Hits and Misses on Holland America Oosterdam

Oosterdam Hits and Misses


Oosterdam in Sitka

Every ship has things to like about it, and usually something not so great. Of course what people like or not is always a matter of opinion. One person’s absolute favorite thing about any particular ship could be the exact thing someone else hated most. That’s one reason it’s nice that ships have a variety of spaces and places so most everyone can find something to their liking. These are the things I did and didn’t like about Holland America Oosterdam.

Hits on Holland America Oosterdam

I found a lot to like about the Oosterdam. The thermal suite is a definite hit. Holland America’s Vista class ships (and P&O’s Arcadia which is the same hull design) all have excellent thermal suites. This includes a large mineral pool with jets around the walls, a rack over jets to sit on, and an intensely jetted area inside a metal circle. Besides the pool, the thermal suite also includes heated ceramic chairs which may not sound comfortable, but are actually awesome. There’s also a sauna and aromatherapy steam rooms. It does cost extra to use the thermal suite, but worth the extra cost on these ships since it is so nice.

spa pool

spa pool in the thermal suite

The Oosterdam had cloth hand towels in public restrooms, which is  touch of class that is far nicer than paper towels and miles above air blower hand dryers, both of which are found on some cruise ships.

spa chairs

heated ceramic chairs in the thermal suite

Cruise ship cabins sometimes have just one outlet for the entire cabin. The Oosterdam had 2 outlets as well as 2 USB ports in our cabin, and we just had an inside room. Newer ships and those that have been recently renovated are far more likely to have extra outlets and/or USB ports while older non-renovated ships usually just have the one outlet and no USB port. It’s definitely a bonus to have more than one place to plug things in.

crepes made fresh

making fresh crepes at the buffet

Their buffet breakfast on the Lido deck includes a crepe station serving fresh made-to-order crepes and waffles. They also had daily specials there serving something different each day. That station also had some gluten free items. Another station served eggs Benedict made fresh to order rather than sitting out ready made under lights like at the buffet on some other ships. Surprisingly the eggs Benedict station never had a line. There’s also the always popular omlette station. Overall an above average cruise ship breakfast buffet.

cruise ship pool

pool with the dome closed

The Oosterdam has a retractable pool dome, which means on bad weather days or cruises to cold places the main pool area can be inside rather than outside which is definitely a plus on a cruise to Alaska.

Oosterdam back deck

back Lido deck with covered smoking area

Oosterdam had the best smoking policy of any ship we’ve ever been on from a non-smoker’s point of view. There’s no smoking on the promenade deck or anywhere inside the ship. Smoking was limited to just one area on one side of the Lido’s outside back deck only. They did have a cover over the seating in that area so people would not have to be out in the rain or anything. It’s the perfect location for a smoking area. It’s not on the way to anywhere so you don’t end up inadvertently walking through it, and at the back where the ship sails forward out of the smoke. There are two sets of doors between the elevators and that deck so less smoke gets inside. It is next to a pool and hot tub, but since it’s not the only pool or hot tub on the ship people have other options. Way to go Oosterdam! Being allergic to tobacco smoke I greatly appreciated the ease of avoiding it on this ship. Unfortunately that is not a standard smoking policy for all of Holland America as it varies from ship to ship.

sunrise at sea

sunrise on the Oosterdam’s smoke-free promenade deck

Lots of people exercise by walking or jogging around the Promenade deck on ships that have one encircling the entire ship, as the Oosterdam does. Besides being smoke-free, the outside area of the Promenade deck also had several drinking fountains making it a very exercise-friendly place to go.

cruise ship cabin

TV in a cabin

Programming for the cabin TV’s included lots of free movies to choose from.

While most internet usage is an extra charge, it was free to use the internet for their onboard website. It had information about the cruise including daily menus and schedules of the onboard activities for the day. They did have a daily paper newsletter listing the activities as well.

cruise ship towel critter

towel elephant in our cabin

Each evening we came back to find a new towel animal in the room.

Misses on Holland America Oosterdam

There’s always a few things on any ship not to like, or that could be improved.

Open times for the ship’s shops were not posted at the stores or in the When & Where daily newsletter.

The ship has no self-serve guest laundries.

Doors on the showers and dressing rooms in gym/spa changing area are see-through glass rather than anything offering privacy.

There’s no oatmeal in serve yourself areas of the Lido buffet at breakfast. If you want any you have to wait to be served and it’s located at the middle of the most crowded station so it’s a long line.

