Our Disney Cruise to Alaska
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my first trip to Disneyland. I can vividly remember standing in the Swiss Family Treehouse (which has now been renamed to the Tarzan Treehouse) and smiling down at my dad for a photo. Or the original Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, singing "Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirates life for me!"
Disney was a HUGE part of my childhood and my whole family still to this day are Disney fanatics. Watching movies with us gets pretty annoying since we all sing along and quote the lines, scene by scene, through the entire movie.
Two years ago, my mom and sister went with our extended family on a Disney cruise out of Florida to Caribbean and came back saying what a great time they had. I was six month pregnant with Apple at the time and kicked myself for not going, knowing with all that Disney had to offer and with family around, it would have been the best time for Totes and I could have just slept the day away! So it got us all looking forward to another opportunity to try a Disney Cruise.
My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of going on a cruise to Alaska since many of them leave from Seattle, the port is less than a mile from our home. And although the Disney Cruise to Alaska departs from Vancouver, BC Canada, it's still convenient for us to be able to drive the three hours rather than fly.
I've now included two posts on our annual trip to Desolation Sound on this blog. Desolation Sound is north of Vancouver at the north end of the Sunshine Coast, an area that the Disney Cruise ship sails right past. We have fantasized about taking our boat up to Alaska before but with our kids being so young, we are just not quite ready to go that distance. And therefore taking a cruise ship up that way fulfilled our curiosity to see the area and gave us a taste of what we could see if we ever get around to taking our own boat up that way.
We just returned from a seven night cruise to Alaska on board the Disney Wonder. We loved every minute of it and wish we could have stayed longer! My mom and sister booked an adjoining room so we were all together and close the whole voyage! Totes has been asking to go back every day since we returned. We plan on cruising again with Disney in the future but will wait until our kids are older for a few reasons that I'll talk about in this post.
In addition to sharing our favorite moments, I'm also going to do my best to include key pieces of information that I was searching for prior to booking this trip and also prior to our sail date. If you've started looking into taking this trip yourself, you've probably already discovered that it won't come cheap. This is the third cruise I've been on and by far the most expensive, which is why I'm going to make the point that for the experience to be worth the cost, you should wait until your kids are the appropriate age and not too young so you can take advantage of their programs and have some adult time to yourself.
I've broken out our journey day by day below with some *TIPS on specific points that were important for us to know.
Day 1: Embark in Vancouver, BC Canada. May 22nd, 2017
The departure time and sail away party was at 4PM. This was perfect timing and allowed us to leave Seattle casually just before 11AM. Apple was able to take a long nap in the car on the three hour drive up. We even stopped at McDonald's for a few sausage, egg McMuffin's and Totes got his FIRST ever happy meal! What a special day, documented that one for sure.
We chose to park our car at the Canada Place parking garage for the duration of our cruise. I researched all the options, train vs. parking costs, and this one won out by price and convenience. (see below in *TIPS)
The check-in process was smooth and quick, we were actually one of the last to make it on board as we got there right around 3PM.
The day was HOT. So much so that I wish we would have set out our bathing suits in our carry-on bags to change into and get in the pool during the sail away party. But it was more fun to walk around as they had music blasting, characters and staff dancing and everyone was having a great time.
As we left Vancouver and the ship sailed north through the Strait of Georgia, we were amazed at how smooth the water was. Seriously, like glass. We've had many scary moments in our boat crossing the Strait of Georgia so this was a big deal to us!
That night, dinner for us was at Triton's. The food onboard was excellent. I had read some negative reviews before we left about the food quality but I would completely put any doubts you have aside. When you think about how many meals the kitchen is putting out all at once, it's pretty impressive they can maintain such quality!
We sailed past Desolation Sound at sunset and it was so serene. My husband and I went up to the top deck to take in the views of our favorite summer destination and play a little table tennis while Grandma stayed down in the room with the kids. It was a great first day onboard the Disney Wonder.
