In an effort to get our families to experience more of the world than just the Caribbean, we decided to book an Alaskan cruise. We are 2 families who cruise together regularly (moms are cousins) and this time we both invited our parents ... Read More
In an effort to get our families to experience more of the world than just the Caribbean, we decided to book an Alaskan cruise. We are 2 families who cruise together regularly (moms are cousins) and this time we both invited our parents to come along and see what we've been raving about for so many Disney cruises now. One family has 5 kids (20, 19, 9, 6, and 3) and the other has 2 kids (11 and 8). Grandparents ranged in age from 66-84.
Boarding the ship was simple. While the hotels very close to the port in Vancouver were CRAZY expensive, especially for a crew of our size, we were able to find an all suites hotel a few blocks inland that was VERY reasonable. We flew into Seattle (saved 50% on airfare), and took the train up to Vancouver Friday morning. We ended up having a 3+ hour delay, so the normally 4 hour trip took over 7. We were VERY comfortable on the train, kids were entertained and could move around, so all in all we didn't mind. I would NOT recommend trying to take the train on Monday as you're supposed to be at the port by 3pm. (We went early to get the kids acclimated to the time change.)
The inside passage is VERY VERY VERY calm. No rocking at all like most other cruises. The first night we had fog, so the ship horn blasted every 2 minutes. ON THE DOT. Good to not crash into people or boats. Bad for sleeping. (Use white noise!!) We saw ample whales, seals, eagles, etc from the balcony. Many times, we just wanted to go back to the room to watch for whales!! (Side note: Orcas are WAY smaller than you think they're going to look in the wild from a big cruise ship!! FYI! Lots of splashing and they're FAST.) We saw MANY MANY humpbacks during this trip. The final sea day was the BEST whale watching of all. Don't take the Tracey Arm day lightly...it's BREATH TAKING!!!! SO much more than I was anticipating.
The biggest let down of the cruise was the service and the food. Nothing huge. No glaring errors, but just small things like we'd bought a wine package and the unfinished bottles weren't waiting for us at our table when we arrived like they had on all our other Disney cruises. (4 to be specific.) The kid's didn't have drinks waiting for them on this cruise. Our party of 15 was supposed to be linked in the system, which we confirmed with DCL directly via the phone several weeks prior to sailing, yet half our party was on a completely DIFFERENT DINING ROTATION when we got on board. My cousin and I had to go fix it as soon as we were on board. Palo wouldn't let us make a reservation for the 10 adults we had, and made a huge deal about our party when we tried to fix our 2 separate reservations so we could all eat together....yet when we dined there the restaurant was only 1/4 full the entire time we were there. The kids enjoyed the muppet interactive scavenger hunt on the Fantasy MUCH more than the Anna and Elsa hunt on this ship. The kid's club crew wasn't as interactive and entertaining with the kids. If they wanted to do one activity in the club and then another activity in the lab later on, the crew didn't inform them the new activity was starting, so they missed it because they were doing something (like a small craft) filling the time. All of the younger kids were MUCH less impressed with the cast members in the kids club on this ship. The food is really rather blah. On every other sailing (Fantasy and Dream), I had multiple meals I could RAVE about....only Palo gets that note here. Tiana's was HIGHLY interactive, but the food was meh. I'm not sure if it was just the size of our party or not, but the photographers only took our pictures at dinner once at our table. When you pay $300 for the photo package, I'd like to see A LOT more of those types of photos at the end of my cruise.
All in all, it was ALASKA!! It was amazing! BUT the Disney caliber cruises I've come to know and love just missed a bit on this one. I don't know if that's because it was Alaska, or because the staff on this ship just isn't being held to as high of a standard, but it was noticed. (Incidentally, another family we met on the train ride up had the exact same feelings.)
We will absolutely sail again. Our kids LOVED Alaska and the fun adventures we took while we were gone. They are still talking about seeing all sorts of cool stuff from our balcony. These memories will last a life time (for everyone except the 3 year old), and all in all I'm very glad we went.
Excursions: We did NOT do the extra boat in Tracy Arm (Acutally we went into Endcott Arm b/c there was too much ice in TA) and it was still amazing. OH OH OH and make time to go see the Naturalist's lectures!! They were fascinating and added so much understanding to what we were seeing. Ketchikan - cold and rainy that day - we did Zip lining....very fun but we were pretty wet in the end. We had plans of warm showers and then going back in to explore the town, but the rain wouldn't let up so we just continued to enjoy the ship. Juneau - we did the helicopter tour to the top of the glacier. (Booked via Viator.....saved several hundred $$) The dog sledding part was cancelled because it had been so warm that the snow melted and they had to close the dog camp. Walking on the glacier was AMAZING. Kids loved the helicopter ride as well. When else could we do that!!? We had to fork over the $. Skagway - grandparents, dad, and sons went Salmon fishing and LOVED LOVED LOVED it. It was the ONLY picture my 9 year old wanted to bring to show his class from his summer vacation. I took the girls on the Duck Boat tour and then we walked around town. Meh. it was ok. It was good to get out and get a little city tour. Before our cruise, we did a whale watching tour out of Vancouver harbor. That was great! (Also booked on viator)
Alaska is definitely a bucket list place for most people. We are glad we sailed Disney with our families for all of the entertainment. All of us had things we wanted to do and didn't get to on our 7 day sailing. Read Less