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By Jack M. Turner

Photos By John C. Turner


    We departed from Kirkland before 8:00am and trekked north to Everett for a tour of the Boeing aircraft factory.   Our 90 minute tour began at the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center with a brief orientation film that connected the dots between the sea exploration of the area by George Vancouver and the speed of today's transoceanic jet travel by Boeing aircraft.  Visitors soon boarded busses to be shuttled to a corner of Paine Field where Boeing jets are constructed in the world's largest building in terms of volume.   En route we passed the first two new wide body Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets to be completed.  Both were awaiting clearance to conduct test flights sometime in the next few weeks.  Inside the facility we paraded down a long tunnel below the factory floor then took an elevator to the first of four elevated viewing areas where we would witness the assembly of new 747, 767, 777, and 787 jets.  Our informative tour guide explained the assembly process which moves an individual aircraft along the width of the building as it advances to each stage of the assembly process.  During this process the wings are attached to the fuselage at one assembly station, the engines are attached at the next, and other items are connected before the final step whereby interior work and avionics are integrated.  Many of these components are shipped in by rail including the fuselage which makes an interesting sight as it travels along the train tracks atop a special flat car.  A BNSF branch line runs right to the building and, at the end of the tour, we viewed a pair of BNSF locomotives departing after making a delivery.  

    The star of the show was the 787 Dreamliner, a state of the art jet which includes the use of composite materials in the construction of the aircraft body.  New features like larger windows in which pull down shades have been replaced by a device that allows the passenger to adjust window tint as desired have been incorporated to make long distance travel more palatable.  Five of the new 787 jets were on the production line in various stages of assembly when we visited.  Following completion they will move to a nearby building where paint will be applied in the colors of the purchasing airlines.  While four Boeing production lines for four aircraft models take place in the Everett plant, other popular Boeing jets are constructed in nearby Renton, Washington.  For information and reservations for Boeing factory tours, visit

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The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner poses in front of the assembly hangar at the Boeing factory in Everett, WA.  Photo courtesy of the Boeing Company.
The first 787 is pulled into the Boeing factory.  Photo courtesy of the Boeing Company.
Visitors view aircraft production from elevated viewing areas.  Photo courtesy of the Boeing Company.
Aerial view of the massive Boeing facility where several models of jets are assembled.  Public tours cover several parts of this facility. Photo courtesy of the Boeing Company.

    After the tour we made our way south 25 miles to Seattle, turned in our rented van, and were dropped off at the cruise terminal to embark on Holland America Line's elegant Westerdam.  After a leisurely lunch in the ship's buffet restaurant, we made our way to our stateroom on the Upper Promenade deck.  Our stateroom featured a wonderful queen sized bed with a sleep inducing pillowtop mattress, a pullout sofa bed, bathroom with tub, television set with a DVD player, and a private verandah for enjoying the scenery.  Over an hour before sailing out of Seattle, our luggage was delivered to the stateroom which provided time to unpack before heading on deck to watch the Seattle skyline recede in the distance.  While the Space Needle dominated the city skyline, another feature, snow capped Mt. Rainier, loomed in the background as we soaked up another beautiful sun splashed day in the Pacific Northwest.


Seattle's skyline seen from the stern of Holland America's Westerdam
A sailboat passes behind our ship in Elliott Bay
A Washington State ferry glides across Puget Sound behind Westerdam
One of many container ships seen during our journey north

Our stateroom aboard Westerdam
After dinner each evening the cabin stewards left the next day's program and folded towel art on the freshly made bed
Towel art from another evening
Our awesome cabin stewards Heru and Hasto were upbeat and helpful throughout the cruise

    As the Westerdam glided across the waters of Puget Sound, we made our way to the Upper Vista Dining Room for our first dinner of the cruise.  Here we met our dinner companions for the week, Ray from Wisconsin, and Lonnie and Mae from Texas.  When booking a Holland America cruise, guests are asked for dining preferences including first, second, or open dinner seating and table size.  We were assigned the requested early seating, generally at 5:30pm and liked the table location and our tablemates.  One of the advantages of a set dining time is that the same servers wait on your table each night.  Our lead server, Budi, was an affable resident of The Philipines and by the second day he was accustomed to our preferences as we each found a glass of iced tea waiting when we arrived at our table.  Meals in the Upper (and Lower) Vista Dining Room come in courses starting with the appetizer, followed by a soup or salad, entree, and dessert.  There typically were at least three choices for each of the first two courses while five or six entree and dessert options were the norm.  By the end of the week it was observed that we didn't know there were so many food choices as the same items seldom appeared on more than one night's menu.

