Sunday, October 4, 2015

An Alaska Cruise Adventure

Probably like many people, taking a cruise to Alaska was definitely on my travel bucket list.  This year we (my husband and I) were fortunate to be able to take a 7 night round trip cruise from Seattle to Glacier Bay, Alaska on the Holland America Westerdam.  Making it even more fun, we went with a group of family members and friends.

Day 1 - Boarding and Departure from Seattle

Holland America Westerdam Cruise to Alaska
We began our voyage at the Smith Cove (Pier 91) Cruise Terminal in Seattle.  For those sailing from Seattle, be aware that Seattle has two cruise terminals, Pier 91 and Pier 66.  Currently the Pier 91 dock is used by Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean.  The Bell Street Terminal (Pier 66) is the dock used by Norwegian and Oceania Cruise Lines.  Alaska cruises are only offered from May through September, so it is a good idea to book early before the ships are sold out.  The number of ships that are allowed into Glacier Bay is limited, so we booked our cruise a year before our departure.

Pier 91 Smith Cove Cruise Ship Terminal - Seattle, WA
We live in the Pacific Northwest, making it easy to get to the Seattle Cruise Terminal.  For those who are arriving from further away, to avoid any anxiety from travel delays or canceled flights, I would plan on arriving in Seattle the day before the cruise departs.  We did some research to help several in our group locate lodging with free parking during the cruise and a shuttle to the cruise ship terminal. We found the best deal at the Comfort Suites Airport Tukwila and our relatives who stayed there said that although it isn't a luxury property, it was clean and comfortable. Some of the other hotels offering park and cruise packages include:
Crown Plaza SeaTac
Hamtpon Inn and Suites Seattle Airport
Quality Inn SeaTac Airport

Cruise Ship Terminal Parking Shuttle
We were given a ride to the cruise ship terminal by our daughter and she wanted to see us off so she found a parking space in the Port of Seattle parking lot a short distance away from the dock.  Then we boarded one of the free shuttle vans that transport passengers from the parking lot to the boarding dock.

Holland America Westerdam docked at Pier 91 in Seattle
We had checked in online and printed out our boarding passes and luggage tags the day before our departure by logging into our account on Holland America's website.  

Holland America Luggage Tag

 The first thing we were directed to do as we entered the cruise ship terminal was to drop off our luggage with the pre-printed tags including our name and ship cabin number securely attached.

Luggage at the Seattle Smith Cove Cruise Ship Terminal

 Although a passport is not technically required for US citizens on a "closed loop" cruise, it is highly recommended that ship passengers obtain a US Passport to prevent delays and potential problems.

US Passport

 After moving through several check points where our boarding passes and ID were checked, we finally had our photo taken, were issued our ship ID cards and boarded the Westerdam.

These ID cards also serve as the stateroom entry key card, have information about your life boat station, dining room location and time.  Your ID card is scanned when leaving or boarding the ship.  The ship ID card is also used in lieu of payment for all purchases on board the ship and then you are presented with your bill at the end of the cruise.

A swimming pool on the Westerdam
Lunch was being served when we boarded, so we grabbed some food at the buffet on the Lido Deck and ate at a table by a window near the pool.

After finishing our lunch, we went to our stateroom, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was ready and our luggage had already been delivered.  The last time I went on a cruise it was several hours before our room was ready and several more hours before our luggage arrived.

Cabin #8113 on the Holland America Westerdam

We booked a balcony room  - #8113.  I had indicated in the room booking that we wanted the beds configured into one so when our cabin steward stopped by to introduce himself and to ask if we needed anything, we told him it was no hurry, but we'd like the twin beds to be put together. When we arrived back after dinner, they had been put together to make a single queen.

Sofa Sleeper on the Westerdam
We brought our granddaughter along with us, so the cabin included a sofa that converted into a bed for her.

Westerdam Bathroom 

 The bathroom, not unexpectedly, was small, but clean.  After checking out our room, it was time to go to our station for the life boat drill.

Departing the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal - Seattle, WA
After the drill was completed we made our way back to the stern on the Lido Deck to watch as the ship departed from Seattle.   I'll be posting more about our adventures.

Here is a link to our activities on Day 2 - At Sea

Cruise to Alaska on the Westerdam - at Sea

Day 3 - Juneau Alaska

Welcome to Juneau 

Here are the links to the stories about our adventures in Juneau:

Mendenhall Glacier

Mount Roberts Tram

 Check out all of the photos of Day 4 - Cruising Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay, Alaska

Day 5 - Sitka 

The stop in Sitka gave us the most hours for exploration of any of our ports of call. We had about 7 hours so signed up for a 5 hour excursion called Otters, Raptors and Bears, Oh My!  The tour consisted of three parts including a boat trip to look for otters and other sea life, a stop at the Alaska Raptor Center and a visit to The Fortress of the Bear.  We also had a little time to some walking around town before our departure.  Below are the details about each part of our day in Sitka.

You Otter Like this Excursion

The Alaska Raptor Center

The Fortress of the Bear

A Short Walking Tour of Sitka

Day 6 - Ketchikan

Ketchikan Harbor, Ketchikan Alaska

After traveling through the night, we arrived in the harbor of Ketchikan early in the morning as the sun was rising.  Yes, the sun, woo hoo!  After the boat docked we only had about 5 hours on shore, so we decided not to schedule too much to allow ourselves time to walk around the town at our own pace.  Here are the links to our adventures in Ketchikan:

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Five Hours in Ketchikan

Day 7 - Victoria, BC Canada

Victoria British Columbia
The final stop on our cruise was Victoria, British Columbia.  Below is the link to the page with the details:

An Evening in Victoria, British Columbia

Some helpful resources to help you get the most out of your Alaska cruise:

If you enjoy taking some time to walk around the towns in each port of call on an inside passage cruise, I recommend this handy walking tour guide book, Inside Passage Walking Tours: Exploring Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka, by Julianne Chase Patton.

It includes walking tours for all of the Alaskan towns where the cruise ships stop in one book.

Weekend Travel Inspiration Link-up

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