Greetings from the starboard side of the Oosterdam and our grand obstructed view. Yes, the floor to ceiling windows in the stateroom are on the same deck as the emergency life boats. But no fear, our priority was to have the means of seeing the most of Alaska, not necessarily to partake in the usual cruise ship shenanigans, though as I write this I am feeling a pang of regret for not heading to the Vista Lounge to watch the illusionist show. We skimped on the stateroom but booked pretty high budget tour options. And though I am a savvy, self-sufficient travel, it’d be a bit irresponsible to not to take advantage of expert guides with tremendous local knowledge, especially when dealing with the Alaskan wild. And we have lucked out with amazing tours and guides. Sure, tourism is an important industry in these ports. But the guides are naturalists and educators that are passionate about what they do. They love Alaska. And their job is to show others why.
This trip has been chockfull of spectacular experiences. (I haven’t been writing much because, unfortunately, the ship’s internet pricing options are pretty darn high and I am so pooped by the end the day.) I’ve sailed through the pristine waters of Glacier Bay National Park–a place of unparalleled beauty–with a front row to several gorgeous glaciers. I’ve seen eagles, hawks, and other wild life. I’ve paddled to Glacier Point to walk to the gaping mouth of the Davidson Glacier in Haines, hearing the dramatic (and kind of heartbreaking) thunder of its calving. And today, I witnessed two Humpback Whale breaches in Juneau, and a variety of other Humpback Whale behaviors (bubble net feeding, chin slapping) from a group of 5-8 Humpbacks. And though our helicopter tour was cancelled due to weather conditions and I’m set to complete my final excursion in Ketchikan tomorrow (snorkeling in Alaska!), I am already fully satisfied by all this trip has shown me. And I am convinced that a one-way cruise is the best way to see Alaska for the first time. Now, where should I go the next time in Alaska? Perhaps back to Juneau.
Though Juneau was home to the Tlingit tribe for hundreds of years, Juneau’s Gold Rush roots boomed the area, beginning its history as Juneau; it has only been a state of the United States since 1959; it’s an island, for all intents and purposes, as it is not accessible by vehicle in any direction; it’s a rain forest (!), and it’s the current capital city of the state of Alaska. Today, we arrived in the mist and fog to see just a tiny slither of what the city has to offer.
The Humpback Whales are star attractions in Juneau, with thousands of visitors watching them in their mostly summer home. Starting in May, these beautiful mammals swim back to Juneau’ s waters after birthing their calves in the warm waters of Hawaii. They come to Alaska to eat a lot, like me kind of. Here are the better shots I took on my afternoon with the whales. Pardon the low resolution, these have been cropped significantly.
Then there were these two handsome eagles. They are too cool for school.
Since the helicopter tour was cancelled, I had some time to fill. I was delighted to learn that there were a couple of vegan options available in Juneau, one being a pecan and raisin French toast. Yes! And this dish was only a short walk away from where the big boat was docked. I headed out in the pouring rain to arrive at Sandpiper Café drenched. No biggie. All’s fair in vegan option reporting.
The delicious all-vegan pecan and raisin French Toast. Great service and a damn good vegan option. Thanks, Juneau!
Next, I walked back across to downtown. It is important to note that there are two downtowns in Juneau, Alaska. One that is open during the summer months that caters to cruise shippers. This one is a ghost town during the year, though GPS-tracked wolves have been recorded to hang about the port. This next vegan option, a falafel burger, is in one of the real downtown eateries called Rockwell. But, alas, what would have been my to-go order was unavailable at the time of my visit. Phooey!
Well, I had my vegan meal order already on the boat. So I might as well dine on the boat. First course was a repeat: The Mezze Plate, garlic-packed Baba ghanoush, garlic-packed chickpea hummus, stuffed grape leaves and tabouleh salad, served with warm Pita bread. This is my favorite appetizer on the boat. Next, the Spicy Lentil and Garbanzo Salad, served over Boston leaf lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onion rings, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. Followed by an entrée salad of avocado, citrus and mixed greens with a sherry vinaigrette. And that ol’ plate of fruit. Though I appreciate vegan considerations on board, each dish seems to be a few tweaks away from being really good. I’ll be honest when I say that I expected more.
I first ate at Chicago Diner in 1999 when I was driving cross country to settle in Seattle, Washington. Though I am not 100% sure I picked up this menu at that time, it’s all I got to remember this early visit.
