Thursday, September 15, 2016


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Vancouver – On our way to meet up with my sister, Kris & Wayne Miller to celebrate our 40th Anniversary on an 11-day Alaskan Cruise!  Kris is celebrating her retirement from teaching school, so we thought it a great time to take a vacation together!  We were lucky to get a 10:15 a.m. flight so that we didn’t have to get up super early, but it might as well have been, because I could hardly sleep at all.  Oh well! 

We flew into Vancouver, Canada nonstop on American Airlines, met up with the Holland America Line agents, went through customs, then got on a bus that took us to the ship – The Zaandam.  Having never been to Vancouver or really heard much about it, I was surprised at how many sky scrapers there were as we flew in; from the air, they almost looked like the huge, white spikes of a glacier coming down out of the mountains into the bay.  After hearing the bus driver’s description of Vancouver as one of the largest and most densely populated cities in North America and driving through parts of it, I was amazed how busy the streets were on a Sunday afternoon.  It makes New York City look tiny! 

After a considerable amount of walking, we had to go back through customs to get on the ship (since we were going back to the U.S. and into Alaska).  Rob got detained when his passport was flagged because of his common name with some criminal – this happens a LOT.  That took us an extra hour.  We ended up being the very last passengers onto the ship before they took up the gangplank.  Since we were so late, we didn’t even have time to take all our carry-on items to our stateroom, when the sirens blared to begin the life boat drill.  This drill is mandatory, and they close off all access to the rooms.  Sigh.  So after such a LONG walk getting onto the ship, Rob and I had to find our way to our lifeboat station #13 with bags in hand.  We met up with Kris & Wayne while finding our place.  This drill took about 45 minutes while they gathered EVERYONE on the entire ship into their proper stations to stand in rows of 6 people deep as if preparing to board a lifeboat.  While standing there in line, they do a roll call and explain all the emergency procedures.  Standing there so long after all that walking was pure torture!  Not the best way to begin our journey….

We finally made our way back to our stateroom #2703 on the main deck, gave my sore feet a rest, settled in a bit, then went out to the rear deck (close to our rooms) to watch the shoreline as we pulled away from the harbor and began to sail.  After that, we were off to explore and find something to eat!  We were all starving and ready for an early dinner since we hadn’t really eaten anything all day.  We found that our key cards displayed assigned seating in the formal dining room each night for 7:45.  We didn’t want to wait that long, so asked to have them changed to open seating, then went in to eat.  We had requested open seating when we booked the cruise to begin with, but I guess they upgraded it for some reason.  In retrospect, however, it might have been nice to hang onto that seat assignment because you are given preferred tables by the windows and special treatment.  Oh well.  We’re not much for formalities, and preferred to use the time to explore and eat whenever was convenient.  When you eat in the formal dining room, it takes a couple of hours while they bring you each course separately and takes up most of the evening.  It was nice to do that a couple of times, but we preferred eating in the casual, buffet style dining room on the lido deck most of the time.  The food is just as good, you can get the quantities you prefer and much faster! 

After we ate, we wandered around for awhile familiarizing ourselves with the layout, then found our way to the Mondriaan Lounge for their live entertainment – SHOWTIME that started at 9:30.  Wayne was too tired, so he went back to his room to sleep.  They introduced the entertainment team and put on a fun show of dancing and singing.  It was really good!  After the show, the three of us happened to walk by the movie theater and realized the evening’s movie was just starting, so walked in and watched The Jungle Book - they even had popcorn!  After that, we were exhausted and went to bed.  

Every night when we came into our room we found a new towel animal sitting on our bed with a couple of chocolates.  So cute!  I only remembered to take pictures of three of them.  

Monday, August 29

Our first day at sea was calm but the ship was rolling a bit when we woke up, so we all got a bit queasy first thing.  I took a Dramamine of 100% ginger, but after about 15 minutes when the capsule had time to dissolve, it quickly sent me running into the toilet where I emptied my stomach – but then I felt fine from then on!  We went to the lido deck for breakfast and ate carefully as we were still getting our sea legs and stomachs back, so spent the morning on the deck with fresh air until we felt better.  After that…. no problems the rest of the trip!  We spent the afternoon walking about on deck, had lunch at the taco bar, bought me a Holland America coat,  then went to our staterooms to finish unpacking and getting our bearings on what we wanted to do for the week.  We decided on our port excursions, so got them all booked, then got dressed up in suits and dresses for Gala night and ate in the formal dining room before going to the Mondriaan Lounge for Showtime!  A great show of singing and dancing then off to bed for an early morning start.

Tuesday, August 30

Ketchikan – our First Port of Call.  