There’s constant air blowing inside the cabin. You can adjust the temperature, but can’t turn the airflow off which means the sound is there day and night. This is an issue on a lot of ships, particularly older ones. They seem to have solved that problem on the newest ships I’ve sailed on.

cruise food

chicken dinner

The food on our cruise was not on par with what we’ve come to expect from Holland America. Food does vary from ship to ship and even on the same ship over time. It’s not that the food was bad, just the last time I’d been on Holland America the food was the best I’d ever had on a cruise ship and in comparison the food on this ship was a disappointment. One 0f the items on their everyday dinner menu said steelhead salmon, but steelhead is a sea run trout. So is it steelhead or is it salmon? The chef knew that was wrong yet nobody had ever changed the menus and we were there at the end of the season.

inside cabin

the curtain over nothing but wall makes the room feel smaller

Inside cabins have a curtain over a wall at the back of the cabin, trying to give it the look of a window. What that curtain actually does is make the room seem smaller. Some ships have a mirror on the back wall of inside cabins, which make the room feel bigger.

cruise ship life ring

life ring

Yes I realize most of the misses are minor and petty, but it’s a hits and misses blog so there have to be some misses.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
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Kodiak Cruise Ship Port

Kodiak cruise port

Westerdam in Kodiak

Kodiak is one of Alaska’s lesser visited cruise ports with just a few mostly smaller cruise ships visiting each summer. Because of this the port currently remains as it was before cruise ships came to town rather than having the near port shopping area taken over by the typical cruise ship shops found at all the frequently visited ports like you see in Ketchikan and Juneau.

Kodiak map

map of Kodiak, Alaska

Less frequented ports don’t have dedicated cruise ship docks. In Kodiak ships dock at City Dock II, about a kilometer south of town. Kodiak’s main economy derives from the sea, mostly in the form of fishing. Government jobs are second in importance to the economy with the largest Coast Guard facility in the USA located there. Tourism comes in third for the island’s economy.

Kodiak cruise port

crab pots stacked near the ship

The pier where the ships dock is at Fishermens Terminal with a row of canneries between the dock and town so it wasn’t surprising that a heavy smell of fish hung about the port. There’s a bit of a flat parking area between the road and the ship. Land on the other side of the road rises nearly straight up in the form of windmill-topped Pillar Mountain. One of our dinner mates on Holland America Westerdam climbed Pillar Mountain, though not directly straight up from the ship. There’s a road winding up the mountain and he found a trail off the road somewhere.

Kodiak, Alaska

docking at Fishermens Terminal

The town provided school busses which were used both for ship’s excursions and as shuttles into town for those who didn’t want to walk there. It’s a pretty easy walk into town on mostly level ground. Besides shopping and food there are a few tourist attractions including the boat harbor, an old Russian church, a few museums, a visitor’s center, and a wildlife center, all near to each other.

visitor's center in Kodiak

Kodiak Visitor’s Center

There’s also trails and an aquarium on the other side of a bridge. Fort Abercrombie State Park has trails too, but at over 4 miles out the opposite side of town from the cruise dock it’s too far for most cruise ship passengers to walk there and back and still have time for hiking around in the time available during their port stop. The shuttle let people out by the visitor’s center. It had walking maps of the town, people to answer questions, and tours available to book.

cruise ship tour by school bus

Kodiak uses school busses for cruise ship tours

Kodiak has mild coastal weather which is often wet and cloudy. At an average of 68 inches of precipitation annually it is much drier than Ketchikan’s average of about 150.

Kodiak, Alaska

walking from the ship to town in Kodiak

Kodiak was originally occupied by Alutiiq people who lived in small villages on the island until the Russians settled there in the late 1700’s mainly for fur trading. After trapping sea otters nearly to extinction Russia sold Alaska to the USA and fishing replaced sea otters as Kodiak’s main economy.

Kodiak, Alaska

sign by the dock at Kodiak boat harbor

The biggest volcanic eruption of the 20th century covered Kodiak in nearly 2 feet of ash in 1912. During World War II the USA built military installments on the island. One naval base became the coast guard station in 1972. Forts Greely and Abercrombie are historic now.


lighthouse at Kodiak boat harbor

A tsunami from an earthquake in 1964 damaged or destroyed much of the town’s commercial infrastructure, but the people rebuilt and the fishing industry rebounded. Disaster struck again in the form of the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, which did significant environmental damage that took years for the area to recover from, and for fishing to return to pre-spill catch levels.

Kodiak Russian museum

Baranov Museum in Kodiak

Kodiak hasn’t seen much cruise ship traffic in the past with just a few ships a month during the summer, but expects to triple that starting in summer 2019. Townsfolk voiced concern over balancing keeping the integrity of their town while servicing the expected increase in tourism.

