Holland America Line’s immersive Alaska voyages showcase The Great Land’s amazing wildlife, scenic wonders, rich culture and authentic local cuisine

Alaska is a sought-after destination for leisure group travelers, and cruises are one of the most popular ways to experience the 49th state. Summer Alaska cruise volume climbed to nearly 1.7 million cruise passengers last year, significantly above the record number welcomed in 2019. Cruise lines expect the surging demand for Alaska voyages to continue this year as well.  

Holland America Line is an exceptional choice for Alaska voyages. With more than 75 years in Alaska, Holland America offers a variety of exciting itineraries and shore excursions in the Last Frontier. Holland America Line’s 11 upscale ships feature specialty dining restaurants, entertainment, and outstanding enrichment programming, allowing groups to customize a wide array of experiences to match their travelers’ interests.  

On Holland America Line voyages, guests can enjoy unforgettable adventures and experience Alaska in a memorable way. During our Southeast Alaska cruise, we saw humpback whales breaching and bubble-net feeding, sampled authentic local cuisines, soared above the rainforest on the world’s largest ZipRider, observed bald eagles and massive Alaskan brown bears, and learned about Alaska’s culture and way of life. Throughout our Holland America Line Alaska journey, the enchanting destination was the star of the show.

Holland America Line’s Eurodam (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Holland America Line’s Eurodam (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Sailing On A Holland America Line Southeast Alaska Cruise

Our Holland America Line voyage aboard the 2,104-passenger Eurodam sailed round-trip from Seattle, Washington. The classic 7-day Alaskan Explorer itinerary featured alluring ports of call, including Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. While I’ve explored Alaska multiple times on large and small ships, this itinerary offered the opportunity to visit Icy Strait Point for the first time and return to perennial favorite Glacier Bay. Holland America Line’s shore excursions are outstanding, and the entire journey exceeded my expectations.

Our Alaska adventure departed from Seattle in the mid-afternoon, which allowed a full day and a half of enriching Alaska programming and entertainment before reaching Juneau. Holland America Line’s exclusive Explorations Central (EXC) destination programs are exceptional, and we enjoyed several engaging EXC talks and presentations while bound for Alaska. Holland America Line’s cruises also feature an onboard wildlife expert, and we attended his wildlife spotting sessions throughout the cruise.  

The Juneau cruise port provides convenient access to local shops and restaurants. (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

The Juneau cruise port provides convenient access to local shops and restaurants. (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Exploring Juneau’s Memorable Attractions

Juneau is a popular Alaska cruise port, offering a wide variety of shore excursions for all interests. Our Holland America Line itinerary gave us nine hours to spend in Juneau, and we used every moment to its fullest. We explored Juneau’s vibrant food scene on a fabulous culinary walk, tasting our way through many of the best food and drink venues in the downtown area. Juneau is home to award-winning eateries and James Beard-nominated chefs, and our fantastic guide provided insights about Juneau’s history, culture, and local culinary gems. 

Next up was our small-group whale-watching tour on a fully permitted research vessel which collects data for university and regional science programs. A whale sighting was guaranteed, and our captain and Mother Nature delivered in a big way. We saw humpback whales breaching and bubble-net feeding, cute seals, lounging sea lions and other marine life. Our naturalist guide was excellent, providing knowledgeable insights about Alaska’s whales and marine environment. 

Massive Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Massive Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Spectacular Scenic Cruising In Glacier Bay National Park

In a cruise filled with extraordinary experiences, our stellar day sailing through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was at the top of the list. National Park Service rangers boarded our ship to provide a variety of programming, and our captain opened up Eurodam’s bow deck as we glided up the 65-mile-long waterway. Scenic commentary was offered throughout the journey, and we sampled Holland America Line’s delicious Dutch pea soup out on deck. 

Glacier Bay has more than 1,000 glaciers, and we spent much of the day mesmerized by the iconic ice-filled landscapes and awe-inspiring views. Our captain kept the ship situated in the Margerie Glacier area for some time, allowing us to watch as huge chunks of electric-blue ice cracked and crashed into the water below. We also sailed in front of Johns Hopkins Inlet for my first-ever view of the park’s most active advancing tidewater glacier. Wildlife is abundant, and we spotted graceful humpback whales, harbor seals, brown bears, sea otters, and bald eagles. 

Icy Strait Point’s ZipRider features breathtaking speeds and stunning views. (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Icy Strait Point’s ZipRider features breathtaking speeds and stunning views. (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Thrilling Adventures And Cultural Heritage At Icy Strait Point

After sailing through Glacier Bay National Park, our ship arrived at Icy Strait Point for a several hour visit. Privately owned and operated by Huna Totem Corporation, this lovely port near Glacier Bay immerses visitors in Alaska’s beauty and Native Tlingit culture. Guests can visit a restored 1912 salmon cannery and museum, shop at Alaskan-owned retail stores and enjoy incredible outdoor experiences, including the epic ZipRider Adventure. 