Getting to the Disney Cruise Ship in the Vancouver Terminal | Living in Seattle, we were close enough to consider two options: driving or taking a train. My mom and sister flew in to the Vancouver airport and arranged a shuttle transfer through Disney, which was very convenient and easy for them. For us, I looked into the two options in detail; the Amtrak train or driving and parking the car for eight days. Both were pricey options but driving won out for convenience and cost. The train would have taken roughly four hours, leaving at 7am and at the time I looked into it, I was quoted $157.50 for all four of us. We then would have had to figure out getting to the train station in Seattle, the transfers from the train station in Vancouver to the cruise terminal... so add taxi fares on top of that. But, the experience (Totes would have loved the train!) and being able to roam around during the ride as Apple loathes her car seat, was enticing. Parking is recommended through the Disney Cruise website at the Canada Place garage in downtown Vancouver, next to the cruise ship terminal. I made a reservation for parking here the night before we drove up. The price at the time I paid was $216.36 CAD, which converted to $160 USD. So in all, parking was overwhelmingly the best option. We were able to casually leave our house at 11am to plan to be parked by 2:30pm and boarding around 3pm. And when we debarked, we went straight home from the ship.
Day 2: At Sea
Around 6am, I started feeling the rocking of the boat. By 6:30am, I was startled enough by the movements to get up and look out the window. I pulled back the blinds to quite a terrifying site... the open ocean and nearly 30ft swells. We were on the first deck, which still sat about 30 feet above the water line and the waves were coming up to the height of our window. I fought off motion sickness for the rest of the morning but it got the better of my mom so she popped a Dramamine and slept it off until the afternoon. So travelers beware... this route takes you out into the Gulf of Alaska and there's no guarantee of smooth waters any time of the year here!
We took Totes to the cast of Frozen characters meet and greet that morning and I watched him blush for the first time.
In the late morning, we sat in the Promenade Lounge on deck three and had cappuccino while we sat by the window. A really, really good cappuccino actually! They serve Illy coffee, which is one that we use at home as well. The combination of the two helped calm my stomach a bit. From the map, I learned that we had indeed just sailed out into open, unprotected waters just off the north tip of Vancouver Island. By about 1pm we had tucked back into the inside passage and protected waters so the movement was calm again. But at 6pm, we reached another point of open water so during dinner time, the boat was back to swaying.
We had breakfast and lunch each morning at Cabana's, the buffet, on deck 9. It was much easier on us and the kids to get in and out quickly, mainly because of Apple and her aversion to being strapped down anywhere. They always had a great selection and the views are wonderful from here. Dinner that night was at Animator's Palate. This was my favorite dining room in terms of decor. During the afternoon and the calm moment that we passed through the islands, my husband and I sat in the terrace deck of the adults-only lounge, The Cove, and enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio while Grandma played with Melina and Totes was checked into the Oceaneer's Club. Unfortunately the pools were unusable as the wind was coming across us strong and slightly raining.
We spent a lot of time the evening before and this day exploring the many areas of the boat. It still very easy to get turned around and remember where everything is. We toured the spa on deck 9 and my husband signed up for some acupuncture sessions, which he has done before, and said the acupuncturist was really amazing. She treated him for tendinitis in his elbow he noticed a difference right away. I had a facial scheduled for the next day that I'll just say now was very underwhelming. I wish we would have taken advantage of the fitness center and rain-forest room! There's just never enough time when you're chasing around two young kids, even having the best intentions... I packed my running shoes and workout clothes but only managed to get one day in. (sad-face)
That night on board was pretty rough as the boat was tossed around by 50 knot winds. My husband, late in the evening, couldn't sleep so he went up to the Cove where several other adults were gathered. Many of them were in the higher deck level staterooms and said they were getting thrown off the bed so they couldn't sleep either!
Staterooms onboard the Disney Wonder | We booked our cruise six months in advance and were surprised to find that it was already mostly sold. These voyages book up fast! We were confined by some specific criteria however, needing two staterooms, one ocean-view and one inside cabin, across from each other. And in meeting other families onboard our cruise, many people were in the same position in grouping rooms together. By the time I called and the representative searched, we only had the option of booking the first deck. In retrospect, I'm really glad we did because as I mention above, the first view days at sea were rough and my mom and I got a little sea-sick. The rocking lessens the closer to the water level you are so that helped us a bit. Deck one is still a good 20 feet above the water line.