Kodiak, Alaska

Kodiak boat harbor and houses

Excursions offered from our ship included a scenic drive, Kodiak highlights with stops at museums and Fort Abercrombie, sightseeing with afternoon tea at the Russian church, a walk through the harbor, a walk through town with tasting stops at various eateries, a hike at Fort Abercrombie State Park, and a couple wildlife watching cruises.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Alaska, Holland America, Ports of Call, USA, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Surprisingly Good Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are delicious with or without oatmeal, so what makes this recipe so surprising? Carrots, that’s what. Carrots are quite sweet and over half the sugar from the original recipe in an ancient cookbook has been replaced by carrots in this version, yet they taste surprisingly delicious and not at all like carrots. Coconut helps too, which besides being sweet has replaced half the original recipe’s fat making these cookies that much less unhealthy. If you want the carrots to blend unseen into the dough you could boil and mash them instead of just shredding them. While unpeeled carrots are fine for savory dishes, when used for sweetening they work much better without it because the peel kind of has an earthy taste.

oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe

Surprisingly Good Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


3/4 cup finely shredded peeled carrots

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

1 cup flaked coconut

2 cups old fashioned oats

8 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips


Heat oven to 375 degrees F

Cream butter, add sugar and beat until thoroughly blended. Mix in finely shredded carrots. Beat in egg and vanilla. Blend in soda and salt, then add flour. Stir in coconut and oatmeal by hand, followed by chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonfuls or round into balls and place on greased or ungreased pan. Bake 12-14 minutes until cookie centers are set. Cookies retain the shape they start with, they do not flatten or spread as they bake so flatten them down to the height you want.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
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Food on Holland America Veendam

Holland America Veendam

Veendam in Costa Maya, Mexico

Cruise food varies greatly from line to line, even from ship to ship on the same line. Sometimes it even varies from one sailing to the next on the same ship. Menus change over time. Sometimes they change due to the itinerary. Other times it’s the same menu, but the food just tastes better on one ship than another, particularly when a ship has a superior chef and galley crew.

fancy cruise ship tacos

not your average taco

Dining room food on the Veendam was generally quite good. Sometimes excellent like the bean tacos they served one night as a port-inspired option on the menu of a cruise with two stops in Mexico. The tasty food was quite a relief. We weren’t sure what to expect after the food on the Oosterdam last time we sailed with Holland America didn’t quite live up to their usual high standards. Especially not the best cruise food ever standard set by the Veendam several years back on a trip out of Boston.

cruise ship burger

Where’s the chicken?

There’s a few things not up to par though. We tried the Dive-In poolside grill one day. After a 15 minute wait for the chicken breast sandwich because that’s how long they said it takes to cook, when said sandwich came I thought they forgot to put the chicken in it. I had to open the bun and look inside to find the tiny piece of chicken hidden there. More like a chicken tender sandwich, breasts are much bigger. The good news is they do have gluten free buns on request. The bad news if you’re gluten free is that they coat their French fries in flour “to make them crispy” and have no uncoated ones available.

cruise ship taco bar

taco bar on the Veendam pool deck

There’s a taco bar next to the Dive-In, which is one of the few places serve-yourself food is available. Throughout much of the buffet you have to wait for someone behind the counter to get things for you, which really stuffs up the line. The taco bar has taco shells, chips, tortillas, and a variety of things to put on them so people can have all sorts of do-it-yourself Mexican food options. The food is good, but the set-up is a bit weird because all the toppings are next to the chips and taco shells and all the meats and beans and things down at the far end. So you have to either get things out of order or go back and forth, which works fine when nobody else is there, but not so much if there’s a line.


gluten free pizza

Gluten free options are available for the asking in a lot of places. Besides the buns at the burger place, the buffet has gluten free bread options, and the pizza place has gluten free pizza crust. All of the pizzas are made to order so you have to wait for it to cook regardless of whether ordering gluten free or regular pizza crust. The good news is you get the toppings of your choice and a hot fresh pizza. The bad news is you get a whole pizza even if you really only wanted one slice, and the gluten free one seems to take longer to bake.

fruit plate

the fruit plate is always a dessert option for dining room dinners

In addition to all the complimentary food options, the Veendam does have some pay-extra eateries. Holland America ships all have the upscale Pinnacle Grill. At dinner time a portion of the Lido buffet gets converted to their Italian restaurant, Canaletto. They also had a café with things like premium coffee and some goodies in the Explorer’s Lounge. I don’t really have anything to say about them because we didn’t eat at any of those places on our Veendam Caribbean cruise.

