It’s almost the start of the Alaskan cruise season here in Vancouver, and that has me thinking about the royal blue-hulled ships of Holland America Line.
Alaska is one of my favorite cruise destinations. It’s second only to Europe, in fact. But it’s not the towns that entrance me in Alaska. Though they can be quite a lot of fun to visit, it’s the wild, untamed beauty of Alaska that brings me back again and again. I’ve sailed the region on a number of different cruise lines, but no one does it quite like Holland America does.
Even though, at 31, I’m not exactly the ‘target demographic’ for the line, I’ve been enjoying Holland America cruises for nearly a decade now. I like that there’s fewer people onboard their ships. The décor is soothing. The service is personable. And their ships are exceedingly well-suited to Alaska, with indoor pool areas and some of the best Spas afloat. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a heated Thermal Lounger in the Greenhouse Spa, gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the misty wilderness as it scrolls by.
Many seem to view the Caribbean as the ultimate cruise destination. I disagree. I’d take Alaska over the Caribbean all day, every day. Sure, it’s hot and sunny down there – but nothing beats standing on deck, sipping some (spiked) hot chocolate while watching glaciers calve in Glacier Bay National Park.
A look at our day-by-day Live Voyage Report aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam from 2012:
This year, Holland America has seven ships operating in Alaska:
Amsterdam will spend most of her time sailing from Seattle, operating weeklong voyages that feature either Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord along with calls in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. A handful of departure dates will once again reprise her massive 14-night Alaskan Explorer sailings that call on Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, Homer, Kodiak, Anchorage, and Victoria. One of Holland America’s most beautiful vessels, Amsterdam carries 1,380 guests and is 781 feet long.
Oosterdam returns to Alaska for yet another season, though this year it will homeport in Vancouver for the first time. Her primary route will be Holland America’s Northbound and Southbound Glacier Discovery cruises that run between Vancouver and Seward for Anchorage every Sunday. Both itineraries include scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park, and mark the first time a Vista Class ship has operated these unique voyages. Oosterdam will also sail a handful of roundtrip departures from Vancouver in September that visit Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan in addition to Tracy Arm Fjord. She is part of the line’s larger Vista Class ships, and carries 1,916 guests.
Statendam, built in 1992, has been sailing to Alaska almost every summer for her entire career, and she’s carved out a loyal following of HAL Mariners that return to her year after year. She’s also the only S-Class ship sailing to Alaska this year, and she reprises her role again from Vancouver’s Canada Place Cruise terminal, where she joins the larger Oosterdam in offering North and Southboung Glacier Discovery voyages between Vancouver and Seward. On September 21, she’ll also offer a single roundtrip Vancouver Inside Passage sailing that includes Tracy Arm.
Volendam returns once again to Vancouver to sail weeklong roundtrip voyages from Canada Place as part of Holland America’s immensely popular Inside Passage itineraries that include calls on Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. Departing on Wednesdays, she carries just 1,432 guests – a refreshing change from some of the three-thousand-plus passenger vessels heading to Alaska this year.
Westerdam will return again to Seattle, where she’ll operate weeklong roundtrip Alaskan Explorer voyages every Saturday from May 3 until September 30. These call on Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, and are an excellent alternative to Amsterdam for those who want a bigger ship with more activities and options for families. Westerdam carries 1,916 guests.
Zaandam, sister-ship to Volendam, joins her out of Vancouver’s Canada Place, offering weeklong Inside Passage cruises that call exclusively on Tracy Arm Fjord, along with Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. They depart every Friday between May 2 and September 12. She’s also quite famous for her musically-themed interiors that include a massive, three-story sculpture of an organ in the ship’s atrium and a saxophone signed by former U.S. President, Bill Clinton.
Zuiderdam, built in 2002, was Holland America’s first Vista Class ship, and she’s been a staple in Alaska since her maiden season in 2006. She returns again to Vancouver, sailing on Saturdays between May 10 and September 20 through Alaska’s Inside Passage to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Glacier Bay National Park. Along with sister-ship Oosterdam, 2014 marks the first season two Vista Class ships have sailed to Alaska from Vancouver. On a side note, she’s my personal favorite Holland America ship for her unusually bright, colourful interior décor.
If you’ve never been to Alaska before, perhaps 2014 is the year to start?
From the Deck Chair will return tomorrow!