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Showing posts with label Holland America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holland America. Show all posts

Friday, May 21, 2021

BIG NEWS!! Alaska Cruises Will Resume in 2021 with an Abbreviated Season

The good news about travel resuming continues! 

Yesterday the US House of Representatives approved a bill that the US Senate had already approved regarding a revision to the long-standing PSVA which will effectively allow for an abbreviated Alaska cruise season to happen in 2021!  This is huge news for the people of Alaska who are very dependent on travel and tourism and were affected greatly in 2020 with the complete shutdown of the industry.  The PSVA controls the movement of foreign-flagged ships within US ports and a big hurdle for the Alaska cruise market is the fact that ships must dock in Canadian ports per the PSVA, but very early this year the Canadian government banned any ships from their ports until at least February 2022. This bill from the US Congress will effectively modify the PSVA making the stop in Canada, not a requirement, so there can be roundtrip sailings from Seattle up into Alaska!  Following the passage in the House, three of the Carnival Corporation brands - Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Carnival Cruise Line - announced that they will be resuming sailing this summer, beginning in early July for 10 departures each.  Each line will have one ship sailing these itineraries, and all guests must be fully vaccinated.  

This is great news for the industry!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I'm Ready to Get Back to Alaska!

I rarely have my picture taken on board ship, much less purchase whatever photos are taken, but this is one that I wanted. Such a wonderful destination. Can't wait to be able to experience it again someday.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I LOVE Fresh Alaskan Salmon!!

Fresh Alaskan salmon bake onboard was a fantastic final lunch for this voyage! Yummmmm-my! Served buffet style with a nice assortment of salads, sides, and a delicious apple pie.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ketchikan - The Salmon Capital of the World

Good morning from Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world! As we pull into port, I enjoyed breakfast in bed with a fantastic view of the channel and watched a great video on the fishing industry here, which correlates to my adventure today. Today in honor of my grandfather, dad, great-grandfather, and assorted uncles, I'm off for some salmon fishing. Hopefully, I catch something! It's 61 and overcast, but the air is so crisp and clean. Looking forward to a great day!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Glacier Bay National Park

Today we arrived in Glacier Bay National Park at about 6:15am, and picked up one of the Park Rangers, and a Tlingit cultural representative who stayed on board with us until about 3:30pm, answering questions, providing insight, and more. It was awesome!
As we worked our way up into the park and the bay, we saw a lot! We got to see Reid Glacier, Lamplugh Glacier, Johns Hopkins Glacier, part of Grand Pacific Glacier, and the biggest and best of them all, Margerie Glacier. The captain parked us very close to, and in front of Margerie Glacier, which is up in the Tarr Inlet for an hour. Starting with the port side, and then rotating the ship to the starboard side, everyone was amazed at the sheer size and majesty of that glacier. We reveled as we got to see several small calvings and one really big one! (I took about 400 pictures of the glaciers alone, but am only sharing these select few now...more will be shared later after getting home to wifi that isn't so expensive).
As we woke this morning it was raining, and everyone was a bit disappointed at the prospect of not being able to see a lot, but as we got closer in, the sky stopped and the misty fog lifted. Southeast Alaska is a rainforest, so having rain on any given adventure is to be expected. The glaciers were surreal. The beautiful colors and the sounds of the cracking were amazing.
After the captain set sail once more and as we pulled far enough away from being able to see Margerie Glacier it was lunchtime. Followed by a great presentation in the main theatre by the Park Ranger. She shared some great stories and wonderful information about GBNP and the assorted critters that call it home. And then after her presentation, the Tlingit lady - Alice is her English name, but sorry, I couldn't even begin to know how her Tlingit name is spelled - gave a presentation on the Tlingit peoples that have called this area home for centuries.
What an amazing day filled with such beauty, and just a teeny tiny bit of this great state.

Yukon Ho!

