Embark on a Once-in-a-Lifetime Fairytale Journey

By Marie McHugh

Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage.
Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage.
A destination like no other, a trip to Alaska on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam delivers unique experiences, unexpected delights and unparalleled beauty, displaying both the grandeur and fragility of nature.

As Holland America Line’s Koningsdam effortlessly glided away from the dock, I was mentally ticking off another ‘must do’ on my bucket list. Sailing to Alaska had been a dream for me for many years, and it was finally happening. This cruise of Alaska’s Inside Passage encompassed islands, coves, bays, national parks and fjords, allowing us to visit remote towns only accessible by boat or plane.  I found my balcony cabin, where natural light and fresh air poured in through the sliding doors. The balcony looked like a perfect spot to sit with friends or just chill out and daydream. I popped up to the Lido Market, and after enjoying delicious scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, headed off to explore.

Every meal onboard ship is a culinary experience to be savoured.

Spoilt for choice

Navigator app in hand, I discovered an array of enticing restaurants plus a couple of cafés – the Explorations Café and the Grand Dutch Café. (And, if I felt like just ‘cocooning’ in my cabin, 24/7 room service is also available.)

I checked out the Greenhouse Spa and salon, fitness centre and casino. Having walked enough steps to feel virtuous, I headed back to the Grand Dutch Café for a specialty coffee and a Bossche Bol, the most sinful cream-filled, chocolate-covered profiterole.    

For dinner, I tried pan-Asian Tamarind, featuring food from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Vietnam. I chose Lobster and Shrimp Potstickers with pickled ginger for a starter. My main meal was a Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken with Crispy Lotus, Wok-Seared Vegetables and Roasted Peanuts. Yuzu Cheesecake with Honey Tuile and White Chocolate was a perfect end to a sumptuous meal. 

Next day, after wallowing in the pool adjacent to the spa, I decided on a Biotec facial promising to ‘illuminate my complexion and restore it to a youthful, refined and naturally translucent state’. The experience was relaxing and serene and my skin felt wonderful.  On my way back from the spa, I was intrigued to spot a photo of Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, Godmother to the Koningsdam. All the Holland America Line ships have godmothers and they proudly launch them on their maiden voyages.

The Alaskan capital of Juneau.

Unreal adventures

Next day, the ship docked at Juneau, the Alaskan capital. After exploring the many shops and bars in the narrow streets, my friend and I took the Five Glacier Seaplane Exploration. The plane flew over the Tongass National Forest, where we caught our first exhilarating glimpse of a glacier – part of the 1,500 square mile Juneau ice field. There are 36 named glaciers comprising the ice field, the Taku Glacier being the largest. It was a truly breathtaking experience, and reminded me of both the grandeur and fragility of nature.

Other adventures on offer out of Juneau included whale watching, biking, dog sledding, sea kayaking, gold panning, Juneau culinary walk, salmon fishing and a canoe adventure.

That evening, an open alder wood fire set among tall trees, fairy lights adorning the trees and gentle folk music welcomed us to an Alaskan Salmon Bake. As well as the salmon, there were salads, reindeer sausage, cheesy au gratin potatoes and cornbread. A stroll through the woods to toast marshmallows over a campfire was followed by a walk along Salmon Creek to a stunning waterfall.

From Juneau, the ship sailed north to Skagway. The town’s population is barely more than 1,000, however it was an important port during the Klondike Gold Rush, now offering zip lining, a wilderness odyssey and a horse riding adventure.

Boarding the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, it felt like we’d travelled back in time to 1898, when 35,000 men were put to work for two years building the railway from Skagway and Whitehorse in Canada, with 35 losing their lives in the process. As we travelled in our vintage rail cars, our guide shared with us more of the story of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Historic Ketchikan boasts a boardwalk with enticing shops and restaurants.

A natural laboratory

Next day the ship ventured into Glacier Bay, and to my mind, there’d be few places on earth as beautiful. This national park is a United Nations biosphere reserve and a World Heritage site.

Just 250 years ago, Glacier Bay was a massive river of ice, roughly 160km long, occupying the entire bay. Today that glacier has gone, having retreated north.

Seven smaller tidewater glaciers remain, including the 34km-long Margerie Glacier, which was breathtaking in its splendour.

Glacier Bay attracts scientists, preservationists and travellers from around the world, a natural laboratory where nature can teach and enlighten. 

The next day, we sailed into the delightful town of Ketchikan, with its small, individually owned shops. This pretty town on the water’s edge, surrounded by mountains, reminded me of a place in a storybook. This fairytale of a trip was near its end.

I vowed to return.

Keeping an eye out for local wildlife.


Holland America Line now offers more ways to see Alaska wildlife than ever before. With the guidance of onboard wildlife experts and National Park Service Rangers, you could see humpback whales breaching or bubble-net feeding, sea lions chilling on rocks, bald eagles and seabirds flying overhead, otters gliding through icy waters, bears fishing for salmon and even some cute little puffins.




Photography: Michel Verdure.


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