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Thread: McDuff's Alaska Trip - Part 2 The Cruise

  1. #1
    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    McDuff's Alaska Trip - Part 2 The Cruise

    sat - get on ship
    We met the Wheelchair Getaways guy right at the pier/port building, a porter took our luggage(I had printed ship luggage tags at home), and he took off with the van, couldn't have been simpler. Their rentals are high comparing to regular cars, but that was what I'm used to.

    We literally got "whisked" thru embarkation procedures, special wheelchair lines bypassed at least a coupled hundred people ahead of us. We really were heading for the ship in 15 minutes with our new shipboard ID's used for everything, of course there were security personnel everywhere keeping an eye even on me. When you go out the door and are next to the ship, you can't help but go, dammmnnnn that's a big boat. I found out, it is 953 feet long, more about that later. The ramp is pretty steep, most of it is ok, but a couple turns required some extra umphh from my wife. They hustle you along, it is kinda a cattle call experience, you don't even think to stop for pics along the way, you just head for your cabin.

    We got on on Deck 2, one of the main decks, my 1" tires sunk in deep carpet, oh shit…. took the elevator to Deck 6, got off and there was thinner carpet, hmmm not too bad, head aft in starboard hallway, look ahead to end wall, hmm not too far, get to "end", it is only an "s" turn in the hallway, "new end" is further away than the first "end", whew… and this is only 1/2 the ship.

    The hallway appears "old or dingy", not sure why, ship is only 9 yrs old. Maybe it is just the way they decor'ed it. It is a little tight when passing another person, they get a little sideways, not sure 2 wheelchairs could fit. Our stateroom door is dead ahead at the stern of the ship. I booked a large accessible room with a large deck facing the rear of the ship.

    I apologize, did not take pics of the ship except for a couple, I took these stateroom pics as we were packing back up on the last night of the cruise.
























    Pulling away from Seattle:



    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

  2. #2
    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    sun - at seasick
    We woke up to a "rolling" ship. Our bed faces side to side and that was the way we were rolling, so it wasn't too bad in bed, just felt a little jolt each time. Randa got out of bed and started moving around, she looked at me, turned a little pale and headed for the bathroom. After her 2nd trip there, we called the steward for some seasick pills, they helped a lot but she spent most of the day in bed where it was "safer". It was funny, if I didn't have my brakes locked, I would rolllll back and forth a couple of feet. We were heading NW in open water, and the wind was pretty stout from the west so we were getting hit in the side with waves, giving us a roll. The Captain even came on to explain why, must have been a lot of misery going on.

    I went to check out the Neptune Lounge which is a room for deluxe suite passengers only, there's a concierge there for 14 hrs a day, finger foods, and a tv and computer for use. I met Margaret, and she became our concierge, and took "very" good care of us all week, she would call at least daily to check on us if I didn't stop by the Lounge, and any problem I had, she jumped on it.

    Here we are in the Crow's Nest Lounge, we had a meet&greet with the Captain and his officers, that was kinda neat.









    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

  3. #3
    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    mon - Juneau
    It is misting rain off&on and about 55 degrees, man, hope we didn't come at a bad week. I had found an accessible whale watching cruise boat online, Orca Enterprises, so I booked us a trip. Their office is across the street from the pier, they had read up on passengers, called me by name when I came thru the door since I was the only w/c passenger, a nice touch of friendliness. They had a bigger bus and a short bus with a lift, driver knew what she was doing, loaded up and gone in a couple minutes. About a 15 minute drive to their boat and driver kept up a good narration the whole trip. We got to their dock area, there was this loooongggg, steeeeeeep, ramp down to the water, whoa, this is w/c accessible? One of their guys was my drag brake all the way down, then out aways on the docks, to a big double jet aluminum boat with a big cabin and big back deck, with a ramp up and onto the deck, easy peasy.

    The weather cooperated and not only stopped misting, even got a little sunshine, but we were real happy to be in the cabin starting out. Capt. Larry is an old grizzly bearded, long haired scarecrow of a man, looks just like one of my riding buds back in Austin, it was probably a 30 minute ride out to the waters for whale viewing, after that you just kind of idle around and "look for whales". It is funny, there are many boats like ours, and when an air spout from a whale is seen, all these boats zoom that way(not really zoom, more like slow motion zoom), then they change directions, kinda comical.

