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Cruising in the age of COVID

Snapshots from Alaska, Part 2

Lucette Moramarco

Associate Editor

While we had taken the Alaska cruise back in June 2007, this wasn’t a repeat trip. Besides getting to go to Skagway instead of Sitka again because of the stormy weather, COVID restrictions caused several changes. First, instead of the usual evacuation drill before departing Seattle, we watched a safety video on the television in our room, then went to our muster station to check in as directed, without our life jackets.

There was no movie theater to go to on the ship and no stage shows either. The ship’s library was a quarter of the size as on our previous cruise, but it did have jigsaw puzzles. We spent some time working on puzzles and we brought our own books, puzzle books, decks of cards and coloring books, which was a good thing as we ended up spending a good amount of time in our cabin, so we wouldn’t have to wear masks all day.

Also, there was no stop in Victoria, British Columbia this time as Canada was not allowing cruise ships to dock in its ports, so we had an extra day at sea. There were less passengers booked for the trip, so it wouldn’t be as crowded as a normal cruise. The ship was prepared for a possible COVID outbreak with spare rooms saved in case sick passengers needed to be isolated, but we never heard of anyone getting sick.

The next stop for our cruise was not a port, it was Glacier Bay. The weather was quite chilly so we were glad we could step out on our sheltered veranda to take pictures of the glacier instead of going out on the deck. The glacier we saw wasn’t as big as the ones we saw in 2007, of course, but the guide who gave a talk on board said at least one glacier is growing.

There were several talks offered on at-sea days including two on the history of the native peoples which I found very interesting, as well as two talks on Glacier Bay which I was unable to stay awake for, unfortunately. However, getting rest was part of the plan, so naps were welcome.

By the way, we hadn’t planned on getting a veranda room, but when Holland America offered a discounted rate for upgrading our room less than three weeks before we were to board, we took it. Having the glass door and full-length window made our cabin seem bigger.

Our last port of call was Ketchikan. Since we had gone on two excursions there in 2007, we didn’t book any tours this time. It was another rainy day, so we strolled up and down the main street visiting all kinds of shops taking along our umbrellas.

Being that it was the last week of the cruise season (only one or two other ships were coming after ours), there were sales to be found. Turns out that lots of people go to Alaska to buy gems and jewelry; we didn’t have that kind of money to spend, so we tried to stay out of those stores.

We did buy some smoked salmon (vacuum sealed), salmon dip mix and salmonberry jam to eat at home. The salmon was pretty good; the dip mix didn’t taste good and we haven’t tried the jam yet. That shop gave the option of having your salmon shipped home, for those that want to buy a large quantity.

For a touch of history, we found a large monument to Ketchikan’s heritage, called “The Rock” which, according to the nearby sign, “features seven figures representing the people and personalities that first made this frontier home. Featured at the top is the welcoming figure of Gut Wain (Chief Johnson) of the Gaanaxadi clan of the Tlingit tribe. Other characters include a Native drummer, a fisherman, a miner, a frontierswoman, a logger and a bush pilot. Local artist Dave Rubin created the bronze sculpture with Terry Pyles and Judy Rubin.” The sculpture isn’t far from the ocean.

Our last full day on the ship was spent at sea. We put a whole puzzle together that afternoon besides playing gin and reading. On our first cruise, there were vcrs in the rooms and we checked out a few movies to watch in our room. This time, we were able to watch television through a satellite which had good reception most of the time. We even got to watch a few Dodgers/Padres games.

By the end of the week, we were ready to go home as living on a ship was getting claustrophobic. With each trip, though, we have learned more tips for traveling.

Our travel agent had booked us on a 7 a.m. flight the morning the cruise was to start; we didn’t want to arrive in Seattle exhausted, so we had her change it to a Friday afternoon flight and book a hotel room for us. The next morning, there were 53 of us who were bused to the wharf from the hotel and, because we arrived with a group, they let us board ahead of our scheduled time.

Holland America has been the best run cruise line we have been on. One service they offer is having a Catholic Mass (and also a nondenominational service) on the ship; they always have a priest onboard which is very convenient. (On our Norwegian cruise with Royal Caribbean, they did not offer church services, so we had to go way out of our way to get to Mass, which was in Norwegian,)

To go on a cruise now, you have to be fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID test, but they are no longer requiring masks at all times. Holland America also has more flexible policies on cancellations than I remember seeing last year – if someone comes down with COVID before their trip, they can get a 100% future cruise credit.

So, for healthy people wanting some adventure with the comfort of a moving hotel room, I recommend a cruise for getting away from home for a while.

 

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