Your grandparents arrived at the M/S Statendam terminal late because of a smaller boat's tardy return from the Kenai Fjord National Park cruise.
The boat had been delayed because it had to take on passengers from a sister boat that had lost power earlier in the day.
Except for the last minute line, the processing to board the ship was relatively painless. Grandpa Roy already had printed the necessary boarding documents at home which sped things up for Grandma and him when they finally reached the desk. After reaching the desk and receiving their cabin keys, it was a quick trip through today's ever present security, then the boarding photo and a rush to the cabin.
Security on the ship was that which your grandparents have experienced on other cruise lines since the infamous 9/11 attacks on America. A credit-card size card serves both as your room key, credit card while aboard, and your identification. It links to a picture of you that was taken before boarding the first afternoon. On leaving or returning to the ship, the card is scanned by security so they know if you are aboard or not and if you are the person in the photo embedded in the card.
By the time Grandma Bert and Grandpa Roy reached the mini suite they had reserved nearly a year earlier, there were announcements throughout the ship stating that the mandatory life boat drill already was in progress. Your grandparents took a very quick look around the cabin, were gratified to see all their luggage already had been delivered.
They grabbed their lifejackets for the drill. There were hundreds of people already lined up adjacent to the lifeboats. On Holland America Line, men are to board them after women and children, so most men were back near the bulkhead (the wall). Grandpa never made it to the wall because of the crowd, but no one complained. The cabins already had been called for drill attendance, so now they were going through those who had not been there earlier, which included Grandma and Grandpa. A few minutes later the drill was over and everyone returned to their cabins, hoping never to have to use the lifejackets again during the cruise. And they didn't have to, of course.
Because so many passengers had arrived late from the Kenai Fjords cruise on the smaller boats, the Statendam's captain decided that there would be no dress code or mandatory table assignment in the main dining room for supper the first evening.
Grandma and Grandpa contacted their new friends from New York, Asher and Susan Banks, and met them for dinner a short time later. The four already had decided to get a table together for the rest of the cruise, so after a pleasant meal, Mr. Banks and Grandpa went to see the maitre d', who assigned them a new table. As it turned out, the table the following night was a noisy one near the entrance, but the maitre d' appeared to say he had found them a better table if they wanted it for the following night and the rest of the cruise. The four took the new table.
The Statendam was much smaller than other cruise ships on which your grandparents have cruised, with the exception of the very tiny Nile River cruise boat, which carried only about 120 passengers. Grandma Bert definiely sensed a difference, saying she preferred the larger ships (as does Grandpa Roy), but wanting to sail on one of the smaller ships again to see if she learns to like it just as much.
Another difference between the Statendam and other cruise ships on which your grandparents have sailed was the captain. He is rarely seen and heard on other ships, except on the first formal night and perhaps making a few announcements over the public address system. The Statendam's captain was very different. He posed for photographs with passengers on formal night. During at least one of the port calls made by the ship, he greeted passengers as they left the ship for their day ashore. He made announcements throughout the cruise which were both informative and humourous. For these reasons, he probably will remain one of the most memorable captains with whom your grandparents have cruised.
Still another difference was the beds in the well-appointed cabin. They were real twin beds, box springs and mattress, pushed together to create a king. The only other ship on which your grandparents have sailed to date that had real beds was, once again, the riverboat in Egypt. In addition, there were pillows of different sizes and firmness in the cabin.
Besides the nice cabin, because your grandparents had, as usual, taken a mini suite, there were a few special additions to the cabin. One was personalized stationery for writing letters home if desired. It was little touches such as this that made Holland American Lines stand out for your grandparents.
Even the handling of the one problem with the cabin left a favorable impression. It was very noisy one morning beginning around 3:00 a.m. and lasting until your grandparents got up. A complaint to the concierge asked that they look into what Grandma and Grandpa thought was stomping around on the Lido deck, perhaps preparing for breakfast. As it turned out, the Lido deck is carpeted and that was not the source of the walking and moving of objects. Later in the cruise, Grandpa Roy finally determined the noise was coming through the air conditioning vent from some unknown location. As an apology for the noise, which did abate somewhat after the morning on which they complained, the captain had a basket of goodies sent to the cabin along with a note of apology.
Around the ship were seen paintings and antiques from Holland which recalled that country's earlier days as a major sea-fairing power. The ship was clean, the crew was friendly, and there was little to complain about... At least there was nothing to complain about until a few people apparently fell ill with the so-called Norovirus.
