We sent Cruise Specialist, Lyndsay Patterson, on a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, with our amazing tour operator partners Canadian Affair. Holland America Line’s stunning ship ms Koningsdam was her home for the seven-night sailing.
Day 1 – Arrive in Vancouver for an overnight stay
After a long nearly 10 hour flight with Air Canada, we arrived in Vancouver. A quick taxi ride late, and we’d arrived at our hotel, the Beautiful Fairmont Waterfront. We were lucky enough to experience the Gold Harbour View rooms. Fairmont Gold guests enjoy exclusive privileges including access to our private Fairmont Gold lounge featuring a spectacular harbour view patio, complimentary breakfast, evening canapés, an honour bar, and a private boardroom for up to eight people.
This hotel is in a perfect location for a pre-cruise stay. It’s located across from the cruise terminal, and our concierge service arranged for our luggage to be taken over to the ship the next day, so we could enjoy the morning exploring Vancouver.
Day 2 – Embarkation
Isn’t Jet lag a dream?! We were up and ready to go at 5am, but managed to curb our enthusiasm until a reasonable hour. We had a leisurely breakfast in the lounge and set off for a short walk to Robson Street. If you’ve forgotten anything for your holiday then this is the place to go for last minute shopping.
We were embarking Koningsdam at 10.30am so we headed back to the port, to start the journey through immigration. This was actually all a smooth process, quick and we were onboard within the hour.
Our first experience onboard was a ship tour; and I can tell you this ship is absolutely stunning! From the casino, to the kids club, and the Lido deck there is something to do for all ages.
Day 3 – At Sea
Today we had a full sea day so this gave us plenty of time to get our bearings around the ship. And if you think it’s just a case of cruising to your next destination, you’d be wrong. We’re on our way to Alaska, so there’s a lot of opportunity to catch sight of the local wildlife… including whales! One thing you need is patience. The Whales are sneaky! Especially if you are trying to get a photo… or maybe that’s just for me… some passengers were lucky enough to see the whales. Personally I thought they were hiding! (Forgive my dodgy filming skills…)
Day 4 – Juneau – Alaska’s Capital
Okay, okay. I take it back…
Today on our way to Breakfast we caught our first sight of humpback whales…. WOW! They are amazing.
Shortly after lunch we arrived into Juneau. Our excursion today was the Mendenhall Glacier Explorer. The glacier is nothing short of mesmerising, and in Nugget Falls we were lucky enough to see Bald Eagles! Visiting Juneau is like stepping back in time. It’s full of shops and bars, as you’d probably expect, but the scenery is simply breathtaking!
We finished our day with a speciality dining experience in Tamarind, the Pan Asian restaurant onboard, and I can honestly say this was a trip culinary highlight.
Day 5 – Skagway, Alaska
Skagway is a really quirky town, and reminds me of the Wild West. Snow-topped mountains, classic Saloon bars, shops and churches really drive the tourists to this spot. It’s simply a really lovely, scenic place.
This afternoon we went on the White Pass Summit Scenic Railroad, which actually runs straight through the town. I’d highly recommend doing this when you visit… it’s a nostalgic journey retracing the original route to the White Pass summit, taking you past natural wonders like Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point, and Dead Horse Gulch. It’s a fascinating insight into the original Klondike Trail of 1898 and the countless souls who ventured the path in pursuit of gold.
Day 6 – Scenic cruising…
When is a sea day not a sea day? When you’re scenic cruising around Glacier Bay!
Hands down the most picturesque point of this area is the Margerie Glacier, which is an active tidewater glacier.
We did manage to see more humpback whales today too, but photographing them is still quite tricky! (It can’t just be me! ) We also saw multiple rafts of sea otters.
We finished off the day rather nicely with another speciality dining experience, this time at the Pinnacle Grill.
Day 7 – Ketchikan
Ketchikan is our final port of call, and we had free time in the morning before seeing the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. It was a wet and miserable day, but, weather aside, the show was absolutely fantastic! It’s a family-friendly show, with a little healthy competition between the lumberjacks. Such good fun! Everyone laughed from start to finish!
Holland America hosts one orange night on the ship which is optional, however most people took part on last night’s orange themed event. It’s essentially the same as a ‘white night’ but you wear something orange instead.
A small group of us visited the World Stage theatre for the first time to see a dance production with panoramic lights. It was really stunning and exceeded all of our expectations. We really haven’t seen anything like it before, and we loved every single minute.
Day 8 – At Sea
This was our final sea day, and gave us time to reflect on the fantastic time we have had during our cruise. I came up with a few top tips that I’ll be passing on to my clients:
Top Tips For A Great Alaska Cruise
- Download the Navigator app. This keeps you updated with menus, times of events, and also gives you a friendly reminder of your excursion, if it has been booked through Holland America. You can also order click and collect pizza and burgers on the app. And, rather importantly, you can check your statement, to keep track of those onboard spends.
- Dress like an onion!! Wear layers for Alaska. As the saying goes… “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes”. It’s pretty changeable, so you need to be too.
- Laundry. One of my biggest worries was what to pack for a trip when the climate is anything from 8ºC to 29ºC. I wish I had known how great the laundry was onboard. $25 for a bag of washing and $59 for unlimited laundry!
- Have it All package. For me personally I would highly recommend adding this to your booking, this includes Signature Beverage Package, Specialty dining (one per week), Shore Excursion ($100 credit) ,Wi-Fi Surf Package. When you add the cost of these separately up, the package offers a HUGE saving!
- Take binoculars. Helps you spot those sneaky whales! Plus the scenery is too spectacular to not enjoy it a little closer if you can.
- A good raincoat. See my point about layers above 😉
- Towels, shower gel, soaps and body lotions are all included, and it’s Elemis products. Don’t weigh down your luggage with these items.
- Pre-pay your Gratuities at $16.50pp per day but we also tipped our amazing cabin stewards because the service is incredible!
- Entertainment. Try it all! There is something for everyone! And you’ll more than likely discover you enjoy something that didn’t know you’d love. From the spectacular shows, to live music – Rock/Blues/Jazz/Soul, pianist player and singers, casino, bingo, quizzes. On some evenings you will have a film playing on the Lido deck.
Day 9 – Debarkation & the journey home
Our cruise may have come to an end, but memories of the fabulous time we had will last a lifetime!
We booked a day room at the Pan Pacific hotel, at the port, as our flight wasn’t until 7:30pm, and this would allow us to spend more time in Vancouver.
We decided the best way to do this was on the hop-on/hop-off bus, which took us all around the city. My favourite stop was Stanley Park, although it would be impossible to explore all the amazing bike and hike trails in our limited time. I would definitely recommend a visit, and it’s certainly another reason for me to return.
Ready to start planning your own trip to Alaska? Call our Cruise Specialists on 02380 658 386.