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A Dreamy Cruise to Alaska: One for your bucket list!

A Dreamy Cruise to Alaska: One for your bucket list!
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*post written while staring at the Margerie Glacier from our cabin balcony. Excuse the drooling 😉

There’s a storm brewing in the sky. I’m munching on my breakfast bowl of granola and berries when a colossal glacier appears in front of our cabin’s balcony. All around magnificent icebergs float on the still waters. Sea-lions try to perch themselves on the chunks of ice, slipping clumsily every now and then. It’s just another day at Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska.

 

But for the two of us, it’s no ordinary day! We’re deep in the Alaskan wilderness and looking at gargantuan glaciers and icebergs, it’s easy to imagine the vast tundra that lays beyond the final frontier. We’ve been in Alaska for less than a week but we’ve realised something – here, at the edge of the world, there is a surprise lurking around every corner. Entire valleys alive with bright pink flowers, mountains and landscapes draped with sapphire ice, whales and orcas playing and hunting in untouched wilderness, and glaciers by the dozen. There is something so incredibly seductive about nature this pristine.

 

Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park cruise cabin

Waking up to the Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park

 

Canoeing by the Meadenhall Glacier in Juneau

Canoeing by the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

 

View from a helicopter ride over a glacier in Alaska

View from a helicopter ride over a glacier in Alaska

 

  •  CHOOSING AN ALASKAN CRUISE

Alaska is famous for miles upon miles of untouched wilderness. A number of its famous sites are accessible only by boat or plane. So how is one to experience this pristine wilderness with creature comforts – bath tubs, 3 course dinners, Egyptian cotton sheets, a wine list? By cruise ship of course! 🙂

 

Be it the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords, or Middle East we love visiting new destinations on cruise ships. But here in Alaska, cruises are often the most economically viable option as travelling by land can get expensive. Besides boats are convenient because they can go to many sites that are inaccessible to automobiles. No wonder an Alaskan cruise is on so many bucket lists!

 

Cruises to Alaska start from both Vancouver and Seattle but we ended up choosing one that started in Vancouver for two reasons. Cruises that start in Vancouver venture deeper into Alaska’s wilderness and sail through the calm waters of the Inside Passage.

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam stateroom

Creature comforts and remote wilderness – Alaskan cruises are on many a bucket list 🙂

 

Flying through fjords and glaciers in Skagway, Alaska

Flying through fjords and glaciers on a wee helicopter in Skagway, Alaska

 

Sunset at The Inside Passage Alaska

Sunset at The Inside Passage – waters here are generally calm, so we’d recommend choosing an Alaskan cruise that goes through the Inside Passage

 

  •  BOARDING THE SHIP: HOLLAND AMERICA’S NIEUW AMSTERDAM

We boarded our cruise ship, Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam, on a sunny morning from the Pan Pacific Hotel. It’s the first hotel we’ve visited that is actually connected to the cruise ship terminal, which made checking-in a breeze.

 

We opted for a cabin in the middle of the ship, as we usually do. The cabins are equipped with comfortable beds, spacious wardrobes, a television with a large selection of movies and TV series (watched a dozen in less than a week 😉 ), shower cubicle, and a bath tub (a first for us on a cruise ship!). Once checked in we walked around the ship to acquaint ourselves with the layout, dining options, and the fitness centre. I have to be honest – this is one of my favourite rituals of boarding a cruise ship! Exploring the nooks and crannies of the vessel never fails to get me excited about the holiday that lays ahead – a week full of exploration, black-tie dinners, fine dining, spa appointments, and the culture of a new corner of the world.

 

The Nieuw Amsterdam is very different from most cruise ships we’ve been on so far. The interiors are extremely sophisticated and grown-up. This holds true of lounges, restaurants, reception areas, poolside cabanas, and even the buffet areas. Expect rich woods, stunning floral arrangement, winding staircases, and handsome interiors. Everything is tasteful and understated, including the cabins. The ship pays homage to the classic tradition of cruising and invokes the romance of a bygone era.

