Friday, August 1, 2014

North To Alaska

While you were working last week, my wife and I boarded the Holland America "Westerdam" for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to Alaska.  We flew to Seattle on Friday, July 18th and spent the night.  Saturday morning we took a cab to Pier 91 and boarded our ship, along with 1800 other passengers and a crew of 800.  What is absolutely amazing is that this ship arrives home from a cruise around 4:30 a.m. that same morning.  They disembark 1800 passengers, refuel, reload supplies, embark 1800 new travelers and set sail again by 4:00 p.m. the same day!  The logistics is mind boggling.  The airlines could take a few notes.  We boarded around 11:30 a.m. and our luggage was delivered before 1:00 p.m.  Our first stop was Juneau.

 We spent our first day at sea and your first impression of Alaska is just how big it is.  The mountains are impressive, to say the least.  I've been in the Smokies, and we have traveled to the Grand Canyon, but there is just something unique about the Mountains of Alaska.

The first stop on our trip was Juneau.  Like several of our ports, Juneau is on an island, so if you're thinking of driving there, you will be disappointed somewhere along the way.  The only way into Juneau is by air or by sea.
We left the ship and took an excursion that promised we would see whales.  We were not disappointed.

Our first sighting was a school of Orcas.  Most of us grew up calling them "Killer Whales".  Actually, there has NEVER been a documented attack on a human by an Orca in the wild.  This is a full grown adult male.  He is around 35 feet long and weighs close to 30 tons.  Sighting these Orcas at this time of year is pretty rare.  Then the real fun began.

After a brief ride, we came upon a school of Humpback whales and they were "bubble net" feeding.  This is an extremely rare sight and a very complex maneuver.  Once the whales locate the bait fish, one of the whales circles the bait fish and exhales, creating a net of bubbles, which confuse and scare the bait fish.  The other whales gather at the bottom of the bubble net to prevent the food from escaping out of the bottom.  The herring  head for the surface and the whales follow from below, finally exploding onto the surface in a feeding frenzy.  The gulls are aware of this and are waiting for the fish to surface so they can feed on some of the bait fish as well.  We left the whale watching part of our excursion, returned to shore and took a short buss ride out to Mendenhall Glacier.

The Mendenhall Glacier is located about 12 miles outside of Juneau.  There is a waterfall and several hiking trails in the area as well.  While we did not see any, a bear encounter is a possibility on the trails.  All in all, this was one of the best excursions that we booked and our guide was just the best.  After the excursion, we headed back to the ship and ready ourselves for the next stops, Glacier Bay and Sitka.  See you tomorrow.


  1. I'm so happy you and your lovely wife had a great time and I'm even more happy that you are going to share your Alaska cruise with us.

    Have a fabulous day. :)

  2. Wonderful experience.

  3. Great shots of the Orcas and the Humpbacked whales. Whales are incredible.