29
Jul 2016

Pack Your Bags: A First-Timer Tells You Why to Take a Family Alaska Cruise

Submitted by: HAL Destinations Team
Gorgeous Alaska from the deck of Nieuw Amsterdam.
Gorgeous Alaska from the deck of Nieuw Amsterdam.

Guest Elise had never been on a cruise to Alaska but she dreamed of it for years. This summer her dream finally came true and she went with her daughter, son-in-law and grandsons on the cruise of a lifetime aboard Nieuw Amsterdam. She shared her thoughts with us as a first-time Alaska cruiser, so read on to see why an Alaska cruise with Holland America Line should be on your radar.

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I have never been to Alaska but it’s been a dream of mine to cruise there for at least 15 years. So many of my friends have made the journey, but the time was never right for me. I’ve been to Norway and seen the fjords, and that is such a stunning part of the world. But after seeing Alaska, I can honestly say that (1) Alaska is totally different and (2) its beauty is overwhelming.

Enjoying Dutch pea soup on deck as we cruise Glacier Bay.

Enjoying Dutch pea soup on deck as we cruise Glacier Bay.

I knew Alaska would be impressive, I knew it was filled with amazing scenery, and I knew I’d like it. But I never imagined how much I’d love it. I mean “I-can’t-wait-to-go-back” love it. Everything I saw and did made me feel a deep appreciation for this remote state. Words and photos can’t even do the scenery justice. Trees and glaciers are grander, ice is bluer, eagles are more moving and whales are more magical in person.

My thoughts on cruising Alaska are to make the most of it. Alaska is one of those places to splurge if you can. I don’t know if or when I’ll get back, so we took tours in every port. Juneau was amazing. The weather was rainy, but as long as our helicopter tour could still operate, I was ok with getting a little wet. Fortunately it wasn’t pouring and visibility was good, so my family and I got to take a helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier. Flying over the Alaska landscape was incredible, and when we landed on the glacier I thought how life was perfect at that moment. The ice is so blue and it looks like you’re walking on water. And the water tastes so pure.

Ready to take off with two of my grandsons. All six of us went in one helicopter.

Ready to take off with two of my grandsons. All six of us went in one helicopter.

Our ride to Mendenhall.

Our ride to Mendenhall.

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Since we had a late departure from Juneau, we also went on a whale-watching tour. We did see whales from the ship, but nothing like this. We had a baby humpback entertain us for about 35 minutes! The team on the sight-seeing boat said they hadn’t seen that all season, so we were lucky!

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Skagway is just beautiful, and we took the White Pass train up into the Yukon. It was a three-hour trip — 1.5 hours up and 1.5 hours back — and the scenery was amazing. Most of the scenery was on one side of the train, and I really loved how they made everyone switch for the ride back so everyone got the chance to see it clearly. I cannot even describe how beautiful this place is. The trees are so tall, the mountains rise up to the clouds, the waterfalls are the perfect accent … it’s so vast and you have to take the train to really understand the enormity of it all.

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Do you see the other train among the trees?

Do you see the other train among the trees?

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In Ketchikan, we went on the Deadliest Catch tour. The Aleutian Ballad used to be on the famous TV show, and they guys onboard were fabulous! They told us all about crabbing, the show, their lives … I really loved this tour, and my grandsons had a blast. There is a little tank onboard with sea creatures so they got to hold crabs and a star fish, and touch a sea cucumber. We went out on the calm waters and they pulled up crab traps and showed us how it’s done.

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crabollage

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During the tour the boat stopped by an area of trees. All of a sudden, dozens of bald eagles started flying around. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I snapped a few photos, then they encouraged everyone to put down their camera and phones and just be in the moment for a second. We all watched in awe and silence, taking it all in. It was pure magic.

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Of course the most spectacular part of Alaska is the scenic cruising, and we did a lot of that. Glacier Bay was impressive. The weather that day was perfect, in fact it was on the warmer side in the afternoon.

Glacier Bay with a perfectly timed appearance by a gorgeous bald eagle.

Glacier Bay with a perfectly timed appearance by a gorgeous bald eagle.

A sight-seeing boat shows the scale of the glacier.

A sight-seeing boat shows the scale of the glacier.

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It really was the cruise of a lifetime. From Alaska itself to everyone onboard. The food was fabulous (I especially loved the salmon bake on deck that last day!), the entertainment was fun, the ship was beautiful and the staff were so friendly. They even had a lot of Alaska-themed activities.

My son-in-law and I did the Alaska Beer Tasting. We got to try several local brews and there was trivia. My team won!

My son-in-law and I did the Alaska Beer Tasting. We got to try several local brews and there was trivia. My team won!

Now I know why people go back to Alaska not just once, but a handful of times. I’m certainly hoping this wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as I expected it to be. Enjoy my photos and thoughts on cruising Alaska. And thank you to Holland America Line for making the reality of Alaska better than my dream. We had an amazing cruise and I can’t wait to return. Although we saw and did so much, there is still so much more to see!

4 Comments

  1. Loved your trip summary and pics. Did you do laundry on the ship or know someone who did? What was it like?

    Thanks,

    Brenda

  2. Brenda, there is no self-service laundry on Nieuw Amsterdam, but it’s easy to send it off if you would would. The ship will do it for a fee.

  3. Elise, we are also taking our grandsons (ages13 and 16) for a cruise/land tour on the same ship you took, in late June. We loved your memories,can you help with attire for the ship? We have been told various clothing , I noticed you were dressed in jeans and heavy coat. We researched and believe the holland America is the best choice for our 13 day visit to Alaska. We are taking both trains as well as flying into Dawson city. We are limited for luggage space so proper clothing is a must. I continue to reaserch and I’m thrilled I found your pics and story on my
    I-pad. The deadliest catch tour just went on my to-do list !!!!

  4. Marie, you will have a wonderful time! My grandsons loved it – and so did I! Attire onboard during the day is casual. My grandsons wore jeans or casual pants and long-sleeve shirts, as did I. In the evening, I believe there were two formal nights, so I wore a cocktail dress. My grandsons just wore a buttondown shirt with a tie for formal nights (we don’t do suits for them, but my son-in-law wore a suit, as did other kids). But one formal night they went to Club HAL after dinner in the Lido so they were totally casual. Other nights a buttondown without tie or polo. The weather ashore was tricky as it was freezing on the glacier, then warm in Ketchikan, cold in the morning, warm in the afternon! So we had coats with removable lining. We did not go overland, but I hear it’s amazing! Enjoy!

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