We started our day with an early 4½ hour excursion that began at 7:30 a.m. called, “Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer” on a high speed catamaran that took us into Rudyerd Bay where we saw some spectacular glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife.  It was sooooo beautiful!  



It was very windy up on the deck, but felt really nice.  The weather was clear and perfect!  They served us some clam chowder and salmon on crackers as well as hot chocolate.  Yum!  The tour guides were first nationers (natives) and told some interesting stories.  We even saw a whale! 



It was just after noon when we got back, so had time to do a little gift shopping at the Tongass Trading Post which was close to where the ship was docked.  We bought matching coats, some salmon and a few ornaments before heading back to the ship for a late lunch and sailed out of port by 3:00.  After lunch we relaxed out on the lido deck, explored the bow decks then had dinner at the buffet before heading to the entertainment lounge to watch the comedian – David Crowe.  We were all pretty tired by then, so went to our rooms for an early night. 

 Wednesday, August 31

Juneau – 2nd Port of Call.  Today we were able to sleep in, so I washed my hair, and we had a leisurely breakfast on the lido deck.  Then we got off the ship and rode the tram to the top of the mountain and took pictures of the ship and bay.  



After that we did a 6½ hour excursion called “Best of Juneau” that began at noon.  On that excursion we boarded an enclosed catamaran which took us out to the secluded Orca Point Lodge for a feast of fresh grilled wild Alaskan salmon.  They had awesome brownies for dessert.  


Then we spent several hours out on the water searching for whales and saw several spouts and some whale tails diving into the water.  Pretty cool!  


Then we visited the Mendenhall Glacier and visitors center and took a short hike to take pictures. 



When we got back to the harbor, Kris & Wayne met up with a friend that lives there (Stephanie Miller Jones’ sister-in-law) and visited with her for awhile.  Rob & I took off after a bit to explore some of the shops in town before having to get back on the ship.  We had a late dinner at the buffet and were pretty exhausted after such a long day of sightseeing, so skipped the live entertainment and went to our rooms to relax.  Rob fell asleep, but I stayed up and watched a movie on the TV in our room called, “Mother’s Day.”  We found out the next day that the Northern Lights had put on quite the spectacular display that night that could be seen on the deck, but since it was late, they didn’t announce it over the loud speakers.  Darn!  I would have gone out on the deck in my PJ’s to see that!  That has been on my bucket list for years!  Sigh.  

Thursday, September 1


Skagway – 3rd Port of call.  We did an 8 hour excursion that started at 8:30 a.m. where we took a 65 mile bus ride along the Klondike Highway into the Yukon Territory of Canada.  We stopped at a couple of scenic places, then to Caribou Crossing Trading Post and the Dog Musher’s Village where we had a big lunch of barbecue chicken, homemade all-you-can-eat rolls and donuts while using wooden utensils.  That was kind of fun.   


We walked around the Natural History museum where they have one of the world’s most complete taxidermy exhibits of local wildlife and saw the musher dogs all chained up and being fed in preparation for competition. 


Then we drove through the smallest desert in the world before getting to the native village of Carcross where we took some pictures of totem poles and finally ended up in Fraser, B.C. where we boarded the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad used during the Klondike Gold Rush where we enjoyed some pretty fantastic scenery back into Skagway.  We passed through “Dead Horse Gulch” where the stampeders left their horses after working them to death – over 3,000 pack animals.  







It was almost 5:00 when we got back, so went to the ship to eat some dinner and then went to the live Showtime comedy and magic routine by Garry & Janine Carson.  We went to our rooms after that and Rob brought me some hot chocolate and was a real trouper and kept going back on deck until almost 1:00 a.m. to see if the Northern Lights might be visible again for me to see.  But it was mostly cloud covered all night and they didn’t show.  Oh well! 


Friday, September 2


Cruising Glacier Bay – Today we slept in late while the ship slowly cruised through Glacier Bay.  Park Rangers got on board to narrate and explain what we were seeing.  We were awed by the phenomenal glaciers and the captain took us up really close to Margerie Glacier where we watched the glacier calving (large chunks breaking off) and could hear the ice crashing down into the bay.  It was awesome!  The Rangers said this was the closest a cruise ship has ever gotten to one of the glaciers.  We sat out on deck in lounge chairs most of the day just enjoying the quiet scenery.  It felt nice to relax after three solid days of on shore excursions.  We just sat and sipped hot chocolate and stayed warm with blankets. I think we enjoyed today most of all!  Tonight was another gala night, so we dressed up but still ate at the buffet because we like it better.  Then enjoyed another evening of live entertainment featuring the Zaandam Singers and Dancers.  They are always fun to watch.



