General Info on Yukon Tour
We spent three nights in Victoria prior to embarking on a thirteen night Holland America Cruise-Tour of the Yukon. Cruise-Tour #3 can be viewed here.
The Zuiderdam was enjoyable – good service, many balconies (ours even had a tub), food better than I expected in the dining room. Meal times were very short. We missed lunch the first day because we didn’t pay attention to our daily schedule. The pool grill or room service then become your only options. The buffet food was typical – mass prepared early and kept warm but there were lots of choices, including their renowned Bread Pudding that it served at every lunch. The room service menu was quite limited and took about ½ hour to arrive. Since this ship cruises Alaska, the main pool had a retractable dome and all pools were heated. I found the dress very casual on the Alaska cruise. On formal night very few gowns or tuxedos were seen – cocktail dresses and sport jackets were the norm.
A disappointment was the quiet nights – hardly and gamblers, no one danced anywhere, the shows were mediocre and the musicians and singers in the small rooms took lots of breaks and for more than a few minutes – a half hour at a time - usually causing the few guests to slowly dissipate. This was probably due to the early morning arrival in ports with so much to do. Excursions started at 7AM and on cruising at sea days, one wanted to be on deck at 5AM to see the whales feeding – so I guess that means "early to bed".
The Yukon is a vast territory – distances between towns are long – translating into lots of time on coaches. Our tour guide and driver guides were young, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, well trained, informative and best of all – entertaining. We learned about bears, eagles, forest fires, glaciers, saw a Gold Rush movie, were entertained with jokes, juggling, singing and poetry – all excellent…..Guess I was really impressed !!...It did make the trip go by quickly. The driver guides do a commentary whenever we travel past something of interest – Ours happened to have a major in theatre Arts – Such an actor – Added enjoyment for sure.
The Holland America coaches are new for 2007 – very comfortable. First of all they are decorated with paintings of animals – moose, bear or eagle in shades of blue, green or yellow. It’s easy to pick out which coach is yours when at a tourist stop. All have leather reclining seats with footrest, drink holder and head phones. Unobstructed views for everyone through large windows. They are equipped with "new technology" see-through shades to filter the sun or to shade the reflection especially welcomed when watching the drop down TV’s and bathrooms are appreciated on trips as long as these. Frequent stops are made every couple of hours to stretch your legs, have a snack or lunch, Kodak moments and even for the "compulsory" gift shop stops.
These were somewhat of a surprise to me…..Not that I hadn’t read about it….It’s right in the brochures – "we will provide the best accommodations possible in the areas that we visit"…….In Anchorage and Fairbanks we had lovely hotels – Marriotts – that were located in the center of town, walking distance to all that you needed, but in the smaller towns like Tok, Skagway and Dawson City, they were really motels in need of updated décor. You had all that you need – coffee maker, alarm clock, TV, Safe, iron and board and they were clean, but the look was 50’s……Dark carpeting, heavy draperies and flowered spreads – even if they were brand new as in Dawson City. We have become accustomed to clean duvet covers for each new guest. Even in Denali Park, the resort is beautiful, but we were accommodated in the older section of the resort which needs renovations. The new buildings are lovely.
As mentioned previously, food aboard the Zuiderdam was better than expected. Once the tour starts, you have a choice of a meal plan – not recommended, even by Holland America - (surprised me) – unless you are one that needs "peace of mind" to know where you will be dining each night – on this plan you will be eating in the hotel every night. The meal plan included breakfast and dinner daily. We always chose to eat in town, rather than at the hotel. There were always choices within walking distance. In the smaller towns, dining is very casual. You’ll be hard pressed to find tablecloths, candlelight or flowers – It’ll be more like formica tables, forever lasting flowers and home cooked food. The larger cities have the more formal dining options.
Do I recommend it??? Yes…There is so much to be appreciated about the stamina of the people at that time – and the desperation to get a piece of that "gold". No travelers complained about anything – even when we had meals that were not so appetizing – see picture…. The scenery is beyond belief and the tour well organized. There are so many different transportation experiences - Cruise ship, Narrow gauge rail, Catamaran, luxury coaches, school bus in Denali Park and luxury domed trains. We went to Follies Show, panned for gold, Visited old fashioned towns, the Denali Park excursion and so much more and all is included in the Cruise Tour price. There is no way that one could do it so economically or well planned on their own. Early July is probably the best time to go – We went on August third and it was already starting to get cooler – Colors were starting to change – which was great…and they even predicted snow one night – but it didn’t happen. Princess Cruise Tours also followed us to wherever we went – they are certainly comparable – their hotel in Denali is nicer. I’d choose whichever one was the better value.