Before I blogged about food, before they had labeling decided, and before Daiya… before they were Chicago Vegan Foods, I enjoyed Chicago Soydairy.
Teese in 2008 during the Boston Vegetarian Food Fesrival.
After several days at sea it was very exciting to disembark finally. The first port was Haines, Alaska, a sleepy, small city (number of graduating high school seniors in 2015: sixteen) with plenty of natural beauty and wildlife. The kind of stuff people come to Alaska for. The port only gets one cruise ship a week during the summer tourist season, in contrast to nearby Skagway–which gets 4 cruise vessels a day. Upon our arrival it was a bustle of tour pick-ups. Its location makes it an ideal stop. Haines is located on the Chilkat Peninsula on the other side of Glacier Bay National Park, sharing some glacier spillover in its borders. Though the breathtaking views of the Lamplugh, Johns Hopkins, and Margerie glaciers that maxed out my camera’s memory card will be forver ingrained in my memory, Haines would allow me a more intimate experience with a glacier. So let’s get going.
To start our adventure, we headed out on an expedition boat into North America’s deepest fjord, through the Chilkat inlet next to the Chilkat mountain range. Next, we geared up and boarded a large voyager canoe for a quick paddle to Glacier Point, at the face of the stunning Davidson Glacier.
Glacier’s really throw off your sense of scale, both distance and size. As I admired the Davidson Glacier from across the water, it seemed to be right there, a very short distance away. But it was over a mile away. Catching sight of its amazing turquoise cave, I was sure it was just a small chip in the glacier face. But the cave, whose pictures are completely untouched I must stress, the gorgeous, bright blue cave—quite possibly the most gorgeous part of the natural world I’ve ever seen—was no small chip. It was 60 feet wide. (!) The pictures below track its gape as I walked towards it. And I’ve included others to show the human scale—people and the voyager canoes—to show the mighty glacier’s size.
The Chilkat Range
On the way back towards our expedition boat, I spotted a hawk. This would be the first hawk I’d see today.
The boat ride back to the bigger boat. I did enhance this one a bit to better show the rainbow.
Back near the cruise ship, one of many totems in Haines.
A quick lunch back on the boat. I was happy to see Vietnamese options at the buffet. And pearl cous cous.
The second adventure would be also be very memorable, rounding out a fantastic day off the ship. We headed to Kroschel Wildlife Center–a sanctuary, a film shoot, a wildlife information center, a study in Alaskan folk art and design: the life’s work of naturist “hillbilly” Steve Kroschel, a true Alaskan character who’s worked with wild animals since he was a boy—with film and television credits to boot. He and Mario, the bearded benevolent man in many of my pictures to follow, do a tremendous service by providing care to orphaned animals while entertaining their way into the hearts and heads of all who visit. Both Steve and Mario are the voice of the furry residents who live on the premises.
Wolves played a key role in eliminating certain diseases. But populations are decreasing drastically.
Mario and his hawk.
A black Red Fox, yes.
Another beautiful fox.
A breathtaking Lynx.
Look at those paws.
Yes, a Lynx kitten. One of two taken in. They were survivors of a wild fire. The fire fighters said to just leave them there.
Makes me miss my buddies at home.
A pretty darn cool porcupine vegging out.
The vicious weasel.
The first moose I’ve seen in Alaska!
Beautiful velvet-horned reindeer…
…who I got to feed.
and what a treat to see a wolverine! Thee most vicious carnivore of all.
And my first Grizzly Bear. This girl’s mother was accidentally killed by a hunter who did not know she was a momma with two cubs. Here she feeds on primate biscuits, made mostly of baboon.
What an amazing opportunity to see this very special place!
My awesome keepsake from the Kroschel Wildlife Center, a felt bear mesh hat crafted by hilarious tour guide bus driver Joe. He has a website if you want one yourself!
And finally, my dinner for this evening:
A sushi roll ￼filled with cucumber, red pimento and green pepper rolled in toasted sesame seeds, served with soy sauce. (missing ginger garnish)
A roasted Butternut Squash Soup, a thin soup ￼with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. (missing cranberry drizzle)
Sweet and Sour Vegetable Tempura–Crispy fried and served with a chili sauce and steamed jasmine rice. This was a lot of fried-ness.
And my dessert option… as always, a fruit plate.
