We are a family of three - my husband and myself are both 29 and we have a 3.5 year-old daughter. This is our 3rd cruise as a family (one previous with Carnival and another with Disney); my husband and I did a Carnival and Norwegian cruise prior to having a child. Of the three cruise lines, Disney had far exceeded any expectation each time.
We sailed from Vancouver, which is only about a 2.5 hour drive from our hometown. Vancouver is a lovely city (we've been a few times before). We spent two nights prior to embarkation at Times Square Suites (great for families!), which located in West End near Stanley Park and the waterfront promenade (we spent most of our time strolling around the park and along the waterfront).
I booked parking at Canada Place ahead of time through their website (West Park is the parking company) and it cost $215 for the length of the 7 night cruise. After booking online, I was able to print a barcode that allowed us entry into the garage and allowed us to exit at the end of our trip. I think some of the more expensive hotels on the waterfront have a cruise parking package, but we elected to stay at a different hotel and just park at the terminal.
Embarkation was a breeze. We were slated to arrive at the port between 12 and 1230, but we arrived at 11 and had no problems (no one even checked our PAT). If you are parking your car, you need to drop off your bags down on P2 (we parked on P1 and ended up at the check-in area before realizing we never saw anywhere to drop our luggage with the porters, so had to take the elevator back down). The check-in line wasn't very long, we waited maybe 10 minutes to get our Key to the World Cards, boarding group number, and lanyards. We also checked in at the Oceaneer booth (I pre-registered for Youth activities online) to get our daughter's magic band for the kid's clubs.
Once registration is complete, follow the cast members and port employees downstairs to the security and customs area before being ushered to the waiting area to board the ship. We were in boarding group 11 and were on the ship by 1210! I love that Disney announces each family as they enter the Atrium, it's so classy.
Lunch is served at Cabanas (buffet) on Deck 9 Aft, we didn't have much problem finding a table, even though it was the first day. Cabanas is pretty much standard buffet food for lunch with a "specialty" station that changes daily (sometimes Asian, Indian, etc).
After lunch we headed to the Oceaneer Club/Lab open house. Our previous Carnival (Dream) kid's club was pretty sad - one room for too many ages 2-5. The Oceaneer Club/Lab (ages 3-12) is legit! Each section is HUGE with multiple themed rooms in both the club and lab - a favorite for our daughter was "Andy's Room", which features a Slinky Dog slide. The Club/Lab serve lunch and dinner at set times throughout the cruise. There are bathrooms in the Club/Lab, but kids have to be able to do everything themselves (there are stools in each stall) - the counselors will send you a message if your child needs help in the bathroom and you can assist them in the family restroom. Additionally, the magic bands that each child wear have a tracking device in them, so when you go to pick up your kiddo, the staff at the front can tell you which room they are in (even if they're in the bathroom!); if your child won't leave the bracelet on, they have a device that can be attached to the wristband that is childproof. There are several hours of "open house" everyday, where kids of all ages can participate in activities with their parents. **Quick note: I read on one of the boards that the Club/Lab allow three-year-olds who are not toilet trained to wear pull-ups and diapers - this is NOT true. We were asked repeatedly if our daughter was completely toilet trained (she has been for at least 8 months and wears big-kid underwear) and told several times that pull-ups and diapers were not permitted even in kids who were at least three.**
Our stateroom was ready at 1:30 pm exactly and our luggage arrived to our room by 2:30 pm (the earliest we've ever had luggage arrive).
Dinner the first night was at Tiana's Place - there was a live jazz band (the Crawfish Crooners) and a special visit by Tiana and Louis! They even visited each table for photos. The food the first night was delicious - I had hot crab dip for my appetizer and a wonderful halibut fillet with whipped potatoes in a dill cream sauce for my entree - delicious!!
The show was the "Be Our Guest" show, which was a good introduction to what the entertainment would bring on subsequent evenings, but there was a LOT of talking by the cruise director, which did little to hold our daughter's attention.
