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Old March 10th, 2008, 10:25 AM
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Default Need advice on Alaska in May

DW and I are seriously contemplating a May 7 day on the Westerdam. We've sailed HAL several times previously and LOVE it although we've never been on the Westerdam. A few questions for experienced Alaska cruisers.

1) How does the Westerdam compare with the Zaandam or the Noordam?

2) What kind of duds should one pack for Alaska in May?

3) Any advice on must do shore excursions would be greatly appreciated. Scheduled stops are Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria Canada.

4) In general what are your impressions of an Alaska cruise? We've only ever been to the Carib.

I'm sure I'll think of 100 more questions, but it's a start. Thanks in advance for your help
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Old March 10th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
DW and I are seriously contemplating a May 7 day on the Westerdam.
Do you mean May of 2008 or 2009?

If you mean 2008, you better stop comtemplating and book ASAP, because Alaska cruises go very quickly.

We are going May 9/2008 on the Veendam and have been booked since last October. This is our 3rd trip - first in June and 2nd end of August.

We have no idea what the weather will be like, but we are taking clothes that can be worn in layers, that way if it's cold in the morning, we bundle up and if it warms up in the afternoon, we start peeling.

May can be a beautiful month or it can be cold and rainy. You can't predict weather in Alaska. Do take a pair of gloves, warm hat, some type of rain proof outer wear, good walking shoes and an umbrella.

Juneau - we've done the Mendenhall Glacier/Salmon Bake

Ketchikan - whale watch

Sitka - no tour.....DH just walked around - there is so much to see and I went to see the Russian dancers as I knew some of the gals performing in the show. This was not an excursion - I paid admission at the door.

Victoria - depends on when you are there. If it is during the day then I would recommend Butchart Gardens. If it's a night stop for just a few hours, then I don't know what you can do. We've never been on a ship that stops in Victoria, but have visited friends who live in Vancouver and have gone there for the day to the Gardens.

Check out the excursions either in a brochure or on HAL's website.

I am sure there will be others who can help you with the various ports.

This time I plan to relax and do nothing.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 02:10 PM
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Default Re: Need advice on Alaska in May

The advice so far is good - just add otter watching in Sitka. Weather should be drizzly, foggy, misty...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvrdude
DW and I are seriously contemplating a May 7 day on the Westerdam. We've sailed HAL several times previously and LOVE it although we've never been on the Westerdam. A few questions for experienced Alaska cruisers.

1) How does the Westerdam compare with the Zaandam or the Noordam?

2) What kind of duds should one pack for Alaska in May?

3) Any advice on must do shore excursions would be greatly appreciated. Scheduled stops are Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria Canada.

4) In general what are your impressions of an Alaska cruise? We've only ever been to the Carib.

I'm sure I'll think of 100 more questions, but it's a start. Thanks in advance for your help
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Old March 10th, 2008, 02:36 PM
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1) How does the Westerdam compare with the Zaandam or the Noordam?

The Westerdam and the Noordam are sister ships, almost identical. The Zaandam is an older and smaller ship. You will find it quieter, especially at night but also during the day. It has a nive Movie theater, though, which the newer ships do not have.

The cabins are nearly identical.

They are all Holland America, so you will enjoy it.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 06:59 PM
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WE sailed Ms Oosterdam August 2008 sister ship I believe vista class. We also did the flyover-Salmon Taku Lodge It was fantastic The food was delectale my wife bought the recipe book they offered. The best vacation of our lives.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 09:23 PM
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Default Thanks all!

I appreciate the in-put. Yep, got 'er booked today for May 11 2008. I'll be doc dancin' in no time. I think there are still some pretty good deals on VH balconies if anyone's interested. Any one of the internet travel sights seems to have the same price now(<1K), but I'll bet they go FAST. I'm just hoping to sneak an up-grade to a VF or better. My understanding is that some of the VHs are over life boats. Good place to be in the case of an encounter with an ice berg, but not the best for the view. I'm fired up either way!
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Old March 13th, 2008, 02:33 AM
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Default Victoria a jewel of a city

You will like Victoria very much,especially the inner harbour area which is a 10 minute walk from the port.
Royal B.C Museum is world class,Butchart Gardens is great but a ways out of the city.
My advice.. take a stroll around the inner harbour you will not be disappointed,lots of sights

Rudi
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Old March 13th, 2008, 08:03 PM
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We were the first ship in the year we went (in May). It was cold and drizzling in Juneau.
We went to a salmon bake and they had everything covered in huge tarps. We just layered on the jackets, sweaters, and hats we brought.

In Skagway is was cold and very windy but everyone went out on the tours anyway. I stayed aboard and got a facial for $35.00 !

In Ketchican, believe it or not, there was no rain. It was chilly, but not that cold. Don't remember what we did there.

