The weather gods were with us and the Gulf of Alaska was on good behavior. Visibility was not that great as we could not see the Fairweather Mountain Range but there was hardly any wind and only low swell. There is something brewing in the South East but at the moment it looks like that it will come over the area after we have returned to Glacier Bay in three days from now. Today we only had to contend with the occasional rain shower and confused seas. There were waves from the South and low running swells from the South East and South West. As a result the ship did not roll or pitch it just moved a bit on occasion and not even that much. Still it was enough for some guests to complain about it. Not unusual. While we are sailing in Alaska we always have a higher number of brand new cruise guests who make their first cruise ever……………………… and still believe that a ship with stabilizers will never move, whatever the weather. On our TransCanal cruises we managed to have some times 1100 Mariners on board, this cruise we just barely made 502 altogether. That number included however at least 4 700 days medallion holders (one couple with well over a 1000) and that made up a bit for the balance. They just came to see if Alaska was still Alaska and yes it is.
Today was filled with the last day activities, crew farewell, Mariners Lunch and the all important last minute laundry and packing. Most of our guests will go into the interior from Seward and that necessitates careful thinking about what to pack and what to hand carry. The luggage travels separate from the guest on the bus and catches up at the first hotel stop. To get that right we have a very extensive and detailed schedule made up that will be the standard for the whole season. During our last call San Diego we had the Shore Operations Manager from Seward on board to talk things through so that all parties are on the same page. That includes me, as I have to adjust my arrival times to be in synch with the luggage offloading.
That means tomorrow morning a very early arrival. Pilot pick up at 04.00; first line one hour later and luggage starting no later than 05.30. First guests will be leaving at 06.30 with the last ones around 1 pm. The first new guests will arrive at the ship at around 11.30 am so there will be a period that there are leaving and arriving guests on board at the same time. In this port the ship is basically acting as a regular hotel with people coming and going all day long. That has to do with the fact we use the same buses and trains twice. When we arrive the busses and a train are waiting for the disembarking guests and later the new guests will arrive on the return trip. The whole operation is running like clockwork, based on long time experience. Every year there are a few more tours that give a different slant on the whole thing but the basic pattern remains the same.
It started long time ago with the ss Rotterdam (V) which went to Seward for the first time in 1986. Compared to now that was very primitive. We carried on the bow our own luggage conveyor belts, we used school buses in addition to the Westours busses and we did not have any Glass Dome cars yet. Also what the company could offer in the interior was quite limited compared to what we can now. The hotels have been greatly expanded, there are more of them, and the number of additional attractions has increased 10 fold. Varying from cruises on Ptarmigan Lake, to a gold dredge, nature reserves, wildlife centres and with tours now reaching the top of Alaska where the Alaskan oil pipe starts. Since we are now one happy family under the Carnival umbrella, we run a lot of things in conjunction with Princess. As matter of fact the Alaskan land operation of Holland America and Princess now operates as one organization. Although we keep things separated to the extent that HAL guests do not travel in a Princess bus and vice versa.
The weather for tomorrow looks good. Overcast, small chance of rain and no wind on arrival. I will be able to let the Statendam just drift into the berth. I will have to stop on the inch though, so the luggage conveyor will fit in the ship. More about that tomorrow.