cruise ship pasta

pasta shells in the dining room

You don’t have to go to the Italian place to get pasta. There’s always pasta options on the dinner menu and in the buffet.


double surf no turf

The dining room is willing to alter things from what the menu says. For instance if you just want a meat that is offered, but not the side dishes it comes with, you can have that meat with something else on the side. Or if the menu has surf and turf and you just want surf or turf, but not both, you can order one without the other.

cruise ship dessert

there’s always fancy desserts to top off a cruise ship meal

Lunch and dinner options change daily at both the buffet and in the dining room. Overall the ship has a pretty good variety of tasty food.

cruise ship dinner

pork dinner in the dining room

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Cruise Food, Holland America, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Double Glacier Visit to Glacier Bay

cruise ship in Glacier Bay

Westerdam at Johns Hopkins Glacier

In a span of just a few hundred years Glacier Bay went from a fertile valley where native Tlingit people lived in the 1600’s with the Grand Pacific Glacier on high mountain ridges above the valley to completely buried in ice to filled with water. During the Little Ice Age this glacier surged across the landscape covering everything in its path in ice up to 4000 feet thick. In the early 1700’s the glacier reached its peak with a terminal moraine jutting out into icy strait. By the time the first European explorers came with Great Britian’s Captain George Vancouver in 1791 the glacier had retreated 5 miles back into its own newly dug bay. The face of the glacier was an impressive 20 miles across at that time. Just 85 years later when John Muir came by in 1879 the glacier had already retreated another 26 feet back into the bay that hadn’t existed before its mighty surge.

Glacier Bay map

arm of Glacier Bay visited by our ship

Glacier Bay of today is vast national park covering over 5000 miles with a network of fjords and glaciers. The many fjords create over 700 miles of shoreline with inlets leading to a variety of mostly tidewater glaciers. Some of the park’s glaciers are no longer tidewater glaciers, having retreated to the point that they no longer reach the sea. Cruise ships head over 65 miles from the mouth of the bay and up Tarr Inlet before reaching Margerie Glacier, one of the most active glaciers in the park. The ship passes by inlets terminating in other glaciers along the way. The remains of the unglorious and now not so Grand Pacific Glacier that dug the bay in its mighty surge sits in a mostly unnoticed grey flow down the hill next to the blue and white of Margerie Glacier.

Glacier Bay

The little gray bit that looks something like a road coming down the mountain to the right of Margerie Glacier is what remains of Grand Pacific Glacier whose surge and retreat created Glacier Bay

Previously on a cruise to Glacier Bay on this very ship (the Westerdam) we went just to Margerie Glacier, but this cruise we went to Johns Hopkins Glacier as well, which someone said the ships could only get to very late in the season. This time we came in October, past the normal Alaska cruise ship season which usually ends in September.

seal in Glacier Bay

seal on ice near Margerie Glacier

On the way into Glacier Bay the ship picks up rangers much the same way they pick up or drop off pilots coming and going from port – that is from another boat without stopping or going to shore. The rangers spot wildlife and provide narration and education throughout the journey through Glacier Bay, which can be heard in the Crows Nest Lounge observation room or on the outside portion of the Promenade Deck. I went up to the Crows nest to see the Rangers on the off chance one of them might be a former 4-H kid from back when I used to be leader of a 4-H horse club, who is now a forest ranger stationed in Alaska. He wasn’t there, but the ones who were there knew him and said they’d deliver a note.

Holland America's pea soup

Crew member serving pea soup on the Westerdam

Our ship first went to Margerie Glacier. Here they served their traditional pea soup, which Holland America ships always have on glacier day on Alaskan cruises, but which I had not tried before this cruise. They open up the big deck 4 bow for scenic cruise times such as glacier watching, which is where they serve the soup.

Westerdam in Glacier Bay

passengers on the bow near Grand Pacific Glacier

They also open up small bows on decks 5, 6, and 7 on ships of the Westerdam’s class, which is where I usually go for glacier watching. Far less people know those decks are open since they rarely announce it so there isn’t such a crowd. This time we went to the deck 4 bow for Margerie Glacier so I had a chance to try the pea soup, which tasted delicious, and helped to warm me up a bit for the short time it took to eat it.

