You learn something new every day. After our first cruise, we learned that a full price ticket doesn't always buy you a full cruise, even with Disney in control. First-time cruisers, beware! Look into travel insurance, arrive in port at least a day early and don't depend on the magic of Disney. Make sure to shop around for the best deal.
My family has always had great experiences with Disney in the past, so when we decided to take our first cruise, we booked DCL. We were thrilled to hear that they could arrange the air and ground travel. We did not want to have any issues, so we agreed.
DCL arranged to have us fly to Vancouver on the day of the cruise with Delta Airlines. Delta began the day with problems when their baggage conveyor at check-in was broken. Delta went downhill from there. Our take-off was delayed for an hour and a half due to mechanical difficulties and revising the route around thunderstorms in the Great Lakes area. While our connecting Delta flight in Minneapolis was also late, it took off in front of us as we approached the gate. Delta staff were rude and disorganized in dealing with us and the other Disney cruisers. They told us to stop complaining or they wouldn't help us. They finally arranged (and DCL told us to accept) two additional flights to Vancouver. Both of these were also late and when we finally landed in Vancouver, the DCL ground representative explained that while the Wonder had waited half an hour for us, it could not wait the additional time it would take to get us to the pier. She had no further information or recommendations for us.
After I called Delta and was offered a $50 voucher towards my next flight, I visited their counter, which was closed. Next I went to the West Jet counter, since they handled the last leg of our journey. West Jet was very sorry and helpful for their role in this, so they gave us a two-night voucher for the Fairmont Hotel at the airport, along with food coupons for the airport. They were great.
The Fairmont Hotel was our home for the rest of the day and the next, as DCL offered to fly us to Skagway to meet the Wonder on day 4 of our trip. The Fairmont deserves its five star rating. The two rooms for our party were clean, spacious and beautifully decorated. They provided my son with free Wi-Fi and the staff was pleasant and helpful. They even helped us to plan a day-trip into Vancouver the second day. Vancouver is a wonderful place. They even employ paid guides on the street to help obvious tourists to make the most of their time.
On day three, DCL arranged to fly us to Skagway on two flights with Alaska Air and a third on a puddle-jumper with Alaska Seaplanes. The service on Alaska Air was average, but both flights were on time. The last flight with Alaska Seaplanes was picturesque and the pilot was friendly and knowledgeable.
Once in Skagway, we went to the Westmark Inn (paid for by DCL) for the night. It reminded me of a hotel from the 50s, complete with paneled walls. It was clean, but small. The staff was pleasant.
The next day we met the Wonder at the pier and finally boarded the ship as the other passengers were eager to disembark. We registered and had breakfast at Tritons. Then we went to our two staterooms. They were adjoining deluxe oceanview staterooms with verandas, Rooms 6100 and 6102. The rooms were very nice. They were larger than expected, beautifully decorated and clean. The split bathroom was a nice feature. The verandas were perfect for drinking our early morning coffee.
Once we were aboard, the staff was wonderful and attentive. The dining staff was engaging and friendly. Our stateroom host was very helpful and supplied everything that we asked him for, including an extra chair for the veranda and ice for when the veranda door caught my wife's finger. Guest services on board was helpful in that an employee checked on us often and asked if there was anything he could do for us. What we really wanted was the missing days on board, but he fit us into the dining schedule and made sure that we still saw the show at Animator's Palate and the Character breakfast.
The dining on board was average to good, but I had expected more variety. The dining room experience was entertaining. The buffets were average as far as buffets go.
I really can't comment on the ship's activities, since we missed two out of the three sea days and we ventured into all three ports. We did see a movie onboard, but the seating was very cramped. The live show theater provided more personal seating room and Dreams was an enjoyable experience. Everyone in our party was over 18, so we did not use the children areas. Also, it was too cold to use the pools, but they looked very small for the number of passengers.
Most of our shore excursions were also planned by DCL. In Skagway, we rode the historic railroad along the Gold Rush Trail of 1898. We like trains, so we enjoyed the five hour ride along scenic mountain routes. The town itself was a small street of jewelry stores, which was unimpressive. In Juneau, we took a whale-watching/Mendenhall Glacier photo safari. That was great, since on the ride to the bay we were instructed on the use of our 35mm cameras and their features. We saw plenty of wildlife on the bay and on the trails, including whales and eagles. In Ketchikan, we took our own excursion and hiked into the Tongass rainforest, climbing Deer Mountain. It was strenuous but very worthwhile. The town itself, like Skagway, was a collection of jewelry stores.
Disembarkation went smoothly, without any issues. The flight back home on Delta was par for the course. There were delays, but we were going home, so another hour and a half in the airport had come to be expected.
The trip was worthwhile and we were happy to have experienced it, especially since I am self-employed and we really had no option to reschedule it. But being self-employed, I also realize the importance of customer service. No matter how you look at it, we trusted DCL with our travel arrangements and we missed out on forty percent of our time on-board through no fault of our own. Guest services on board said that they had done all within their authority to help us and told us that corporate guest services would be contacting us once we got home.
Well, by Wednesday I called DCL myself and was connected with Joseph P. While he claimed to understand how I must feel and was truly sorry, he said that "DCL had met industry standards and was not prepared to provide any additional refunds or discounts." He hoped that it would not affect my future dealings with Disney.
I know that this experience does not match our prior dealings with Disney. I do not know enough about "industry standards" to dispute his claim, but I also know that I need to consider the value of what I received when I book my next cruise. I do not feel that I received the premium value that I paid for.