We boarded The Veendam on June 13. It was our first cruise and the easiest way to get to the ports in the Tongass rainforest in southeast Alaska. Our ports of call were Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Haines, with a stop at Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park before disembarkation at Seward. But first, we were at sea for a day and a half.
Vancouver Island is much larger than I imagined it. We coasted along between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia for an entire day until we passed its northernmost rocks and were on open waters. On our second day we entered the Inside Passage and cruised with snow-capped mountains on either side of the ship. The navigator reported that we passed Lions Gate Bridge leaving Vancouver, then sailed through the Straits of Georgia to Seymour Narrows, which can only be transied during "slack tide." We then sailed through Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait. We liked to watch the scenery pass by the windows in one of the beautiful lounges while sipping wine. Once in a while, we saw a whale and birds flew past. We felt mesmerized. Outside temperatures were cool with the wet air and ocassional rain, so it was not comfortable to be on deck.
We became acquainted with our ship while we were shipbound. Our room was in the middle of Deck 4, and at night it was wonderfully dark and quiet as we listened to the engine humming against a gentle rocking of the ship. Above us were four more decks of sleeping quarters--1100 passengers were on board. On Decks 7 and 8, glitzy Ruben's Lounge took over space at the bow and the many-windowed Rotterdam Dining Room rested at the stern. In between were shops, a casino, the library, piano bars, and comfortable lounges with live music.
The captain was amusing with his Dutch accent and the crew was Indonesian and extremely pleasant. Our first night we enjoyed complimentary champagne at the casine after Janine Gardner's comedy show. We avoided gambling and shopping on the ship and were astounded when our second-day program about ports of call was about shopping the jewelry stores at the ports in Ketchikan and Juneau.
We started having room service for breakfast after the second day, but ate lunch at the buffet on the Lido Deck (if we were on the ship), and enjoyed dinner in the dining room. Since we chose "as you wish" dining, we could choose when to eat and generally we were seated with other guests. At the Rotterdam Dining Room, the menus were varied, choices were exceptional, and the food was delicious. One evening I had shrimp cocktail followed by an Alaskan Fishermen's Pot, filet mignon paired with a lobster tail, and Baked Alaska.
We liked being pampered, but by the end of our second day at sea we were looking forward to seeing Ketchikan.