Dressed for dinner on one of the formal nights
Casual nights typically occurred on days when the ship was in port
The Upper Vista Dining Room
Our amazing server Budi holds a dinner menu on a special theme night

One of our dinner entrees
Another dinner entree

The third dinner entree

    Following dinner each night we made our way to the Vista Lounge for the nightly show.  These ranged from song and dance shows to comedy shows, to a fast paced musical show by Delisco, a young man who won a television talent show and resulting Las Vegas contract three years earlier.  In other night spots aboard Westerdam we enjoyed music by a variety of other singers and bands that was perfect for dancing.  One night a 1950s style sock hop was held in the Queen's Lounge.  Cooking shows, a karyoke contest, feature movies, an Internet cafe, and a disco lounge were available to entertain guests. 

The Ocean Bar where nightly piano music was played
One of the featured entertainers, Delisco, won a televised talent show three years ago and subsequent million dollar Las Vegas contract

Members of the ship's crew are introduced in the Vista Lounge

    Christine and I elected to dine each morning in the Lower Vista Dining Room  while John preferred to have a room service breakfast.   Since open seating is the rule for breakfast and lunch, we shared a table at these meals with a variety of people from around the world.  We found the food to be delicious and the choices plentiful.  The Lido Restaurant buffet was open for all meals as well as off-hours snacks which was convenient for satisfying the appetite after the shows.  Another fine dining option was the Pinnacle Grill which is on a reservation basis for a cover charge.  For a change of pace we dined there one night and found the cuisine to be outstanding.  The filet mignon that I ordered was cooked to perfection and seemed to melt in my mouth while Christine and John found their meals equally delicious.

The Lido Restaurant where buffet meals and snacks are available throughout the day.  This serene view was possible as only half of the restaurant was in use late at night.
The Pinnacle Grill where five star dining is the rule

    Westerdam also features the full service Greenhouse Spa and Salon where we enjoyed a wonderful frangipani scalp and shoulder massage during one of our days at sea.  The spa and salon offer a wide array of services including a variety of massage treatments, beauty salon services and facials.  On the ship's top deck we found the Crow's Nest which contains reclining seats and forward facing windows overlooking the bow of the ship.  The effect is much like riding a railroad dome car.  Nearby the Explorations Cafe offers Internet access and a coffee bar.

Glass elevators at mid-ship allow a view of the outside scenery during the trip between decks

The Crow's Nest offers comfortable seating and a forward view similar to a railroad dome car

Explorations Cafe where Internet access and a coffee bar await

    The second day of the cruise was spent at sea as Westerdam sailed off the coast of British Columbia and southeast Alaska.  This was a great day to explore the ship and catch up from 10 days of intense travel.  Late that night the ship proceeded up Chatham Strait to Icy Strait.  By mid-morning on the third day we entered Glacier Bay which is actually a national park.  The first recorded visit to Glacier Bay was by a crew from Captain George Vancouver's exploration ship in 1794.  At the time thick walls of ice blocked passage deep into the bay.  However, by the late 1800s the glacier had retreated over 50 miles opening up what today is known as Glacier Bay.  The bay stretches for 65 miles and covers 3.3 million acres. 

Glacier Bay features many rocky scenes
Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay
Waters near the entrance of Glacier Bay turn from blue to an emerald tint indicative of glacier fed water

Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay

The first glacier viewed close up from our ship
Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay

This glacier is known as a tidewater glacier as it stretches all the way to the bay

    At one point early in our journey into Glacier Bay we observed a distinct line where the waters turned from sea blue to emerald green reflecting the effect of glacial minerals.  For the duration of this day Westerdam cruised at reduced speed through these pristine waters for close up views of Reid, Lamplugh, Johns Hopkins, Margerie, and Grand Pacific glaciers, snow covered mountains, and other scenic spendors. 

A waterfall emerges from the bottom of this glacier
Another view of the waterfall
Glacier Bay
Ice strewn Glacier Bay

The zig-zag pattern of this glacier is seen from the deck of Westerdam
Holland America's Statendam emerges from one of Glacier Bay's inlets

Statendam prepares to enter the inlet that Westerdam just visited.  Westerdam is clearly larger than Statendam which is pictured here.
Evidence of a glacier that has receded

Glacier Bay

Dirt and rocks picked up by the glacier's travels are visible at the left side of this glacier
Westerdam idled near this glacier for excellent views from all angles
Passengers view the glacier from the bow of the ship.  Multiple other vantage points allowed many options for watching the scenery during our day in Glacier Bay.

