Dear Readers, we have issues again with the blog. Now it seems that the system does not like it when I move from ship to ship. Once again the IT guru’s are investigating and eventually “all services will be restored”. Until that time I will start uploading again, only it will be without photos. My apologies………….
And thus I travelled from Montreal via Chicago to Anchorage. Leaving behind the Maasdam with her captain who was busy being involved with the opening of the new Montreal cruise terminal. When we arrived we found out that the terminal was far from finished and looked from outside and inside still very much like a building site. Thus a lot of work will still have to be done. Apart from finishing the inside they still need new access gangways, luggage facilities and a few mooring bollards at the stern would not be a bad idea either. Hopefully they will work hard and the Maasdam will reap the benefits during the remainder of the season.
I stayed overnight in Anchorage and was then transported to Seward the next morning. Seward is about a two hour drive south from Anchorage but the transfer time really depends on how many campers there are on the road. Today we were lucky they were all going the other way it seemed. If you are ever contemplating to buy a camper or R.V, then sitting along the road to Seward will give you the option to see about every model and size coming by to make up your mind. I counted at least 54 different versions before I gave up.
The Noordam had arrived at 06.00 in the morning and was docked nose out as that works better for the gangways and the operational setup. There was also change over day, which works totally different in Alaska than anywhere else. As about 90% of the guests are continuing their journey by going on overland tours, they leave the ship at the time the tour coach is ready for them. So it is a very gradual disembarkation process. The guests who are joining are mostly coming back from overland tours as well and they trickle in by the coach load in the course of the afternoon until just before sailing time.
So there is not the initial mad rush that we see in regular cruise ports where at least 50% of the guests are already sitting in the terminal and then together “invade” the ship within 30 minutes and because they are on a roll, do the same in the Lido Restaurant. The Alaska change over process makes for extra-long hours for the crew and thus they have to work different shifts to cover the whole period of 06.00 hrs. in the morning to 21.00 hrs. in the evening.
We also had a changeover of Captains today. Captain Henk Draper went on leave and Captain Peter Bos joined. Peter and I joined Holland America Line about 3 months apart in autumn 1981 on the good old Statendam and sailed a lot of years together. Always just one rank apart as he joined as 3rd officer and I as 4th. officer. We even sailed out the ss Rotterdam together in 1997 which was a very memorable cruise as we pulled out all the stops of our imagination to send the 1000 guest’s home with the best memories possible.
The ms Noordam is employed on the 14 day Alaska Service, which starts in Vancouver and then goes to Ketchikan – Juneau – Skagway – Glacier Bay – ending with a turnaround in Seward. Then the ship retraces its route but substituting Haines for Skagway on the way back to Vancouver. The ms Zaandam is the alternating ship which goes the opposite way. Holland America has been operating these cruises since the early 1990’s when for a number of years the ss Rotterdam inaugurated and maintained the service. Holland America then opted for Seward instead of Whittier (The Princess stronghold) as it liked the dock and it had an easy option there to connect with the railroad system to take the guests into the interior. Also the Seward dock is much more sheltered than any other port in the area, it being surrounded at all sides by mountains.
We left at the scheduled time of 20.00 hrs. and then sailed out into the Gulf of Alaska. Tomorrow we are at sea and then we will be in Glacier Bay. Seward gave a rainy and chilly day and the Gulf will not be much different. Luckily very little wind and only a low swell which helps with everybody staying clear of the “Mal-de-Mer”