Margerie Glacier 2018 and 2013

Margerie Glacier 2018 on the left and 2013 on the right

I packed long johns this time because on past cruises I’ve always wished I had them for glacier watching. This time I was definitely glad I wore them, but it was so cold a ski mask might have been nice too. Margerie Glacier seemed smaller than I remember it from several years ago. Most glaciers are in recession these days. Possibly it also looked smaller to me because the last glacier we saw prior to this cruise was the far more impressive Hubbard. Comparing pictures from this trip to the previous one though, it does look like a bite has been taken out of either side of the face of the glacier now where it was straight across on the last visit and most of the black area was gone.


cormorants on a bergy bit

On the way into Margerie Glacier we saw a seal sitting on a bit of  ice. Also lots of seagulls, an eagle, and one bergy bit full of cormorants. A bergy bit is a very small iceberg – perhaps a bit of what was once a larger iceberg.

Margerie Glacier

reflections of Margerie Glacier

After doing a slow full spin at Margerie so everyone on board regardless of where they chose to glacier watch had a chance for a view the ship moved on to Johns Hopkins Glacier. The day warmed up by then and it was actually quite pleasant outside with long johns and a jacket, though the position of the sun in regards to the glacier made it hard to get good pictures there.

Johns Hopkins Glacier

Johns Hopkins Glacier through an opening near the bow of the promenade deck

It probably also helped that I didn’t go out in time to get a good position on any bow so I went to the promenade deck instead, which had plenty of room to stand by the rail and watch the glacier calve a few ice bergs with a loud crackle. The promenade deck is a bit more protected than the open bow, especially from wind caused by ship movement. Hardly anyone went there so I had great views and lots of options of where to stand and see the glacier.

Johns Hopkins Glacier

ice caves in Johns Hopkins Glacier

Johns Hopkins Glacier was bigger than Margerie. It had an ice berg sitting out in front of it that was big enough to be grounded in the area between ship and glacier rather than floating like the many smaller bergy bits. The glacier had a whiter half and a dirtier half, the dirty part of which had a couple ice caves at the waterline.

Gilman Glacier

Gilman Glacier

The face of the far smaller Gilman Glacier sits right next to Johns Hopkins and calved far more actively than its larger neighbor while we were there.

glacier watching in comfort

all the view and none of the cold – glacier watching from the spa (Gilman and Johns Hopkins Glaciers)

One advantage of having purchased the thermal suite this cruise is the view from the heated ceramic chairs. We went up there for a bit while still in glacier bay and saw the tail end of our time at Johns Hopkins as well as seeing a few more glaciers along the way as the ship traveled back toward the mouth of the bay.

Johns Hopkins Glacier

Johns Hopkins Glacier

More Glacier Blogs

Baird Glacier
Endicott Arm
Glacier Bay
Hubbard Glacier

typical glacier bay cruise route

we went farther down the inlet to Johns Hopkins Glacier than what this map shows.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Alaska, Holland America, USA, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dinner At The Captain’s Table

captain's table

the captain’s table set up for dinner

In the afternoon of the first formal night on Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas we found an invitation in our cabin to eat at the Captain’s Table that night. Of course we responded yes. We’d never been invited to a captain’s table before, nor actually even realized it was a thing. Maybe it’s not on the other lines we’ve sailed on, or maybe we’ve just never had the honor of receiving an invitation before. Even the staff captain that we had dinner with had no idea who they would choose or why, though I assume special invites are most likely extended to suite guests, high rollers at the casino, and people high in their loyalty program, of which we are none. Sometimes being a cruise ship blogger has its perks.

captain's table

even the napkins are special at the captain’s table – and resemble a shirt and jacket

Our dinner at a large circular table at the center of the main floor of a 3-tiered dining room consisted of 4 invited couples, Staff Captain Luther Bradley Olson, and Chief Safety Officer Ivan Ramirez Villaneuva. Seating was assigned by little name cards set at each chair. We sat next to the captain, who was a very nice guy. The chief safety officer was at the far end of a very large table so we never got a chance to talk to him. The staff captain is the second in command of the entire vessel. Besides being in charge of all the ship’s employees, he is also responsible for docking the ship. Hierarchy must not be the same on all cruise lines because some ships we have sailed on said the ship’s captain docked the ship. When underway it is usually the officer of the watch driving – though more likely than not it’s actually the autopilot.

