Onboard Holland America’s Noordam, Bound for Alaska

Passengers throng  Lido Deck as Noordam departs Vancouver, bound for Alaska.
Passengers throng Lido Deck as Noordam departs Vancouver, bound for Alaska.

ABOARD NOORDAM-I’m finally onboard here following the usual travails involved in coast-to-coast travel – joined by my partner/assistant Melinda and brother Al and his friend Joy – bound for the Far North. We boarded Noordam Saturday afternoon in Vancouver, which gets my vote as North America’s most beautiful seaport. Just the sight of the city’s striking Canada Place cruise ship terminal – built to resemble a ship with its crest of five giant white sails – filled us with enthusiasm for the coming week’s voyage!

Blessed with a warm, sunny sendoff, we gathered with a throng of fellow passengers on the aft Lido deck to bid farewell to Vancouver as Noordam slid beneath Lions Gate Bridge and past the massive green space of Stanley Park.

We’d missed lunch and with dinner still several hours off we slipped into the Lido Restaurant for salads and sandwiches. The Lido’s fast-moving buffet lines and seemingly endless food selection make it the popular choice for quick, casual dining.

To start things out on our first evening, we enjoyed a sunset cocktail in the Crow’s Nest lounge, notable for its wrap-around view from high atop the Observation Deck, and then reported for dinner in the Vista Dining Room on the Lower Promenade Deck. This is a room of understated elegance and our table, adjacent a panoramic window overlooking the ship’s wake, set the stage for a truly excellent meal. My prime rib was thick, tender and tasty and Mel says her shrimp creole was the best she’s had this side of New Orleans.

Weary but not to the extent that we’d pass on some good blues music, we dropped into the B.B. King Blues Club for a rousing performance by the All-Star Band that included several tributes to the late-great blues master King – who passed only a few weeks ago.

Mel and I are quite pleased with our “Deluxe Verandah Outside” stateroom. It’s roomy enough, measuring 200-square feet, with a large 54-square-foot balcony (nicely furnished with faux-rattan chairs and a small teak table for drinks). There’s loads of closet and shelf space and a pair of large drawers, somewhat oddly fitted beneath the foot of the bed. The sitting area features a sofa, side chair and table. The Eurotop beds are fabulously comfortable. The only negative we find so far is the tiny desk with its limited space – affording scarcely enough room for a laptop.

Our first full day at sea was largely spent relaxing – although we did join an informative morning tour of Noordam’s galley led by 2nd Executive Chef Pablo Cesar Samudio – to explore the mind-boggling labyrinth of stainless steel that serves as the kitchen for the ship’s 1,900+ guests.

unnamed3Later, we took in a cooking show at the Culinary Arts Center, where we watched a chef prepare crab cakes and Crème Brulee as served in the ship’s specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill and then retired to the Explorations Café. This comfy enclave on the Upper Promenade Deck incorporates a library, internet center and coffee bar where we settled into leather chaises – cappuccinos in hand – for some reading time.

For dinner on night two we reserved a table at Pinnacle, one of Noordam’s two for-charge alternative restaurants. Located mid-ship, it surrounds the Atrium and its Bvlgari dishes, crystal glasses, fancy stemware and waist-coated waiters leave no doubt that you’ve stepped into an alternative dining universe for your $29 pp surcharge. The menu features Pacific Northwest cuisine with planked salmon and crab dishes among the specialties – but we’d been tipped off that Pinnacle’s melt-in-your mouth filet mignon and sirloin strips would be the better choice. So I went for a filet while Mel ordered crab legs, and I’ll have to agree that my meat won out over the crab, which I thought was a bit tough and not quite as tasty as some we’d had at a Vancouver restaurant a few days earlier.

HAL 2nd Executive Chef Pablo Cesar Samudio leads galley tour during Noordam Alaska voyage.
HAL 2nd Executive Chef Pablo Cesar Samudio leads galley tour during Noordam Alaska voyage.

Today (Monday) we’re cruising scenic Tracy Arm, destined to arrive in Juneau at 1:00 p.m. Whale sightings are happening now and passengers are crowding the deck rails on the watch for any signs of flukes or fins.

Mel and I will be doing a heli-excursion to Mendenhall Glacier this afternoon that includes a landing on the massive 12-mile-long river of ice – and I’ll be back to tell you about that experience in a day or so.

May 31, 2015

 

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