Goodnight from Alaska! Much more tomorrow…
58° 51.55’ N
Mezze Plate: Baba ghanoush, chickpea hummus, stuffed grape leaves and tabbouleh salad, served with warm Pita bread.
Pasta Fagioli: Flavorful tomato broth cooked with beans and vegetables and whole wheat pasta, seasoned with Italian herbs.
Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Kebob: Served over brown pilaf rice with almonds, drizzled with tomato-basil confit.
A variety of breakfasts—Breakfast is always tough in omni establishments. Here is some of what I have been eating in the morning.
Bagel with jam, sliced banana, soymilk
Mixed fruit, Rice Krispies & Cheerios and soymilk
Toast with jam and peanut butter and sweet & “regular” potatoes
58° 13.04’ N
136° 31.45’ W
Today was our only day at sea without Alaskan scenery, not counting the glorious expanse of lapping waves that we are riding on. It was a day to explore the ship, to relax, to eat. The cruise seems far less booked than the other cruises I have done in my life. And the older crowd means it is far less annoying, socially. [Young people perform too much.] This means many parts of the ship, like the pool and the hot tub, are free and clear of people.
Lunch time buffet at the Lido Deck is really the best option for some sustenance. A seeded roll surrounded by an orzo salad, a quinoa (which Ma’am remembers how to say by this equation: Katy Keene + Joaquin Phoenix) with cranberry, potatoes, and a mango and kiwi fruit salad. And another taco from the taco bar.
Even with a full itinerary available, veg-out mode can really kill your motivation. We did go to the Indonesian tea & sweet treat tasting, mostly because I wanted to eat sweet rice, fried banana, and other such sweet things.
Vegan Dinner in the Vista Dining Room On Holland America’s Oosterdam
During my cruise I will have the opportunity to taste all of the vegan options on Holland America’s vegetarian menu. Tonight’s dinner started with some pretty standard Vietnamese Spring Rolls. They were good, but left a little bit of an oily puddle on the plate, garnished with browning frisse.
Soup course: The Asian Noodle Soup—a hint of lime and ginger and garnished with straw mushrooms, bean sprouts, rice noodles, vegetables and finished with coconut milk. A nice addition to my Asian-inspired vegan dinner selections.
My entrée, Pad Thai Noodles: Yummy pile of glass noodle with flavorful bites of eggplant, green onions, peanuts, tofu and bean sprouts. The portion was tremendous.
Tonight was a “formal” night on the boat and my opportunity to honor the addition of my 49th state to my… neck. My crafted vintage puzzle piece necklace got some compliments from fellow cruise-goers while confusing others.
Another day on the Oosterdam and I’m beat. And it looks like this towel thingy needs to use the rest room.
Tomorrow we enter Glacier Bay. So I’m hitting the hay early to not miss a moment of the glacier viewing. Goodnight from the Oosterdam.
58° 41.98’ N
140° 12.77’ W
We woke up with some goals. There were some cruise clarifications that were pretty important. Then there was breakfast, the sometimes-unattainable meal for a traveling vegan. And requisite basking in the breathtaking beauty of Alaska, the Last Frontier.
For breakfast, a local favorite, Snow City Café, which has the honor of being voted the best breakfast in Alaska… and V.V.’s first breakfast in Alaska.
There were a lot of folks in Snow City’s downtown location. Though many were surely from the adjacent high-rise hotels, there were also locals. The young, hip staff had a great energy. Add in some vegan options and boom! Some gal from New York is in there taking pictures of her food. The bakery case was stocked with saran-wrapped baked goodies, but the only “vegan” was this sign. I was sorry to miss the opportunity to try their treats.
For breakfast: a lime and srichacha cubed tofu scramble with veggies, a rectangular patty of hash brown that was the thing of dreams, and a side of some fresh fruit. The scramble was flavor-packed and delicious. I devoured it, leaving a spotless plate and a sustenated smile. Breakfast success in Anchorage. If only I could have a sweet bite…
After some “to do”s we were reserved on a cruise transfer bus to Seward, Alaska, where our ship was docked and waiting. But there was a bit of time to explore downtown Anchorage before departure. We headed to the weekend market, a flea market of Alaska-proud crafts and eats. I was shocked to catch the v-bomb during the perusing! Such things are usually my own lead. But it is totally exciting to stumble upon it. Yes, Anchorage does have a vegan sweet bite. It’s Sweet Herbivore.
