Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Enroute to Victoria, Canada

Day seven aboard the Oosterdam
We spent the whole day at sea aboard the Oosterdam enroute to Victoria.  Circumstances leaving Ketchikan and fog caused the ship to have a later arrival into Victoria.  The scheduled arrival time is 7:00pm, but we arrived at about 8:30pm.  Tours were cancelled, but passengers were fully refunded and offered free shuttle service into town.  The day at sea prior to arrival into Victoria allows passengers to enjoy all the activities, entertainment, dining and spa treatments Oosterdam has to offer.  During this cruise I enjoyed a fabulous massage by a skilled therapist.  I get a lot of massages both on cruises and when I'm at home and I was truly impressed with the skills and the technique offered by the therapist in the Greenhouse Spa & Salon.  An absolute must when cruising aboard the Oosterdam is dining in the Pinnacle Grill, which is one of the specialty restaurant aboard the ship and like a steakhouse experience.  Vista Dining Room is the main restaurant on the ship and offers very refined service and quality, so if you choose the Pinnacle, Canalleto's Italian restaurant, Terrace Grill or the Lido area are all great choices depending on your mood.

I was impressed with the musicians onboard the Oosterdam.  The shows are great,  musicians in the Ocean Bar play your favorite dance tunes and are fun to listen to.  I saw numerous activities and lectures around the ship, like a sport and nutrition expert, there was a multi-media trivia contest that was clever.  Days at sea are so full of activities and fun things to do, but on an Alaska cruise the scenery and ports are fantastic!  I think there is a rise in families taking their kids to Alaska, because of the fun excursions involving such adventures such as seeing wales, bears, and other wildlife, as well as things like helicopter rides and dog sledding.

Day Eight
I did not go into Victoria because I had been there in the past, and it was getting late, so I spent some time packing, relaxing, and preparing for disembarkation early the next morning in Seattle.  I think Holland America Line did a great job coordinating disembarkation.  Of course passengers put their large luggage outside their stateroom the night before arrival into Seattle, which is then distributed shoreside and organized by colors and numbers on your luggage tags.  The Port of Seattle is also a very unique cruise port because you can check your bags from the ship to the airport and you can even have your flight boarding pass printed out to make the transition from ship to shore, to airport and home again as smooth as possible.  I went on a shore excursion after disembarkation in Seattle, a tour of Seattle by bus, and a boat trip through some locks from a lake, back into the Port of Seattle.  The tour ended by taking us all to the airport.  It was seamless and convenient.

You can visit this link at our Cruising Authority website HERE to see all of the multi-media content from this Alaska cruise aboard the Oosterdam.  There's video, audio, photo albums, and more articles about this ship at that link, however; I'm posting this link before I have edited the videos so mark the page and visit often within the next couple of weeks to see more and more content posted.  


Friday, August 17, 2012

Sitka Day Five

Today we anchored next to Sitka, and it was perfect weather!  I visited the Sitka Raptor Center where they care for injured birds.  I interviewed one of the bird handlers / trainers and she brought out a snow owel and one of their bald eagles.  This raptor center is a non-profit organization and they do a fantastic job of rescuing injured birds and mantain a very informative center for visitors to learn more about Alaska's wildlife.  There's also a beautiful trail that leads to a river where the salmon are packed thick into this area.  I took the trolley car which only cost $10 for an all-day sure beats walking, which we did the last time I was in Sitka.  After returning to the Oosterdam, I made arrangements to go out in a tender to photograph the ship while at anchor.  I call it my "Hero shot" and I'm very happy with how the pictures and video turned out.  I'll have to share these pictures when I return, because as I mentioned, my laptop had a total hard drive failure.  It was a pleasant evening dining in the Vista Dinning room with colleagues.  I had the Almond crusted Salmon. 

Day Six we were in Ketchikan, and I went on the floatplane and crab feast excursion with a colleague, Doug Parker, who is also a cruise journalist.  I had been on this exact same excursion several years ago with my family and enjoyed it so much it was a pleasure to repeat the experience.  The tour left in the morning shortly after we docked, however; because of the dense fog, we were told that the floatplane part of the trip would be cancelled.  We decided to go anyways because the crab feast is tremendous.  Once we arrives at the George Inlet Lodge, we were informed that our floatplane will indeed take us back to Ketchikan, because the fog cleared up. The crab feast did not dissappoint us, and the float plane ride was a lot of fun.  After we returned back to Ketchikan we walked around town a bit before boarding the ship. As we were pulling away, a guy was running along the dock trying to get someone's attention, because he had missed the ship.  Prior to departing two names were announced over the PA system, they were instructed to report immediately to the front desk, well, the guy wasn't onboard and he did miss the ship...too bad.  The expense is completely up to the passenger who missed the ship to make his way to the next port, which would not be cheap.  It would be a nightmare!  That's why it's always important to keep a close eye on when the ship departs and the times posted at the gangway. 

