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Cruising into the Alaskan Sunset - Cruising the 'Land of the Midnight Sun'

by Jan Fisher |  Published: Oct 18, 2005


I don't know where the time goes. It seems that we were just returning from a European poker cruise a couple of weeks ago, and now I am writing about our Alaskan adventure. With five or six poker cruises a year, it seems that I am always either preparing to go on one or just returning from one! What a life, eh? I am so very blessed.

Hubbard Glacier

Anyone for dog-sledding?

A food-snatching seagull

I am writing this column less than a week after Katrina obliterated the Gulf Coast. The misery we all are viewing on the tube while sitting in air-conditioned comfort seems wrong, somehow. The world has once again changed, much like it did after 9/11, and again not for the good. Politically, we are questioning the response time and assistance provided these hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by this hurricane. Where was the help that was so desperately needed? And here I am writing about returning from a cruise, where we had all of the comforts imaginable, and then some. I don't want this column to sound cavalier or as though I am not well-aware of the magnitude of the suffering in my own country. I am proud to be an American and wish the people of the coastal areas affected the best of luck for a timely return to some sense of normalcy.

Three hundred and eighty-six passengers and staff traveled roundtrip with Card Player Cruises aboard Holland America's ms Amsterdam from Seattle. We had 18 poker tables and most were in action during the two playing sessions each day. We had games as small as our beginner $1-$2 hold'em game and as big as a $20-$40 half-kill Omaha eight-or-better game. We also had plenty of $2-$4, $4-$8, and $10-$20 hold'em games, as well as $2-$4 and $4-$8 Omaha eight-or-better. We hosted several no-limit hold'em games at both $1-$2 and $2-$5 blinds, and even an occasional Chinese poker game broke out. There was no shortage of poker, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Early in the week, Linda Johnson and I taught four different sessions of beginner classes, and the novices ended up playing all week long. The game was open only to those who went to the lessons, there was no check-raising, and the dealer was allowed to discuss the play after the money action had ended.

We did miss, by one week, the picture-perfect weather that had descended upon Alaska for much of the summer.

However, the days were still nice and relatively dry. The day we cruised the Hubbard Glacier was nearly as pretty as last year, which had been our best weather year ever.

In Juneau, there is always so much to do. Some of the passengers went to the Red Dog Saloon, a fun local joint with a piano player who hosts singalongs along with carrying on a nonstop repartee with the customers. The salmon bake is always a hit, as are the helicopter rides that land on glaciers, seaplane rides to pristine mountain lakes, and the famous dog-sledding trip that so many of our cruisers have enjoyed over the years.

In Ketchikan, there was the lumberjack show, eagle preserves, fishing, kayaking, whale watching, and the famous duck-mobile tour in an amphibious vehicle that tours the city and can then drive right into the water. It is a very cool tour and I recommend it. My father (Peter), Linda Johnson, and I visited an old high-school friend of mine for a local's tour of the small city that is accessible only by air or sea. There are no roads in or out, much like Juneau – talk about off the beaten path! It is an amazing place, and the air is cleaner than anywhere.

Sitka was enjoyed by the fishermen of our group, and it seemed that everyone who went on a charter that day came home with a fish story. Many had photos to support their stories of "landing the big one." The town also has an otter preserve, many cool bars and pubs, and a beautiful Russian Church and historical district with wonderful architecture. The final stop was Victoria, BC, where many of our guests enjoyed the world-famous Buchart Gardens. We also visited the renowned Empress Hotel for a special "high-noon tea," served fashionably late to accommodate the tourists, and the mode of transportation to get there was a horse-drawn carriage.

On the day that we enjoyed the glacier from the balcony of our cabin and hosted an open house all day for our passengers, one of our staff members, Oly Olson, snapped a photo of a seagull grabbing some food from the outstretched hand of one of our guests.

Don't try this at home! The photo was shot only moments before we were reprimanded over the loudspeaker of the ship for feeding the birds from our balcony. Oh well, it would be hard for us to get through a whole week without getting into trouble. All of our cruises are selling out well in advance, so please don't "miss the boat." If you'd like to travel with us, please call our office at (888) 999-4880. Class dismissed.

As always, please contact me at with your poker-related questions and comments. Also, please visit for any poker cruise info.