When our son found a good deal on a Disney cruise to Alaska, my wife and I decided to join our granddaughter and him. It was our first time on a Disney cruise. The cruise left from the port of Vancouver, went ashore at Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan in Alaska and returned to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Having been on Caribbean cruises with sunny weather, we applied our past experience to the Pacific coastline as to what clothing to wear. I remembered in 1979, when the operator at the Prince Rupert BC tram said out of 365 days, 250 days had limited viewing because of cloud cover and rain. This allowed us to bring appropriate clothing – rain gear and warm clothing when going outside.
When making selections as to port adventures, we tried to incorporate what the highlights of the area were and our various activity levels and then preordered them. Also, we pre-ordered a 24 pk of bottled water, a 6pk of beer, and a couple of day spa packages. These items were delivered to our staterooms before we boarded.
We assumed that besides a formal night on the cruise, there was to be a pirate night. We went out and purchased inexpensive pirate items at Dollarama and put them in our suitcases. We found out pirate night is only Caribbean cruises.
Unique to Disney, is that you can carry alcohol aboard in a travel bag. Wine will be charged a corkage fee if you bring it to your seated dining.
We used the VINCI Park (604-684-2251) at Canada Place to park our truck as we did not fly. The cost was $186.21 CDN for 8 days. It has a reservation system and is conveniently located under the boarding area.
We signed up for the early dinner seating 5:45 pm thus enabling us to go see the shows at Walt Disney Theatre at 8:30 pm. If we had chosen the late dinner seating at 8:15 pm, we could see the shows at 6:15 pm.
We selected an early boarding time between 11:30 am and 12. The pre-boarding process took about 1.5 hours. The longest was waiting in line to get to the Disney agent booths, where we got our pass for boarding which also served as our room key. We passed through US Customs and then an area in which you get embarkation photos taken before scanning your pass.
DAY ONE - Onboard
Upon entering the Disney Wonder at the middle of the ship on Deck 3, they scan the security pass. It displays the picture you got taken at the agent’s booth. You then are introduced to the staff waiting to greet you as you board. You feel special with this grand entrance.
As we had not eaten since breakfast we headed to the 9th Deck for something to eat at the Beach Blanket Buffet with our travel bags. We then went to our staterooms to offload our travel bags. As half of our suitcases had arrived at our staterooms, we were also able to unpack them.
One of our friends, a past guest, on a Disney cruise said he took over 3000 pictures with his camera and that a good deal was to have linked CD picture package for $350 especially when you consider the number of professional photo opportunities (those with imposed backgrounds and those with Disney characters). He also suggested the need to reserve early to the Disney Friends Tea Party as there was a limited number.
By the time we got to Guest Services on the 3rd Deck to reserve our tea party pass, we missed getting the first seating (had a waiting list), but were able to get the second and final seating. We also booked some beverage seminars that had a nominal fee (Beer tasting $15, Wine Tasting $15, Martini Tasting $15, Champagne Tasting $30, Chocolate & beverages $30). Next, we looked on the 9th deck at the Arcade and Vista Spa for special opening day packages. Then, we returned to the room. Our final suitcases arrived, so we finished unpacking.
We met on the 9th deck. Our granddaughter was going down the slides in the Mickey Pool, as we passed under the Lions Gate bridge, while we enjoyed sipping on Drink of the Day – “Nautilus”. At 4:30 pm, we shifted to the Goofy Pool to enjoy the cruise staff’s official “Adventures Away” opening. We enjoyed its ‘bubbliness’. When it started our granddaughter was just watching, by the end she was shaking her pom-poms.
At 5:45pm, we headed to the Animator’s Palate for seated dining on Deck 4. We were escorted to our assigned seats at Table 71. Our server was from Croatia, assistant server from Thailand, and head server from Jamaica. As Disney has rotational dining. They followed us we went the other Dining rooms – Parrot’s Cay and Triton’s Deck. They even have a kid’s menu.
The thing about cruising is the food. The gourmet dining and access to other restaurants such as Goofy’s Galley (soft ice cream station is also there), Pluto’s Dog House, and Pinocchio’s Pizzeria increases the possibility of gaining a pound a day. Although we would usually access the Vista Fitness Center (Deck 9 fore) to burn off the extra calories, we didn’t.
Initially, we were disappointed in the quality control of the food – lumpy sweet potatoes and food temperature. The head server brought this to the attention of the 2nd cook with whom we discussed our concerns. The end result was that we were happy with the food experiences.
Then, we walked over to Shutters Photo Gallery to see if our embarkation photos had been processed. We found they would not be ready until the next day. As we continued walking towards the shopping areas, we passed the Atrium area where and looked down onto the 3rd deck lobby area. This is where most of the character appearances take place. They shift characters every ½ hour. Guests can take pictures with their own camera or let the Shutters staff use your camera or let them take professional shots.
