the kitchens


158) one night each cruise the Pinnacle Grill transforms itself into Le Cirque … which is of course THE restaurant in NYC … complete with the china used by the restaurant; 159) appetizer


160) probably the best Caesar salad I`ve very eaten; 161) I ordered steak


162) ma`s salad; 163) we all received this amuse of fois gras and rhubarb

164) rack of lamb; 165) fois gras and salmon starter

166 & 167) desserts including a lime panna cotta

168) ma and papa at dinner at Le Cirque; 169) a wonderful little touch is this box of chocolates left in your stateroom after dinner

170) G strolls after dinner; 171) wow, what a lovely evening

171 & 172) dessert buffet night! … need we say more

173) doing laundry on board

174) Alain prepares our dinner table-side; 175) the appetizer

176) filet mignon for me; 177) surf and turf for G

178) dessert

180) arrviign into Ketchikan … with 4 other ships already there; 181) a busy harbour

182) these lads board first before letting us get off; 183) welcome to Ketchikan

184) near the salmon ladder in Creek Street; 185) homes built up along the cliffs

186 & 187) the Creek Street artist area

188) great name for a shop; 189) G wanders

190) returning under Lions Gate Bridge; 191) G heads for home

It was a grand cruise but new adventures await here in Michigan, I suppose. I fly to London on Friday to meet-up with my parents for a final anniversary family dinner before flying onwards to Toronto next week for some Toronto International Film Festing … oh, and a little work too. 


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4 Responses to A Volendam good time

  1. ElusiveWords says:

    Wow – pictures overload. I absolutely enjoyed the pictures of the ice cave. Everything else was a close second.

  2. tomatoboi says:

    Oh wow, that’s so cool! I would love to see an ice cave like that! I’m not sure cruises are my kind of travel, but your photos are amazing~ were you going to send a postcard to me if the post office wasn’t closed?

  3. christao408 says:

    Looks like a grand time!

  4. Fatcat723 says:

    I have never been on a cruise but this certainly is inviting. Now the climbing and the ice cave not so sure.

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