Captain's table menu

menu from the Captain’s table

Although some of the crew like stateroom stewards often work 9 months straight before having any time off, the staff captain said his hitches ran 10 weeks on and 10 weeks off. He could have his wife on board if he wanted, but said she had a life of her own on shore and didn’t stay on the ship with him all the time. The cruise director was traveling with his wife and young daughter though so family privileges extended farther than just the bridge staff. Originally from Canada, the staff captain now lives in the USA, in the same general region where we do. My husband found lots to talk to him about since they both enjoy fishing.

captain;s table

people at the Captain’s table

The meal had a special menu separate from what everyone else in the dining room ate that night. We got to keep the menus as a souvenir. They also took a photo of everyone at the table from the deck above and gave one to each of the attendees. The food was superb, the best food we ate in the entire cruise.


goat cheese soufflé and salad

captains table appetizer

pan seared scallops

After an extra little starter the appetizer course had three choices, a goat cheese soufflé, scallops, or a Caesar salad. I chose the soufflé and John went with the scallops.

dinner at the captain's table

roulade of chicken

The main course offered 4 choices, a fillet of beef, fillet of salmon, roulade of chicken, or stuffed avocado. We both went with the chicken.

captain's table dessert

dessert at the captain’s table

Dessert was a generous portion of banana, oreo chocolate mousse with salted caramel and wild berries. It’s an honor to get invited to the captain’s table and we quite enjoyed the dinner as well as the company.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019


Posted in Cruise Food, Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Décor on Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic cruise ship

Carnival Magic

Each cruise ship has its own unique décor. On Carnival décor ranges from the way out there over the top décor of the Splendor to the does it really have any décor of the Vista. The Magic has décor to suit it’s name. Things seen throughout the ship are fun, vibrant, sparkly, bright, or in some instances magical.

magical decor

lights throughout the Magic’s atrium constantly change colors

When entering a ship for the first time, often the atrium is the first thing passengers see since the gangway at initial boarding often leads there. The atrium on the Magic is mostly decorated with color changing lights, which give it somewhat of a magical feel. Actually a lot of the décor throughout the ship is done with lights.

magical hallway

it’s only fitting that a hallway on the Magic is named Lower Magical Way

Some of the artwork on the ship depicts magical type scenes, and there’s even a place called Lower Magical Way.

magical casino

Hat Trick Casino…where they make passengers’ money disappear

The casino too fits the magic theme with the name Hat Trick Casino and sparkly décor that includes a rabbit in a hat.

stairway art on the Magic

stairway art (with reflections of nearby lights)

Wall accents around the ship are green and sparkly, and match the green of the lights in areas where they don’t change color. Stairways have fun and bright artwork, some of which includes birds or beachy scenes.

colorful hallway walls

hallway art in a cabin area

Hallways between passenger cabins also have brightly colored artwork in sort of a patchwork quilt style with the patterns repeating down the hallway and toucans and other birds in some of the patches.

weird cruise ship art

there are some rather odd paintings

Some of the ship’s artwork is a bit strange.

cruise ship dining room

some of the dining room décor is done with lights

Many bars, restaurants, and other public places each have their own décor unique to that space on this ship. Following with the theme of the ship, some of those areas also use lights within the décor of the space.

Red Frog Pub

Red Frog Pub on Carnival Magic looks the same as on other Carnival ships

Places such as the Red Frog Pub or Guy’s Burger Joint that are found on multiple ships have similar décor on each ship on which you find them rather than fitting in with the theme of individual ships.

cruise ship theater

lights are part of the décor here in the Spotlight Lounge as well as in the main theater

Overall the Magic has a happy and fun vibe both in the décor and the ship itself.

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Victoria Cruise Ship Port

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria cruise ship port

Emerald Princess in Victoria taken from the deck of the Oosterdam

Canada’s southernmost city and British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, sits at the south end of Vancouver Island on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Cruise ships sailing out of Seattle pass through the straight on their way in and out of port. Since Alaska is part of the USA and ships without USA registry and crew – which is nearly all cruise ships – can’t do a completely domestic cruise, Victoria is pretty much a mandatory port stop for Seattle to Alaska cruises. Most ships make late evening stops there, arriving around dinner time and leaving near midnight.

Empress Hotel

Empress Hotel

As one of the oldest cities in the pacific northwest, Victoria has lots of historic buildings and the second oldest Chinatown in north America. Both of Victoria’s most famous buildings, the Empress Hotel and the parliament buildings, sit near the inner harbor. If you arrive by seaplane, Victoria Clipper, or the Coho Ferry from Port Angeles you disembark in the inner harbor, but the cruise ship docks are out at Ogden Point, not in town. It is within walking distance if you don’t mind a bit of a hike, or passengers can take shuttle busses or taxies from the port. Fisherman’s Wharf is a closer walk than the inner harbor, or it can be a stop along the way when taking the seaside path. It’s also a stop for the Harbour Ferries which can take people to town when the ferries are running.

Victoria from the outer harbour

view from the Oosterdam of Victoria and the seawall walk along the breakwater at Victoria Harbour

There’s not a lot right at the cruise ship dock, but there is a seawall walk with a lighthouse at the end.