Viewing Glacier Bay from the bow

    Our first port was visited the next day as the ship docked at Juneau, the capital of Alaska which straddles Gastineau Channel.  This city of 31,000 residents is located near the point where Lynn Canal meets the Stephens Passage along Alaska's panhandle.  The city is only a few blocks wide, separated from Canada by a range of mountains that make Juneau accessible only by sea or air.  While many passengers set out on excursions to Mendenhall Glacier or whale watching tours, we participated in a unique tour to a dogsled camp on nearby Douglas Island.  There we learned about the training of the teams of 16 dogs that participate in the Iditerod each winter.  The teams housed at this camp actually train by pulling wheeled carts carrying 8 passengers on a mile long dirt course and we found the ride exciting as the team pulled our cart up the curved trail then downhill.  This tour was an experience that will remain in our memories for a long time.  A tremendous variety of tours to suit any taste are offered to Holland America guests at all Alaskan ports.

Juneau's downtown shopping district

A placid stream at the dogsled camp on Douglas Island

The view from our front seats on the dogsled

Our dog team takes a break during the mile long run

John holds a future member of an Iditerod team

An historic photo of early dogsledding which was on rails

Departing Juneau
The Inside Passage south of Juneau

    The next day brought us to Sitka, a small community of 8,900 on Baranof Island.  Sitka displays its Russian heritage everywhere with a Russian Orthodox church dominating the scene.  Strolling its main street and browsing in its variety of shops was a pleasant activity.  Our ship anchored in the harbor with tenders shuttling passengers ashore and the setting was beautiful as numerous small islands dotted the harbor's north end with the town on the southern shore.  Other guests took tours that ranged from sea kayaking, mountain biking, and salmon fishing, to a combination ocean raft/4x4 tour to the Mt. Edgecumbe volcano.

This sign greeted us upon arrival at the Sitka dock
St. Michael's Cathedral, Sitka
Another view of St. Michael's Cathedral
Inside St. Michael's Cathedral

Interior of St. Michael's Cathedral
One of many fishing boats seen at Sitka

Westerdam anchored in Crescent Bay off Sitka
An Alaska Airlines jet approaches the Sitka airport as seen from our verandah. The runway extends into the bay prompting a person we spoke with to state "It is unnerving."

Sunset south of Sitka

The moon is nearly full as Westerdam cruises south of Sitka

The dessert extravaganza held one night on the pool deck

    The following morning was spent in Ketchikan where we visited Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Totem Park which both have impressive totem pole displays reflecting the work of the Tglingit indians who were native to the region.  The remainder of our time in this port was spent visiting a few shops and walking along historic Creek Street.

Totem Bight Park, north of Ketchikan
A Tglingit lodge at Totem Bight Park

Bald eagle at Totem Bight Park

Saxman Totem Park south of downtown Ketchikan

Creek Street, a famous entertainment district in Ketchikan
Departing Ketchikan
A fishing trawler passes near Ketchikan

Sunset off the coast of British Columbia

    Following another day at sea, Westerdam made an evening call at its final port, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  A British double-decker bus picked us up for the 45 minute drive to Butchart Gardens.  En route the driver gave us a tour of downtown and we viewed the province's parliament buildings, the elegant Empress Hotel built by Canadian Pacific Railway, and the diminutive VIA Rail Canada station that serves the Malahat Dayliner to Courtenay.  Christine and I rode that train during the summer of 1988 and would have done so again had we been spending time in Victoria.  

    Butchart Gardens was as beautiful as we remembered from our visit in 1988.  The 55 acre gardens were built on the site of an old rock quarry and today feature hundreds of varieties of flowers representing every color of the spectrum.  There was a massive crowd at the gardens as a fireworks show is conducted after dark; by coincidence this was July 4th so Americans in the crowd were delighted.  The fireworks display was magnificent as it was set to symphony music which gave those sitting on the lakeside lawn a visual and audio treat.

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens

Boat harbor at Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens
Firework and pyrotechnic show at Butchart Gardens
Firework and pyrotechnic show at Butchart Gardens

The parliament building is illuminated in downtown Victoria

    Shortly after midnight we were back aboard the ship for the overnight sailing to Seattle.  In the morning we had time for a leisurely breakfast before our disembarkation.  Passage through US Customs was much quicker than that experienced by rail travelers and soon we were on our way to the same Avis car rental location as the prior week to pick up another minivan.  Our cruise exceeded even our loftiest expectation and we highly recommend Holland America Line.  It is worth noting that rail options exist in Alaska as cruises that call at Skagway can be coupled with an excursion on the White Pass & Yukon Railway while one way cruises can be combined with scenic trips on the Alaska Railroad between Seward and Anchorage and between Anchorage and Fairbanks via Denali National Park.  Exclusive Holland America cars operate on the latter train during the cruise season.  Information about Holland America ships and itineraries can be found online at