We bought an Ariel jewelry music box at Mickey’s Mates, looked at perfumes in the Treasure Ketch, and purchased a carton of cigarettes at Radar Trap (Deck 3).
Walt Disney Theatre is the location of the main performances – 4th Deck fore. The shows started at 8:30pm with doors open before 8pm. If you get there early you get a good selection of seats. The initial performance was called “Welcome Aboard: Let The Magic Begin”. The main performer was a physical comedian, Michael Holly.
DAY TWO – At Sea
We decided to have a sit down breakfast so we went to Triton’s Deck. My granddaughter enjoyed her Mickey Mouse waffles, while the rest of us had Eggs Benedict.
After eating, our son took his 7 year old daughter to the 5th Deck mid-ship to the Oceaneer Lab. She received a monitoring bracelet and could only exit with a scanned adult who gave the prearranged password. Initially, she was apprehensive; she thought she was going to a Daycare. But, after an hour she was delighted in going to “The Club”.
We headed to Wavebands, Deck 3, fore, to play 4 games of bingo at 10:45am. We did not win the door prize – a diamond and sapphire pendant.
At 12:00 noon, our wine tasting was in the Cadillac Lounge. It was hosted by the sommelier from the Palo Dining room. We then got a quick bite to eat at Beach Blanket Buffet. We needed something in our stomachs before starting the Beer Tasting at 2:00pm at the Cadillac Lounge.
As my wife and I decided a nap was in order, our son went to Surf & Sea where the internet service is headquartered. As the service is noticeably slower than what we are accustomed to, buying a package for a block of minutes is the way to go.
In conjunction with the formal dining night was the Captain’s Welcome Reception. Professional Photographic opportunities abound during this dress-up time. You need to get in the line-ups early, if you want to access most of them.
After dining at Parrot’s Cay and getting some photos we made it to the Walt Disney Theatre around 8:10pm to get seats to the Golden Mickeys. The production was a spin-off of the Oscar awards complete with the Red Carpet. We were proud grandparents when we watched on screen our granddaughter wearing a Cinderella dress being interviewed by Rona.
DAY THREE – Tracy Arm
In July of 2004, we drove to Anchorage, Whittier, and Homer Alaska from Whitehorse, Yukon. The weather was warmer than early June on this Alaskan cruise. Early in the morning, the deckhands had on parkas and wore toques on the 9th deck where I went to get our morning coffee.
We preferred our morning breakfasts at the Beach Blanket Buffet because we could select the quantity and type of food we wanted.
At 10:45am we arrived at Wavebands to get a family package of Bingo cards ($80). Bingo started at 11:00am.
As we got closer to the glaciers, we passed a couple of humpback whales and the water turned a glacial blue. There were many small icebergs in the Tracy Arm fjord. We did not make it to the end, the Sawyer Glaciers, because in our path on a small iceberg was a mother seal and her pups.
Having icebergs beside the ship, many guests did not make use of the swimming pools. A few used the hot tubs.
At 4:30 pm, we went to the Cadillac Lounge for our Champagne tasting.
After eating supper at the Parrot Cay, we went to see The Ricky Kalmon Hypnosis Show at Walt Disney Theatre.
DAY FOUR – Skagway
When we arrived the sky was overcast but the sun shone through. Many of the locals were so happy that they peeled to their short sleeve shirts.
There are many choices as to shore excursions. Our neighbor took the float plane trip and said it was wonderful.
My wife and I chose the street car & railway tour. The street car tour guide gave us a delightful rendition of the history of Skagway. Then we boarded a bus and headed to Fraser BC on the Klondike Highway. The snow surrounding the highway had started to disappear 3 weeks ago. We saw a mountain goat and her kid up on a ridge before stopping at the marked border and were given a history on the Alaskan gold rush.
We passed through a customs check before got on the train from White Pass railway. It was interesting 21 mile train ride travelling on the sides of mountains and going over trestles. We had to go through Customs again before departing from the train.
Skagway’s 862 residents had to contend with the tourists from three cruise ships that were at port. The stores were quite full. The jewelry stores got a lot of business as shopping guides from the ship make you feel you can get great deals.
My son and granddaughter went on the Klondike Experience tour. I thought her highlight would have been immersing herself with Idtarod sled dogs and their pups, she really enjoyed gold panning and the resulting gold flakes. She did not care for the cold chamber.
We had supper at Triton’s Deck before going to see the movie Iron Man 3.
DAY 5 Juneau
We arrived in the morning mist at the capital city of Alaska. Most of their groceries come in from Seattle by containers as Juneau is only accessible by boat or plane. My wife and I did some power shopping (magnets, rocks, t-shirts) before staring our port adventure.