    There is a crew of 4 total, and in a cool twist, I was staring at the narrative guide, thinking I've seen this guy before, like on tv. Turns out he was Brent Nixon, a big naturalist and a bear and whale lover, he's been on Animal Planet and Cousteau appearances. He was a pleasure to listen and talk too. We saw some really good humpback whale activity, I sucked at getting any good pictures though, we saw one whale come up out of the water sideways with his mouth open and scoop water in gathering food, even Brent had never seen this shot.

    The other guy that got my attention was the one who helped me down the ramp, he also pushed me all the way back up the ramp and it was even steeper now at low tide, damnnnn…. Anyway, he was wearing a Sea Shepard jacket, of Whale Wars notoriety, and he was redheaded, I swore I've seen him on tv, but he told me it was his buddies jacket, but I still am gonna look for him some more. He has a brother in a chair from a wreck, so we talked a lot during the tour, so overall it was a blast of a trip.














    When we got back to dock, Brian, the redhead, asked me if it would be alright if he and this big crew member lifted me up and over the edge instead of ramp? We had waited a long time to leave dock because this one old guy had a real hard time making the long walk to the ramp dock area, so we could dock real close if I gave up the ramp. I'm game for most anything, so said sure, the old guy was most appreciative. They got me over in one fluid motion, no problem.

    When we got back to the cruise pier, the sky opened up and started raining heavy, so we just got back on the boat and dried off. We had light rain gear so not too bad off. Too bad, I would have liked to do the cable cars.

    Here was Juneau pier area:













    Last edited by McDuff; 10-02-2012 at 06:42 PM.
    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

  4. #4
    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    tues - Glacier Bay
    Woke up and it was still drizzling rain, oh man…. The ship was heading into Glacier
    Bay, we wouldn't be able to see much of anything in the low hanging clouds. As we got near, the clouds seemed to recede, and by the time we got in the area, it was a bright blue sky and about 60 degrees, perfect!

    I can't begin to describe how badly a picture does in portraying the real grandeur of this area, you just keep looking around and it just keeps getting better. We saw 4 or 5 different glaciers as we eased in and out of different inlets, the ship with "pod" steering can do a 180 pretty much in place. We got real close to some walls and I thought, man he is a gutsy Captain, I like him. I went inside and looked at one of the "status" tv's around the ship, it said we were in 509 ft of water, holy shit.

    The big glacier we saw was the Johns-Hopkins, if that's the same people, man they got around huh? We saw 12-15 calvings happen while there and 3-4 of them were BIG. The big ones put out a wave that *rocked* our 953 ft boat big time. The Capt. got on speaker and said he had never had weather this good, and seen so much activity on the glaciers in 22 yrs of this. I was torn, Cool that we got to see this, but Bad that this could be the beginning of faster melt, global warming anyone?

    I will just let the pics talk, never did get a good calving shot, it happens real fast.



































    Last edited by McDuff; 10-01-2012 at 11:31 AM.
    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

  5. #5
    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    wed - Sitka
    We did not have anything booked to do in Sitka but were just going to sightsee, there is a raptor center we wanted to see, but never did, it was a ways out of town and we didn't see any h/c transport around. So we just walked around the quaint little downtown area for awhile. We went in this *old* Orthodox Church that has hundreds of Icons in it, was kinda cool.

    We Tendered into this port; it actually went rather well, just had to dress down a couple crew members who wanted to treat me like luggage, just grab my handles and start manhandling me. Uh Uh! The water was real calm so the transfer over was a no-brainer. There was a little bitty elevator that took me down level with the tender, whereas all the AB's were walking down steps. The tender driver uses his jet engine blowing sideways to keep it flush with the ship deck. There is a lip on the tender, but there is a steep sloped ramp edge inside that they slide you down.











    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

  6. #6
    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    thurs - Ketchikan
    Was really looking forward to this stop, I had written a few floatplane places wanting to go on a ride, I've always wanted to go on one. I wound up with Island Wings, where Michelle the pilot, flies a restored 1959 DeHavilland Beaver, a gorgeous plane.

    They are not h/c accessible by any stretch of the imagination, but were willing to work with me and haul my ass up into the plane. It took me, 2 guys, and Michelle to push/pull/hoist/ you name it, to get me in the plane, it really was a tough spot because it is way up there, and over the float at the same time. If you were a skinny person, could probably butt bump up the stairs, but they were too tight and steep for my fat ass to fit onto, so it had to be one fell swoop. We did it, but that night when I took my pants off, we discovered 4 scrapes and cuts on my left leg, it bled pretty good but it was worth it to me. After getting back and in my chair, Michelle came over and said "thank you for getting out and doing this". At first I thought I was getting the "you're such an inspiration" shpeel, but I realized I was getting the Alaskan frontiersman shpeel, where getting out of your comfort zone is applauded, felt pretty good actually.

