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Old 09-05-2013, 01:31 PM   #1
gregf71
Earning My Ears
 
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Vancouver & Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder: August 17 - 26, 2013 (With Pics!)

Let me begin by introducing our cast of characters: myself (41), my wife (37), daughter (7) and my mom (66). San Diego residents and Disneyland annual Passholders all! My wife and I cruised with Disney twice before, first on the Wonder to the Bahamas in 2001 on our honeymoon and again to the Bahamas on the Dream, this time with our daughter, in 2011. For my mom, this was her first Disney cruise…and EXCITED does not even come close to describing her feelings! And a quick word about my mom…at 66, she is still a kid at heart…unfortunately mobility is not one of her strongpoints. After two knee and one hip (last year) replacement surgeries, she generally gets around fine by herself, but speed is not a virtue, stairs are a challenge, and a walking cane is required.

Day 1 – August 17, 2013 – Travel Day to Vancouver

Our day began Saturday morning at 3:30am, as all of our various alarms (alarm clock and two smart phones) went off! There was no way that we were not getting up and out of the door on time! It was a Park & Ride for us near the airport, while my mom was dropped off at the airport terminal by my brother. Check in and security went smoothly and the next thing you know we are all sitting at the gate waiting for our 6:30am flight to Seattle en route to Vancouver!

By 10:00am, we are in the Seattle airport, chilling by the gate for our final flight to Vancouver. Now, here is where my mom’s mobility issues first came into play. Since this is such a short flight, we would be taking a much smaller plane than we did from San Diego. Access to the plane was not via the usual elevated gangway, but rather via stairs on the tarmac. Noticing this, I immediately inquired with the airline staff about options. The Horizon Air people were wonderful! Prior to general boarding, they called my mother’s name and she and I proceeded to a nearby elevator, where we (and a few others with similar needs) were escorted down to the tarmac. There, a very nice woman, offered to give my mom a ride on a wheelchair to the plane. Given that it was still a bit of a walk out to the plane itself, mom jumped (ok, she doesn’t really jump any more) at the offer and enjoyed a nice ride out to the small set of stairs entering the rear of the plane. I mention this specifically because boarding was split between the front and rear of the plane depending on where your seats were inside; ours were near the rear, so there you go. Shortly, my wife and daughter joined us in the plane and we were off to Vancouver!

After a short 30 minute flight, we arrived in Vancouver! Unfortunately, which we didn’t realize initially, our arrival gate was pretty far out there. Mom decided that she could walk the distance to baggage claim and transportation, and she did ok, but the memory of this long walk (in her mind at least) remained and played a part in decisions made at the end of the trip, which I will mention later. After a swift trip through the Customs queue (made ever so quick by the nice airport staff who ushered our group to a short line upon seeing my mom and her cane), we claimed our bags (and our free luggage trolleys, which, just saying, should be free at all airports; I am looking at you U.S. airports!), found a Disney Cruise Line representative waiting in the Baggage Claim area, and were then escorted to our driver, name placard in hand, awaiting our arrival. As an aside, this was the first time that I have ever traveled, for either business or pleasure, where I had a driver waiting for me with my name on a placard…that was pretty cool! And why did we have a driver waiting for us you ask, instead of us waiting for a shuttle bus to go to the cruise ship terminal? Well, if you have not already realized, we booked a pre-cruise stay in Vancouver via DCL and arrived two days before embarkation!

Our wonderful driver helped us with our numerous bits of luggage and led us to his vehicle, parked right in front of the terminal. It was a spacious, clean and very comfortable SUV for our party of four. The drive into downtown Vancouver took about 30 to 40 minutes, though it could easily have taken longer. Our driver repeatedly circumvented traffic jams in the western downtown area caused by general traffic patterns, coupled with the occasional road work and film crews; yes, film crews…they took over at least two sections of street on our way in that morning. By 12:30pm or so, we arrived at the Fairmont Waterfront, directly across the street from the cruise ship terminal! Our vacation had now officially begun!

