Sailing with Holland America Line to Alaska feels a bit like the fashionable “like a local” focus that has become so popular these days. A bit deeper and more ingrained in what Holland America does up there though (as opposed to the 20-something backpacking adventure slackers that are just now discovering “Wow, local is cool”), the 100+ year-old cruise line has been working at it for quite some time. Interestingly, that good hard work has resulted in a huge market presence making Holland America Line a top choice to visit the land of the midnight sun with. Throw in the efforts of sister-line Princess Cruises and between the two of them they take more people there than all others combined. Still, when I visited not long ago, the very best moments of the journey were just that: moments. Minutes of time spent enraptured with the natural beauty of the place. Seconds in the air enjoying the view from a float plane. A few breathtaking ticks of a clock as eagles soared overhead. I could (and probably should) go on and on about the great big wonderful things to see and do in Alaska but the very best moments of my latest Alaska adventure really did come from connecting locally, beginning in Seattle; a place I would truly like to live some day.
I came in town a few days before embarkation for the 7-day roundtrip Seattle sailing with a purpose. Preparing to cover Holland America Line’s Sip Savor Sail version of an Alaska cruise, I wanted to see a couple of the people that would be featured on the sailing, in their natural habitat.
Chef Jeff Maxfield is the Executive Chef of the revolving SkyCity restaurant at the top of the Seattle Space Needle, a structure every Grey’s Anatomy fan knows all too well. I had lunch with Chef Maxfield at his restaurant, discussing everything from the unique logistics of supplying a popular place to eat that sits hundreds of feet above ground to his love of fishing, something quite popular with the locals there.
Later, on Holland America Line’s ms Westerdam, Chef Maxfield would host a variety of events in the ship’s Culinary Arts Center Sponsored By Food & Wine Magazine, bringing his unique Seattle-based take on cuisine to a ship already keenly focused on all things food.
Frankly, I was surprised at the interesting combinations of local ingredients sourced by Maxfield for the SkyCity venue. Before dining there my thought was “This is a place where everyone goes once, the food is not the attraction.” But it was.
I have to say though, one of the most interesting moments in time came standing on top of the Space Needle. The view is simply spectacular.
On board Westerdam, it was Wild Stinging Nettle Soup that introduced Chef Maxfield’s unique perspective on Northwest cooking to passengers as we sailed toward Alaska. (Recipe here).
Stopping by Chateau St Michelle, head winemaker Bob Bertheau treated us to a unique tasting of his favorite vintages after we toured his facility, one of several in Washington state.
This was not new turf for me, having visited a number of winemaking facilities in Europe via destination-focused Viking River Cruises. But this was right here in the United States. Had I blinked, tapped my heels together a few times and made a wish, I would have thought I was in Bordeaux.
Sailing from the Port of Seattle? I highly recommend coming into town two or three days in advance of sailing. The Seattle Sheraton is a good, centrally-located place to stay too.
Visitors can walk just about anywhere in the city and finding a Starbucks is surely not going to get any easier than here; there really is one on every street corner. Cabs park out in front of the Sheraton 24 hours a day too and will take visitors anywhere they want to go.
Still, it was Holland America Line’s ms Westerdam that I came to see and see the ship I did along with the Port of Seattle where the ship plugs in, using electricity rather than running it’s diesel-burning engines while in port. That’s next as we continue to talk about what it is like to connect locally before, during and after sailing.