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Captain’s Log: A Return to Alaska

It has been a week since I walked up the gangway, on a glorious Vancouver morning and, once again, was greeted by familiar faces and beaming smiles, it’s always nice to come back to my 2nd ‘home’. Making the transition from man of leisure to Captain of a cruise ship is always something of a ‘culture shock’; one minute playing in boats, swinging golf clubs and imbibing in a glass of wine, one is suddenly brought down to earth with a wallop, responsibilities are once more to the fore, man-management skills required and endless paperwork; a far cry from just writing a shopping list or booking a tee-time

Nevertheless, I relish the position and enjoy Alaska immensely. Although I have been coming here on and off, (for the most part, ‘on), for the past 18 years, I never tire of her immense beauty. Even though I am not required continually on the bridge, I still spend time up there, particularly when in whale-waters; there’s nothing I enjoy more than sighting a ‘blow’ in the distance and being able to let our guests know in good time that they should have their cameras ready. It is something of a joke on here that I manage to see whales at distances that defy my eyesight. 😉


We left Vancouver on Friday and spent the late night to early morning negotiating the British Columbia Inside Passage, tortuous twists and turns with strong tidal currents, it is always a long night. We arrived in Juneau on Sunday, on a cloudy and wet day. I am told that it has beautiful until the week I arrived, ‘Mercer’s Law’ perhaps? Despite the inclement weather, our guests enjoy themselves, the only negative being that some flights cannot make it, due to the low cloud ceiling. As it is my first U.S. port, I have the pleasure of seeing CBP officials for my clearance, a walk which resulted in a rather damp Captain returning to his ship. We sail in the late evening, as our next destination, Skagway, is not far away and involves slow-steaming to be there on schedule. Slightly brighter here, the White Pass train waiting in the siding, ready to take guests on a spectacular ride, seals playing under our bow and bald eagles gliding past our superstructure.

Then a slow steam to Tracy Arm, a magnificent fjord, carved out of the mountains by glacial activity, it twists and turns almost 24 miles to what is now all that remains of the glacier. Our ultimate aim is to get ‘up close and personal’ with the face, however this visit finds thick ice, so dense that I can’t take the Amsterdam through it, much to my disappointment. We have our moments though, a magnificent bull Orca passes us, no doubt returning from some seal hunting.

Out and towards Ketchikan and as we do so, sailing down Chatham Strait in calm water, passing numerous humpback whales as we do so, a pleasant end to a glorious day. Ketchikan has one of the highest rainfalls in the U.S. and Thursday is no exception, ‘liquid sunshine’ is in abundance as are umbrellas and then south again, back through the BC Inside Passage, this time in daylight and a sunny day. We pass Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, a known ‘hang-out’ for Orcas and my binoculars are glued to the bay, all seems quiet until suddenly I spot the Orcas, frolicking around as if they’re playing, much to my delight, our wake attracts them and they play in the waves, affording a lovely sighting for our guests who are enjoying the vista and sun.


We pass through Seymour Narrows, the narrow passage which has to transited on or near slack water, (or the change of tidal stream); at any other time, the currents are fearsome and certainly not for the likes of us. Back to Vancouver and as I write, we are on our way to Juneau again, this time it would appear that the weather will be more pleasant.

  • Patricia B

    Dear Captain Mercer

    Welcome Home! Really nice that you are back onboard!
    Have enjoyed following your blogs from the World Cruise and appreciate the time you put into them. We hope you see many whales and enjoy your time up north!

  • Joan Hopke

    So happy to be able to read your reports once again. I always feel like I’m on your ship once again and have always enjoyed those moments.

  • Gwen R

    Glad to see you’re back on duty. I love reading your blogs as they are always so interesting especially about what goes on that passengers don’t see. I’ll be making my 29th cruise with HAL on December 8th and really looking forward to it.

  • Gerry

    Welcome back Captain. Always a pleasure reading of your travels.

  • Garth Liseth

    Hi Captain Jonathan and welcome back to the beautiful ms Amsterdam sailing out of our fair city of Vancouver. I assume that you will be cruising for a few months and then taking another sabbatical until the Grand World Voyage? We are pencilled in again for the entire trip and are anxiously looking forward to our journeys around the world. See you in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 4th?

  • J.E.Dixon

    Welcome back! It has always been great to read your blogs and more so that my friend and I enjoyed our time on AMSTERDAM from Hong Kong to Cape Town this year.

    I do hope I will have the pleasure of sailing with you again.

  • Jonathan

    Thank you all for your lovely comments! Yes, I complete the “Amsterdam’s” Alaskan itinerary and then return for the World Voyage, which I am anticpating with relish!

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