After checking into the hotel and dropping our stuff off in our rooms, the priority was lunch and I had only one place in mind….Japadaog! Now, I knew that there was a Japadog cart only a few short blocks away, but I also knew that its offerings were limited compared to the counter service Japadog up on Robson (thank you internet!). The trek to the eatery proved a bit challenging for my mom as there was a slight incline towards Robson Street, but she preferred to walk and made it in excellent spirits…and hungry! The line was out the door, but not bad at all. All of the limited seating was taken, but by the time we placed our order, an inside table opened up as people seemed to move in and out quickly. My wife and I both ordered their signature Terimayo Dog (teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and topped with shredded seaweed), while our daughter and my mom were a bit less adventurous and ordered the Kurobuta Pork sausage with mustard. We also ordered a serving of the Butter & Shoyu (a soy sauce) fries to share. How good was it? I shed a tear. My wife and I both agreed that the Terimayo dogs were amazingly flavorful and delicious!



I rank it as one of the top three hot dogs that I have ever had, joining Puka Dog in Kauai and the bacon wrapped hot dog with the works I tried, at my friends’ insistence, from a street vendor in Rosarito, Mexico; and yes, I have been to and had a Chicago Dog in Chicago. My mom and daughter also loved their hot dogs as well. The fries? Well, these too were wonderful…they tasted like no other fries I ever had before! They were buttery and salty and complemented the hot dogs perfectly. Dessert? Well, while Japadog did have a few offerings, we chose something different…Beard Papa’s! My wife was ecstatic to see this wonderful cream puff establishment just two doors down! While we waited for our Japadog order, she popped over to Beard Papa’s and purchased a couple cream puffs that we thoroughly enjoyed sharing.

With lunch out of the way, we wandered north up Robson street, hit the Roots store (I bought a hat on sale!), and then headed back to the hotel to unpack a bit. It turned out that the walk to Japadog, probably coupled with the travel day, took a lot out of my mom. As a result, she decided to simply call it a day, relax in her room the rest of the afternoon and evening, order room service for dinner, and go to sleep early. We, on the other hand, went out for more walkabout, primarily in the nearby neighborhood of Gastown.

Gastown, at least the portion just south of the hotel and cruise ship terminal, is mostly retail and restaurants. I had read online prior to our trip that many travelers felt that this area of Vancouver exhibited ominous odors and excessive, aggressive homeless people. In my opinion, the air was clean and clear, and while there was indeed a presence of homeless people in the area, it was by no means excessive and the few we saw behaved fine. We walked down to the famous Steam Clock and happened to arrive at the top of the hour to watch and listen to it blow its little tune. It was pretty cool. I am glad that we saw it as it is a unique feature of the city. Our remaining time before dinner was spent in and out of shops along Water Street. All of the businesses were nice, a few cliché and touristy in their offerings, which one would expect, but also a few nice jade shops and an excellent chocolate shop…Rogers Chocolates. We had been excited to visit the Canadian Maple Delights shop here, but found their offerings limited and expensive.

Dinner for us was at Steamworks (thank you DIS Board members for the recommendation)! We arrived a little early for our reservation and were seated promptly at a table in the bar area. Slightly concerning, when our hostess seated us, she gave us three adult menus and made no mention of a children’s menu at all. We figured that we would figure something out and when our waiter arrived he mentioned that they did have a kid’s menu, but that it was not actually printed. He told us the children’s offerings and we made our respective selections. Being in Canada for the first time, I wanted two things from this meal…beer and poutine, and I got both! Being a brewpub, Steamworks offered plenty of beers to choose from, so I selected the beer flight…five samplings of my choice from what was available at that time; all were excellent!



My wife ordered a brew of her own and we all shared the perfect poutine as an appetizer; it was full of French fry, gravy and cheese curd goodness!



