Thrills and Chills in Sitka: Day 5 Aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam

Today had all the ingredients for a perfect vacation day— a taste of culture, a heavy helping of adventure, and plenty of time to relax at the end of the day. As always, great food was on the day’s menu, as well.

The Russians Are Coming

After taking the tender ashore from the Oosterdam for the first time on this cruise, we arrived in the tiny town of Sitka, Alaska. Walking over to the main street takes only a few minutes and exploring it doesn’t take much longer. Sitka was established by the Russian trader, Alexander Baranof, in 1799 and a strong Russian influence remains.

St. Michael’s Cathedral reflects Sitka’s Russian heritage. photo by Andrea Guthmann
All dolled up in Sitka, Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Russian souvenirs dominate the shops in Sitka, Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann

As anybody traveling with a kid knows, there’s a limit to the amount of culture and shopping they can take in. Our next stop was more my 12-year-old son’s style— driving an ATV through the woods.

Hold on for a bumpy ride through Kruzoff Island, near Sitka, Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann

Extreme Adventure Sitka Style

We decided to take a shore excursion that involved transporting us in a van from the port to another small boat. After about 45 minutes, we were delivered to nearby Kruzoff Island. Arriving at this remote and unpopulated wilderness made me feel a bit like I’d landed in an Alaskan episode of Survivor. Kruzoff Island had once been a hub of activity for the logging industry. Today most of the loggers are gone, but their rudimentary roads remain. Unpaved dirt roads and 160 square miles of beautiful forest have turned Kruzoff Island into ATV central.

Now, I’ve never ridden, much less driven, an ATV vehicle of any sort. This two passenger ATV makes for a rough and, at times, scary ride. Needless to say, my son and the teenage son of another family on the excursion, were having the ride of their lives. The first half hour driving through mud roads over large rocks and tree stumps, I kept wondering if we might tip over. By the end of our two hour drive, I was having as much fun as the kids. I think yee-haw and yahoo came out my mouth a few times.

Cruising through Kruzoff Island on an ATV. photo by Andrea Guthmann

Our drive took us through areas of marsh and bogs, into pristine old growth forests and down to a beautiful black sand beach.

Pristine old growth forest remains on Kruzoff Island, near Sitka, Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann

It’s not the excursion for everyone, but if you’re the adventurous type, you’d likely have the adventure of a lifetime. If you’re not an adrenaline junky, steer clear of the ATV and take a hike through Sitka National Historical Park, just a short walk from the port. I’m told they have a delightful totem pole trail.

The Inside Scoop

Back on the Oosterdam after day of adventure, it was time for a snack. Charlie’s choice, as usual, was that beloved cruising tradition— unlimited ice cream. What would a cruise be without all the ice cream you can eat?

The ice cream buffet aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam. photo by Andrea Guthmann

At Ease

After the thrills and chills of our rainy day adventure I am ready to relax as well. I grab a snack from the lido deck and head for the hot tub. I reflect on yesterday’s whale watching and ponder the adventure on tomorrow’s itinerary— hiking through the Tongass National Forest in Ketchikan.

Time to relax after a day of adventure in Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann

Andrea Guthmann is a Midwest Emmy Award-winning broadcast, print and digital journalist. She spent many years as a TV producer for WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago. Her writing’s been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites. She’s also the Midwest blogger for A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations. She’s thrilled to be sharing tales of her Alaskan adventure aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam through August 5th, 2012, through daily reports on

Disclosure: Holland America Line is hosting the author and her guest for purposes of this review.

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