I loved Alaska !! I would go back in a heartbeat. Mike won't fly, so we have to take the repo cruises and Amtrak the other way. He thinks it's a pain.

I'll get him back there again.

Pat
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Old March 14th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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Default Re: Need advice on Alaska in May

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvrdude
DW and I are seriously contemplating a May 7 day on the Westerdam. We've sailed HAL several times previously and LOVE it although we've never been on the Westerdam. A few questions for experienced Alaska cruisers.

1) How does the Westerdam compare with the Zaandam or the Noordam?

2) What kind of duds should one pack for Alaska in May?

3) Any advice on must do shore excursions would be greatly appreciated. Scheduled stops are Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria Canada.

4) In general what are your impressions of an Alaska cruise? We've only ever been to the Carib.

I'm sure I'll think of 100 more questions, but it's a start. Thanks in advance for your help
Went on the Volendam so no help there.

I went in August, but it May it should be cooler with light rain. Pack to dress in layers,,that is the key for anytme in Alaska.

Only ported in Ketchikan and Victoria. I would suggest a Misty Fjords flyover in Ketchikan, and as suggested walk around the inner harbor but if you have time, Buchart gardens is incredible (but its like a half hour drive away),,try to do both.

I actually did a cruise tour so I was on the land for 9 days and on sea for 4. Given the chance, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I still will probably go back with a cruise only so I can see the places I missed like Juneau and Sitka.
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Old March 14th, 2008, 10:27 PM
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Hi dvrdude: I also plan to be on the May 11 cruise from Seattle to Alaska. I sailed to Alaska exactly 5 years ago on May 11, but from Vancouver, and had the best time. I am looking forward to sailing on the Westerdam, since I have sailed on the other 3 Vista class ships. I am also looking forward to visting Sitka, since that port was not on the other cruise. (That is the only port that we have to take tenders to go ashore.) I too, expect docs by early April.
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Old March 15th, 2008, 11:52 AM
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Glad to hear all the good reviews of Alaska. I've been eye-balling a few excursions on the HAL web site that look interesting. Thinking seriously about the glacier/whale watching/salmon bake in Juneau. Anyone done that?
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Old March 15th, 2008, 11:59 AM
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Default Re: Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvrdude
Glad to hear all the good reviews of Alaska. I've been eye-balling a few excursions on the HAL web site that look interesting. Thinking seriously about the glacier/whale watching/salmon bake in Juneau. Anyone done that?
Great choice. We did the whale watch in Ketchikan, I think, but in Juneau we did do the Mendenhall Glacier/salmon bake and it was amazing. Best salmon I have ever tasted.

You had better book the excursions now as they fill up quite quickly and some take a limited number of passengers.

We've had all our excursions booked for our May 9th cruise for some time now.

Oh, forgot we got our Docs yesterday - March 14th - HURRAH!
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Old March 16th, 2008, 03:57 PM
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Default Re: Need advice on Alaska in May

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvrdude
DW and I are seriously contemplating a May 7 day on the Westerdam. We've sailed HAL several times previously and LOVE it although we've never been on the Westerdam. A few questions for experienced Alaska cruisers.

1) How does the Westerdam compare with the Zaandam or the Noordam?

2) What kind of duds should one pack for Alaska in May?

3) Any advice on must do shore excursions would be greatly appreciated. Scheduled stops are Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria Canada.

4) In general what are your impressions of an Alaska cruise? We've only ever been to the Carib.

I'm sure I'll think of 100 more questions, but it's a start. Thanks in advance for your help
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Old March 16th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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Happy to answers some of your questions...

AK in May is gorgeous, though devoid of snow of course. (Live in FL so snow is exciting to me!) On Westerdam vs Zaandam/Nordam... Was on the old Westerdam many years ago and like all HAL ships, I imagine her replacement is just as impressive. Have been on the Zaandam twice and love this ship too. You can't go wrong on any HAL ship, I don't think. I generally sail only HAL and Celebrity cruise lines.

On shore excursions...do your homework well! Particulary with today's faltering economy, you can do better Internet-researching (surfing) the same ship-offered excursions for less money and added self-convenience. AFter walking each port/city visited, rent a car (negotiate if uncomfortable with their "first" price) and travel independently and at your pace. I make a practice of never purchasing ship-offered excursions. Save $$$$$$

Clothing...light sweaters, wind breakers, sweat shirts and some long-sleeved shirts for men. Also carry onboard or pack a "backpack" for toting items needed for shore excursions taken. AK is WONDERFUL!!!!!
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Old March 16th, 2008, 05:16 PM
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http://www.travelalaska.com/Climate/20.aspx

High 55'sF', low 40s F


In late August it was cold and we were wearing heavy weight sweaters, turtle neck t's and warm jackets, especially in the morning. It was very cold standing on the outer deck in Glacier Bay. Most people were bundled up with hats, gloves and warm jackets and this was the end of August.