What else did we order? Hmmm, I honestly cannot recall much beyond the beer and poutine because they were soooo good, but I do remember this…the “kid’s” burger and fries that we ordered for our daughter was fit for an adult. It was way too much for a kid, but hey, better to have too much than not enough, right? In the end, our daughter ate about 25% of her meal and we packed up the rest for a “late night snack” back at the hotel. Truth is, it never made it back to the hotel, as I handed it over to a very gracious homeless man, scoring serious goodness points with my daughter, as we walked back to the Waterfront.

Before heading to our room, we checked in on mom. Did I mention that they gave her a free room upgrade at check-in due to limited accessible room availability? Well, they did and she had an amazing view of the waterfront! Anyway, as previously mentioned, her plan was to relax in her room and order dinner from room service, which she did. But, as it turned out, this was no ordinary room service meal. Upon entering her room, she gleefully showed us the setup. There was her chair, in front of an immaculate white table cloth enrobed table/trolley, covered with a menagerie of stylish tableware and cutlery with what remained of her excellent meal; all of this nestled next to her floor to ceiling window with panoramic views of the sunset over the harbor and distant mountains…simply sublime! She then explained what she had (the details of which I unfortunately do not recall), but suffice to say, she enjoyed every bite! They even had low sugar dessert offerings for diabetics and her choice, the spiced apple crumble, was, in her words, “Amazing!” The price tag for all of this? Large, but to my mom, it was more than worth it!

Up next…Day 2 – Stanley Park & Japanese BBQ!


Last edited by gregf71; 11-02-2013 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 09-05-2013, 04:31 PM   #2
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Joining in. I'm looking forward to reading along.
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:17 PM   #3
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Yay! Can't wait for more!
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Old 09-06-2013, 11:11 AM   #4
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Can't wait to read along. My husband and I were on the Wonder just ahead of you. So, while you were enjoying the Sail Away party, we were still on the bus to Seattle for the flight home
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Old 09-06-2013, 05:24 PM   #5
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Joking in too. We haven't had our first cruise yet, but I'm certain I want to do an Alaska cruise for our second!
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Old 09-07-2013, 02:25 AM   #6
gregf71
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Day 2 - August 18, 2013 - Stanley Park & Japanese BBQ

The plan for Day 2 was Stanley Park and experiencing as much as we could within it. Prior to the trip, I set up a rental car reservation with Thrifty Car Rental because they had an office just a few blocks away from the Fairmont Waterfront. I had investigated other transportation options for getting to and around Stanley Park, including the hop on/hop off trolley, but we preferred the freedom of having our own vehicle, plus it made things easier with my mom. While I walked over to pick up the car, my wife and daughter popped over to the Tim Hortons located in the small shopping center beneath the Fairmont to get us all a little pre-Sunday Brunch snack. As I pulled up in front of the Fairmont, they immediately approached with munchies in hand! My wife was smiling ear to ear. You have to try one of these, she exclaimed, shoving a box in my hands, Honey Dip Timbits! Basically, Timbits are donut holes and these were very, very good! Mom soon joined us, we all piled into the car and we were off to Stanley Park!

Within 5 minutes, we were in the park and our first stop was the Totem Poles. Since we started off so early in the day, we found ourselves alone with the totems, which was wonderful. It really allowed us the opportunity to admire them and soak in the sounds that surrounded us, particularly those of the flock of birds, geese I think, huddled in the nearby field getting barked at by a lone dog being walked by its owner.



