The International Writers Magazine:Hacktreks in Alaska
Volendam in Alaska
America cruiseline is truly great.
The Volendam is a beautiful ship and extremely well run. I embarked
on this journey May 5th and my trip started the moment I set foot
It was a rainy day,
dull, but half an hour before the ship sailed the sun came out giving
us a glorious exit from Vancouver B.C . As I am a Vancouverite, it was
a treat for me to see the city and mountains from the ships view. Sitting
there by the railings, informing those around me of what they where
looking at was a great way to start the trip off.
My cabin was on the lowest deck but with a porthole, it was roomy and
very well thought out, only thing missing was a clock, (one did need
to know when to go for dinner). My cabin boy Ramiek had a great smile
and a cheerful voice. Everyday he would have that same genuine smile
and was always so obliging and helpful. Most of the ships crew are Filipinos
and they are so full of pride and cheer, that they make you feel welcome
and pampered at all times. No matter what time of day if you need something
they will get it without question.
We are assigned seating arrangements for dinner. I was meant to be seated
with people that were in my age group 40-59, but alas I was the only
one in my age group on the ship, so I was seated with some great fun
loving Kiwis and Australians. Yes they where older, but caring
and great company. We always had a laugh and interesting talks on our
life differences. One couple Bruce and Dianna, were particularly kind
to me, as they knew I was alone, they never let me sit alone in the
disco and bars, I am very grateful for their kindness and company, they
are a happy and lucky couple, I hope to be that blessed one day. Thanks
too to Arthur and Glenys Goswell for their friendship.
There was also Margaret from New Zealand, who had grandchildren my childrens
age. She was a darling and I learnt from her that no matter the sacrifices
one has made in life, find the time to live those moments to the best
advantage and live it up.
Another couple Dr John Turner and his wife who never took a bad photo,
you could see the love they had for each other and how they valued it.
There was another couple at the table, she is a complete sweetheart,
a mother, friend and caring woman with an impish kind of humor and a
heart of gold, who looked lovely in blues. Her husband and I had a ping
pong of sarcastic humor going on back and forth. He reminded me of my
brother, so I knew how to serve it back, it was fun and but when I gave
him a hug when we were leaving the ship I think I gave him a panic attack.
I met other people that were very interesting from all walks of life.
I didn't sit an where for long without meeting people and striking up
a conversation. It was my pleasure to share information on my beautiful
city Vancouver, so that they could take advantage of it when they returned.
I was nicknamed 'ambassador of Vancouver'.
I was also chosen to be Miss Volendam, a tool they use to encourage
people to speak and meet. The ship was very generous with gifts for
playing the roll.
The staff on board are wonderful people. There is Carmen the Cruise
Director, Kevin and Jeremy and Megan cruise liaisons. They all made
me feel welcome and I had very interesting conversations with them.
I had thought when I went on this ship that it would be my single in
training time, but alas the only disappointment on the ship was that
the only single men (2 to be exact) where late 60s to 70. So I
guess I will have to try elsewhere. Traveling on a ship as a single
is comfortable, for you do not feel like you stick out like a sore thumb,
but when you see couples who are happy and still in love after all these
years dancing together so content, it does remind you of a certain loneliness.
But again, the staff did their best and I did get a few dances in, plus
many great conversations with them.
It is a great life on board for these guys, but at times one gets a
feeling of being trapped. They do not get days off, but a few hours
here and there. To find a moment alone away from it all is very hard
to do, but through it all they always have a smile and are always there
to please the customer. There seems to be a camaraderie between them,
a family tie, I do not think they could do this for four months straight
if they were not so.
Our first stop was Juneau, a small town only accessible by sea or air.
You get pretty close to the ice!
I went up Mt Roberts
Trailhead. There was still too much snow to walk around much, but I
did see a film about the natives of Alaska, which was beautifully done.
I got chatting to a delightful lady called Nicola, who runs the spa
on board ship. She made my afternoon very pleasant, and on the last
day I had a neck and head massage from her which was very relaxing.
Thank you Nicola.
On to Skagway, which is far north. We learned of the hardships of those
that came for gold only to find that they had to go over the mountains
up 3,292 ft in to the White Pass summit and then down into Canada and
then Dodge to claim their gold. These were a very treachorous times
that killed many a man, but also leaves a legacy of courage strife and
tenacity that not many men today could live up too. Temperatures in
Alaska can go 70 below, and yet they still came to seek their fortunes,
and to build a railway that it still used today. The beauty of this
area is stunning.
I went on a bus tour conducted by Southeast Tours located at 5th and
Broadway web site www.southeasttours.com
for $35.00, (this was cheaper than the train, $89.00 all US dollars)
This also covered the towns history, the famous grave yard where no
one was older than 38, and stopped at three places while going up 3.292
feet into Canada. It was an excellent tour, which is more friendly than
the train as it holds about 20 people at a time. They tell us that snow
mobilers, take there snow mobiles up to the top of a local mountain
with their skies on there back, then ski down riding by the snow mobile
sliding down on its own, when we were there you still see the tracks.
It was also a first time for a couple of Australians to see and touch
show, very exciting for us all.