Skagway is such a wonderfully easy port to maneuver. A very short walk from the ship puts you right at the station for the White Pass-Yukon Rail station, but it's also just a quick walk into town and is of course looking very much as it did back in the 1890s the heart of gold rush days.
My excursion package was a White Pass train combo, which actually was the reverse of many of the ones that are readily available. Instead of taking the train first, for my group, it was a bus first, followed by the return trip on the train. We drove about 72 miles north of Skagway into the Yukon (my mind kept thinking of Calvin & Hobbes and "Yukon Ho!"). Shortly after starting up the mountain we encountered a good bit of fog - actually about 20 minutes of our drive was very hard to see anything outside the bus, but thankfully after we'd crested the White Pass summit, we also left the fog behind us as the sun shone brightly.
We passed many beautiful lakes, streams, and some historic mining sites as we reached nearly 3,000 feet - but kept going. Along the way, we heard fascinating tales of how the gold rush came about, and how prospectors had some extreme conditions to face as they moved up from Skagway into the Klondike and the Yukon.
We enjoyed lunch near Carcross, Yukon, and there I got to meet Kenai and Fuzzy, along with other beautiful mushers. The dogs train in the off-season for the Iditarod at this facility in the Yukon. Since there's no snow in the summer, they use special sleds with wheels instead of runners and give rides to visitors. They LOVE to run, and of the nearly 90 dogs there, they all were seeming to bark out "pick me" as their handlers were selecting the dogs that would pull our sleigh. It was great fun, and I'm thrilled to have been able to experience it, as I doubt I'll ever experience the Iditarod for real.
After that, it was time to start trekking down the trails again, and we drove down from Carcross to Fraser, BC, where we picked up the White Pass train south to Skagway. Riding inside the car was nice, but honestly, I loved riding on the platform between cars for most of the way. It was awesome!
The scenery was spectacular as we passed through the Alpine Tundra, and then over the sub-continental divide, which separates the water flow to the Pacific down by Skagway, or way out west at the Bering Sea and down through the rainforest that is around Skagway. It was such fun, I'd love to do it again! It is absolutely a must-do recommendation for all my clients.
Best kept secrets/finds of the day? The arctic desert in the Yukon, and beautiful beach Lake Bennett. Whoo-hoo, some new sand for my "sands of the world" jar.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Glaciers & Whale Watching

Today we arrived in Juneau. Whales were spotted off the sides of the ship this morning long before we arrived, and it was spectacular to watch one fully breach. Breaching is a typical part of the mating ritual, per the naturalist on board, and not commonly seen in Alaska (usually in Hawaii where the humpbacks migrate to each October). It may have been a calf learning what he needs to do once he starts his own mating rituals soon. Calves are born about 12 feet long weighing in at about 2,000 lbs and zero body fat, but then start to add upwards of 100lbs per day throughout their first year.

Upon arrival in port, I went out on a fun excursion that included both a visit to Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching. There I learned that every single humpback has a unique diagram within their skin on the bottom side of their's their "fingerprint" if you will. Researchers at NOAA here in Juneau photograph the whales and are able to track them that way, vs. tagging them or other methods. And while it isn't exactly known how long they all live, the average life expectancy is about 50 years. Females have one calf at a time, and usually have another calf every two to three years, and will continue to give birth for almost their entire life. Calves learn everything they need to survive within their first year of life, and are then essentially " on their own" from that point on, even though they tend to travel in pods.
Here are few pictures from each part of that fun-filled and informative afternoon.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Greetings from the Inside Passage

Greetings from the Inside Passage. Just a few quick images before I go to the first class of this trip. We set sail yesterday from Vancouver and are working our way north. Tomorrow is Tracy Arm and Juneau. Today is cloudy (at least this morning), but the forecast is calling for great weather for most of the rest of this trip. The stars last night were fantastic, and we're supposed to have fantastic visibility of the meteor showers this week. More to come later.

Happy Sunday all!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Advice from a Travel Agent...Fly in the Day or Night Before Your Vessel's Scheduled Departure

I ALWAYS recommend flying in the day before a cruise and staying overnight, as there are just too many possibilities of things going wrong that you have ZERO control over. This is exactly what happened to me on my flight to Vancouver. Thankfully I made it safely to Vancouver, but it certainly wasn't a trip without incident! Delayed flights due to other airport issues, sitting on the tarmac entirely too long waiting for the gate to open up in the connection city, nearly missing a connection because of both previously mentioned things. All things that could absolutely ruin a trip and cause people to miss their ship if flying on the day of sailing. It was all too much stress and frustration for one day, but I'm very thankful for arriving here safely...even if it was nearly an hour later than it was scheduled to be. The stressful part is over. Now I can relax and get a good night's sleep as I look forward to heading to the ship in the morning rested and relaxed. I'm so looking forward to this adventure, and hope you'll follow along with me on the journey.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Setting Out for the Last Frontier. Thinking of my Grandfather.