They had several flavors of all-vegan cupcakes, including Cocoa’ccino, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Sweet Potato Maple, and, my selection, Classic Birthday.
I’m a happy vegan in Anchorage.
On board the coach bus, we got great views on the way over to Seward. We followed the Alaska Railroad for a bit of time, looking out on the sifting tide of the Turnagain Arm and its glacier silt “sand,” which is pretty dangerous to walk on apparently.
We watched the train set model hills catch the potent sun and the dead tree forest.
And, once on the Kenai Peninsula, the gorgeous Kenai Lake with its clean, bright tropical hues. What do you call a color like this anyway?
After about 2 and a half hours, we were in Seward, Alaska. We explored downtown under the blaring bright sun and the backdrop of the majestic Kenai Fjords.
There was a vegan sandwich option and vegan treats (unlabeled, so ask) at Sea Bean. I got myself a Cookie Tart.
After a walk back to the pier, which took long because of the mesmerizing Fjords, we passed the end line for the Alaska Railroad and returned to our ship where, hopefully, our luggage was waiting in our stateroom.
Once boarded and embarked, I had the chance to eat some vegan eats on my Holland America cruise. A salad of random things at the buffet, notably an avocado mango and hearts of palm salad, pickled veggies, and some fresh cut fruit. It was nothing spectacular but did provide some satisfaction. The salad dressings were suspect. I used walnut oil and sherry vinegar along with salt and pepper.
I also made two yummy tacos for the Lido Deck buffet. Black beans, lettuce, pineapple salsa, and pico de gallo, along with a glob of guacamole.
It was dinner on evening one I was most worried about back home. You can order from the labeled vegan / vegetarian menu for the night after for during the cruise. But on this first evening, I was assured I’d be accommodated even though there was no way to make a selection the evening before. But alas, there were no options for me in the main dining room. The Maître D seemed amused by it all but managed to ask the kitchen to throw together something. Disappointed, I ate cut fruit and garlic green beans & carrots with white rice for dinner while Ma’am ate a sophisticated gourmet meal. I am not sure what the use in submitting a special meal request form was?
Oh well. I made my vegan selections for the next evening and we were ready to hit the hay after a really long day. But first, a quick peek out on the deck of the moon, the Gulf of Alaska and the passing scenery in the still of the night. It is going to be hard to mess this up.
On the way to Alaska, finally!
We spent most of the day traveling. Here are some of the pictures I took from the air… because there was no food around.
Constellations on land.
The land is organized in neat patchwork, dotted with the clouds shadows.
I was excited to catch this rainbow halo around our plane’s shadow. I looked it up on the interweb to find out it had a name: a Glory. It was pretty spectacular. It has to do with water droplets and the sun. Here are a few of the many pictures I took, convinced I was witnessing some celestial occurrence.
Entering Alaska. The paint by number mountain view.
Food, finally. Organic Oasis in Anchorage promised an easy vegan meal, with options clearly labeled. We were famished upon arrival. So it was an ideal stop.
The tabouleh salad for starts. This was a welcome fresh bite, filled with herbs. Vegan Thousands Island dressing (Vegenaise-based) on the side was kind of a random choice but it did brighten it up a bit.
My entree, the Hula Burger–a pretty massive tempeh slab topped with a delicious mango pineapple salsa, lettuce, sprouts, bell pepper, red onion, tomato & vegan mayo on a soft, toasted bun. A bit wet but I annihilated it.
Lots to love here.
And c’mon. I’ll definitely have to partake in some vegan cake. I opted for the carrot cake.
It was very moist and delicious.
That’s all we have the moxy for tonight, Alaska. More tomorrow, for sure.
That’s right, Vegetable Balls. They are made of… no, not plastic but chickpeas, kale, peppers, sweet corn, peas, onions, turnips, pea starch, canola oil, black pepper, sage, bay leaves, and salt. Yep, the vegetable balls are all vegetable.
The ample serving of balls (10!) come with over-cooked veggies and a cauliflower and sweet potato sauce, all for less than $5. Super values are Ikea’s thing.
How’d they taste? Pretty darn good considering… you’re at a furniture store and you’re paying less than $5. Pretty darn good indeed! Thank you, Ikea, for embracing a new food philosophy and shifting towards more sustainable options. I have to admit, I always wanted an option in your eatery.
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