Day 2: Sea Day
We booked the VIP Character Breakfast online prior to the cruise (FREE!) - standard breakfast fare with table service in Animator's Palate. Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy came to all the tables for photos and autographs.
After breakfast, we went to go Good Morning, Disney Junior, which was a dance party geared more toward preschoolers (perfect for our daughter) featuring songs from Disney Junior shows. Our girl had a blast! And, surprise!, Doc McStuffins showed up to dance with the kids.
The Oceaneer Activities our daughter attended that was Storytelling with Sofia (yes, Sofia made an appearance); our daughter also participating the Parachute Games activity - she had a great time then too.
We booked tickets online for the Princess Gathering (FREE!) - Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, and Tiana were there.
Other Character meet and greets (in the daily Navigator) were Doc McStuffins, Sofia, Chip/Dale.
Echoing the "carry your camera everywhere" comments I've seen on the Disney Cruise Line threads --- we randomly met Cinderella in a hallway and she took the time to chat with our 3-year-old, pose for photos with her and then took her hand and went on a walk around the deck with her! She was so sweet and gracious with our daughter. It was truly a special experience.
Dinner that night was at Triton's and it was "formal" night, but you see all manner of dress. Maybe 30% of folks were in true formal attire (tuxedos and evening gowns) - the other 60% ranged from casual dresses, slacks/polos to fairly casual attire. This was also the evening of the Captain's Reception located in the Atrium -- FREE drinks! offered by roaming waiters. Bonus!
Stage show of the night was the Golden Mickeys - great show with many song and dance numbers to hold the attention of littler kids.
Day 3: Tracy Arm and Dawes Glacier
I went to Senses Spa in the morning to cash in a Mother's Day mani/pedi gift (booked in advance online). I had the Fire and Ice manicure and pedicure and it was wonderful! The nail area of the spa faces a large panoramic window - I got to relax and enjoy the scenery - I even saw some whales! The "ice" part of the treatment was a mint mask, followed by "fire", which was hot moist towels, warm oil, and a hot stone massage. Glorious.
We booked tickets in advance for the Frozen Meet and Greet (FREE!) - Anna, Elsa, and Olaf were there.
Other characters (listed in the Navigator) were Tinkerbell, Donald, Minnie, and Goofy. Take note that photos with the original Mickey characters include them in their "Alaska" gear, which was pretty fun.
I booked the Royal Court Royal Tea for my daughter and I to attend together, and though expensive, so worth it! All the girls (and boy) were announced individually to the "court" and received their crown (a beautiful beaded Cinderella crown) and shown to their tables. Parents had a choice of teas (the herbal was delightful) and kids got apple juice in fancy tea cups. The food was scrumptious and ranged from savory finger sandwiches to sweets. Each child got to choose a princess to adorn their special cupcake. There was singing and dancing by the hosts, Chef Brulee and Lady Chamomile. Cinderella, Ariel, and Belle all attended the party as well and spent time with each child, posed for photos, and signed autographs. The gifts were the most spectacular part! - an 18 inch Cinderella doll, autograph book, princess pen, jewelry music box (with a charm necklace and bracelet), and beautiful photo portfolio with an photo of the child with all the princesses by one of the ship's photographers! Each princess brought an additional charm for each child when they arrived to the party. My only complaint is that the timing of the Tea Party was when our ship was stopped at the Glacier...so I didn't get to see much of it up close - the party should have been scheduled on an actual sea day.
Dinner that night was at Animator's Palate. The effects in that restaurant are truly spectacular - Sorcerer Mickey even came for a show with the dining staff.
The stageshow for the evening was a magic show by Kalin and Ginger. My husband and I enjoyed the show, but didn't do a whole lot to hold a young child's attention.