On this date many years ago - August 5th, 1979 - we got word that my grandpa died. He and my grandma were living in Alaska at the time so it had been quite a while since we had last seen them in person. They were teachers throughout their careers, and in retirement spent a couple of tours of duty as teachers in a missionary school in remote Unalakleet (west coast, south of Nome). That year I turned 9 but was only 8 still when he died. Of course, being so young I didn’t know him for the man he’d been most of his life, but I have some fantastic memories of the man that I knew him to be… kind, fun-loving, gentle, a great outdoorsman, avid fisherman, and a great teacher – he was my Papa Les. Some fun memories include going to their house in the woods of Oak Glen, riding on his motorcycle with him, sledding in the snow in winter down the hills, taking walks with him, and the teacher in him coming out as he shared what the different flora and fauna that we passed were.
I’m thrilled to be departing today for an Alaskan Seminar at Sea and no doubt will be thinking of him as we sail past some amazing flora and fauna. I fly to Vancouver this afternoon, and then board the ship tomorrow morning. My adventures during the week ahead will take me nowhere near where they lived all those years ago (opposite side of the state), but it’s a fun little connection back to a man I loved so much, and miss still all these years later.
While so much of the rest of Facebook is increasingly filled with negative political junk, my little corner of the neighborhood will be filled with a few pictures and maybe some video from a few beautiful places from God's creation over the next week. Come along with me virtually! I’m happy to share my adventures with you…

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tips onThursday - Bringing Baby Along

As recent as just five years ago, the cruise industry varied greatly by line whether or not they would support people who wanted to bring their very young children along with them – including children as young as six months old.  The vast majority of cruise lines limited access for babies to at least a year old, but if you brought your infant along, you were pretty much on your own throughout your cruise vacation.  Beginning in 2010 though, the cruise industry began to standardize around a common set of recommendations from CLIA (the Cruise Line International
 Association) which not only encouraged the lines to allow children as young as six months old, but to also provide amenities such as high chairs, strollers, cribs, cots, and bottle warmers.  But it didn’t stop there either, as CLIA strongly recommended organized care programs for the children so that parents might be able to take a much-needed break from the constant care of their youngest children.  Certainly, all of the clines have had programs for older children, from three to 17 for many years now, some for decades, but not for the care of the youngest cruisers out there.  That was an industry revolution.

Today most of the major, mainstream cruise lines will provide for children as young as six months old.  These cruise lines include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruise Line. Furthermore, the Euro-centric MSC Cruises allows babies as young as just three months old.  However just because these cruise lines accommodate young children, do not assume that all cruise lines do, as many of the more “up-scale” or “luxury” lines do not, having no children’s programs on board any of their ships, and simply do not recommend bringing children of any age onboard.   

Truly the pioneer within the industry for accommodating children of all ages is Disney Cruise Line, being the first cruise line to be designed specifically for the entire family from the line’s introduction back in 1991.  From supervised children’s activities to Disney characters on board ship, to family-friendly dance parties and deck parties, and more, Disney just excels at making sure all ages in the family have a great time.  They’ll even cater specifically to the infant set, but delivering diapers and warm baby formula to the stateroom. 

So you might be asking, what is provided for these kids onboard?  Each line varies, and we’ll get into that below. 

All of the cruise lines above have a minimum age of six months for most cruises, but raise the limit to one year from the rare trans-oceanic cruises, trips to South America, and cruises to Hawaii.  While most do not sell diapers, a few of the lines have diapers available for sale in their onboard shops, including Holland America (must be pre-ordered), Norwegian, and Disney.  Baby formula is not available onboard, so you will need to bring your own. 

High Chairs, strollers, and cots are available at no extra cost on all the cruise lines mentioned above with the exception of Carnival which charges $6/day or $25/week for strollers and/or bouncy chairs.

Onboard activities and babysitting services are available on all of the lines mentioned above.  Most will provide organized group activities with a good number of trained and supervised caretakers. Generally, there is no charge for these group activities, you just need to go and check your child in. These services are offered during most days from breakfast through about noon. Often they take a break in the afternoon but re-open well before dinner, continuing to provide services throughout the dinner hour. After dinner parents have the option of taking advantage of organized babysitting services which have an added cost for most lines, except Disney, where it is included and available the vast majority of the day, even into the nighttime hours. 

