On most Alaskan cruises, the sailing is done in the protected waters of the Inside Passage from either Seattle or Vancouver north to Skagway for about seven days. This southeastern “panhandle” area of Alaska is an area roughly 500 miles long and 100 miles wide.
Our 14-day cruise departed from the city of Vancouver and traveled between Vancouver Island and the mainland, the most southeastern part of the Inside Passage, during the first night, May 7th. The next morning the Nieuw Amsterdam turned westward below Haida Gwaii and out into the Gulf of Alaska. The Captain said we had over 900 nautical miles to travel to Kodiak.
Alaska is immense. I knew it was large, the largest state, but you can’t really wrap your head around it until you are there. Alaska contains 586,000 square miles of land and is one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states.
Monday, May 8th and Tuesday, May 9th were planned “at sea” days as the ship traveled from the Inside Passage out into the Gulf of Alaska to reach Kodiak Island, our first port. Kodiak Island is a rare port on these cruises and we were looking forward to visiting it. We used these sea days to explore the ship and attend EXC “talks” about Alaska – “We are Alaska” and “Pacific Giants.” At noon on Monday, the Captain announced that the seas would become rougher in the Gulf due to a low passing through the region.
On these Sea Days, we enjoyed walking around Promenade Deck #3. Three times around equals one mile with views of mountains and ocean.
That afternoon Captain Donselaar made his daily announcements informing us all that the ship was traveling at 19 knots in moderately rough seas. The air was 46 degrees and the wind was 25 knots. He also said that there was an increased number of passengers with gastrointestinal issues so please wash your hands frequently and the crew will be vigilantly cleaning all surfaces. Hmmmm. Norovirus. Oh no, no, no.
By the evening dinner hour, the ship was rolling enough to make walking the halls a challenge. The dance entertainment for the evening was canceled.
Wednesday, May 10th was our first port day – Kodiak Island. Our excursion was a walk that included the marina and fishing industry, the most important industry on the island. Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States and home to the largest U.S. Coast Guard base.
An announcement from Captain van Donselaar – “The pilot is unable to board the ship due to the sea state. We will have to reassess because a safe arrival is questionable.” Soon enough there were heavier rains and increasing winds. The port stop in Kodiak was canceled. 😢 At 3:00 pm the Captain announced we would be heading to Cook Inlet to find a safe place to anchor and wait until morning to arrive in Anchorage, the next port. At 5:00 pm it was announced that the outside decks were closed, food service was stopped, and the elevators were shutting down. Although we were disappointed about Kodiak, we do understand the need to be safe.
Due to the heavy winds, the boat was permanently listing at quite an angle in addition to the rolling motion. We talked with a crew member from the bridge who said the winds had cranked up to 70-75 knots and the seas were 25 feet high. My fear that these giant ships could flip over was about to become reality!!!! Noooo, I wasn’t really thinking that. Not really…… Al did see a couple sitting by the elevators clutching their life jackets.
By 6:30 pm the elevators began working and food service started again. The ship had traveled into safer waters for the night. At dinner, passengers on port side lower decks talked about how frightened they were when ocean water was rushing past their windows. Glad we were starboard side and high enough up on Deck 6.
We relaxed that evening with one of our favorite entertainment shows, “Billboard Onboard.” Two young pianist/singers, Wes and Tori, who play and sing popular songs, often by request.
Fingers crossed that we can get off this ship tomorrow and explore Alaska!