We boarded a bus that took us to the Medenhall glacier visitor centre. We walked for 25 minutes along the path to the Nugget Creek Falls and got a closer view of the glacier. On top of some of the icebergs (part of the glacier that broke off into the ocean) in the bay were bald eagles. We took a picture of the state flower (the forget-me-not) in bloom.
Next we went to the Mount Roberts Tramway. It is owned by the Alaska Native Tingit people. At the top, we watched an 18 minute documentary film in the Chilkat theatre about Tingit heritage and observed the spectacular views of Juneau, the islands, and passage.
Our son and granddaughter chose the “Fins and Grins” shore excursion. He had taken his daughter fishing off of Vancouver Island, but wanted learn more about salt water fishing. He learned all about downrigger usage.
He said he enjoyed the scenic trip to Auke Bay where they boarded their fishing boat. Their boat with 6 tourists ran into a school of Dolly Varden and caught three of them as well as quite a few sole.
We talked to man from Diana, Texas, on the cruise. He and his family enjoyed the 11 platform zip-line adventure.
After supper at Animator Palate, we went to the Walt Disney Theatre to see “Toy Story – The Musical”. Most of the shows last a little over an hour.
As our granddaughter was hungry, the only place I could get her food outside of room service was Pinocchio’s Pizzeria. The rest of the places were closed.
DAY 6 – Ketchikan
After eating breakfast, we played bingo at 10:00 am in Wavelengths.
It was raining when we arrived. I got off the ship to get the free give-aways at the jewelry shops before buying a jade pendant for my daughter at the Jade Shop in the “salmon capital of the world”.
At 1:00 pm, my wife and granddaughter went on the Duck Tour. It is a narrated tour on an amphibious vehicle which explains part of the Ketchikan highlights. My wife said that the ones in Boston and Chicago are much better. My granddaughter had the pleasure of shopping with her grandmother and being spoiled. It rained the whole tour.
At 2:30, my son and I took the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour. The Princess cruise line gave them plaques as being one of the best Alaska port adventures. I agree. They run two tours a day.
They give you a sample of the skills need to fish. Our first stop they bring up a drop line. They caught three sculpins and one rat fish. They released the rat fish in the aquarium in the middle of the boat for closer viewing. The next stop was the most exciting because they fed the bald eagles. Imagine 25 bald eagles swooping to get herring thrown into the water. My son took 30 pictures. To ensure the tourists get to see catches they keep a crab pot with golden king crabs, a crab pot with rock and Dungeness crab, and a barrel pot with an 8 pound Pacific octopus all sealed. Their prawn trap is live. They release the prawns in the aquarium after the tourists have held them. The crabs are also held but then sealed back into their respective crab pots.
Some of the tourists paid an extra $80 to have a fresh crab supper with the crew. We chose to have crab leg appetizers for dinner at the Parrot Cay (My son had 2 orders).
Showtime at 8:30pm Michael Harrison, a comedian & ventriloquist performed.
My wife and I gave our 10:30 pm martini tasting to our son and his guest. Having bartender experience, he did not enjoy the flavors that were offered.
DAY 7 – At Sea
After breakfast, we used our day spa package. My wife said we should have done this on the first day at sea. She also said when my daughter and her were on the Norwegian Jade for a European cruise they were able to get a 14 day pass at a reduced rate and enjoyed using it every day.
At 12:00 pm we went to the Cadillac Lounge for our Chocolate and Beverage pairing. They had three different types of gourmet chocolate: white, dark and caramel. One of our favorites was the caramel chocolate with the Banfi Rosa Regale sparkling wine.
After having a buffet lunch we went to the final jackpot bingo ($120) at Wavelengths. It started at 3:30 pm. We were one number away from winning one of the minor bingos.
My wife and granddaughter left at 4:00 pm to attend the Disney Friends tea party in the Studio Sea theatre on the 4th Deck. Princesses Ariel and Cinderella attended. My son & I joined them after the Bingo.
Our final dinner seating was at Triton’s Deck. The servers paraded in the Baked Alaska dessert.
We were hoping that Disney cruise lines offered bargains on the last day at their shops because the four other cruise lines we have been on did. But no such luck.
The final production “Dreams” was the best show. You had to get there very early to get good seats.
We finished off our suitcase packing by 10:00pm. We wanted them outside the room by 10:30pm so that hosts could store them for port of Vancouver delivery. We did not want to bring them to breakfast and then carry them off the ship.
DAY 8 – Vancouver
We were assigned the first breakfast seating at 8:00 at Triton Deck because we were driving home and were the third group disembarking. We used the express check-out.
In very little time (20 minutes), we scanned ourselves off the ship, picked up our luggage and went through Canada Customs.