 

Having acquainted ourselves with the ship and our cabin, we wound down with a luxurious massage each at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, all set for our Alaskan Cruise holiday to begin 🙂

 

Holland America's Niew Amsterdam from our room at Pan Pacific Vancouver

We could see our cruise ship from our room at Pan Pacific Vancouver 🙂

 

Welcome canapés and champagne while sailing away from Vancouver

Welcome canapés and champagne while sailing away from Vancouver (that’s Vancouver’s skyline in the background)

 

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam Stateroom

Coming back to li’l surprises everyday – chocolates, wine, towel monkeys 😉

 

View from Holland America's New Amsterdam

Exploring every single corner of Nieuw Amsterdam – this is the bow of the ship

 

The pool on Holland America's Niew Amsterdam

The pool on Holland America’s Niew Amsterdam

 

  • DINING ON BOARD NIEUW AMSTERDAM

Let’s be honest – dining is the focal point of most cruise holidays. If you’ve even been on a cruise holiday you’d know this well. Cruise holidays involve food, food, and some more food. They offer the perfect opportunity for a bit of indulgence. In keeping with this, there is no shortage of dining options on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The expansive buffet area has everything from fresh fruits and continental delicacies to Alaskan specialities and world foods at every meal. Dive Burger Bar serves scrumptious burgers on freshly-baked brioche and a selection of gourmet hotdogs. There’s even a poolside pizzeria if you fancy some comfort food. The vast salad bar is my personal favourite – I found myself inching towards it at almost every meal.

 

Every night the main dining room has a specially curated three-course menu that is included in the cost of the cruise. However I urge you to try pan-Asian cuisine at Tamarind Restaurant. The menu is curated by the renown sushi chef Andy Matsuda and it truly lives up to the hype. Vid can have sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So we’ve ended up trying most of the items on the menu – loved the Tempura Lobster Roll; Nigiri Seared Salmon and Nigiri Tuna Zuke with yuzu-flavored tuna and guacamole sauce (an unusual combination but no less scrumptious). Even writing about it is making me hungry. We also loved the rustic sharing plates at Canaletto, the Italian restaurant on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

 

We love the romance of old-fashioned black-tie dinners, so we really enjoyed ourselves on both gala dinners and attended as many cocktail evenings as we could. In keeping with the grand tradition of cruising, most guests were dressed to the nines on formal evenings – unabashedly glamorous jackets, bow ties, and cocktail gowns were out in full swing 🙂

 

girl on Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam

When you’re dressing up for a black-tie dinner but can’t help sneaking into your balcony every 5 minutes to stare at icebergs

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam dining options

Dining options? Let’s go 🙂

 

Alaska-cruise-inside-passage-holland-america-nieuw-amsterdam-36

Vid perpetually smitten – errr NOT!

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam dining options salad

24 hour salad bar? YES please 🙂

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam dining options burger hotdog

Gourmet burgers and hot dogs with cheese fries from Dive Bar

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam dining options menu

In case you’re curious, this is what a typical dinner menu at Canaletto looks like 🙂

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam dining options italian food

Rustic Italian dining at Canaletto

 

Holland America Niew Amsterdam dining options cocktails

Cocktails on the deck – always a yes right?! 🙂

 

  • ALASKA CRUISE: PORTS OF CALL

We spent a week exploring Alaska’s wilderness and gawking at calving glaciers. At Tracy arm, chunks of ice floated past us as if to remind us we were in iceberg territory. At Juneau we were blown away by the sight of 13 humpback whales feeding on fish all at once. At Mendenhall Glacier, we couldn’t get enough of the blue colour of the metres upon metres of compressed ice. At Skagway, we marvelled at Alaska’s living, throbbing countryside aboard The White Pass and Yukon Rail. Hundreds of thousands of bright fuchsia flowers, The Alaskan Fireweed, lent an inimitable shade to the landscape. We flew over a surreal, almost lunar landscape, at Meade Glacier in Skagway. We couldn’t stop peeking out of the helicopter’s window every 10 seconds as it made its way past misty fjords, tall peaks, indigo icebergs, and finally the glacier.

 

But it was today, when our ship pulled into the iconic Glacier Bay National Park that I well and truly fell in love. We didn’t get ideal weather – far from it! Thunderous skies and rain showers ensured a grey day. But then the mist parted to reveal a gargantuan wall of ice staring us in our faces – The Margerie Glacier. Beyond it, a white void stretching as far as the eye could see. A landscape so surreal it seems to belong to another planet.