Apparently it was record-setting weather today in Ketchikan, sunny and beautiful with temps about 85 degrees. We had great weather as we departed Ketchikan and made our way out to sea once again.  The Captain must have really put the pedal to the medal, because the ship seemed to barrel across the water at high speed...I'm guessing 18 knots or better.  A hour or so after departing we ran into some fog, so as I am typing this, the ship's whistle or fog horn is sounding off every couple of minutes. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tracy Arm Cruising

Day Three aboard the Oosterdam
Today Oosterdam cruise through Tracy Arm which was very scenic.  Unfortunately, my laptop had a complete hard drive failure, so I must resort to writing my blog from the Internet Cafe on Deck 10 forward.  I don't have much to post today because most of the day revolved around resting.  This Cruise Journalist gig can sometimes be tiring believe it or not.  The gentle movement of the ship doesn't help (that's a good thing by the way).  Why in the world would anyone come to Alaska?  The amazing scenery and the local culture which is rich. It's amazing that this whole world of glaciers and majestic mountains, and vast waterways are right in our backyard here in America.  I truly think an Alaska cruise is not for older people and their parents, Alaska has so much to offer families with kids and couples.  Also, for those who love the great outdoors, nature, wildlife, there's so much to offer. 

Day Four Juneau
Today we were in Juneau, and I went on a fascinating excursion to see the wales and an incredible glacier.  This is my second visit to Alaska by ship and the first time on a wale-watching adventure.  If you're a, what a great opportunity to take amazing photos of the wales.  As I am typing this someone just shouted "There's a Wale"!  Everyone in the Crows nest lounge ran to the port side of the ship to see the wale...funny!  I think I can feel the ship list a bit as people scramble to see the wale.  Anyways, back to my blog.  We took a small 50 foot boat out to a popular site where the humpback wales are known to swim around, and we were not dissappointed.  There were at least five wales spouting off and flipping their giant tale in the air as they dive.  Their blowhole shoots water into the air at the rate of about 300 miles an hour, kind of like when a person sneezes, it's the same thing with wales as they exhale.  Sorry I can't share any photos at the moment, but because of my laptop crash, I'll have to wait till I get home to post the numerous photos, I've taken in the last few days.  After our boat ride to see the wales, we went to Mendenhall Glacier and a nature walk where we did see a small bear.  It's really amazing to see people on these tours go so wild over seeing a wild animal. 

I post more about life onboard the Oosterdam later.  The food by the way has been glorious!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Akaska Cruise Oosterdam Day One

Day One - Arrival Day August 12th Boarding the Oosterdam in Seattle
My flight got into Seattle at 8:30am so I took a cab to the pier to meet with a preresentive from the Port of Seattle for an interview.  It was a pleasure to speak with Jean Cox, she was very knowledgeable about the port and all the  things this particular port has to offer. After my meeting with Jean, I took a cab to the Undergroud tour.  Parts of Seattle burned and so many areas were built over the top of old Seattle.  So you can still see some of the old street, storefronts, and walkways under the city.  I’ve always wanted to see this tour, but haven’t had a chance. 

Boarding the Oosterdam was very quick.  I immediately went to my stateroom 5185 all the way at the back of the ship, to unpack. I hung up my shirts and put away my clothes, then kicked back a while in my room before it was time for boat drill at 3:30pm.  At 7pm we had a special party in the crows nest for the media people that are onboard.  It was good to meet some colleagues and meet a few new people.  I passed on dinner this evening because it was just too late after my early flight this morning.

Day TWO- at sea aboard the Oosterdam, August 13th. 

Today we are at sea all day and the Oosterdam is plowing along like she’s on a mission.  I think we’re moving about 20 knots.  I wandered into the Vista Dining room for a late lunch.  I had a delicious chicken curry salad, a cheese seafood soup, and tilapia, everything was presented to perfection and tasted great!  Today was a very lazi day for me.  I didn’t do much other than walk around the ship. I took a nap.  I participated in a board room meeting about the daily programs.  Someone from corporate was onboard conducting this survey with only a handful of passengers.  I just stumbled into this one.  It was fun to offer my two cents as to the presentation of the daily programs.  The seas are a bit choppy today, and Oosterdam is showing off her ability to keep her momentum going.   Tonight is formal night so I need to put on the suit and tie.  This really sucks traveling alone, and hey it’s only the first full day.  I hope to skyp with Terri in a little bit.  Tomorrow we’re cruising all day again, through Tracy Arm, so there will be things to see.