    I chose the Misty Fjords tour, it had the shortest stopover for people to get out and stretch their legs, I stayed in my seat, a lot of their tours are fly in and hike type. We all had headphones and mics so we could talk back and forth, there were 3 couples + pilot. Just beautiful scenery. At one point I was looking out and asked her how high we were, she said 1300ft, I said damn those trees must be tall, because they just reached up into the air, she said they were 160-170ft tall trees. There are no roads in the park, it's some million+ acreage, with like 300 lakes, so floatplane is the only way in. There are camping areas for the fishermen that fly in and fish the lakes.

































    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

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    Senior Member McDuff's Avatar
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    fri - Victoria
    I woke up friday morning and could. not. move., my arms were dead wood. The week of rolling the 953 ft on carpet many many times over had taken it's toll, and then the clamber into the plane was the killing stroke. I had to invent a new way of sitting up in bed, I rolled to my side using my chair next to me, and used my elbow to prop, then flung my other arm back stiffly and rolled onto it, then threw my other hand down to get both arms behind me. I can normally just shimmy my elbows behind me to step up to sitting.

    I had to have my wife help push me down the halls, I really was done, I knew I was out of shape, but damn. When we docked in Victoria, BC, we rolled out onto the wooden deck and rolled all the way around the ship, this I could do. It was a pier area only, and they were bussing people from the Customs area, to somewhere. I didn't see one bus that had a lift on it, and just didn't feel like messing with it, so we skipped Victoria. It was too bad, many people said it was really a pretty stop.

    sat - to airport
    Saturday morning is a blur. You have to have your airline checkin bags packed and outside your door on friday night. You get off the ship with your carryon luggage and get on the bus, this is assuming you purchased the pier-> airport transfer pkg., there is a step above this which is "luggage direct" where you don't see your luggage again until your home airport, I tried to set this up but they dropped the ball somewhere. Oh well, this wasn't bad either, just needed a porter at SEA airport.

    This time I was the holdup thru screening, the guy gave me the full worker, swabbed in 5 different places, plus full pat down. But it was no biggie. We got on the plane and , waalaa, our trip was over. Man seemed like we just left…


    The Ship

    My overall impression of the HA Westerdam was that is a very nice ship, just about due for a tuneup. It seems 9 years of year round service is showing, minor things like quite a bit of rust around our deck and other areas. Nothing bad, just kinda sticks out. What sticks out is some of the decor, the kitchy oriental lion benches at the elevator lobby, pretty weird. But the main areas of the ship are very nicely laid out.

    There are ship maps throughout the ship, so that you can easily locate the nearest accessible bathroom, as well as keep yourself from going the wrong direction, they have Fore and Aft arrow signs, just gotta remember to look at them. When you get off an elevator, it is *real* easy to head off the wrong way, did that a couple of times.

    There were 3 main restaurants, the buffet style open almost any time you would want to eat, and the food was ok to good. Then there was the sit down restaurant, which was a walk in and get seated style, it had set hours for breakfast/lunch/dinner time and the was was good to above average. The last was the highend sit down restaurant, it cost $25/couple and you had to have reservations. The food was reallllly good and it came in true 4 course fashion with separate wines served per course. We ate there twice during the cruise, I guess we ate twice in each and had room service one night, about as roundabout as you can get.

    Ok, I officially can't keep remember what all I've written and what I've missed, so I am going to add pictures and post this up, ask questions if I missed anything you are interested in.

    Oh yeah, this makes it that I have been in 49 of the 50 States, only 1 I am missing is Oregon. I almost did the drive down from Seattle just to cover it, but my wife likes it better this way, means we'll make another trip to the northwest again.
    Last edited by McDuff; 10-01-2012 at 11:40 AM.
    "a T10, who'd Rather be ridin'; than rollin'"

  8. #8
    Awesome trip report - thank you!

  9. #9
    Thanks for the great travel log. It took NL and I back 31 years to when we made a Seattle/Vancouver trip and Alaska cruise complete with the Misty Fjords float plane. Our trip was a year before my injury.

    You and Mrs. McDuff make a handsome couple. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary!

    All the best,
    GJ

  10. #10
    Senior Member canuck's Avatar
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    My thought re buses in Victoria is that you might have had to do some research before and booked something. With a big group like the cruise ship you want to move the maximum number of people with the fewest buses. Depending on the type of lift and tie down system you could end up losing 4 seats or more so they probably wouldn't automaticaly send out something with fewer seats unless they had to.

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