 

I listen to the murmur of raindrops as I snuggle deeper into the blanket I’ve wrapped around myself. It might be freezing but I can’t tear myself away from this vision. As I watch frolicking sea lions and icebergs calving off the glacier, I know I need to write this post soon. I want to preserve the memory of the sheer spectacle unfolding in front of my eyes and there’s only one way to do it 🙂

 

An Alaskan cruise – it’s just the sort of seductive rendezvous that fuels our wanderlust and spurs us to explore every single corner of this planet. Here’s to setting afloat in search of new worlds……

 

Huge humpback whales just inches away from boats in Alaska

Huge humpback whales just inches away from boats in Alaska

 

White Pass and Yukon Rail Girl

Admiring the gorgeous Alaskan countryside aboard the White Pass & Yukon Rail

 

Sunset from Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam

You know we have a thing for sunsets 🙂

 

The fairy tale town of Ketchikan in Alaska

The fairy tale town of Ketchikan in Alaska

 

Flying over icebergs in a helicopter

Flying over icebergs in a helicopter in Skagway, Alaska

 

Couple Hiking the Meade Glacier in Alaska

Both of us hiking the Meade Glacier in Alaska. You know what they say – once in a while, blow your own mind. Go above & beyond!

 

FACT FILE & TIPS FOR YOUR ALASKAN CRUISE

  • A cruise to Alaska makes for a perfect romantic getaway, ideal if you’re celebrating your honeymoon or any other special occasion.
  • Boarding the cruise ship: Pan Pacific Vancouver is the perfect hotel to stay for a night or two before your cruise to Alaska. It is located on the cruise terminal itself, so transfers are hassle free.
  • Costs: Holland America’s 7 night cruises to Alaska start at £600 per person. More information on www.hollandamerica.com
  • Excursions: Our favourite excursions include helihikes in Alaska, The White Pass and Yukon Rail, Whale Watching experience, and kayaking by a glacier. For all details read our article on our favourite cruise excursions in Alaska.
  • Choosing a cruise: When choosing a cruise to Alaska, try to choose one that sails through The Inside Passage. It is usually calmer and perfect if you don’t enjoy the thought of turbulent seas (who does?)
  • The Nieuw Amsterdam: This is a sophisticated ship with an old-world charm about it. Expect beautiful floral arrangements, handsome interiors, and understated furnishings. The grown-up ambience is a far cry from the garish interiors of many other cruise ships. We really enjoyed it.
  • Choosing a cabin: Mid-ship cabins on the fourth, fifth, and sixth decks are a perfect choice – you will barely feel the ship here, especially when the waters are calm. The staterooms on Nieuw Amsterdam are more spacious than most ships we’ve been on. The cabins are equipped with comfortable beds, spacious wardrobes, a television with a large selection of movies, shower cubicle, and a bath tub (a first for us on a cruise ship).
  • Dining: There are a number of dining options included in the price of the cruise holiday – everything from three-course meals at the main dining room and burgers to sliced pizza and salad bars is on offer. For something different, we would highly recommend sampling the pan-Asian menu, especially the sushi, at Tamarind. Canaletto restaurant that specialises in rustic Italian styling dining with sharing plates also makes for a great evening out. There is a surcharge of £15/per person to dine at both these restaurants.
  • Internet: Internet is paid but works through satellite. It worked surprisingly well through the length of the cruise for us. We managed to update our social media channels every single day which is perfect. But if you don’t NEED to be online, a cruise to Alaska provides the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the outside world.
  • Packing: We’ve written so many articles on packing for cruise holidays, so I won’t say much on this front. As a rule of thumb make sure you pack black-tie/evening wear for special events and gala nights on the cruise ship. Pack warm down jackets and thermals for colder days and excursions. But do get along a few casual outfits and swimwear for warmer days, casual lunches, and afternoons spent lazing by the pool.

 

Hiking on a glacier in Alaska

Hiking on a glacier in Alaska 🙂

 

Alaska-cruise-inside-passage-holland-america-nieuw-amsterdam-28

Cruise life – is it calling out to you yet? 🙂

 

Stuck on which cruise excursions to choose on your cruise to Alaska? Here are 5 of our favourite Alaskan Experiences

New to cruises? Here are 5 reasons we love cruises

 

We were guests of Holland America Lines. We are two extremely opinionated ninjas – so all views (hyperbolic, good, and bad) are entirely our own. Click on to read our full Disclosure Policy

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36 Comments

  1. This all seems soo dreamy and magical !!! So fairy taleish !!! ( spare the grammar) the cruise , glaciers, simplicity and sophestication !!!! Just love love it !!!!