Here’s a rundown of the latest offerings and charges, as of this post.  Know that the cruise lines reserve the right to change provided services and fees at any time.  So be sure to inquire about the current information when booking your next family cruise:

Carnival: Camp Carnival offers finger painting to cartoon time, arts and crafts to puppet shows. Toddlers do not have to be potty-trained. Group babysitting is offered from 10pm -3am - Charge: $6/hour.

Celebrity: Babies/tots have access to crafts, games & toys in the Fun Factory. Children under the age of 3 must be accompanied. Group Babysitting is available for $8 per hour, as well as private babysitting, also for $8/hour.

Cunard Line: Onboard nurseries are outfitted with Fisher-Price Little People as well as toys made by Little Tikes and Lamaze. The Queen Mary 2 liner has a "Minnows" pool for families, plus a splash pool for smaller children. Group babysitting is staffed by "British Nannies" and available from 6:00pm-midnight at no cost.

Disney:  Disney has a special area called "Flounder's Reef Nursery" which will accommodate babies as young as three months old (12 weeks). Within this area, they provide meals and cribs for nap-taking. The area is supervised by trained "nannies" so parents are free to go their own way. Parents are required to supply their own diapers and formula, but they can buy these onboard or have them delivered to their staterooms. Nannies will change the children.  The cost for the nursery is nominal, at just $6 per hour.  

Holland America Line: The line offers "Toddler Times" sessions for kids under the age of three to play in the children's facilities, but there are no trained caretakers so parents must stay with their children at all times. Babysitting is offered to children under three on a limited basis by voluntary staff - price negotiable.

MSC Cruises: One of only two lines to allow kids as young as just three months old onboard. However, there are no baby-sitting services, and any kids less than 36-months old must be accompanied by the parents when they are in the children's play area.

Norwegian Cruise Line: while this is one of the few cruise lines that sell diapers and baby wipe onboard, the line does not have any supervised activities for tots 36-months or younger nor does it offer any baby-sitting services.

Princess Cruises: children from six to 36 months are welcome in the youth playroom as long with supervision by a parent or guardian. Princess Youth counselors will not change diapers. Group babysitting is offered from 10 pm-1:00 am but only for kids three years or older. The charge is $5 per hour.

Royal Caribbean: the line offers 45-minute Interactive playgroup sessions developed by Fisher-Price, held in an onboard lounge. Moms can keep fit with the "Stroller Mates" workout sessions. Group babysitting is offered from 8 am to 2 am. The Charge is $10/hour. Private babysitting is also available.

While we all want to have a great time on our vacation, please do keep in mind that while some people will enjoy seeing your baby on board, not everyone appreciates loud kids or crying babies, especially in the dining rooms. So if you bring your youngest children, be aware of the close proximity of other cruisers and be prepared for the looks you’ll get from some passengers, and the comments you might receive from others. If you do not want to risk this particular social stigma it is best to stick to Disney Cruise Line, or the larger, newer ships from Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tips on Thursday - It's All About the Food

It’s All About the Food!

Choices abound!  Choices galore!  Choices, choices, choices!  With newer cruise ships, it's all about choices! One evening you might enjoy the elegant atmosphere of the main dining room while another you opt for your ship's casual dining restaurant or one of the ship's specialty restaurants; and yet another you might enjoy the choices inside your own stateroom thanks to 24 hour room service. 

Regardless of how or where you choose to dine, you're sure to a seemingly endless selection of entrees, appetizers, salad, soups, sides and desserts every time you sit down.  Did you also realize that here's virtually no limit on what or how much you order?  But just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food doesn't mean you'll come home out of shape; as more and more ships offer low-calorie, spa or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as those on the regular menu.  Watching what you eat has never so much fun!

Not only do you have choices in where you eat within the variety of fabulous food and restaurants, a growing number of cruise lines are now allowing guests to choose their own dining time. Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the concept with their “Freestyle Dining”, which has been well-received by guests loving the freedom to dine whenever and wherever they like.  Six-star lines such as Regent and Silversea also leave the option of dining time up to guests.  Princess' “Personal Choice Dining”, Holland America's “As You Wish Dining” and Royal Caribbean's “My Time Dining” are now available in addition to their traditional dinner seating.  