Our ocean-view stateroom had two small portholes, compared to higher levels having one large porthole or the verandah rooms having a private balcony. Prices are spread across the options here, we felt the balcony wouldn't be quite worth it when going to Alaska in late May, expecting cold temperatures and not spending much time the room with young kids. Our stateroom had a queen bed with a sitting area and couch that converted into a twin bed and a bunk that pulled out from the ceiling. We had requested a pack n' play for our one year old but after the first night, had them take it away in favor of the couch bed with a bedrail. It saved room in the small space. There was adequate closet and drawer space that we were able to all unpack and stow away our suitcases under the bed, so the room overall felt like a decent size for our family of four.
Packing for our Disney Cruise | We watched the forecast closely in the days leading up to our sail date, which was May 22nd. I had added Skagway, Ketchikan, Juneau and Vancouver to my weather app locations. Then foolishly, when the 10 day forecast of even the most northerly destination, Skagway, showed temperatures in the high 60's and sunny, I got overly excited and packed like we were going on a tropical vacation. Luckily I still packed enough layers that I was able to pile on the clothes for us all and stay warm. Although our destinations were sunny, the wind chill subtracted about 15 degrees. You may also read this and think I'm crazy to think high 60's means warm, but we live in the PNW and for us, that IS warm! Shopping on board the Disney Wonder was nothing to write home about. I can usually find any excuse to buy some article of clothing anywhere I go, but not here, kids included. I was surprised at this. Knowing how the summers warm up in the PNW, if you are sailing further into the summer dates, I'm sure you can expect some really nice weather. But just be mindful that it turns on a dime so as they recommend, layers is the way to go.
For the kids, we chose NOT to bring a stroller or our own pack n' play since both could be provided on board. The day before our cruise sail date, I called into the Disney Cruise Line customer service to ask about their stroller policy. Was there going to be a place we could stash our stroller between shore excursions? Could we borrow one? I didn't want to bring my double but wanted to bring my BOB since it's so nice to push around. They mentioned that although there was a storage room we could store it in between ports, we wouldn't have access to it on board. I knew my kids would want to be running around on their own so I didn't think this would be a problem anyway, but the service representative then informed me that we could borrow strollers, at no additional charge, from Guest Services. So this is exactly what we did. On the days we went into Juneau and Ketchikan, we borrowed two, one for each kid. They were surprisingly nice Peg Pergo strollers, very clean too. So this was a great option for us. They do charge a deposit but it is refunded after the strollers are turned back in.
Day 3: At Sea / Endicott Arm
The ship actually took a detour on the day we were schedule to view Tracy Arm due to too many chucks of ice being in the water so we sailed Endicott Arm instead to view the Dawes Glacier. We also crossed into a new timezone and were given instructions the night before to set our clocks back one hour. So when my crew was up for the day, it was now only 5:45am and most of the food options didn't open until now an hour later than we were used to at 7am. By the time we realized this after running around checking out the available options, ordering room service would have put the food arriving about the same time as the restaurant would have opened anyway, so we tied ourselves over at the food kiosk near the pool until we could get a real meal. Not being able to feed two hungry kids is a rough start to the day! We headed downstairs to the Promenade Lounge to sit and eat, not wanting to dine in the cold by the pool, and discovered a little corralled area in the lounge with a few play mats and foam ride-on animals for the kids to play with. It was a perfect place to keep Apple contained while we at our yogurt and fruit and drank cappuccino. We came back here every morning for the rest of the voyage.
We all spent a lot of time in the Oceaneer's club with Totes as they had a lot of open house hours that we could all participate in (more on this in a *TIP below). One of the activities that we participated in at the Lab today was the Piston Cup Challenge. Totes teamed up with another participant, an adorable girl about his age. They decorated a paper flag and carved a race car out of a bar of soap... which for our team meant that they basically just put a few cut marks in the bar. The Lab Leaders then added the wheels and took turns racing two cars down the racetrack! The winner went on to the next heat while the losing car said goodbye and met the trashcan. After three rounds, our car won! Maybe that's why I liked this activity so much.
