In August we did a cruise to Alaska and now I might be addicted. I really enjoyed the cruising part of the vacation, which let me enjoy our time in Alaska even more.
We cruised with Holland America, on the Eurodam. Holland America caters to a middle-age and older crowd, and is not really a party cruise type line. We were in the younger third of the passengers, and that was fine with me. A late night for me is 11:00, and I’m down to eat dinner at 4:00.
Our ship was considered mid-sized with about 2000 passengers and 800 crew. It never felt crowded, unless we were at the buffet. We stayed in a veranda room on the 7th floor in the aft section of the ship. We could feel the waves, and I occasionally voiced my opinion that the Captain was drunk, but it was probably typical motion. Neither of us experienced any seasickness, although after we disembarked for the final time, I felt like I was still moving and that lasted for about a day.
There was plenty to do on the ship without being bored. In room entertainment included a wide selection of new and old movies and some TV shows. The news was also shown, but, let’s face it, I was more than ready to take a small break from news. We watched everything from Beauty and the Beast (old school version) to Fast and Furious 7 and Fate of the Furious (Kris hate watched).
Here’s Kris watching…something.
There was also a streaming feed of cameras off the back and front of the ship that looked something like this:
The veranda provided its own entertainment if you’re into nature and stuff. One morning I woke up early enough to watch our side of the ship dock.
The room itself was smaller than, say, a normal hotel room, but it was smartly arranged and had great storage. We (I) opted for two twin beds. Don’t judge-Kris is 6’7″! Every night we came back to chocolates and a towel animal and the itinerary for the next day. Everything was kept tidy with twice-a-day service by our cabin stewards, Risland and Lasiman. Risland even had our names down by the second day.
Tips about tips: make sure to bring some cash to tip your cabin stewards or anyone bringing you room service or the especially nice bartender. Some gratuities are charged automatically, usually for alcoholic drinks. In addition, be prepared for a daily per person charge for gratuities. We paid $13.50 each for 7 days. Some people probably think that’s enough or maybe even too much for tips, but I guess I question how much of that is being passed on to the staff, so I’d prefer to be able to do some tipping on my own. If you strongly object to the daily charge, I’ve heard you can go down to guest services to have it taken off. Just be aware of this—if I hadn’t done my homework and known, that would’ve been a bad surprise.
Outside of the room, the entertainment options were plentiful. There was a three-story main stage with various entertainment every night, ranging from an original musical to an illusionist to the crew putting on an Indonesian cultural presentation. We went to the original musical and awkwardly/awesomely sat in the front row.
We also attended the Captain’s toast and, later on, the Captain’s Talk in the main stage. The toast had free sparkling wine and I made Kris steal us a second glass.
The talk was about how the ship worked and some Q&A time. Best question was if the Captain worried about pirates. Spoiler: not a lot of pirates off the Alaskan coast.
More musical entertainment included B.B. King’s Nightclub with a jazz band, dueling pianos, and Lincoln Center Stage, a string quartet accompanied by a piano.
Dueling pianos during the day:
Aside from music, there were two pools to enjoy along with hot tubs. We did some hot tubbing and watched the waves in the pool. I guess I’m dumb and didn’t know that the huge lips on the pools were because once you’re cruising, the pool generates its own waves in response. Neato.
One highlight was the Tamarind Bar, which was on the top floor of the ship near the Tamarind restaurant. It was usually very quiet up there, and I felt like I had my own secret spot. I spent a few mornings and afternoons up there taking in the scenery and in general feeling like I was in another world. We watched the sunset from the Tamarind Bar one night, and stopped in for drinks another night.
Drink tips: another suggestion is to have an alcohol plan if you want to drink on your vacation. Holland America lets each guest take one bottle of wine or champagne in their carry-on luggage. You have to check in your alcohol, so don’t think you’re going to be smart and take a bottle of hard liquor. Anyway, DO use your bottle allowance. Drinks on the ship are on the expensive side, about $6 for a beer and $7-10 for a glass of wine or cocktail. There were quite a few happy hours, though, nicely timed for before and after supper. The special was buy one, get the second for $2, but be aware that the second drink is the same as the first one. We ordered two drinks one night, expecting to be charged for a drink, and then $2. However, we ended up with four drinks. It was a good problem to have, but a little unexpected. Sodas were about $2.50 for a can, which we mostly avoided.
Another thought on drinks: I’m an avid water drinker. You’re not allowed to fill your water bottle at the buffet water station, and all of the drink glasses are tiny, tiny. I filled up a few times at the gym water fountain. Make an effort to stay hydrated, and scope out some places to refill your water bottle.
One of the first things we learned was from a presentation in the fitness center that passengers gain 1-2 pounds per DAY on a cruise. I’m sad to say that I believe this! Food was readily available. The ship had a huge buffet, dining room, 24-hour room service, an Asian restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a steakhouse, poolside burgers and fries, pizzas, and a pop-up French restaurant. Food everywhere all the time! It was pretty tasty, too. We tried to get away with skipping a few courses one night in the dining room, only to be nicely scolded by our waiter that we were “On vacation! Enjoy!”
Here’s the formal, two-story dining room:
Food tip: come up with some sort of game plan if you are worried about gaining weight. Maybe make a rule to skip the bread or indulge in one dessert a day instead of the *ahem* five Kris ate one night. To be fair, I had a wild night of three shrimp cocktails. The choices were overwhelming and our willpower seemed to fade as the day went on.
I managed to hit up the gym a few times. Running on the treadmill with the ship movement was like additional training! We also ended up walking the veranda deck for a few miles one night to burn off some calories. The ship hosted a 5k walk for the American Cancer Society as well. I attended a morning mediation/yoga class, which was pretty much stretching, but given the average age of participants, that was a good idea for everyone involved.
Another tip: take the stairs if you can. There were always people waiting for elevators. The stairs were empty and it was another way to burn off some of the creme brulee calories I was worried about.
We had tea one afternoon and felt fancy:
Another evening there was a “Chocolate Surprise.” Staff wandered around the second floor of the ship with different chocolate desserts around 11:00 p.m.. That was fun and totally unnecessary! That might have been the day Kris had five desserts. We also took a tour of the kitchens and saw the massive amounts of prep work behind the scenes.
I missed towel folding because I was extremely busy napping. Damn, I wanted to learn how to make this guy:
One highlight was when we cruised Glacier Bay. The ship hosted some park rangers who gave talks throughout the day, and provided narration as we cruised through the park. Apparently the park rangers embarked and disembarked via a rope ladder! Now that’s a fun/terrifying way to get to work.
Other entertainment included the casino.
Behold the table where Kris won first place in a poker tournament!
We also played and dominated trivia, natch.
Kris was on a hot streak. We played bingo and he won a Caribbean cruise with Holland America! I’m really glad he won because I loved cruising, and can’t wait to do it again.
King of the…Alaskan waters!
Alaska is our 50th state, and we were happy and lucky to hit our goal of seeing every state! Next blog will be all about what we did in AK.
Don’t worry, we still have to see Africa, Asia, Australia, Antarctica, all the National Parks, and all of Wisconsin’s State Parks (about 20 to go) and 180+ countries.