Back in the car, we continued to follow the road that extends around the perimeter of the entire park. Most of the road offers amazing views of the water and mountains, while other segments wrap you through the beautifully dense forest with the occasional open grassy areas. We drove past the Brockton Point Lighthouse, the Empress of Japan Figurehead and the Girl in a Wetsuit Statue, all visible from the car. Stop #2 was Prospect Point, where we walked out beyond the shop and restaurant, which were not even open yet, to take in the gorgeous scenic views, including the Lions Gate Bridge. In fact, my wife, daughter and I made it a point to walk down the road from the Point parking lot to enjoy an incredible straight on view of the bridge, capturing this image (one of my favorites):



Our third stop found us in the parking lot of the Teahouse Restaurant, which was to be the location of our Sunday Brunch. Since we were early still, my mom decided to relax in the car, while the rest of us took the nearby path to find Siwash Rock. It was a bit of walk, but not bad at all. Now that it was getting a little later we found ourselves sharing this path with bicyclists and runners, but still not a problem; everyone shared the road respectively. As we walked towards the rock, we passed a nice little empty beach followed by a good distance of rocky shoreline. The interesting thing about this stretch was all of the artwork of stacked rocks along the way. We really enjoyed admiring all of them and there was a lot to admire.



Finally, we made it down to Siwash Rock. It is definitely an interesting feature to look at, but I cannot say that it kept our interest for more than a few moments before we headed back.

Brunch time! I made reservations at the Teahouse Restaurant several months in advance and am I glad that I did because it was popular and crowded this morning. Even with a reservation, we found ourselves waiting a bit, but not very long. We were given a table along the front windows with a nice view across to Ferguson Point, where they happened to be setting up for a wedding. Our wait staff was very nice, offering recommendations and keeping our water glasses full. I mention the water because our waiter referred to it as the greatest water in the world! Boy, was she ever right! I dont know if this water was something special to the Teahouse or if the water in Vancouver as a whole is just that good, but it certainly tasted better than any ice water I have had. We started with an order of fresh warm croissants with homemade jam. They were flaky, buttery and perfect. As our entrees, my wife and I both ordered the Parmesan Omelette filled with caramelized sweet onions and basil, and served with roasted potatoes; my mom got the Classic Eggs Benedict and our daughter the Belgian Waffles (from the main menu since there was no kids menu). Everything&and I mean everything&was absolutely delicious! Every bite of our omelettes was delectable and the accompanying potatoes were amazingly good! My mom said that her Eggs Benedict was probably the best that she has ever had. The only negative came from our daughter, who didnt care for her waffles, which we understood because they really were not designed for a kids taste buds. So, while my wife and I shared the waffles, which we thought were excellent, our daughter munched on the fruit and nuts that accompanied them.

The only issue that we had at the Teahouse was a couple of bees. Our table offered a great view, but the windows did not include screens and when opened allowed little flying critters to enter, including two bees. One bee took a keen interest to our table and the other to the table next to us, causing a little havoc. Unfortunately, our daughter is currently very fearful of bees, so she found this experience quite distressing. After a couple moments of panic and a few tears, we managed to get the little buggers out, but our daughter was done and asked me to take her out to the car while my wife and mom finished up and paid the bill. Overall, I would say that our Teahouse experience was top notch and I highly recommend the brunch if you have the opportunity.

With Brunch done, the next thing on our agenda was the aquarium. We decided to park up above it so that we could first check out the Klahowya Village and take a ride on the miniature train. The village, a temporary set up during the summer months, had limited offerings, but was interesting, while the train was re-themed as the Dreamcatcher Train. The train ride was fun and included a first nations narration as well as a small group of live actors portraying a variety of characters along the track. For the price, it was fine, but nothing special.

A short walk away was the Vancouver Aquarium and our first experience of the day with a big crowd. As we approached the front of the aquarium, we immediately fretted about the immense line to buy tickets. Luckily, I noticed another line just beyond it, much shorter, so I walked over and inquired what it was. It turned out that it was a single self-service kiosk with a staff member to assist. The only requirement was that you had to pay with a credit card&um&OK! Tickets now in hand, we bypassed the photo opportunity and entered the facility. The first thing that we noticed was the temperature&it was hot in there, uncomfortably hot, and crowded. We did our best to make it through the masses to see the exhibits, but it was a challenge. My mom quickly found it to be too much, decided to go off on her own and explore the outdoor exhibits. We trudged on, finally making it back to a rainforest exhibit, which was very cool to see, but the temperature in this space seemed exponentially higher, causing us to walk through it very quickly. I think that we saw everything in there, but sadly we couldnt take the time to appreciate it. One nice thing though&after walking through the rainforest area, the rest of the aquarium sure didnt feel that hot any longer!