Day 4: Skagway
We arrived in Skagway early, so we walked off the ship and found a cute little coffee shop (Glacial Smoothie). Once we got our coffee, we walked to the trailhead for Yukatania Point (about a 10-15 minute walk from "downtown"). The hike was relatively easy, but if you rely on mobility equipment, it would be difficult as there are several steep sets of uneven rocky "stairs" and very uneven rocky footing (we had a stroller with us and ended up parking it in the bushes at the trailhead). Yukatania is beautiful and we were the ONLY ones there!! I highly recommend this option if sitting on a train all day is not your cup of tea (most of the excursions from Skagway involve a train ride on the White Pass/Yukon railroad). Skagway is a cute little town with souvenir shops and delectable popcorn shop (the white cheddar was so good!). We walked around town both in the morning and afternoon as we had 12 hours in port.
It was Frozen Night on the ship, so our daughter attended Olaf's Summer Party in the Oceaneer Club (Anna, Elsa, and Olaf visited).
There is one dinner for all restaurants on Frozen Night, so eventhough we dined in Tiana's Place again, everything was Frozen themed.
The Freezing the Night Away party on deck was really fun and took place right as we were leaving Skagway (I can only imagine the jealousy those on the other three ships in port were experiencing!). The show included all the Frozen characters and SNOW!
There was no stage show this evening as it was the "Disney Wonder Premier" of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I went while my husband put our daughter to bed. I thought it was the perfect ending to the series (for those wondering, there were several showings per day for the rest of the cruise, so my husband went a couple days later).
Day 5: Juneau
It was Pixar Day on the Wonder! Prior to getting off the ship, we visited many Pixar characters we had never had the opportunity to meet before, such as Sulley, Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, Dug, Russell, Remy, Emile, Jessie, and Woody. To catch all the characters during their first appearance times, our daughter and I stood in a line for one (set of) character(s) and my husband stood in a different line - golden tip! :)
Since were docked at the furthest pier from downtown, there was a free shuttle bus from the ship to downtown. We did not book an "excursion", but I did buy tickets from M&M Tours for the "Blue Glacier Bus" that took us to Mendenhall Glacier. This company was easy to work with and kids 3 and under are free. Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls are beautiful and the approximately 1 mile out to the Glacier is easy and mobility friendly.
We ate lunch in town at El Sombrero (good food, but a little overpriced) and then took the Mt Robert's aerial tram ride. We only had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a tram to arrive (two run simultaneously, one from the top and one from the bottom). The view was incredible!! I had wanted to do one of the hikes at the top of the mountain, but they really weren't as stroller friendly as some other reviews made them out to be.
The Pixar Pals Party in the Atrium was a blast and every character had their own song and dance - each of the other characters danced in the crowd when it wasn't their turn to be on stage.
Dinner at Triton's (semi-formal night) - this was the crab leg and lobster tail night, which is a night I look forward to on every cruise!!
The Frozen Show on the main stage that evening was incredible! The special effects were mesmerizing and singing and dancing was top notch! Get there EARLY for this one as it was an absolutely full house about 15 minutes prior to show time.
Day 6: Ketchikan
We again participated in Good Morning, Disney Junior, which was the same activity as Day 2. Doc McStuffins showed up this day as well.
During the Oceaneer Open House, the kiddo and I participated in Doc McStuffins Toy Hospital - all the kids go to be Toy Doctors in Training with Doc!
We were originally going to hike to Carlana Lake in Ketchikan, but it would have ended up being much farther that anticipated from where the ship actually docked (I couldn't find docking information for this port prior to arrival). We ended up last minute booking the Great Alaskan Lumber Jack Show (I booked through the website for the Disney Exclusive show as opposed to going through the shore excursions desk on the ship). The show as fun and the Disney Exclusive show allowed for a lot of audience participation and even featured an appearance by Goofy. We walked around Ketchikan, which is a really cute little town, but the weather was cold, rainy, and very windy, so didn't offer a great experience for wandering around.
Dinner at Animator's Palate - when we sat down at our tables, we all drew a character, which was collected by the dining staff. At the end of dinner, our characters were animated up on the screens and were seen dancing with some of everyone's favorite Disney Characters! It was quite enjoyable.
