August 1st is tomorrow, and that brings back memories of last August. The week in my life, I will never forget. My sister, my wonderful, loving , sweet, and giving sister, provided me a vacation I will never stop thinking about. I remember the details as if they occurred last week. It was a surprise, she did not mention the gift she planned to celebrate our birthdays. Her birthday is in September, mine, in November.
She planned a cruise to Alaska. My first cruise, my first trip out of the country and my first time being able to view the magnificence of Alaska.
She flew me into Seattle and we spent a whirlwind day sightseeing that beautiful city. I visited the Fish Market, yes, I saw them throw fish. It was an adventure, and we had not even left dry land. I saw where Harry met Sally, I stood right against the needle tower. No way was I zooming to the top of that tower. It was gigantic. I rode on a tram. Viewing the sculptures of the Weiss Manfredi , Olympic Sculpture was breathtaking. We skimmed the edges and saw towering sculptured trees in vibrant color and unique textures. It was outstanding. My visit to Seattle was a whirlwind, moreover, it was spectacular.
My cheeks ached from smiling. We ate at a restaurant right where the fishing boats dock. It was so nice to walk the pier seeing the larger ships as they came in from a day out at sea. I am a homebody. I rarely leave my own driveway. I was now on the West coast about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. After walking all over Seattle and returning to the Executive suite, I slept well even though I knew I had to get up early and begin the embarkation process. My first cruise meant, of course, I packed too much. Only one bag as suggested, but I packed one bulging suitcase to the brim. My sister, a frequent cruiser, and frequent world traveler packed much smarter and lighter than I.
The MS Westerdam, a Holland America ship was a dream. I am a lover of all things transportation. This ship was gleaming, sparkling and enormous. Even though it is considered a mid-sized cruise ship. As it was my first ship of any kind up close and personal, I was in love.
Getting aboard the ship was an exciting event in itself. Having official pictures made for the ship’s records and ID tag, showing my brand new passport to customs. For a large number of people, we moved quickly through the various stations, providing tickets, Itineraries,Excited, smiling and calm, surprisingly calm, I passed through all the checkpoints and began climbing the winding gangplank up to the third floor.
The luggage placed just as it should be, outside our cabin, and all is right with the world. We rushed up to the tenth floor to watch the Seattle cityscape disappear. Slowly creeping out of sight. My Brother-in-Law and Nephew, followed the ship along the shoreline until we passed the lighthouse. It was surreal to wave to people on shore that you know! I made an extremely special memory for me.
After leaving Seattle we spent most of the afternoon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, beautiful water that is a wide path with islands along either side. A beautiful way to start a cruise. The international border is along the center of the strait. We passed ferries and smaller ships along that body of water.
I brought my seasick pills, but only took one. That was the one night we dined at the Captain’s table and I overindulged in the constant stream of champagne, wine and, more champagne, I might not have been seasick as much as tipsy. I am just skipping ahead a bit and talk about the Captain’s dinner. Oh my gosh, I had beef Wellington and it was delicious. The most outstanding creation was the dessert. It was in a sugar cage. It was beautiful, it felt like a shame to break it. It shimmered in the light and you had to break it with your fork before you could eat the chocolate cake inside. It was a delightfully, sinfully, decadent, dessert. After dinner, we had a few more sips of Champagne before relocating for the group picture, and it was time to stumble our way back to the cabin.
I laughed all the way to the cabin because the sway of the ship was making me bounce from one side of the narrow hallway to the other. I am sure the sailors in the cabins I bumped against appreciated me suppressed giggles afterward. I was not the only one bouncing down that hallway, my sister had been sipping the same concoctions all through cocktails, dinner, and dessert. I can only say, she is the professional travel writer, I am the new sailor. I was following her lead. I was fortunate to be invited to his table, because of my sister, yet, I enjoyed it as if I was invited because it was my first cruise. Captain Vaartjes said during dinner, “We set a pretty high bar for your first cruise” I had to agree.
I might have developed a wee crush on aforementioned Captain. His name was fantastic. Captain Bart Vaartjes. He is charismatic and genuinely kind to people. Later in the week we attended a get to know the captain presentation and he shared slides, statistics, and even participated in a question and answer session. He is adorable. I kept getting caught snapping pictures of him in passing. A girl can make herself feel better any way she wishes, while on the open seas.
On the first day and night, we cruised up the coast of Canada and up the inside Passage. With views of the ocean and the untouched shoreline of Canada, it made me feel minute, tiny in comparison. We skimmed the shore all day and to the left, nothing but water and little puffs of spray that announced a whale in the vicinity. When in the observation room, the cry “spout” would send the entire room skittering from one side of the ship to the other. The observation deck had glass on three sides, there was not a bad seat in the room.
It was along that Canadian shoreline that we came across our first Spinner dolphins. My first encounter with a dolphin. These streamlined dolphins swim in a pack of approximately forty bodies. They dart directly into the path of the ship, jump, dive, return, cross, and repeat. These acrobats were so entertaining to watch. To see such a great number cavorting in the wake of the ship. Before this cruise, I never realized there were such a variety of whales, dolphins, and seals. More about those as we move closer to Alaska.
I intend on sharing my adventure with you over the month of August. I have pictures my family might be tired of admiring. Therefore, I want to share them with you. I hope you enjoy this little travel tour reliving the best week of my life.