The captain immediately put some extraordinary rules in place to prevent others from becoming sick: Food, even coffee and tea, at the buffet on the Lido deck was handed to diners by gloved waiters; public restrooms around the ship had special wipes with which to open the doors so that passengers were less likely to pick up the disease from anyone else. The hot tub was shut down, as was the pizza and hot dog bar. After several days, the captain determined that there was no longer a health hazard and everything returned to normal. His efforts probably spared a number of people getting ill and Grandma and Grandpa remember no really loud complaints from any of the passengers.
Grandpa was somewhat disappointed in some of the food, but not so much so that he would avoid another Holland America Lines cruise. The baked Alaska was nowhere as delicious as on Princess Cruise Lines and the Crème brûlée left a lot to be desired. On the last night of the cruise, your grandparents joined Mr. and Mrs. Banks in the reservations-only Pinnacle Grill. While very nice, your grandparents did not find the food any better than in the main dining room, especially when one pays $30.00 per person as a cover charge. The service in the Pinnacle Grill was only somewhat more personable than the main dining room. In addition, the last night of the cruise was very special in the main dining room, and both the Banks and your grandparents regretted making the reservations for that last night on board the ship based on the laughter, applause and other sounds coming from the main dining room.
Because the ship was smaller than those on which your grandparents had cruised previously, besides fewer passengers there also were fewer amenities. For example, only one lady at a time could be accomodated if she wished to have a manicure. Larger ships boast two, three or even more manicurists on board. There was, however, perhaps the largest library your grandfather has seen to date on a ship, plus the Internet cafe, co-located with the library, was spacious and comfortable. Grandpa Roy never used the computers, however, preferring to use his pre-paid cell phone when ashore.
With the exception of the ship's show troupe (the singers and dancers) who needed more practice, the shows were quite good. Your grandparents especially liked the comedian who told some really funny jokes. In addition, there was quite a good pianist who performed several timesand sold his recorded pieces on a CD to all who would buy. Another act was a comedic juggler who during his performance had a boy about 10 years of age believing he was about to juggle some very large knives. Of course it was a joke, and the ambitious lad actually looked relieved to learn he wouldn't have to try that stunt.
Finally, there was the scenery. What can be said about the scenery??!! Sailing the famous Inside Passage from Seward, Alaska, to Vancouver, Canada, was beautiful. One didn't have to wait long to be able to see the beauty of the snow-capped mountains not very far in the distance.
The first morning after departing Seward, the ship entered and sailed within College Fjord. The folowing day, it entered Glacier Bay, where a United States park ranger boarded from a small boat and lectured about what passengers were seeing. The National Park Service handed out maps that your grandfather found to be extremely interesting, in that they showed more glaciers were lost faster over a hundred years ago than have been lost recently. In other words, loss of the glaciers due to so-called "global warming" is not taking place and in fact, some glaciers have grown since 1996. While in Glacier Bay, waiters handed out cups of delicious pea soup to passengers who were outside on deck to get a closer look at the glaciers.
On Wednesday, the next day, the Statendam called at Haines, Alaska, a small town near Skagway, which could be reached by a rather expensive ferry from the town. Haines, sadly, did not have much to offer. The old U.S. Army fort is gone and some of the activities that were supposed to be taking place nearly every day were not. As this was the day your grandparents had lost so much sleep because of the noise that was entering their cabin, they actually were happy there was little to do there and returned to the Statendam around noon for a well-deserved nap in their cabin.
The port-of-call the following day was Juneau, the land-locked capital of Alaska, which only can be reached, it is said, by sea. For that reason, many people would like to move the capital to Anchorage, but so far it does not appear to be in the cards. While in Juneau, your grandparents visited a small, but somewhat famous Russian Orthodox church. On returning from the church, your grandfather struck up a conversation with two members of a trio, all from Ukraine who spoke Russian, who were entertainers on another cruise ship that was calling that day.
Later in the day your grandparents visited a dog sled camp and took a ride on a wheeled "sled" that gave them a flavor of what it really was like to travel behind a dog team.
Finally, the last port in Alaska that the ship visited was Ketchikan, a rather large and interesing city. Here they and the Banks visited Saxman Native Village, where they watched native dances in colorful costumes, were shown how totem poles are made and what the figures on them represent, plus how long they last. They also photographed a large number of the colorful poles. Your grandparents learned that many legends and stories represented by the poles actually have unhappy endings.
The next day was at sea, sailing the famous inside passage to Vancouver, Canada. Grandma Bert participated in the Statendam's "On Deck for the Cure" during which she walked with others for several miles around the ship and received a tee shirt for her donation to cancer research and her hiking efforts.
The next morning the Statendam anchored in Vancouver from where your grandparents flew home. It was Father's Day. Their wonderful trip had ended, but they carried with them many fond memories of the things they had seen and done and the people they had met along the way.