We pulled up to the Dawes Glacier in the late morning and spent a bit of time up on the top deck for the best views. I'm not sure if it was due to the time of year and the warming temperatures making the ice melt, but in the few minutes that I sat staring directly at the glacier, I watched several large chunks of ice come crashing off the side and into the water, creating a huge echo through the canyon we were stopped in. And so many beautiful waterfalls that were coming down the sides of the mountains. Our family has been around this landscape for several years now so I feel that weren't as in awe as most other passengers but I still think it's so beautiful and am grateful we had the opportunity to see it. After navigating this far north and through such rough seas, I would be really nervous to ever attempt a trip on our own boat this far!
That night my husband and I had booked dinner at the adult's only restaurant on board, Palo. I had read many reviews raving about the amazing food and we were nothing short of impressed ourselves. It was exceptional. Upon entering the dining room, we immediately were introduced to a server from my husband's hometown in Napoli, Italy. They also informed the chef, a Northern Italian man, of our presence and h came out and chatted with us for quite some time. In addition to the initial course of antipasti, the chef brought out a huge leg of octopus (not on the menu), followed by an 'in-between' course of strawberry gelato, a customary course in Italy to 'cleanse the palate' in preparation for the next dish. I learned that this gelato isn't even on the menu. The chef just makes a small batch just for himself! It was so delicious! Our next course was two dishes of pasta that we split and shared. We had originally ordered the Osobuco as well but after nearly licking each plate clean, we made sure there was still time to cancel it and declined eating anymore... but of course there was dessert. Palo is apparently known for their chocolate souffle but tonight they also had a second style, an amaretto souffle, both with a drizzle of chocolate and vanilla sauce. Of course they brought out both. It was worth the stomachache I had for the rest of the evening. Our waitress, Susana, was phenomenal, such great presence and attentiveness. This is a must do if you come on this cruise! There is an extra fee for dining here, which is $30 per person.
The rest of the night was so smooth and we all slept well.
Adult Entertainment | I was surprise at how many adults and child-less families I noticed to be on board. And I overheard time and time again from many of them that they will only cruise Disney. I can attest to you it's not due to the adult entertainment options. Most nights while I put the baby to bed and Grandma entertained Totes, my husband wandered off to the adult-only areas and bars on deck three or the Cove lounge on deck nine. He always reported that they were completely dead. There are no casinos on board, as with most other large cruise ships... there were no wild parties, dance clubs or really anything going on after the kids went to bed. I've been on a Royal Caribbean cruise and Norwegian cruise that had all of those things with much rowdier crowds, so possibly that's the draw for so many to Disney even sans kids, wanting to avoid those crowds. Palo restaurant was the best adults-only time my husband and I had on board during our seven nights. The food was incredible and service impeccable. I wish we would have dined there more than once but we ate so much that when it came time for our second reservation on the final night of our trip, we decided to cancel and skip dinner altogether!
Kids Entertainment | It's Disney. Of course this is going to be the best part of the cruise and the reason you booked this line over the others. But there's one thing I didn't expect and wasn't prepared for; how the age requirements of the kids clubs separated our family. Since we had my mom (grandma) and sister on this trip with us, I knew ahead of time I wasn't going to use the nursery on board for Apple. It's an extra charge of $9.00 per hour for your babe and they recommend making early reservations, like before you even set sail. I walked by the nursery on the first day and it just looked plain sad. Apple would have just cried the whole time so she stayed with us. Where Disney truly shines in kids entertainment is the 3-12 year olds. The Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab are awesome! On the first day onboard, after you would have already pre-registered your child in the months leading up to your cruise, they'll give your kid an electronic bracelet that he/she uses to check in/out of the kids clubs. The Oceaneer's Club is geared more toward play time... most kids will congregate in the Andy's Room nook although the club itself is very spacious. Andy's Room was so fun, even Grandma went down the slide! The Lab is also very large and fun but the activities are more science focused. Totes preferred the club as free-play is his jam right now, but the two are connected so kids can bounce between the two as they please without checking out. Each evening when we received our navigator that detailed the activities on board for the next day, we made note of activities in each and specifically, Open House times. Open House times in all the kid's clubs (including the older teen areas) are open to the entire family. So these were the times we were able to bring Apple in to play, which times varied day-to-day but averaged only a few hours a day. Otherwise, we had to check Totes in and leave until he was ready to be picked up. A really great feature here is that the club will shoot you a message when your child notifies one of the attendants that they are ready to go. You will get a message via your Navigator App (be sure to download this ahead of time while you still have cell phone service!) and/or your stateroom wave phone.
Day 4: Skagway, Alaska
The boat docked at port around 7am and we had just enough time for breakfast before our 8:15am port adventure. We booked a shuttle bus to take us to the Yukon Suspension Bridge. The drive took about 40 minutes each way and went along some beautiful scenery. The suspension bridge wasn't quite what I had in mind. Having been to the Capillano suspension bridge in Vancouver BC, I was expecting something more along those lines but this was a quite a bit less thrilling. We learned that the original bridge was replaced several years ago to a newer, modern metal version so it felt safe enough for my husband to cross. The restaurant on site was closed but the cafe and gift shop was open. We got a hot cinnamon bun and a few souvenirs before getting back on the shuttle. Our shuttle bus driver, we learned on the way up, was a fellow Utahan! Skagway tour guide is his summer job, of all things! He was excellent and very informative. He took a quick detour down the main street of Skagway so we could all see the historic city. The cruise ship was docked a bit away from the actual town so it was a good 15 minute walk or shuttles were offered at $2.00 per person. However, the winds were blowing 40 knots while we were there so my husband and I stayed behind on the ship with the kids while Grandma and my sister went into town to explore. One of the drawbacks of traveling with young kids, many of the excursions would have taken too much time or been too adventurous for them.
Communicating With Your Group on Board | Besides being in Canada some of the time, you’ll be out of cell coverage for most of the time you’re at sea and even at some ports. Service was spotty in all three Alaskan ports. My husband and I have TMobile, so we have free data roaming in Canada but once you leave port in Vancouver, you’ll basically have nothing. This is why it is very important to download the Disney Navigator App before you leave for the cruise. My sister forgot to and then in the rush of everything else going on, we didn’t set up a personal hotspot while we still had cell service in Vancouver to allow her to get it. So for the next two days, she had no way (via her phone) to communicate with us. The Disney Navigator app allows you to connect your cell phone to the Disney Wonder’s wifi and chat with others connected through the app. The ships wifi won’t work for anything else. The navigator app also connects you to a lot of on board information, like deck plans and activities going on throughout the day. Besides the on board chat with other app users, my favorite thing about the app was the ability to set reminders of onboard activities, like specific games or character appearances going on throughout the ship. It’s easy to get distracted and lose track of time, then miss Mickey’s Roadster Racing in the Oceaneer’s Club at 2:30pm that day. I would browse through events and activities the night before and mark my favorites. Then when it was time for the activity, I received a push notification.
Sending texts to each other to check-in was the best feature for us all since we had a split group, especially the Disney Emojis! Additionally, each stateroom has a wave phone (ours had two), which you could take with you anywhere on board and use to call or send messages to any other wave phone. We didn’t use this as our Navigator app worked so well. Oh, and my husband got suckered into purchasing the onboard internet package for $80+ and however many megabytes only to find out that it barely worked, the internet was a slug and with all the apps and background stuff running on his phone, once it connected, it drained his package almost immediately. We figured out too late, after shutting down everything we could think of, that iCloud backup was to blame.
Fish Extenders and Door Decorating with Magnets
If you really want to get into the spirit, kids or no kids, consider bringing decorations for your door. The doors are metal so magnets are the way to go. In fact, we had brought some vinyl reusable stickers and after applying them to our door, we received a letter asking that we take them off and use only magnets in order to reduce the risk of causing damage to the doors. Buy a magnetic strip that you can cut to any size and glue magnets to the back of any decor you come across! Pictures of you, your kids, your favorite characters, anything! We saw some really cute decor and wish we would have done more ourselves. And if you haven't heard of the fish extenders, go type the word in Pinterest and see what comes up! We didn't participate this but it's a fun "secret-santa" style activity that you can do while on boar and I wish we would have. Next time!
Day 5: Juneau, Alaska
With no shore excursions booked here, we leisurely got ready that morning, had breakfast and made our way off the ship just before noon. Shuttles into town from the cruise ship were complimentary. We noted that we were docked the furthest away from the town than all the other cruise ships. Two from Holland America were within steps of the main street. We walked the town before agreeing that we all wanted to take the Mount Roberts Tramway up the mountain for lunch. This was one the highlights of the trip for me. The tram car was large enough that we could push the strollers right onto with the kids peacefully sleeping inside. The views were gorgeous and partially due to fact that we had a perfectly clear, sunny day. All of the locals kept talking about how rare a day like this is. We get it. Just like in Seattle. Lunch at Timberline Atop Mount Roberts was great. Our table right by the window overlooking the drop off gave us front row seats to eagles soaring by and the ships docked below. A resident and injured bald eagle, Lady Baltimore, resides at the Nature Center and was such a beautiful and regal site to see up close. There were several hiking trails that we weren't able to make it along with two babies sleeping away in their stroller, but it made for a peaceful lunch and for that we thanked our lucky stars because as parents of young kids know, that NEVER happens.
We got back on board by about 4pm so we had some time before dinner to spend at the pool We changed and headed there where I learned the hard way that new federal regulations prohibit swim diapers (or just non-potty trained kids in general) in the public swimming pools on board cruise ships. I get it. With the spread of germs so rampant in the past on these ships, it's a necessary precaution. But I was really caught off guard here. Before I knew, and one of the attendants could stop me, I jumped in the water with Apple in my arms, getting both of us completely wet. The water felt so good! It was warm, like bathtub water (colder than I would bath it but still...). The attendant immediately came to me and explained the rules so we got out. Since the air temp was hovering right around 70 degrees, although sunny, we were both immediately cold. They let us know that Dory's Reef, a small splash pad on the other side of the deck, was for babies so we headed that way. But by then Melina was crying and wanted nothing to do with the squirting water. She kept saying "bath tub!" and pointing back to the pool. (sad-face) and wouldn't let me put her down. So I took her back down to the room to change while Grandma swam with Totes. I was so bummed! This was definitely the best day of weather we had the whole time. So lesson learned. I will not be returning on any other cruise ship until my little girl is potty trained. The swimming pool aspect is so important to me and if we cruise again, it will be to a tropical destination so pool time is crucial.
Dinner that night was back at Animator's Palate and this was another highlight for me. At the beginning of the dinner, our waiter handed each of us a large piece of paper (see picture below) with instructions to draw a self-portrait inside the box, within the gray lines. Totes and I clearly did not understand the directions or concept. Our waiter collected our papers before the dinner service started, then after our meal, the video started on all the screens in the room. We were told to direct our attention to the three screens nearest our table. I won't do it any justice to describe properly the video, but I'll try by saying it was a bunch of clips from the classic Disney movies that they injected everyone's drawings into. The animation of our drawings moved not only with the music, but with the characters in the film. I was simply amazed, thinking how much talent it must take to create something like this, so quickly and easily. We all spotted our drawings. Yes, even Totes' scribbles made an appearance! I'm so glad I took a video of it with my phone because I've really enjoyed re-watching it several times.
After dinner, we took a walk along the deck on level four. The only breeze here was coming from the speed of the boat and it was nice and warm. The frozen musical was that evening and Grandma and my sister took Totes while I put Melina to sleep. My husband took over staying in the room with her and I joined them late. But about 10 minutes after I arrived, Totes insisted on leaving. His 10 minute attention span held out for the first 45 minutes of the musical so I was at least impressed enough by that.
Port Adventures | I will just say that I was overwhelmed at the options of port adventures available at each port. While a majority of them didn't appeal to me simply because of the age of our children. I would have loved to go dog-sledding in Juneau, or taken a seaplane tour over the glaciers, or gone zip-lining in Skagway, but my kids were just too young for that this year. In Skagway, we booked a shuttle bus tour to the Yukon Suspension Bridge and it was a great way to see the landscape of the Yukon region. In Ketchikan we booked a city and totem pole museum tour by trolley that I was not impressed with. And as I mention here, in Juneau we went ashore at leisure and took the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top for lunch. Booking through Disney ahead of time or from the tramway station directly at the time of is the same price.
Day 6: Ketchikan, Alaska
We started the morning out with a scheduled Character Breakfast in Animator's Palate. Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy came to the table for a photo opportunity. It was fun for the kids but the food was sub par. The Oceaneer's club was having a late morning open house so we spent the rest of the morning there. We had scheduled a late shore excursion; the City Tour and Totem Museum by Trolley. And here's the truth, I would not recommend spending the money on this one if you're considering it. The Totem Museum was neat to see and we mainly went because my mom has this exact picture (above) of her and my dad in this exact spot taken several years ago. So it was fun to re-create. But the museum is not really a museum. There's a workshop, the little park-like display you see behind and a gift shop. There was no one working in the gift shop when we went, so the 40 minute the guide gave us to walk around the place was mostly spent in the gift shop... coincidence? Probably not. And as for Ketchikan itself, it consists of a couple of big souvenir shops right by the dock... and that's it. So after our quick tour and popping into a shop to buy matching Lazy One onsie pajamas, we stayed on board for the rest of the day. Tried to get everyone into the pool for a swim in the rare sunshine but Totes complained it was too cold and Apple wanted nothing to do with Dory's Reef again.
Dinner this evening was in Tiana's Place, which we had skipped the first night of our rotation turn in this dining room. Another dining highlight of the trip, mainly because this is the night our Totes met Miss Quinn. Well, actually I believe they probably met at the kids club earlier on the trip, this was just the first time we were aware of their little connection. Our dining tables happened to be right next to each other so early in the evening, he jumped out of his chair and went over to play with her and another girl friend. Mardi-gras beads were flying everywhere, a live band was on stage, playing some really fun jazz and blues and people were getting up to dance all throughout dinner. We all even paraded around the dining room at one point. Apple was dancing with us all and at one point, I tried to go over to dance with Totes and the girls but he totally shut me down and ran off with them! It was the first time I ever felt like that mom. The uncool mom that is ruining her kids social life! And for the rest of the evening, we couldn't tear them apart.
Schedule a Character Breakfast | You can schedule your group for the Character Breakfast in Animator’s Palace ahead of your departure date through your account on the Disney Cruise Lines website. But if you forget, check with Guest Services for last minute availability. We actually forgot about ours on the second day of the cruise! So luckily they got us in on day six. This is a great way to get your photo opps in with the kids and the characters. But know that not all characters attend. We only saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto. The breakfast itself is short but the one-on-one attention from the characters is great for the kids. And a much better way to see them than standing in line for character appearances in other areas of the ship. If you’re good about walking around the hallways onboard, as we did regularly to let our one year old run free, you’ll get lucky and run into characters on their way to or from appearances. Most will stop for a quick hug and photo, as we experienced with Ariel, Chip & Dale and Pluto. We stood in line for the more rare appearances, like the Frozen trio (Anna, Elsa and Olaf) and Sully. The lines can be long and sometimes filled with more adults than kids.
Day 7: At Sea; homeward bound
The first words out of Totes' mouth this morning were "Mamma, I want to go play with Quinn!"
We had breakfast all together with her and her grandma in Cabana's, then checked them into the kid's club. Around noon, the club put on a big performance called "Friendship Rocks" that all the kids onboard that were part of the Oceaneer's Club were invited to participate in. We all went to the theater and watched them all join Mickey and Minnie Mouse on stage for a dance and singing performance. Totes was right up front so we had a great view of him clapping, singing and dancing.
Our route was taking us back down the Strait of Georgia, just off the east coast of Vancouver Island so we spent a lot of time on the deck, enjoying the warm air and views. Once the ship had passed the northern tip of Vancouver Island, coming down the Queen Charlotte Strait, we were much more protected and the winds died down. It was a great time to take one last advantage of the sunshine and pools. My sister and I even went for two rounds down the water slide of the Aqua Lab. Unfortunately, I couldn't convince Totes to go since they are strict on one rider in the slide at a time and he only wanted to go if he could sit with me. After dinner at Triton's, I let Melina take me for a walk and we ended up in the Promenade Lounge where they were just starting a big family dance party. That kept her entertained for the rest of the evening. My husband and I were scheduled for another dinner at Palo but we decided at the last minute to cancel since we felt like we needed a night off of eating! And with an early debarking the next morning, I needed to pack. We had to tear Totes and Quinn apart again at the end of the night and there were tears all around.
Using the Swimming Pools on your Alaska Voyage | This is the question I was trying to seek out most from other blogs... would it be warm enough to swim? Our sail date was May 22nd and this was the first voyage of the season for the Disney Wonder. From experience, we knew that May and June are typically cold months in the PNW so we didn't anticipate a warm, sunny vacation. We did luck out with the weather though and only had rain the first day at sea. At the sail away party on the first day, we were all so hot, standing on deck nine in the Vancouver Harbor, we wished we would have brought our swimsuits so we could have jumped in. The second and third days at sea were chilly and in Skagway, it was too windy. But in Juneau, the weather was great for swimming. As I mentioned above, be aware that infants wearing swim diapers and not potty trained are not allowed in any of the pools onboard. This isn't just a Disney Cruise Lines rule, this is ALL cruise ships now days, a rule from The United States Public Health Service. Dory's Reef is a small, enclosed splash pad on the back end of the ship near the Aqua Lab and Water Slide for infants wearing swim diapers. I'm not sure why, but Apple wanted nothing to do with Dory's Reef on the two separate days we tried to go, despite other young kids playing in there. The water spraying from the walls, ground and little sculptures was very spontaneous and unpredictable so I can see why babies would be apprehensive of this area. I wish it would have just been a little fountain or steady stream because she absolutely loves bath time in the tub anywhere we go.
I packed lifejackets for both kids, our Stearn's Puddle Jumper for Totes, and was happy to see that I shouldn't have as they had plenty of kids life vests to use by the pools.
Be Prepared to Spend Extra | If you've cruised before, or been to an all-inclusive style vacation, it won't come as a surprise to you that many things cost extra. I mentioned above that while the kids entertainment onboard is awesome, we would have had to be an extra $9 per hour to drop off our daughter too. Palo, the adults-only dining room, was an extra $30 per person but I feel well worth it. Obviously alcoholic drinks are extra, but so was our cappuccino as the dining rooms only served drip coffee. It was excellent though as they use Illy and made it exactly to our specification.
The Disney to Alaska Cruise is one of the highest priced cruises they offer not because of any extras you get on board but simply because of the distance. Our ship covered over 3,000 miles! That's a lot of diesel. And over seven nights is a lot of time. The excursions also come with a high price tag, but if you think about the small window these people are able to offer these services in a year (we're talking three months here!), it makes sense they have to charge more.
My favorite freebie? The soft-serve "Eye Scream" ice cream on deck nine. We had it every day... admittedly even twice a few times!
We loved every minute of this trip and wish we could have stayed longer! Totes has been asking to go back every day since we returned. We plan on cruising again with Disney in the future but will wait until our kids are older since looking back on our experience, for the reason of age requirements, I would not have gone on a Disney Cruise until our kids were able to be in the kids clubs together and both been able to use the pools. So for us, that would be age 3+. Our next destination on a Disney Cruise will most likely be to the Caribbean and to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
Thanks for reading! Comment below if you have any questions I can answer or just to let me know if you found this useful! And be sure to save to Pinterest for future reference!