Lighthouse in Victoria

lighthouse at the end of the seawall

Victoria has a mild climate with average winter lows in the high 30’s and average summer highs in the high 60’s (Fahrenheit). It has the least rain of anywhere on British Columbia’s coast due to the rain shadow effect of Washington State’s Olympic Mountains.

map of Victoria BC

map of Victoria with walking routes from the cruise terminal

Victoria has a lot more to do than can be done in the average cruise ship visit. Since the ships usually come in fairly late some things are closed or too far to get to by public transportation in the available time. Booking an excursion through the ship is often the way to go if there is something specific you want to see or do there, particularly if it is far from town like Butchart Gardens or only open at that time for booked excursions as is often the case for tea at the Empress Hotel. You do not need to book an excursion to see the Empress from the outside, or to walk around inside and visit the shops. Some other shops around town stay open at least through the earlier evening hours and it’s easy enough to get to town for people who just want to look around on their own with the shuttles and taxis at the port for anyone who doesn’t want to walk into town.

castle on Vancouver Island

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria BC, Canada

Cruise Ship Excursions in Victoria

Excursions offered by cruise ships visiting Victoria include a walking tour, Butchart & Butterfly gardens, city highlights, museums, lighthouse, whale watching, parliament buildings, high tea, horse-drawn carriage tour, Craigdarroch Castle & brewery tours.

Victoria Parliament Building

Parliament Building in Victoria

More Blogs About Victoria

Craigdarroch CastleVictoria Harbour FerriesPort Stop in VictoriaPrincess in Victoria

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019


Posted in Canada, Holland America, Oosterdam, Port Cities, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment


Juneau, Alaska

Juneau cruise ship dock

Westerdam in Juneau

Alaska’s capital, Juneau, located along the Gastineau Channel of Alaska’s panhandle, is accessible only by boat or plane. Although there are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of the state, cars can come and go by ferry on Alaska’s Marine Highway system which has ferry service all the way from Bellingham, Washington, along Alaska’s mainland coast, and on to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Juneau tour booths

last minute tour booths on the dock in Juneau

Juneau is a very popular cruise ship port with dock space for 4 ships and sometimes more anchored offshore and tendering passengers in. Holland America ships dock right in the heart of the tourist area of town at the base of Mount Roberts near the lower tram station. Princess has a dock a short walk away on a waterfront boardwalk, and the other dock just outside of town provides shuttle service bringing passengers who don’t wish to walk into town straight to the area near the tram station where they can find transportation to Mendenhall Glacier as well as a number of other things to do at all the little booths set up there when cruise ships come to town. Options often include things like whale watching and kayaking.

Juneau sign

welcome to Juneau sign

Juneau gets its name from early settler Joe Juneau, a gold prospector from Quebec who was the first prospector to find gold there along with his partner Richard Harris under the guidance of Chief Kowee in 1880. The settlement was first called Rockwell, then Harrisburg before finally settling on the name Juneau.

Red Dog Saloon

Juneau’s famous Red Dog Saloon

The first known European recorded in the area is Joseph Whidbey during George Vancouver’s explorations in 1794. After viewing the Gastineau Channel from the west and the south in August he proclaimed it too full of ice for ships. The channel looks quite different now without the ice and has plenty of traffic from cruise ships that would dwarf their sailboats.


street in Juneau

Original occupants of the area came from the Auke and Taku tribes, ancestors of the modern-day Tlingit found there today. Although Russia had settlements in Alaska from 1784 to 1867, they never settled in the Juneau area. People of European descent came after the discovery of gold. Their mining village becoming the first American settlement after the USA purchased Alaska from Russia. Though the Russians hadn’t settled there and Russia no longer owned Alaska, the Russian Orthodox Church came at the request of the Tlingits who had converted to that religion in other regions of Alaska during the time of Russian occupation.

Alaska Fudge

making fudge in the Alaska Fudge store in Juneau

Juneau became the capital in 1906 when the decline of the fur trade made the former capital of Sitka less important. Juneau was the largest city in Alaska for a time, but Anchorage is the biggest now.

Juneau boardwalk

decoration in the boardwalk

Juneau’s climate is mild by Alaskan standards with average lows of 23 °F (−5 °C) in January and highs of 65 °F (18.3 °C) in July. It’s quite wet with the precipitation averaging rain or snow on 230 days a year. Snowfall comes mainly from September to March. Spring is the driest time of year and September and October the wettest. The government is Juneau’s biggest employer, but tourism and fishing also contribute a large portion of the economy.