The show that night was Comedian/Ventriloquist show, but we were certain our daughter were not be interested, so we saw Moana in the movie theater instead (we hadn't seen it before and it was great!)
Day 7: Sea Day
The morning saw really rough weather with sea spray and some waves coming up almost to deck 4 - the cruise director joked we were on the Deadliest Catch excursion.
Our daughter spent time in the Oceaneer Club for some scheduled activities, such as parachute games and Once Upon a Time story time (Belle arrived in her "villager costume").
In the afternoon, the weather cleared (though still chilly) and my husband and daughter decided to check out the pool - they said the water was like bathwater, nice and warm. Our daughter also played in Dory's Reef for awhile, but this area is pretty sad on this ship (the one on the Dream is awesome!).
Our last dinner was at Tiana's and it was Mardi Gras! Tiana and Louis led a Mardi Gras parade that included participation by all the kids and dining staff! All the waiters gather the smaller kids from their tables and kept the children with them during the parade, which was really sweet.
That evening was Disney Dreams on stage...with all the hype about the show before hand, my expectations were set very high...unfortunately, they were not met. It was good, don't get me wrong, but I think it could have been better.
Early dinner seating was given a breakfast time of 0715 (in the last restaurant you dined in); late seating at 0830. However, we drove a car (DCL knew this as you declare how to you are getting home in your check-in information), so we were given Green Tinkberbell Luggage tags for our "checked" luggage. Unfortunately, since we had an early breakfast, needed to be out of our room by 0800 anyway, AND didn't have a flight/bus/train/excursion to catch, we were one of the last ones off the ship! Our tag color/character didn't get called until 0930! And we were done with breakfast at 0745. With much of the ship closed and no stateroom to wait in, it was a little frustrating. We found some seating on deck 4 midship, which was too crowded, but waiting for almost 2 hours with a 3-year-old is not exactly awesome.
From what I could gather, this is the order of the luggage tags:
Express Walk-off (meaning you didn't check luggage), started at 0730
Yellow - Chip & Dale
White - Ariel
Gray - Daisy
Purple - Minnie
Green - Tinkerbell
Red - Mickey
I'm not sure if there were additional colors after this, but the ship was pretty empty by the time green was called. Do NOT get off the ship before your tag color is called as your luggage may NOT be cleared by customs and available for pick-up yet and there's nowhere to wait in the terminal if you jump ship too soon!
Customs was easy, all they did was collect our declaration form - we didn't even have to show our passports.
By 10:00, we were in our car and on our way!
General Notes and Tips:
Dinner in the main dining rooms can last up to an hour and a half or longer! I bought some sticker activity books ahead of time for dinner entertainment for our daughter. I also always ordered her a "starter" (fruit is NOT on the menu, but several nights she was not interested in the soup option, so I asked for a bowl for fruit - DONE!) and requested that her main course come out with our entrees so we could eat in peace and not have to deal with a child who was finished and wanting to leave before we even got our meals.
I rented a stroller on board on Day 3. This is a free service, but they will charge you $200 if you lose the stroller or don't bring it back. I got the last one, so I'm not sure how many they have. It was a rickety old version of a Peg Peraggio, but it worked fine for strolling around the ports. I still don't know why I didn't bring ours.
There's chips and salsa every afternoon in the Promenade Lounge. There is also a toddler area there.
There is ALWAYS music playing in the halls, even in stateroom locations, which gets a little annoying. Thankfully, it's all instrumental and not lyrical.
Silver Level Castaway gift was a nice one-shoulder backpack and a silver lanyard for each member of our party.
Cove Cafe (adult coffee shop) offers a five coffee punch card and then you get the sixth free.
The photographers let you take your own photos with the characters and backgrounds, which is great since DIGITAL prints cost $21 each! We did not purchase any...
Always remember, your vacation is what you make it. Yes, unanticipated circumstances occur, but fun can be had anyway. Don't let the little things ruin your trip! Read Less