    • Thanks a ton Kushagr 🙂 So happy to know you enjoyed reading about our cruise to Alaska – it is a crazy world indeed!

  2. I was waiting for this post and oh, it was so worth the wait!!! You guys practically traveled to the edge of the world! I couldn’t help but open Maps and check exactly the places you’re talking about, because I don’t know anything about Alaska at all! It definitely looks like a surreal experience. And the photos!! It was like travelling with you virtually.
    Savi, would love to see the outfits you wore on the cruise- I find it so hard to dress up for a fancy dinner when it’s freezing out 🙁
    P.S: Is Antarctica on your list? It would be great to see it from your eyes 🙂

    • Thanks Ramya 🙂 So happy to hear that. We do have lots of posts on dressing up for cruises but for this one I just packed 2 formal dresses (the blue one and another one which I don’t have photos of 🙁 ), a couple of casual outfits feat. denims and dressier tops, my down jacket, hiking gear, and a couple of jumpers. That’s it 🙂

  3. I’ve never been tempted by a cruise before but this looks incredible! Beautiful photos.

    • Thanks Lex 🙂 Alaska is a stunning place and a cruise is a great way to see it

  4. wow just stunning your photos are amazing, I had no idea a cruise could be so luxurious.
    k x

    • Thanks Kara – Holland America’s Niuew Amsterdam was definitely one of the more sophisticated cruise ships 🙂

  5. Beautiful photos and I would love to one day do a cruise. I would love to see Alaska one day. xx

    • Thanks Anna – we had a great experience cruising around Alaska. Would definitely recommend it to you 🙂

  6. Now a trip round Alaska sounds and looks just magical, wow x

    • Thanks Rachel – an Alaskan cruise had been on our bucket list forever, glad we checked it off 🙂

  7. I’m not usually one for cruises but this sounds amazing! I’d love to go on a helicopter over the glaciers to see those stunning views!

    • Hey Kira – it’s an incredible experience to fly over those glaciers. I just couldn’t get enough 🙂

  8. Wow that looks wonderful, the scenery alone is beautiful.

    • Thanks Melanie – the scenery in Alaska is definitely the highlight of an Alaskan cruise 🙂

  9. The scenery alone is just stunning, never thought of an Alaskian cruise but you have pretty much sold it!

    • Thanks Stephen – so happy to hear that. Hope you make it to an Alaskan cruise soon – we promise it lives up to the hype 🙂

  10. Oh my gosh that sunset is beautiful! I’d love to visit

    • Hannah – sunsets from cruise ships are probably my favourite part of cruise holidays 🙂

  11. Love to read about your Alaska cruise, pictures are perfect as allways! Alaska is on our bucket list and HAL is our favorite cruiseline. Now we dream to travel to Alaska even more…..

    • Thanks Marian – It was our first time with HAL but we really enjoyed it too. Won’t hesitate to book another cruise with HAL 🙂

  12. Ah wow this looks like it was an amazing trip. I’d love to go to Alaska!

    • Thanks Leanne – we had an incredible time 🙂

  13. What a fantastic cruise, I would love to visit Alaska! 🙂
    http://lilinhaangel.com/

    • It’s a great way to see Alaska indeed 🙂

  14. Thank you so much for sharing – you’re pictures are stunning! My brother is headed to Juneau in October, he’s loving these photos 🙂

    • Your brother will love Juneau Stephanie – will he be there for long? 🙂

  15. Oh my god these views are absolutely INSANE! Would love to do a cruise like this myself, will have to tell my boyfriend about it 🙂

    • Thanks Laura – glad you enjoyed reading it 😀

  16. Wow this looks amazing! I definitely want to go on a cruise one day.

    • Thanks Daniella 🙂

  17. Loved every bit of your cruise trip to Alaska! But I don’t see anything related to Northern Lights here, did you get a chance to see it? Or was it not covered around the areas you visited?

    • Hey Chaitra – we went to Alaska during summer months, so Northern Lights weren’t on the agenda. It’s better to visit during winter months if you want to see the Northern Lights 🙂

  18. What’s the cost of shore excursions like?

    • Hi Anoushka,

      Costs vary from 30 USD to 300 USD depending on the kind of excursion 🙂

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