ocean voyage

In August of 2001, my friend Marie Rose and I took a short cruise along the west-coast of Canada, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Skagway, Alaska, U.S.A. From there we took a MotorCoach tour to the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory of Canada and from there flew back to Vancouver. The tour is operated by Holland-America lines (http://www.hollandamerica.com) and our travel agent is Uniglobe. (http://www.uniglobetotaltravel.com) The ship we were on is the "Westerdam".

For those who might be interested in trying a cruise like this, the costs were (for the two of us):

Fare: C$2,083.10

"Professional Fee" (?) C$40

GST $2.80 (Canada's infamous "Gouge and Screw Tax" of 7%; since then it dropped to 5%)

Taxes and Service Charge C$56.80

This is the total cost for the 2 of us, guaranteed outside cabin, for the 4-day cruise. It includes the flight back from Whitehorse to Vancouver. We were actually onboard the ship for less than 3 days; the rest of the tour consisted of the overland trip to Whitehorse and the flight back to Vancouver.


Incidentally, Marie Rose took a cruise in the Caribbean later, on a different cruise line. She tells me that there is no comparison between Holland-America and that other line. Holland-America was 100% better in every respect. We both would highly recommend H.A. to anyone but she would never recommend that "other" line. We won't mention its name.

We took another cruise in 2008; unfortunately, it was not all we had expected. All the details of that cruise are at http://www.sticksite.com/hawaii/.

With my Sony Mavica FD97 digital camera I took plenty of pictures and here are some of them.

Westerdam

This is our ship, the "Westerdam" berthed at Canada Place in Vancouver.

Vancouver

This is the view from the ship, of Vancouver.

Lions Gate Bridge

Lion's Gate Bridge at Vancouver

food on the cruise ship

The food was fantastic AND artistic.

ocean view

a peaceful ocean view

barge

This northbound barge, towed by a tug, had an incredible load on. Note the schoolbus.

coastline

At times the view was fantastic.

tugboat

The tugboat operator was not rushed so he entertained us with some fancy "footwork" or was it "tugwork?"

stage-show

We took in some shows on the ship. Don Sherman came aboard at Juneau and had us rolling in the isles with laughter. DON'T miss him if you go!

There were no extra charges/fees for any of these shows.

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska. A real DUMP as far as we were concerned. Clearly the people who live there have absolutely no interest in making their town look inviting.

cruise ship

There were two other cruise ships traveling the same route as we were. Here is one of them, at Juneau.

cruise ship

I got up early and it was very chilly but I *had to* get pictures of the sun rising.

cruise ship

There were two pools; this one has a retractable roof. There was a hot tub behind it.

cruise ship

The port side of the ship.

B.C. west coast

Some of the thousands of little islands along the British Columbia coast.

Skagway

The town of Skagway, Alaska. You can see one of the 3 cruise ships at the end of the main street.

to Whitehorse

The coach which took us overland to Whitehorse, Yukon.

We can honestly say that the trip was great. Holland-America has done fine job. Their show runs like a well-oiled machine. They've covered all the bases. Even when they have to deal with idiots such as I, who leave all their documents in their suitcase, leaving them with no traveling papers.

The weather was fantastic, but we're told that this is rare. We left on August 9, 2001. They have fine-tuned their system to part you with your money. Have not missed a trick. They constantly encourage you to buy drinks etc. They take your picture and try to sell you that. They have lots of shops on the ship. We decided that we had spent enough and were not going to spend any more. You are encouraged to go to their "front office" and give them a signed credit card statement so that you can charge all your purchases to your credit card on the cruise. I guess this way people tend to spend more. We did not register our credit card and bought nothing aboard the ship.

One thing, In My Humble Opinion, could be improved. I like a can of Pepsi once in awhile. Here at home I buy a 12-pack for C$3.67 which is about 20 cents U.S. per can. On the ship, the only way you can get a can is to pay thru the nose. They had a "special" on: US$17.75 for 14 cans or $1.27 per can!! I simply refused to let them rip me off that way. Seems to me they should either provide soft drinks free or at, say, US$0.25 per can. HEY, HOLLAND-AMERICA... are you listening?

The ship had approximately 1,500 passengers and 600 crew. Most of the crew were Indonesian and most of them spoke such broken English that it was difficult to communicate with them. BUT they did a wonderful job and had an excellent attitude. Warning: If you get up in the middle of the night to use the washroom, don't be surprised if you come back to find your bed made AGAIN. All the "important" crew members were Dutchmen. The little chocolate on your pillow every morning is a cute touch. So is the bowl of fruit; even if the pear is too green to eat.

We had hoped to see some Bald Eagles and Humpback Wales (as Don Sherman would add, "Sounds like a hospital for sick animals.") but all we saw were whales so distant that they looked like miniatures. There were a lot of "beached whales" on the ship but that's another story.

Expect to be swamped with papers. Most are trying to sell you something; others are important. There was so much of it that at one point I said I'd never do this again; there just is no time to study all the stuff they pile on you.

I wonder how much Holland-America is paying Canada for the rights to ply their trade in Canadian waters. I wonder too, how much Skagway and Juneau pay the cruise lines to stop in and get a crack at the tourists' wallets.


A WARNING:

IF YOU are planning a trip and think maybe you will deal with Travelocity, you would be well-advised to read my HORRIBLE experience with them at http://www.sticksite.com/travelocity.html first.


Some people are not tooooooooooo swift:

These are true stories from someone who works on a cruise ship.

  1. (For this one, you have to know that it's really easy to get lost in the maze of corridors and elevators on a ship.) A lady asked if this elevator went to the front of the ship.
  2. Two elderly women were staring at the numbers of the floors listed above the elevator door. When asked if they needed any assistance with something, one asked how they were going to be able to reach way up there to push the button for their floor.
  3. There was some mix-up with a woman's room. The steward was trying to remedy the situation. He asked, "Would you like an inside cabin or an outside cabin?" She replied, "Well, it looks like it might rain today." I'd better get an inside cabin.
  4. Two women were sitting by the pool, and one asked what kind of water they fill the pool with -- fresh water or sea water? The cruise director answered, "Sea water." "Oh, that explains why it's so rough today.
  5. What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?
  6. Does the crew sleep onboard?
  7. What time is the midnight buffet?
  8. Do you generate your own electricity?
  9. Is this island totally surrounded by water?
  10. Is the water in the toilet salt or fresh?
  11. What language do they speak in Alaska?
  12. How high above sea level are we?
  13. How do we know which pictures are ours?

Warning:

The disaster of the Costa Concordia in 2012 caused some reviews of cruise ships' practices. One thing that came to light is the disclaimers that passengers subject themselves to when they "sign on the dotted line." When you sign, you sign away virtually all your rights to any kind of compensation in any kind of situation. You are left stripped. READ the fine print completely and carefully and if you still want to take the cruise, it might be wise to buy insurance from a third party to give yourself the protection you need.


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