Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hot In Alaska, Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau & What I Forgot

LAUNCHED in 2006, the Noordam is only 9-years-old yet already shows signs of being a faded beauty. The bust of Juliana, former Queen of the Neatherlands, and other decorative features add class and character to the ship. But if one looks closely past the decore the rust and wrinkles are also there. Perhaps that is to be expected with some two-thousand tourists day-after-day traipsing through the lovely façade of what is considered to be a mid-sized ship.

As with any cruiseline, you are meant to feel like a star at Holland America.

I was charmed by this large brass and glass artifact dangling over the spiral staircase to the ship's office. Is this a nucleus orbited by electrons or an artistic impression of a mariner's imagined constellation? Nautical themes, of course, could be seen throughout the Noordam.

This was my first cruise so I explored the ship with interest and imagined being as happy as a clam in chairs designed for mermaids, queens and emperors. An ancient throne replica (below) overlooked the pool.

There were nooks and crannies where one could read quietly or gaze at the scenery away from the crowds. I could feel royal yet comfy in the chair below.

People once roughed the seas in vulnerable vessels, including my parents, but my first cruise was about pampering as well as adventure.

I would have cheerfully slipped into that robe and relaxed were it not for realizing the first night on board that I forgot to bring important tickets and details of the three tours my travel agent at Flight Centre booked for me.

Because I did not forward this information (as I should have done) to my Hotmail address, I was not able to access it. I was also surprised to learn our pre-paid non-refundable tours had NOT been booked through Holland America.

This translated into stress and needing help from onboard customer service. A fellow named Jason who appeared to be a Dutch officer saved the day. It took several phone calls and the weekend to access the data but eventually he was able to provide me with the necessary papers. He even sent a bouquet of flowers to our room because he could see how upset I was. Thank you, Jason!

Hooray ... I could finally relax and look forward to Juneau and our first tour.

The statue (pictured with me below) is of an English bull terrier named Patsy Ann, the town greeter. The much-loved pet of a local always knew when a ship was coming around the bend even though she was deaf. She was laid to rest in 1942 near where her statue and welcoming spirit still remain.

Little did I know how hot it would get in Juneau ... hotter than the weather we left behind. Although I was sweltering in my sweater, it was the last layer left to take off so I was stuck wearing it.

The rush to find our aptly named Last Chance tour made my temperature soar even higher.

Our cruise ship did not dock at the pier in Juneau. Rather, passengers boarded covered lifeboats to get to the shore. People booking tours with Holland America had priority to disembark. Since ours was not one of those, we were scheduled to get off last. Luckily, our tour was delayed so we need not have worried about being late.

As our mini-coach skirted through the bustling waterfront, I learned that jobs in Juneau are mainly in government and tourism nowadays.

The gold that once attracted adventurers was replaced by store after store of souvenirs made in China and diamond jewelry mostly owned by cruise ship companies. Our guide pointed to one of a few shops owned by locals.

The House of Russia (pictured above) was a reminder that in a remarkable lack of foresight Russia sold Alaska for a pittance, giving strategic advantage and a wealth of natural wonders to the United States.

We set off for what I expected would be mountains of glorious shimmering finger-numbing ice. The most impressive "diamond" of all was the shrinking but stunning glacier that is attracting tourists from around the globe.

This once powerful glacier seemed headed for extinction. Mendenhall Lake at the foot of the mountain resulted from a run-off from the glacier. The lake has continued to grow since its formation in the early 30s.

I dipped my hand in the water. It was refreshing but far from cold. Temperatures are warming in southeast Alaska as evidenced by the fallen ice sculptures melting into the water.

For a brief moment it could have been Shangri-La when we approached Mendenhall Glacier at a respectful distance.

Mini-mountains rose from the glacier like frozen sand dunes. The blue hue is a natural phenomena. As I understand it, when ice is extremely old and dense it absorbs the entire spectrum of colours except blue, which it then reflects.

With hot summers like these, I wondered how long this glacier had left before it disappeared completely into the lake.

A robin grooming its feathers in the sun was the only wildlife I saw in Juneau.

We bid farewell to the little bird and the glacier and began our journey back into town to board a lifeboat to the ship where I would thankfully swap my sweater for lighter wear. Next stop Skagway and perhaps cooler weather!

Links to each of my Hot In Alaska cruise posts are as follows:
Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver
Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau
Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon
Pt 4: Margerie Glacier Interlude
Pt 5: Picturesque Ketchikan
Pt 6: Sunrise To Remember
Pt 7: Service With A Smile

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms


  1. Thank goodness for Jason! I'm so glad he was able to straighten out your ticket problems. The ship is so luxurious you must have felt like royalty for sure. The glaciers are beautiful and it's so sad they are melting so quickly.

  2. Alaska is awesome, it was also my first cruise. I am glad your Juneau excursion all worked out in the end. Lovely series of images. Have a happy new week!

  3. Yes, good for Jason. Great photos of your trip. Would love to do this.

  4. Oh, yes!! Hooray for Jason indeed!! The glaciers are awesome and so beautiful!! I agree that it's sad they are melting so quickly!! Thank you so much for sharing the beauty!! What an amazing place Alaska is indeed!!!

  5. Delightful photos of your cruiseship and Alaska ~ sad to see the glacier melting ~ climate change is a bit frighting for wildlife and nature and people who live near the ice melts ~ Hope despite that you are enjoying your cruise ~ Wonderful photography!

    Happy Week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  6. For my honeymoon, I cruised to Alaska. The sights are like I've never seen before or since for that matter.

  7. What a great cruise ship and such lovely Alaskan scenery!

  8. What a beautiful post of your Alaskan cruise. Friends of ours were just on one there a few weeks ago and I know other friends that have been on them. The scenery is amazing.

  9. Loved those glimpses of life on board. It is sad to see so much ice disappearing.

  10. I've never been on a cruise, and since Bill's only experience did not foster a desire to do another one, this series may be as close as I come to the real thing. I do love those nature shots, Maria! Truly stunning! I'm so sorry you had some stressful moments and some sweltering ones too, but must say, I'm looking forward to the next posts. Emily Carr's description of Skagway and the paintings she did there have engendered quite a desire to see that part of the world!

  11. We got off the ferry for a short time in Juneau, but didn't have time to see the glacier ... But we saw many others later after we disembarked for good nearby anchorage. I'm glad they were able to solve the ticket problems. The best paart of cruises is the shore excursions (I think anyway). Can't wait to see what you did in Skagway.

    Wanted to let you know that my five YO great-grandson read "With My Umbrella..." To me yesterday! (From my IPAD). He said he was glad the GGs had a kid's book this time! We really are lacking in entertainment for the littles ... But that is why we usually visit at their house or at their grandparents (our daughter and SIL).

  12. Oh, wow … what a bright great-grandson to have read the story (With My Umbrella) to you at five! There are a couple of tricky words there and rhyming patterns. Thank you for sharing that as it made my day, Sallie.

    I agree about the tours. I especially liked that we went with what I think are the smaller companies. The guides seemed to have a local connection and added some neat quirks and insights from personal levels about their communities.

  13. “Hot Alaska” is kind of oxymoron as my understanding of Alaska is a nice breezy summer and frigid winter. I’m happy for you, Maria, that you could meet such kind, helpful and useful Jason. Happening is part of a travel. Not to change the subject but sometimes I mishear native speaker’s “travel” for “trouble” because of my poor English hearing ability. Anyway, nice trip after the sigh of relief.



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