Our taxi arrived right on time at the hotel to take us to the Anchorage train station for our 6:45 AM departure. It was crowded but orderly and we were soon on our way to Seward still in the dark, leaving our bags there for their handling.
The train was very comfortable but we did have a long walk forward to the coffee bar. Spectacular glaciers, mountains, rivers and marshes filled our window. There was a mad scramble to take photos, first left, then right. We saw five moose running madly to get away from the train. Lazy beluga whales (small whiteish ones) rolled over off shore. Marie saw a trumpet swan. Fantastic beauty and rugged experience everywhere.
We arrived in Seward 4 hrs later, a deep water port where the Holland America (HAL) Westerdam awaits us. It was drizzling and cool. Check in was very smooth and we were on board eating lunch with Dave and Mary by 12:30. Food is OK so far but nothing like on Oceania Cruise Line which is renowned for it’s food.
Seward is named after William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s capable Secretary of State during the U.S. Civil War. He negotiated the Alaskan Purchase from Russia in 1867 at a bargain price and is very highly regarded here. Alaska entered the Union as the 49th State in 1959.
We have done quite a few cruises before and this will be our 2nd on HAL. The Westerdam is an older ship built in 2004 with a capacity of 1964 passengers, making it medium sized in our view. It was renovated a few years back but has a bit of a tired look to it. It is adequate and clean. Our cabin is very good, an aft balcony i.e. a balcony facing the stern of the ship. Our cabin steward named May introduced himself and was very friendly and helpful.
Two of our bags arrived quickly but the 3rd and biggest one got delayed 3 hrs. Apparently the tag with the cabin# fell off and they had to trace it to us by name. It was a frustrating delay but all was well at last. We had the standard safety drill on deck but mercifully did not have to don the life jackets this time.
We had dinner in the Lido and met a nice couple from Oregon. We turned in early but not before hearing a talk by the cruise director on Alaska, it’s history, people and spirit. HAL was the first cruise line to “do” Alaska in 1975. It proved very successful and the other mass lines quickly followed. HAL owns the McKinley Chalet Resort and the Westmark Hotel chain too.
We learned that few years back, a jet taking off from Juneau collided with a salmon lol! Apparently a bald eagle saw the plane coming and dropped it’s prey onto the windshield. Windshield Sushi read the headline, lol! It was Captain Cook who discovered Alaska in 1778. 15% of Alaskans are of indigenous origin. Each Alaskan receives a generous cash dividend each year from the State’s rich resource account. The cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than in the lower 49 (as much as +30% in Anchorage and +50% elsewhere).
Ship rocked a bit that night as we crossed the Gulf of Alaska but was still very quiet for sleeping. The next day was a day at sea on our leisurely way to Glacier Bay. We enjoyed the ship’s facilities and then dressed up a bit for the 1st gala evening. Sadly, some of our friends had picked up a fever, were on medication and confined to their cabin. We looked forward to seeing them again as soon as soon as they felt better.
Here is a map of our cruise routing.