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The natural beauty of Alaska, still teaming with wildlife is an adventure not to be missed; even on a budget, you are able to explore this great country while experiencing five-star luxury onboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam, a new age of luxury hotel’s at sea.
An early arrival is a key component to a relaxing start to any vacation. Vancouver airport offers a couple of options for your transfer to downtown Vancouver. For those on a budget, that know how to pack light, a very inexpensive and easy way to get to Downtown Vancouver from the airport is to take the SkyTrain, the last stop is across the street from the Pan Pacific Hotel, which is located at the Cruise Ship terminal. Inexpensive compared to taking a cab, which will set you back about $52 plus tax; with traffic as well as possible roadblocks, such as the one we experienced due to a trailer losing its wheel in the middle of an intersection; the SkyTrain is not only a cheaper choice of transfer but is, in my opinion, a safer option provided you did not over pack and are able to carry your bags, as an elevator isn’t always readily available.
As soon as we arrived our bags were tagged with our stateroom numbers and left with the baggage handlers located in the basement of the cruise ship terminal; for later delivery to our perspective cabins. We then checked in for our cruise at which time we were handed our key cards, then we were directed to US immigration; which is a quick and easy process provided you are a Canadian or US citizen, unfortunately, passengers with foreign passports holding a green card are not processed through immigration as easily, they are forced to have their fingerprints taken and eyes scanned; treated like criminals for holding a green card.
Once through we were seated in a waiting room and provided with light refreshments, we were called to board in groups, on a first come first on board basis.
Stop and smile, while you have your pre-boarding photo taken, which makes a great keepsake of your cruise.
No need to purchase a drinks package, unless you would like bottled water, canned pop, specialty coffees or alcohol during your cruise. Complimentary coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water, lemonade and iced tea are available 24 hours on the Lido deck.
I found that due to the fact I had an inside cabin I spent my days making the most of the activities offered on board. We either sat on the deck on warm sunny days or in the Lido Restaurant having a bite to eat, sipping coffee while enjoying the scenery passing by; where on our return journey we saw baby orcas breaching while having lunch. The Lido Buffet Restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes from around the world, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you prefer fine dining, then your dining room table is always available at your allotted time for your a la Carte dinner, otherwise, there is an additional surcharge for dining at the specialty restaurants.
The art auction with free sparkling wine is an enjoyable event, included was a draw, which gave a few lucky cruisers the opportunity to take home some free pieces of artwork from their cruise. There were movies daily at the main stage with complimentary popcorn, giving an authentic cinematic experience. My favourite activity was the 3 PM complimentary typical English Tea served every afternoon in the dining room. We were also invited to participate in the daily cooking demonstrations or line dancing classes. Every evening there was entertainment included, one of the shows which I found very amusing was performed by the Philippine staff on board, with songs, dances and costumes native to the Philippines.
The BB Kings Blues club had a live band playing every evening from about 11 PM. There is pretty much something to do 24 hours a day on board.
Before arriving at each port we were given a flyer with a map and coupons for free souvenir’s, such as a necklace, charm or coin to commemorate the port, being on a budget this is a great way to get free gifts for friends and family. It also gives you the opportunity to explore the port on your own without having to pay for a tour.
The tour that I found well worth paying for was the Duck Tour in Ketchikan; we were taken on a guided tour of the town, while given a commentary about the past as well as the present day experience of living in Ketchikan. This tour also included a cruise around the harbour, as the vehicle is capable of being driven on both land and sea.
Alaska with its natural beauty, diverse culture, teaming with wildlife, is a county that should be on everyone's bucket list.