Traditional dinner seating, however, with the same wait staff and table companions each evening, has not gone the way of the dinosaur, and is still available on most cruises, and remains a favorite among new and past cruisers alike.

No matter what line or itinerary you choose, you’re bound to find the dining choices to be an amazing part of your cruise vacation. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tips on Thursday - Lanai or No Lanai

A Good Buy on a Lanai

What is a Lanai, anyway?  You have probably lived in an apartment or house that claimed to have one but never quite figured out the difference between a patio and lanai.  Well, it would appear that they are one and the same.   So, why the buzz from Holland America about “lanai staterooms” being introduced on the Veendam?   Well, it’s due to the fact that oceangoing lanais are a rarity and Holland America seems to be cornering the market on them.  These staterooms offer direct access to the open decks.  It is funny how old things become new again because many early cruise ships introduced in the 1950s had outside corridors for access to staterooms.  

The addition of 38 lanai staterooms on Veendam is a key feature in the latest round of Signature of Excellence enhancements at Holland America. Similar in size to the premium line’s outside-view staterooms, the new lanai accommodations were recently added to the ship and feature large sliding glass doors with direct access to the Lower Promenade wrap-around teak walking deck. Lanai staterooms will be added to ms Rotterdam this year and three other ships by 2013. Each lanai stateroom also features reserved deck chairs outside sliding glass doors that have a one-way mirrored coating to ensure privacy.

Thirty-two new verandah staterooms also were built on the aft portion of the ship, along with eight new inside staterooms. All staterooms aboard Veendam received new decor, modern wall sconces, carpeting, drapes, pillows, and bed runners, and resurfaced desks and vanities. Bathrooms saw an “extreme” makeover with new vanities and cabinetry.

A final stateroom enhancement was the creation of 15 spa staterooms -- 12 outside converted to the verandah in drydock and three other inside -- featuring a variety of exclusive spa amenities. The rooms offer their own ambiance with a decor reflecting natural elements and soft earth tones. A counter-top water feature in each stateroom provides a natural, ambient background sound and the artwork reflects serene images in nature. Exclusive spa treatments and a spa room service menu are offered only in these staterooms.

For more information and to reserve your next vacation, contact me at 317.776.1733 or via my website  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tips on Thursday - Entertainment & Enrichment at Sea

From Blue-Faced Men to Rainbow-Colored Carousels

Remember when shipboard entertainment was simply a poolside game led by the cruise director and perhaps the occasional ice carving contest? These days it’s more like surfing on Royal Caribbean’s FlowRider and splashing in Disney Dream’s AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea. When cruise lines proclaim that a vessel has more activities onboard than most resorts, they’re not kidding. Here’s a sampling of what modern ships have to offer in the arena of entertainment and enrichment.

Ice Bar aboard Norwegian Epic
Not just the vodka is chilled. The bar, tables, stools, and even the walls are made of ice and kept at an arctic 17 degrees.

Cunard Insights aboard Queen Mary 2
Imagine attending a lecture series headlined by such well-known personalities as John Cleese, star of the Monty Python films, or Dr. Ruth Westheimer, television’s famous therapist.

Carousel aboard Oasis of the Seas
Hand-crafted and one-of-a-kind, the Carousel found onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is the whimsical centerpiece of the Boardwalk, inspired by Coney Island for the young and young at heart.

Bon App├ętit Culinary Center aboard Marina
If you are not satisfied with just feasting on edible indulgences but want to learn to craft culinary excellence as well, try the hands-on instruction provided by Oceania Cruises’ master chefs.

Blue Man Group aboard Norwegian Epic
This award-winning show and concert, once found only in Vegas, will combine music, comedy and multimedia theatrics.

Digital Workshop aboard Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam
Powered by Windows, this interactive design studio offers free classes on images, blogs, movies, scrapbooks, and more.

WaterWorks aboard Carnival Dream
With 19,000 square feet catering to kids and families, Carnival Dream ship features an aqua park with the longest water slide at sea. Don’t miss the comedy club and outdoor laser shows.

For more information and to reserve your next vacation, contact me at 317.776.1733 or simply visit my website.