Saturday, 19 July 2014

The "Volendam" - Skagway to Vancouver

The Volendam at Skagway.
The last stage of this tour was a four day cruise from Skagway to Vancouver. We boarded in the morning and got settled in our stateroom. To our surprise after booking a moderate priced cabin with a small verandah view, we had received two upgrades in the few weeks prior to our trip. The cabin (sorry, stateroom!) turned out to be on the highest accommodation deck with its own private balcony with outdoor setting. Inside we had a lounge area with comfortable sofa, mini fridge, and desk, as well as a king size bed, plentiful hanging and drawer space and finally a well appointed ensuite bathroom (with a spa bath!). Needless to say we were MOST comfortable and remembering the small cabin with bunks and porthole that we had for 5 weeks on the old 'Fairstar' on our trip to England in 1971, I was quite bemused with the luxury of it all.

As well as a complimentary dinner at the very posh Pinnacle restaurant on the first night (which normally costs extra), we also dined very well at the Rotterdam Dining Room and a very fine Italian dinner at the Caneletto. For breakfast and lunch we ate at the more casual Lido. We had made friends with several couples on our tour so most of these dinners were very convivial with happy chatter so much so that we didn't manage to get to any of the evening entertainment provided on board.

On the second day of our cruise, we sailed gently into Glacier Bay. The first we noticed from our cabin were very small icebergs floating past. Up on deck we were confronted with the awesome sight of the huge, very pale blue glacier in all its majesty. Quite breath-taking. Occasionally, there would be a loud crack and pieces of ice would fall away to became icebergs bobbing in the water. Certainly a sight never to forget.

On the middle day of our cruise we docked at the very pretty harbour town of Ketchikan. I must say I have never seen so many souvenir and jewellery shops in my life. Our guide on our excursion to the Saxman Native Village joked that Ketchikan meant 'place of many jewellery shops'. Saxman village is the home of many of the Tlingit natives and we were told and shown a little of their culture and also had a performance of native dancing. The participants were of all ages and one little boy of about 4 quite stole the show - he was so serious about his dancing.

We later learnt about the Tlingit totem poles and visited the carving workshop. There were some very beautiful re-carving of old poles as well as new ones - some of which had been commissioned and which cost up to $6000 per foot. They prefer to keep to the traditional styles of carving and one recent commission for a Star Wars totem pole was politely declined!

Later that day we enjoyed a Lumberjack show in Ketchikan. This was great fun with two 'teams' - one Canadian and one America competing in various events with the audience encouraged to loudly support 'their' team.

Our last day at sea was a quiet one and we took the opportunity to investigate all the places on board which we hadn't yet discovered. A beautiful little library and an internet room, a quiet reading lounge, a piano bar, and the Crow's Nest which was a stunning room with 180 degree views from the front of the ship. (Did I tell you we were invited to the Captain's cocktail party before dinner one evening?? Very high society we are, don't you know!)

All too soon we again had to pack our cases in readiness for disembarking at Vancouver. We've had a fabulous cruise following on from the wonderful land tour of Alaska and the Yukon, but will miss the lovely people we've been travelling with along the way.

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