I was Reading the Alarmist; while cruising the Glacier
Bay. Very poignant for the mood. We are reminded of what and who we
are. On one hand we are stubborn visionary and have the tenacity to
endure unspeakable pain and strifes in ones life. On the other
hand we are but a flea that the mountains have to tolerate from time
Nature has its way of reminding you who and what you are. We bring these
huge ships in to their space and they kindly share their awesomeness
with us. To sit there so close to a brilliant blue glacier, and watch
it piece by piece slide into the water is so surreal. Then to watch
a whale swim on by with such calmness is truly a moment of peace. Just
the pure clean air filling our lungs is extraordinary. The experience
of serenity. Now I understand why these men and women came here, the
gods are in charge, but if you ask them nicely they will share their
wonders with you.
I came on board to meet new people, I met many, not the ones I expected
i.e. a single man under 70, but nevertheless wonderful people, I experienced
the dominance of the mountains and the deadly beauty of the icebergs.
I feel blessed and I get the message, the force and supremacy of the
mountains rule us and we can share its power, but we must respect
who is boss. They look peaceful and innocent but ask the souls that
have lost their lives to them how harmless they are. For us sitting
there In our comfort zone having complete trust in our captain and his
piloting crew, it was a moment of truth and a moment where stress, apprehension,
qualms or hatred and greed had no place. If you did not get it then
you were not going to.
As it was I was reading The Alcamist, by Paulo Coelho, which
speaks of a journey of conviction vision and confidence, it was timely
and perhaps a message that I needed to hear at this time. Hand in hand
the book, the mountains and the glaciers, spoke to me that only a still
soul could hear, mine took a moment in time to be still and I was listening
like I have never heard before.
By day such wonders, by night formal events, where everyone dressed
up in their very best. I wore a black long evening gown with matching
coat. I have to admit that would have been the one night that I would
have liked to have a partner on my arm; one did feel a little stand
outish dressed like that alone. The dining room crew put on a show for
us with their flaming baked Alaska, and everyone was in an upbeat mood.
A show followed called Songs of Broadway, and the performers
danced and sang and changed for many numbers with expertise and Broadway
professionalism. It left me exhausted; how do they do it?
The Filipinos crew put on a performance one night of cultural dances,
they take such pride in their traditions and their culture, it was wonderful
to see. They also put a lot of humor into it too.
The was a ventriloquist Mike Robinson and his wooden friend, a solo
singer Steve Teague, and a Performer from Skagway, Steve Hites singing
tales of time gone by. Also Paul Pappas at the piano, no matter your
sitting arrangement, all in all entertainment was happening everynight.
By day there was of course bingo, trivia, casino, (most annoying with
its noises dinging all day) and other games. Swim, read, sleep,
in a deck chair or drink the day away. Something for every one to pick
and choose from or avoid altogether.
Everynight they had entertainment in many arenas, there was the piano
room, where music and songs where going on, there was a band singing
old favorites for people to danced to all night long. There was a violist
trio playing before and after dinner music and there was the Crows Nest
where you could dance to the live music of time after time
or hear Kevin and Jeremy spin the disco or two-step music till all hours
of the morning.
Next we went on to Ketchikan, I did not tour here and I just potted
around and visited various places of the history. In every port I did
seek out good coffee places as I was not partial to the coffee on board,
no Americana coffee, I also visited the seaport cyber café, to
email home. Juneau at South Franklin Street, Skagway, 336-3rd Ave, Ketchikan,
# 5 Salmon landing, great place to buys goods too. Everyport has one
and for only $5.00 you can email for an hour, at any of the ports stated
above just take your card with you. On board it is $1.99 a minute!
Shopping for diamonds is huge, every port has at least 5-6 jewelry shops,
and they must do well because they are in business every year. You do
save on taxes and port duties.
I met a dog there that looked part wolf, he was beautiful, and I had
a very pleasant talk with the owner. She may visit Vancouver will be
nice to show her my town. Do not miss Creek Street, it has a long history
and is very quaint.
Last day was hot and magnificent. After an Indonesian lunch I went on
deck, chatted to an English couple from York, near to my old home county
of Lincolnshire. We all seemed to nod off in that gentle blazing sun,
and when we woke he kindly bought us a beer. Thank you. Can you believe
that I got burnt in Alaska in May? I am now peeling. Alas, time to pack,
and then go down for dinner one last time. A quick drink with Carmen
thanks, dinner with the gang, more farewell drinks with the crew, Jeremy,
Megan and Carmen, it was time for bed. By the way the beds are so comfortable,
you do not want to get out of them.
Next day Vancouver. We exit by number that with 1400 people takes time,
I had breakfast with Margaret one last time, and slowly we left the
ship. I was not ready for home, I could have stayed easily another week
or more, just the tranquility, I was at last beginning to relax. Now
home to laundry, bills, and duties. Was I even away? No more excuses,
time for work, I did get some ideas while away, so now time to execute
them, but right now I am going to believe that I am in GLACIER BAY,
and remembering the feelings that it gave me. Thanks guys for the happy
© Sara Towe May 19th 2004
The Art of Positive Living
Vancouver B.C. Canada.
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