I have looked forward to racing down the world’s largest ZipRider for well over a decade, and the thrilling flight lived up to its bucket list billing. We boarded the SkyGlider Mountaintop Gondola for a scenic ride to the top of Hoonah Mountain, then made our way to the ZipRider launch area. The Icy Strait Point attraction is taller than New York’s Empire State Building and features six 5,330-foot zip lines. Riders accelerate to more than 60 miles per hour, and the adrenaline rush is only matched by the dazzling panoramic views. 

A rescued Alaskan brown bear at Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

A rescued Alaskan brown bear at Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Memorable Wildlife Watching In Sitka

Tiny Sitka is one of my favorite Alaskan ports of call, and it’s loaded with attractions for those interested in nature, history, and culture. Having visited Sitka’s charming downtown multiple times, I opted for an outstanding land and sea adventure focusing on Sitka’s unforgettable wildlife viewing experiences. It proved to be an excellent choice.

We boarded a deluxe catamaran for a beautiful cruise into Southeast Alaska’s marine ecosystem, viewing rafts of sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, and humpback whales along the way. Our excursion continued by bus to the Alaska Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear rescue center in Silver Bay. Our group enjoyed touring the outstanding facilities, learning about Alaska’s wildlife, and being so close to these incredible creatures. 

Entertaining Enrichment In Ketchikan

The final Alaskan port of call on our cruise itinerary was Ketchikan, home to the F/V Aleutian Ballad. The commercial crab fishing boat was made famous in the second season of the Discovery Channel’s award-winning “Deadliest Catch” reality TV series. The seasoned crew brings their captivating tales to life during the popular Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s tour, immersing guests in their personal stories of harrowing adventures at sea.

The Aleutian Ballad sails along the protected waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage during the three-hour excursion, and wildlife is plentiful. We watched as the crew hauled crabs, octopus, fish, and other marine life onboard, and it was fun to hold some of them as well. One of the most memorable highlights was watching dozens of bald eagles circling and diving for fish near lovely Annette Island. Their aerial acrobatics were amazing. 

Wok-seared lobster and other delights at Eurodam’s Tamarind restaurant (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Wok-seared lobster and other delights at Eurodam’s Tamarind restaurant (Photo credit: Nancy Schretter)

Outstanding Amenities And Culinary Experiences On The Eurodam

Holland America Line’s Eurodam is an ideal size for an Alaska cruise, offering plenty of restaurants and attractions without being overwhelming. Refurbished in 2015, the intimate mid-size ship delivers an amenity-rich, premium cruise experience for guests without the crowds and distractions often found on larger vessels. The ship’s attentive service, World Stage performances, and “Alaska Up Close” guest experiences are exceptional. 

In addition to the immersive Alaska-themed enrichment programming, groups will enjoy the spacious accommodations, a wide variety of dining options, the centralized pool with retractable roof, world-class spa, and the prodigious amount of live entertainment on board. We spent most of our evenings at Billboard Onboard or B.B. King’s Blues Club, listening to the fabulous vocalists and dancing the night away. The ship’s high-octane Orange Party was a fun-filled celebration to remember, too. 

Dining is one of the perennial highlights aboard a Holland America Line Alaska cruise. Holland America Line’s culinary offerings are superb, and the Eurodam features a wide array of award-winning dining experiences to please every palate. The cruise line is passionate about culinary excellence, and its Culinary Council of renowned chefs develops world-class menus for dining venues throughout the fleet.  

We enjoyed the certified sustainable and traceable wild Alaska seafood and regionally inspired cuisine at multiple shipboard restaurants and the delectable Alaska Brunch in Eurodam’s Dining Room. My meals at two of the ship’s specialty dining venues, Tamarind and the Pinnacle Grill, rank among the best I’ve had at sea. We also enjoyed sampling Holland America’s cocktails featuring authentic glacier ice and the fantastic hot coffee drinks at the Explorations Cafe. 

While taking in the panoramic views in The Crow’s Nest on our last day at sea, I spent time thinking back on our incredible Alaska adventures. The Last Frontier is addictive, as is Holland America Line’s idyllic cruise experience. Once you’ve journeyed to Alaska, you’ll find yourself planning to visit again. 

By Nancy Schretter

Lead Photo: Holland America Line ship in Glacier Bay (Photo credit: Holland America Line)