Dennis - What month were you in Alaska?
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Old March 17th, 2008, 02:43 PM
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Dee Dee:
Your temps for Aug are not too unusual. I typically go at the beginning and the end of the AK cruise season (May & Sep.) to save $$$. Outer decks where there is usually an aboard-ship narrator (naturalist) in Glacier Bay and other inlets are normally very windy and very cold (no barriers against the elements!) almost regardless of month of travel.
Pack a parka or lined leather jacket, drink heavily or be prepared to run for cover (inside) when you turn the faintest shade of blue. Packing ear muffs, gloves, a scarf and hand warmers is NOT unrealistic at the beginning or nearing the end of their season. Heavy sweaters, gloves, and a scarf should be adequate for August, however. The coldest portion of your trip will be Glacier Bay. Enjoy your trip.

Dennis
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Old March 17th, 2008, 04:33 PM
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Hi Dennis!

I'm a hearty Canadian - live in Northern Ontario, Canada, so I know what COLD is! We have had almost the snowiest, coldest winter on record. I am sitting here looking out at the piles of snow at the end of my driveway and on my lawn and wonder if it will ever melt! Ya, maybe by July!! When I look out the back I can't even tell that I have a pool - it's completely covered with SNOW!!

I don't own a parka - I'm taking a touque (knitted hat) themal gloves, scarf, heavy sweaters and my winter jacket sans lining........ oh and I forgot my long johns (bottoms of men's polo pj's - better than pantyhose, which I hate)

This year we are going in May - it 2003 when we went the end of August.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeeDee
Hi Dennis!

I'm a hearty Canadian - live in Northern Ontario, Canada, so I know what COLD is! We have had almost the snowiest, coldest winter on record. I am sitting here looking out at the piles of snow at the end of my driveway and on my lawn and wonder if it will ever melt! Ya, maybe by July!! When I look out the back I can't even tell that I have a pool - it's completely covered with SNOW!!

I don't own a parka - I'm taking a touque (knitted hat) themal gloves, scarf, heavy sweaters and my winter jacket sans lining........ oh and I forgot my long johns (bottoms of men's polo pj's - better than pantyhose, which I hate)

This year we are going in May - it 2003 when we went the end of August.
Dennis back...tx for your thread.
You'll be fine for the cruise. I was born, incidentally, in St. Catherines, ON, but had a summer/inhabitable property (an island no less) in the Georgian Bay (near Midland, Honey Harbour) area for years. I'm a "traitor" as I became a US citizen (my parents were dual citizens) at 18 years of age. That was many many years ago! Still fond of my heritage and our summer property now owned by my bro. I have lived in FL for over 30 years. No, I'm not a kid anymore! Nice talking with you.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvrdude
I've been eye-balling a few excursions on the HAL web site that look interesting. Thinking seriously about the glacier/whale watching/salmon bake in Juneau. Anyone done that?
We did the salmon bake in Juneau. It was wonderful, and I don't even like fish

The area is next to the stream where the salmon spawn--no salmon in May--. There is also a small gift shop. ( I liked the owner's dog too.)

The food was great and there was alot of it. That salmon is what started me trying new seafood.

Pat
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Old March 18th, 2008, 11:46 AM
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Default Thanks, Pat

I'm not much of a fish eater either. Well, other than lobster and crab, if that counts. It's good to hear that the real McCoy Alaska salmon can make converts. I'm really looking forward to giving it a try. I grew up on Lake Michigan, so I'm pretty sure the salmon I remeber from my youth were tainted with mercury and who knows what else. No wonder I was never fond of it. Might explain why I have a hard time getting through the metal detectors at work too, now that I think about it.......hmmmm.
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Old March 18th, 2008, 12:44 PM
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I think the salmon we had was Chinook at the salmon bake and it was delicious. My MIL always used to serve Atlantic (Restigouche) salmon and I wasn't particularly fond of it, but I ate it.

If they serve Chinook you are in for a treat. It is the largest of the salmon species, with richly flavoured, firm flesh ranging from ivory white to deep red in colour - our was more the ivory white type.
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Old March 18th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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Yes,DeeDee you're are right. Ours was Chinook and the meat was white.
They grill it over some kind of wood.

Pat
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Old March 18th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sassyredhat
Yes,DeeDee you're are right. Ours was Chinook and the meat was white.
They grill it over some kind of wood.

Pat
Pat - I think they soak a specific type of wood chips & add them to the charcoal - can't remember the name - over which they grill the fish. I also kind of remember them brushing the salmon with a marinade that had maple syrup in it during the cooking. I may go back and do this excursion again in May if there's any room left on the bus. I'll wait until I get on board to check availability.
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Old March 19th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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Yeah~~isn't it delicious ??
Mike and I were talking about it last night. He has fond memories of that salmon too.

Pat
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