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Roderick Eime 14 November 2017

“Oh oh, here they come again,” says Ty, our skipper and fishing guide, “you’ll need to get your fish in nice and quick.”

This advice is not unusual for me. If we were fishing anywhere in the Kimberley or Top End back home, we’d be talking about ravenous reef sharks that would pounce on your hooked fish if you didn’t get it in the boat in 30 seconds.

Yet here in Ketchikan, Alaska, it’s not sharks we need to worry about. Poised expectantly just 20 metres off our stern, is the telltale dorsal fin of a very large killer whale.

Roderick Eime

While we’re delighted to see the magnificent animals up close, Ty is not. These highly intelligent marine mammals have worked out this fishing caper.

“They’ll hang at the back of the boat and as soon as you have a fish hooked up, they’re onto it,” says Ty with resignation, “and what’s more, they just bite off the body and leave you with the head and hook. Crafty critters.”

As it turns out we’re all going hungry. We catch just one undersize King Salmon between us after a couple hours, but we did get some free whalewatching.

Roderick Eime

This salmon fishing excursion in Ketchikan is just one of countless shoreside offerings throughout Holland America’s network of port calls as we cruise serenely through the placid channels of Alaska’s Inside Passage. We stop to ogle the great glaciers, keep an eye out for bears and moose while bald eagles wheel overhead.

During our stop in Juneau, I choose a thrilling hovercraft ride in a tiny 6-person machine. We skim across the water, mudflats and grassland as if it were nothing, all the way to the foot of the massive 56 kilometre long Taku Glacier.

In Sitka I opt for a calming kayak paddle around the quiet nooks and crannies away from the township and the milling passengers. Add helicopter flightseeing, floatplane adventures, dog-sledding, salmon fishing and sea kayaking and you have some idea of the scope of activity laid out for you when choosing what to do when you go ashore.

Roderick Eime

Getting out of the ports and onto an excursion is my idea of experiencing any destination. When the ship is in port here during the busy summer cruise season, around 2000 people from each ship, plus crew, are wandering the streets and retail strip clamouring for souvenirs. There’s quite a hustle and bustle along the frontier style shopping strip with everything from craft beer, faux fur coats and hats, gemstones and jewellry are being hawked in a style not unlike the enterprising merchants who “mined the miners” in the goldrush days, selling them everything from eggs at a dollar apiece to gold-sniffing gophers.

Roderick Eime

Holland America Line (HAL) now operates seven ships in Alaska and is by far the dominant cruise line there. The 49th state forms a large part of their marketing thrust, but once you’ve been aboard with HAL, it’s easy to see why so many diehard cruisers keep coming back. An envied reputation for dining, whether in the main dining or a specialty restaurant, quality entertainment and shows as well as cabins, suites and staterooms that other cruise lines are always trying to match, keeps HAL at the forefront of the cruise business.

HAL is now a familiar sight in Australian ports too, with ships sailing all around our coastal waters and over to New Zealand and the South Pacific. The Vista-class Ms Noordam (1924 pax) and Statendam-class ms Maasdam (1258 pax) are regular visitors, bringing HAL’s famous quality reputation right to our doorstep with most voyages either departing or arriving in Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland.

Holland America Line

Apart from that, there’s very little of the world left that is not visited by a HAL ship. You can find comprehensive itineraries throughout North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and all of the Pacific including Asia and Japan.

Here in Alaska, I’m aboard the ms Eurodam, HAL’s first Signature-class cruise ship which entered service in 2008. Carrying a maximum of 2104 guests, it recently received many updates, including new lounge, dining and entertainment venues, and completely refreshed suites.

Speciality dining venues such as Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto and Tamarind offer tantalising alternatives to the quality main Dining Room. Plus there are many ‘food court’ style venues like Dive-In burger bar and New York Pizza as well as the wide range on offer in the Lido Market buffet.

Holland America Line

Entertainment comes in rockin’ style at B.B. King's Blues Club or sophisticated classics on Lincoln Center Stage. The Main Stage is the venue for live, Broadway-style shows and performances.

Onboard activities include exclusive America’s Test Kitchen workshops, BBC Earth Experiences, computer classes, extensive Greenhouse Spa and salon facilities, as well as wine, beer and whisky tastings.

Kids (or grandkids) 3-17 have their own supervised activities and dedicated ‘Club HAL’.

Cabins, suites and staterooms range from the presidential-style, 126sqm Pinnacle suite through Verandah and Ocean View to Interior, all with quality bedding, bathtubs and flat panel TVs with on-demand programming.

Holland America Line

HAL’s New sailings for 2017-18 Australian season

The upcoming 2017-18 cruise season will offer 20 full voyages and 32 sectors.

32-day Australia and Pacific Explorer

Departing 17 November 2017 on ms Maasdam, this itinerary will see guests sail out of Melbourne before making calls in Hobart, Sydney and Auckland en route to the Pacific islands. On arrival in the South Pacific, the Maasdam will visit some of the region’s most beautiful ports in Tonga, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Samoa and Fiji.

South Australia and New Zealand Discovery

Departing 20 January from Sydney, ms Noordam will explore Australia’s south, with calls to Melbourne, Kangaroo Island, Port Arthur and Hobart to name a few. She will then venture across the Tasman for an extensive tour of New Zealand, starting in the south at Milford Sound and the Fiordland National Park, before heading up the east coast to Auckland via Port Chalmers, Akaroa, Wellington and Napier.