Saturday, September 3

Final Day at Sea - Sailing to Seward, we spent some time packing and attending a meeting about our land journey to Denali to know how to plan and pack.  Rob & I got an invitation to the Mariner Society Brunch in the Rotterdam (formal) Dining Room.  The brunch was a special event for repeat cruise passengers where the captain comes in and talks to everyone.  Since we went on a Caribbean Cruise back in 1991, we were invited.  The dining room was full and we sat at a table with 7 other people, but it was kind of boring.  We each received a special coaster-size tile of the Zaandam ship as a souvenir.

After that we met back up with Kris & Wayne and attended a talent show by the Filipino Crew where they presented some traditional music, song and dance from their homeland.  Nothing professional, but they did such a fabulous job as a serving crew, that everyone gave them a standing ovation.  It was very touching.  We spent the rest of the day just hanging about on the decks and talking.  After dinner we attended the last Showtime variety show featuring the previous comedian and magician.  Before going to bed we watched a fun movie called, The Proposal.

Sunday, September 4


Seward Disembarkation and on to Denali!  We had to be up early to disembark and catch our bus to Denali.  It was a long 10-hour drive to get there with a few pit stops along the way.  We stopped at a really nice lodge for lunch where they provided quite the spread of sandwich makings, salads, and really good cookies – our last meal included in the trip.  When we arrived in Denali they dropped us off at our various rooms/lodges at the McKinley Chalet Resort.  We had a second floor room next to Kris & Wayne with a balcony and a great view of a river. The room seemed humungous after our tiny rooms on the ship.  By this time Rob & I both started getting sick with the sniffles and sneezes.  Kris gave us some essential oils that Michelle had sent with her and let us use them.  They really helped a lot.  We found the restaurant and ate dinner after ordering our box lunches for tomorrow’s excursion into the National Park.  My luggage didn’t arrive until later because of a mix up with someone else with my same name.  But it got there eventually.  Wayne’s bag came totally demolished, so they replaced it with a new bag.  That was kind of nice!  We spent some time in the gift shop and called it a night.

Monday, September 5


Denali National Park – We slept in, had a light brunch of fruit and muffins, then at 1:00 took an old school bus on the 8 hour tundra wilderness tour through the park and saw some beautiful scenery and even saw a bear standing and scratching his back on a tree.  Wayne got a really good picture of him, but I didn’t have my camera out yet.  Bummer.  We got a kick out of seeing a bunch of bullet holes in the door of one of the bathrooms at a rest stop - somebody was impatient!  It drizzled off and on most of the day, so we couldn’t see Mount Denali (McKinley).  But it was fun seeing all the Fall colors throughout the area.  We stopped at a rest stop where they had various racks from moose and caribou that we got to take pictures with.  It was a nice day and we ate our boxed lunches/dinners as we traveled. 





Tuesday, September 6

Anchorage – We packed up this morning, ate a big breakfast in the resort restaurant and took a bus to the train depot where we boarded the McKinley Explorer for our 8 hour train journey to Anchorage.  It was a scenic train ride with huge panoramic windows to look through.  We were in the very front row with Kris & Wayne.  We all had various leftover snack items that we munched on along the way so didn’t bother to eat a meal in the dining car.  When we got to Anchorage, they took us to the Hilton Hotel where we had a room on the 14th floor!  Quite the view of Anchorage!  Kris & Wayne were on the 4th floor.  My large bag of luggage got mixed up again with the other Susan Johnson, but it eventually got there, thank goodness!


We met up with Stephanie & Lewis Jones and their kids who live nearby and went to dinner at Serrano’s Mexican Grill.  Not bad for Alaska!  We drove around the bay, stopped at Earthquake Park which was the epicenter of a 9.2 earthquake in 1964 (the largest ever recorded in North America), then looked at float planes and more beautiful scenery.  It is amazing how beautiful all of Alaska is!  After it got dark we found the only Dairy Queen in the city and bought ice cream then headed back to the hotel.

Wednesday, September 7
HOME!!  We ate a light breakfast at the hotel, said our goodbyes to Kris & Wayne who were being picked up by Stephanie to spend a few more weeks up there with them, then we got on our shuttle bus at 10:45 and headed to the airport.  We flew out on Delta Airlines this time and had a short layover in Seattle, switched planes and were home by 9:30.  On the first leg of our flight, we had screens on the back of each seat where we could watch movies, TV shows, play games, listen to music, etc.  It sure made the flight go fast!  Rick picked us up, but Rob’s suitcase somehow got stuck on a different flight, so they brought it to our house the next day.  We never lost anything, so it’s all good!  We had a great time, but both of us were pretty exhausted and had coughs and runny noses by the time we got home.  Sigh.  Rob took awhile to get better, but I bounced back pretty quick.

Our Alaska Christmas Ornament Collection!