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Cruising the Alaskan coast: Where you can see bluest, cleanest and best

Time:2018-03-14 17:46wine - Red wine life health Click:

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Cruising Alaska's coast on Holland America.

Cruising Alaska's coast on Holland America. Photo: Supplied

Glacier Guy says it's not just the bluest, it's the cleanest and best-tasting water in the world. He insists I try it. So here I am, lying on my belly, on a glacier, in Alaska, face in the water, drinking from a chilled rivulet. And Glacier Guy (aka our tour guide, Ben) is right. It's like sipping invigoration.

This shore excursion off the ms Eurodam, docked today in Juneau, the first port on this Alaskan cruise, begins with a helicopter flight over spectacular and serene wilderness, above savage rock formations and across deep crevasses.

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We land on Mendenhall Glacier and Ben – who spends 12 hours a day on the frozen river during the Alaska cruise season – runs through a few facts and figures. He tells us the ice looks blue because blue light waves cannot penetrate the ice and bounce back to our eyes. He explains how glaciers are formed, their unstoppable, destructive paths and that this glacier moves between 8 and 46 centimetres a day, which is comparatively speedy in glacier world. Up close, the glacier is a dirty, jagged ice sheet and Ben picks up a pile of icy mud, crushed down from the original granite into a spongy compound by thousands of years of unimaginable pressure. He impresses the other guests by giving me a glacier silt facial and I immediately regret splashing him with glacier water. The particles are so fine it takes twenty minutes to scrub it off. Mendenhall Glacier is an immersive, other-worldly outing and all around us we hear it grinding as it moves and fractures beneath us. If you visit just one Alaskan glacier this year, make it Mendenhall.

Mendenhall Glacier, seen from the air, near Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier, seen from the air, near Juneau. Photo: Alamy

Other shore excursion options in Juneau include dog sledding, whale watching, rainforest treks, gold panning, kayaking, sea plane flyovers, salmon fishing and salmon bakes. Many passengers also pass through the swinging doors of the famous gold rush-era Red Dog Saloon with its dark, dingy vibe and sawdust floors. "Gents check your side-arms. Ladies welcome." Everyone returns to the ship raving about their day and dinner conversations are dominated by never-done–anything-like–that-before recollections.

Holland America Line's ms Eurodam had a major refit in 2015 and is in great nick. With a 2100 guest capacity, this is a mid-sized ship – smaller than the enormous floating cities but still with all the amenities you want on a top-end cruise. It feels just right. A Goldilocks ship. Wide decks, especially at the stern, prove very useful on this cruise of endlessly parading panoramas. The swimming pools are still in use, board shorts and bikinis in the foreground, snow-capped mountains in the distance.

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Eurodam's best features include the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, which comes with ocean views and whales breaching in the distance during my treatment, the excellent Club HAL for kids aged three to 17 and the foodie lectures and workshops (salmon, of course) run along the lines of the popular TV-show, America's Test Kitchen. The entertainment options are headlined by the uber-cool, eight-piece BB King All Star Band, the coolest thing since the glacier. Tight and funky, the men in suits are a class act – especially the horn section – and an ideal way to jazz up a nightcap.

Eurodam is especially impressive at dinner time. A five-course a-la-carte dinner in the elegant Dining Room is included in the fare but the specialty restaurants – many created by celeb chef Rudi Sodamin – are a sumptuous delight. These attract a premium of $US15-$49pp, which, for what you get, is a bargain. Pinnacles Grill showcases beef, salmon and wines from America's Pacific Northwest. Three of us join forces and tackle the 36oz Presidents Cut steak, which comes with sauces and sides rather than the more appropriate health warning. We don't finish it. Tamarind bills itself as Pan-Asian-fusion and is as good an Asian restaurant as you'll find anywhere. Caviar, sushi and sashimi appetisers are followed by Chinese mains, which arrive in a hotplate so hot it ignites a menu on the table. Canaletto is a tasty, casual Italian ristorante offering entrees, small plates and pastas. Try the garlic shrimp-infused ravioli and leave room for their fabulous cannolis and gelato.

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