Mount Roberts Tram

Mount Roberts Tram in Juneau

The most popular things to do on port stops in Juneau are visit Mendenhall Glacier and take the tram to the top of Mount Roberts, but there are numerous other options whether booking excursions through the ship or finding a last minute tour in one of the booths at the port.

juneau map

Juneau walking map

Passengers who just want to walk about town can get maps at the visitor’s center or print one out in advance so they know where to find the main attractions in town. There’s a boardwalk along the shore that runs from the Princess dock to well beyond the Holland America dock. Shops near the docks cater to cruise ship passengers selling mainly souvenirs, jewelry, and t-shirts. There’s plenty of pubs and eateries as well. It’s not too far of a stroll to find a drugstore for anyone in need of a few sundries at a better price than what they can find on the ship.

Juneau boardwalk

boardwalk in Juneau

The last ships of the season won’t find as many options for things to do at the booths. Only 3 were open when we came in early October. Where the late season ships get the advantage is in the shops that close once the cruise season is over. They all have some heavily discounted merchandise with some of it available at less than half the original price.

Juneau crab shack

crab shack in Juneau

There’s a crab shack on the dock right near the ship and it’s only a block or so to walk to the ever popular Red Dog Saloon where their house drink is called a duck fart. The saloon has old-time seaside décor and a sawdust floor. It also has a gift shop.

Juneau sign

Juneau map sign on the dock

Whether strolling through town or visiting nature there’s enough to see in Juneau that repeat visitors could do something different each time or go back to their favorite places.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

More Blogs About Juneau

Juneau Cruise Ship Port
Glacier Gardens
Mendenhall Glacier 2013
Mendenhall Glacier 2016
Mount Roberts Tramway
Mount Roberts Tram on a Stormy Day
At the Top of Mount Roberts Tram
River Raft

Posted in Alaska, Holland America, Port Cities, Ports of Call, USA, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Fold a Giant Towel Alligator

Towel Alligator

On our last cruise on Holland America Westerdam life sized giant alligators joined the towel animal invasion on the Lido deck one morning. It takes a lot of towels to make one of these alligators, but of course on a cruise ship finding lots of matching towels is not really a problem. Not so much for me, but I made one anyway out of mismatched bath towels.

towel alligator

giant alligator made from beach towels on the Westerdam

Supplies Needed to Make a Life-Sized Towel Alligator

6 Beach or Bath Towels

Googly Eyes or Paper Eyes

Small Towel Animal

Giant Towel Alligator Folding Instructions

making towel alligator legs

lay towel out flat, fold over edges of long sides an roll from one short end to the other

Lay one bath towel out flat. Fold both long sides over an inch or two on top of the towel. Start rolling from one short end and keep rolling until the entire towel is rolled. Repeat with a second towel.

towel alligator legs

the rolled towel stands in an arch to make one pair of alligator legs

When you are ready to assemble the alligator these two towels will stand up like arches to form the legs.

how to make towel animals

Tightly roll the far side of the towel on both ends.

Take one bath towel and find the center of one long side. Tuck the center bit under your chin, hang it on a peg, or have someone hold it for you. Roll in both sides at the same time making sure to work your hands up and down the rolls to get them as tight as you can.

free towel animal instructions

Underside of the rolled towel

Keep rolling and until the entire towel is rolled down both sides. To watch a video where you can see a cabin steward fold a towel this way click here for a video where a steward makes a small crocodile. Repeat with two more towels. One will form the tail and the other two the head.

making a towel alligator

assembling 4 towels into the alligator’s head, body, and tail

Lay the last towel out flat. Place the two head towels on one end with the pointed ends away from the flat towel. Place the tail towel on the other side of the flat towel with the pointed end hanging out the opposite way. Wrap the flat towel around the wide ends of the other three towels to make the alligator’s body.

making a towel alligator

roll the last towel around the head and tail towels

Place one leg towel under the front of the alligator’s body standing on both ends like an arch to support the head and front half of the body. Place the other leg towel at the back end of the body to support the tail and back half of the alligator’s body.

towel alligator

finished towel alligator made with bath towels eating a small snake made from a hand towel

Tuck in any loose ends and shape body, head, and tail as desired. Add eyes to the head. Make any small towel animal desired and place between the two head towels so it is in the alligator’s mouth. Holland America’s alligator at the top of the page has a bird. Ducks are a good choice if you want a bird because they take just one towel. My alligator is eating a little snake. Snakes also take just one towel and are very easy to make.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

For instructions on how to fold other towel animals see My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

Posted in Holland America, Towel Animals, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments