Alaska - 8/20/12-8/27/12 - Disney Wonder
Great trip! I love Disney. I don't generally just write about all of the good stuff...so this review is mixed with good stuff and bad stuff. But don't get too fixated on the bad stuff...most of them were pretty minor despite it sounding like I'm complaining here.
The port at Seattle is nice and spacious. The lines were pretty quick and boarding was fast. We got to the port at around 11:15 and quickly got through check-in within about 10 minutes. There was a mix up because they had my mother in law as a first timer so they wouldn't give her the silver lanyard, etc. They did note it though and later when I was on the ship, I checked with guest services and they did have it updated (and gave her a silver lanyard).
I stood in the long line to get my son's wrist band. Minor annoyance here was that the forms to fill out for your child were on a table but there were only 2 pens because everyone stole the pens. I was waiting for this lady to finish up so that I can use the pen after her but of course…she ended up just walking off with the pen! Sheesh… They always seem to call my boarding number at around the time that I get to the front of this long line and sure enough it happened again. I was in boarding group 7 and they called 7 when I was about 2 people from the front so I just kept waiting in line. By the time my son got his wrist band, they were at group 12. This line is always too long so they really should add more people here. People also ask way too many questions once they finally get to the front of the line. It took us about 2 minutes to get done over there while other groups were taking 10 minutes, etc. They called groups quickly (every 3 minutes or so). Getting on the ship was nice as they continued with the traditional welcoming of each family.
We headed straight to Parrot Cay. I usually like eating at Parrot Cay instead of Beach Blanket because they will assign a table to you rather than force you to walk around looking for an empty table. I enjoyed the first meal as I was pretty hungry.
I made 2 palo reservations online. I wanted to see if I could change the times of my reservations as well as add some more people to my reservation. We were traveling with my son, MIL, sister in law, and SIL's husband but when I booked online, I was only able to book tables for 3, not 5. They tried to book online but by the time they got online it was full.
So we walked over to Wave Bands and made reservations. It was simple and fast. They had lots of availability, etc.
Our meals were all excellent. Of course this is a cruise ship, not a 5 star restaurant so expectations need to be aligned. They aren't cooking your food to order so customizations, etc. should be kept at a minimum. Our servers were both great and friendly and took the time to chat and be personable. Our assistant waiter was good but didn't do some of the things that previous assistants did such as play games, give little puzzles / brain teasers, etc. But he did get us drinks and stayed friendly the entire trip.
The salad on the first dinner was pretty bad. The leaves were wilted and discolored at the edges, etc. My wife brought this up to the waiter so he brought another one. He did keep explaining that they make these salads at around 3pm and then put them in a cooler so it's common to get discoloration like that at 6pm but future salads were better.
Our waiter also had no problems hooking us up with extra lobster tails, etc. Those lobster tails were huge!
Our head waiter was Geffrey (Philippines) who always had a smile and checked in with us frequently. Our waiter was Roland (India) who knew everything about the food and made great recommendations. Our assistant waiter was Freddy (Colombia) who was quick with the drinks.
The ship is in great condition. They are keeping up the ship pretty well. I did see a few cracks and discolorations, etc. here and there but overall, the ship is still a beauty. They did paint the black on the ship during the ports, etc. Our room smelled of heavy paint fumes but oh well…once the paint dried and we were moving it was fine.
Shows / Entertainment
We didn't watch all of the shows this time since this was our 3rd Disney cruise (all on the wonder). But I did watch the Golden Mickeys and the first show (forgot what it was). Both shows were pretty good. They had a funny physical comedy guy named Max Winfrey and he was great. He was really funny for both the kids and the adults. I went to his adult show as well as the family show and both were excellent.
The bucket boys were also good. All of the entertainment on the ship was great for a cruise ship.
I am a bit of a late night guy and sometimes like to party late into the night. But on Disney ships, the ship does tend to die out at around 11pm or so. This is definitely a nice family ship, not a party ship.
Christian is the cruise director. He was the CD last time as well. He's good.
Our room was 6134. This is one of the rear plexiglass balcony rooms with a slightly obstructed balcony so you basically pay for a cat 7 room but get a cat 6 quality room so it's a good deal. The room was nice but a little cramped (i.e., if I wanted to walk from the bathroom to the sofa, the bed was in the way so only one person could walk through at a time). The sofa cushions were worn so it was a bit uncomfortable sitting on the sofa. The bed was nice though. There is plenty of storage space.
One of our wave phones weren't working so I took it to guest services and they were able to fix it. They just pulled off the battery and re-seated it. I tried to do that but didn't want to force open the battery cover in the back but it turns out you can just force it open.
Our room steward was great as well. He was always working. If he wasn't cleaning rooms, he was cleaning the doors, rails, hallways, etc. We had Arturo from the Philippines. He made towel animals every night.
My son spent all of his time at the Oceaneer Lab. He spent a few hours in the Oceaneer Club when the Lab was closed (or had open house). He really enjoyed the video games and arts and crafts in there. He wanted to stay there all day long but we pulled him out for dinners, sightseeing at the ports, etc.
We went swimming on the first morning (day 2) when most people didn't realize that the pool was heated. Everyone was walking by giving us a look like we're 2 crazy people since the 2 of us were the only ones in the pool at 9am and it was freezing cold outside. But a few people did walk over and put their hands on the water to check the temperature and by 10am, there were some more kids, etc.
The ports were nice. Like most cruise lines, they do push pretty hard on shopping at the ports for stuff like diamonds, jewelry, watches, etc. I'm not really a big shopper so I didn't go to any of the shopping talks or step foot in any of the jewelry places. I did go to some souvenir shops though and the prices seemed ok (t-shirts for $10-$15, etc.). I saw Whitney (shopping coordinator) a lot around the ports and she seemed nice.
Tracy Arm was cold but it was interesting seeing the glacier and all of the ice around us. I mostly hung around the secret deck at 7 aft and our room balcony. Deck 10 was nice though and not nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. Maybe it's because it was rainy so people stayed in their rooms a lot more. They did have hot chocolate and cookies out for everyone and there was a covered section. They also had bbq at the rear of deck 10.
Skagway was fun. We rented a car and drove through the Yukon to Carcross and Emerald Lake. I used Murray's guide and it was great. The actual town of Skagway is pretty small and there really isn't much to do there.
Juneau seemed like it had a lot to do but we were only there from 7am-2pm and we got to town at around 10am after breakfast. We went on a tour to the Mendenhall glacier and the city for 2.5 hours and it was ok. We just booked it in the city when we got there. The price was $30 but they guy gave us a $5 discount to $25. There were some bald eagles as well.
Ketchikan was pretty fun and we saw lots of salmon trying to get upstream. The little town area was also nice with lots of small shops, etc. Creek street was an interesting little street and we also took the funicular up to the lodge.
Victoria was a nice Canadian city but we were only there from 7pm-10pm so we really spent about an hour or so walking around the city.
We didn't do any of the Disney port adventures so I can't comment on those but these ports were pretty fun with lots of good nature to look at, etc.
We had brunch at Palo. It was awesome. There is a great assortment of anti-pastas, crab, king crab legs, caviar, sticky buns, vegetables, shrimp, priscutto, etc. We had a nice server named Alex (Russia) who took the time to explain everything to us. They also have hot dishes that we can order through him so we got some pasta, pizzas, and main dishes (veal, chicken parmesan, etc.). It also comes with a mimosa or sparkling wine. And don't forget the dessert…nice assortment there too.
Brunch was great and is well worth the additional fee.
We also gave him a decent tip ($15/person).
We had dinner at Palo as well on the next evening and as soon as Alex saw us, he ran over to us and bent over backwards to welcome us. He brought us over to a table and couldn't wait to serve us again.
There was some confusion because our server was supposed to be Salvatore from Italy (Naples / Napoli) and he came by to introduce himself to us but Alex stepped in and got rid of him. I guess there was a minor turf war or something but anyway, Alex served us again. Salvatore didn't look very happy.
Alex did very well and got us plenty of food and variety. He also got us a good variety of desserts (chocolate soufflé, etc.). He really took care of us that night. He was missing his family a lot since he was at the end of his 6 month contract and would be heading back to Russia on Monday for 2 months.
The head of the restaurant Dragan (Croatia) also came by to ask if there was anything he could do for us and we discussed heading over to Palo one more time. We discussed it at the table and decided to do another brunch on the last day. It was pretty booked but he was able to fit us in for a late seating (noon) on the last day.
So we had 3 meals at Palo this trip and all of the meals were excellent. Our server was great (I'm sure the tip helped) and I highly recommend it.
Final breakfast and disembarking
We had our final breakfast at Parrot Cay. It was nice but after all of this food overload I was sad but ready to get off the ship. We finished breakfast at 8 (started at 7:15) and they called our group as we were walking out so we just walked off the ship. I definitely need to detox my body.
Disembarking was fast and our bags were waiting for us at the terminal. We walked outside and grabbed and taxi and went home. Quick and painless.
We booked a cruise onboard for 11/2013 on the Fantasy. I don't know if we'll actually take that cruise but I do want to check out one of their newer ships on a 7 day cruise. It looks like the only option for 2013 is to go to Florida. I would have preferred a west coast sailing or a Europe sailing but oh well.
The gym was nice. I worked out 3 times and it was good having a well equipped gym on the ship. The ellipticals were usually taken but there were some empty treadmills most of the time. I also used the lockers and showers a lot this time as the showers were better than the ones in our room.
My wife got a massage but I didn't get one. At $179 for a 75 minute massage, it seemed a little steep but she enjoyed it.
The ship was a bit crowded with around 2400 passengers. The Wonder is rated for 1700 passengers based on double occupancy but with all of the kids, I think it's always much higher than 1700. I think around 2000 passengers would work well. The elevators were pretty crowded, food lines were crowded, Beach Blanket Buffet didn't have a lot of open tables, Walt Disney theatre was pretty full, etc. I went to the Cove Cafe on the last day but couldn't get a table so I eventually left.
Of course there is no saving seats at the Walt Disney theatre but that didn't stop people from doing it anyway. I did get a bit annoyed one night as we were there 15 minutes early but still couldn't find seating. I only needed 3 seats but people were saving 5+ seats, etc. I finally got so fed up with this one guy who gave the old excuse "my wife and 3 kids are in the bathroom" that I just told my wife really loudly "should I just call over the staff to tell this guy that he can't save seats?" but she didn't want to cause a scene. Hopefully he'll just tell his wife and kids to come with him next time rather than "I'll get there early and save you all seats"…but who knows. The other days were were ok but I also didn't go there as often as previous cruises.
Captain Thord was around the ship here and there. He seems like a nice enough guy but he's pretty serious. He never cracks a smile, etc. but he will say "Hello" or "Good morning" if you greet him.
Our waiter was telling us that their last captain screwed up and bent one of the propellers on the ship by going too close to something...at $3m for each propeller it was a serious offense and the captain got fired. So I guess it could be a stressful job.
Anyway, the cruise was awesome!!!
I took hundreds of pictures. I should have them ready for viewing in the next few days. I'll add to this thread when ready.
Thanks for the report! We leave in a week for our cruise. How was the weather? They're forecasting rain for us :sad1: Do you have to wait in line for the kids club at the terminal or can you do it once onboard? We registered him online and I thought I had read you can pick up the wrist band once you were on the ship.
I can't wait to see your pictures!
You can pick up wristbands on the ship. It's on the 5th floor (mid). However, the line on the ship is also pretty long at first but noticeably dies down quickly. By the end of the first night you should be fine with no line.
But if your kid wants be checked in, he/she will need a band so get it sooner than later.
I usually pick it up at the port since there's nothing to do but wait around anyway.
Also, I did the form online as well.
Weather was cold. You needed coats on the open decks and at the ports. Victoria was the warmest. It rained on the day at Tracy Arm but it wasn't a heavy rain. The other days didn't see rain so we got lucky but the weather was very overcast and cloudy (bad for picture taking).
But he was very attentive and always willing to please. He was great at suggesting dishes and bringing us stuff that he thought we might like, etc.
So overall, we liked him.
Oooh, how frustrating about the Mickey band registration. I did the form online ahead of time, so we whipped through that line. I just had to fill out one form at the desk that gave Q permission to do the cooking school (because of his allergy) and that was it. Super fast. We were done with enough time to do pics with Minnie and then with Captain Mickey before they started calling boarding numbers.
We did Parrot Cay too even though initially the person on board only told us about Beach Blanket. I had to ask if Parrot Cay was available. That was a bit frustrating--especially because when we got in there, Parrot Cay still was mostly empty.
Totally agree about the Walt Disney Theater being really crowded for most of the shows. It surprised me how early it filled up. People went nuts with the seat saving, too.
I didn't actually have to do the form since we did it online but I didn't have anything else to do so I figured I'd write up another one just in case while we were waiting anyway. Since I couldn't (pen issue), it was ok and they were able to sign us in pretty quickly once we got to the front of the line. But it still took about 40 minutes or so to get through that line to the front.
Oh well...maybe just my bad luck but that line has been about 40 minutes for all 3 of my Disney cruises.
I was glad that we didn't get much rain though. That was definitely nice.
Full picture set is here: http://www.danpaik.com/Travel/USA/Alaska-2012
A few pictures from the set.
On the way to Tracy Arm
Waterfall near Tracy Arm
Suspension Bridge in British Columbia
Yukon - Carcross
Yukon - Emerald Lake
Juneau - Nugget Falls
The Disney Wonder
Ketchikan - Creek St.
Your pictures are beautiful! Would you mind telling me what camera you use?
Wow... your pictures are really amazing...
Makes me want to get a better camera myself. Thank you for posting !
I use a Canon 1Ds Mark II. It's an older camera (about 7 years old) in this era of digital cameras.
Most of the pictures here were with the Canon 1Ds Mark II and Canon 17-40 f/4L lens.
Post processing work was done in Aperture (on Mac).
I can understand your frustration with the saving seats non-enforced policy, but Disney attracts large families and lots of young children who need escorts to the facilities. I was on the Aug 20 Wonder also, in a group of 11 with 5 young children. We would arrive at the shows like Dreams at opening of the theatre, but inevitably the children would want drinks/snacks or use the bathrooms. Once a staff member reminded us that we couldn't save seats, but then backed off and said you can't have an empty seat for 10 minutes. A good strategy is to sit with 1 empty chair between people - as long as empty seats remained in the theatre nobody would want to split up and sit alone (especially families). We had late dining so we saw the earlier shows which generally did not fill to capacity. I just don't see anyway to enforce this rule fairly short of telling people they are prisoners in their seats (and dealing with the "consequences").
My Tracy arm photo
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