Sailing on Holland America Line’s Oosterdam this week on at 7-day Alaska itinerary, round-trip from Seattle had a looming dilemma hanging over it before I ever stepped foot on the ship. This was not our first time sailing in Alaska but the first sailing was going to be pretty hard to top.
Our first time was via Princess Cruises a few years ago, doing a North to South 12-day Cruisetour that included several days on land, deep into the Alaskan interior where cruise ships can’t get to. Sold on that option, we have recommended it to others ever since. Those heeding that advice have universally all come back with positive comments, cementing in my mind that Princess Cruises rules Alaska.
Prior to this sailing, I viewed 7-day round trip from Seattle or Vancouver as what would probably be a nice taste of Alaska but not the life-changing, immersive experience offered by a CruiseTour. The jury is still out on how the 7-day will go down in the history books but already I can tell you this:
Alaska is no less majestic on a 7-day round-trip than on a 12-day Cruisetour.
It only took a few hours of scenic cruising in Tracy Arm, Alaska, one of the most beautiful fjords in Southeastern Alaska, to know this was a good option for many. Floating ice tells us we are getting close to North and South Sawyer Glaciers. Breathtaking views of mountains replace a seemingly endless ocean view from our balcony. It was clear early in the day why Tracy Arm is one of the most talked about scenic destinations in Alaska: Like so many things in Alaska, Tracy Arm is huge and humbling in a number of ways.
Covering an area of 653,179 acres alone is reason to get up on deck for a good look, as most passengers onboard Oosterdam did, snapping photos that would just barely give credit to the enormity of what we were seeing.
While we could not get very close to those twin Sawyer Glaciers, the path blocked by icebergs, Oosterdam was brought up close and personal with the area. Off in the distance the cracking sound of a glacier calving was easily identifiable to the trained ear. Up close, passengers stood in wonder, taking in the moment and enjoying the scenes.
As the first taste of Alaska we move on to Juneau to get off the ship and on to the business of exploring the wilderness in a variety of ways. Some will get up in the air via helicopter or float plane, much as we did on our last visit. Others will stay on ground level, opting for a variety of tours of varying lengths. On our last visit, just luck had it that we saw very little wildlife. We just were not in the right place at the right time, it seemed. This time we’re hitting the ground running on a Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest that promises we will see a whale.
Perhaps the end story here will be that it takes more than one visit to Alaska to do it right. If I come back tomorrow with a photo of a whale leaping to the sky right in front of me (or anything even closely resembling that), we might be on to something.