Soon, we found ourselves outside, enjoying the exterior offerings, especially the beluga whales. These beautiful creatures entranced our daughter, who stood by the glass for several minutes watching them swim by. After checking out everything outside, we located mom and decided to head out. By this time, most of the crowds had moved outside, so it gave us the opportunity to enjoy some of the interior exhibits again with much less competition. All in all, we found the aquarium to be nice, but the crowd and temperature in the building was annoying. Cest la vie!

Our final stop in the park for the day was a return to Prospect Point for the famous ice cream! Mom treated us all and it was good, not famously good, but tasty nonetheless. A quick stop to the gift shop to acquire a few things and our Stanley Park adventure was done. Now, it was time for our next adventure&driving through downtown Vancouver to return the rental car during late afternoon traffic&FUN! OK, it was not that bad, but I made my wife stay in the vehicle as navigator and second set of eyes (there were some crazy drivers in that city) after dropping off my mom and daughter at the Fairmont. With the car returned, my wife and I meandered back to the hotel via Water Street, revisiting Rogers Chocolate shop before it closed, which was pretty early in our opinion and bizarre given its very touristy location. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a Japadog cart and though very tempted we decided not to spoil our dinner&Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ!

After freshening up at the Fairmont, we grabbed a cab and headed over to Gyu-Kaku for dinner. My family and I first enjoyed Gyu-Kaku in Chicago a few years ago and were very excited to find one in Vancouver. In case you are not aware, at Gyu-Kaku you order items raw, many pre-seasoned and/or marinated, and cook them on a grill located in the center of your table. The menu options are many and the experience is very fun. Mom was skeptical initially, but by the end of the meal she was so happy! I would love to detail all that we ordered, but there was so much that I cannot remember it all. All I can add at this point is YUM!

After a quick cab ride back to the Fairmont, we all decided to explore the area north of the cruise ship terminal. My goal was to find the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Cauldron, which we did and it was beautiful:



My only wish was that it could have been lit, you know with fire, but the LED lights that changed colors in the darkness of the night were spectacular. After grabbing a photo of the Chevron floating gas station in the middle of the harbor, we called it a night.



Tomorrow we board the Wonder!

Up next - Day 3 - The Infamous Trip & the Cruise Begins!

Last edited by gregf71; 09-20-2013 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:45 AM   #7
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Mobility issues

Gregf71

Hope you are taking questions. Can't wait to read the rest of your report but I am not sure when you will finish it before and I leave for my AK cruise. I know it is not on DCL, but that happens. My question is actually about your mom. I am taking my parents on this AK cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. My dad has had a hip replacement and 6 months ago had a knee replacement with partial patella tendon tear. He has been cleared by the doctor and he WILL be taking his cane. I am extremely concerned about getting him around. I don't think he will use a wheelchair. Am just curious how easily your mom got around on ship? And around in Alaska? Thankfully we have a ship tour in Skagway so i think it will be a lot of motor coach and train. Then my folks have a 3 hour trolley type tour in Ketchican. They decided they did not want to do much in Juneau in case they are wiped out from Skagway.

Thanks
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Old 09-07-2013, 01:36 PM   #8
gregf71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garneska View Post
Gregf71

Hope you are taking questions. Can't wait to read the rest of your report but I am not sure when you will finish it, and I am leaving on thursday for my AK cruise. I know it is not on DCL, but that happens. My question is actually about your mom. I am taking my parents on this AK cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. My dad has had a hip replacement and 6 months ago had a knee replacement with partial patella tendon tear. He has been cleared by the doctor and he WILL be taking his cane. I am extremely concerned about getting him around. I don't think he will use a wheelchair. Am just curious how easily your mom got around on ship? And around in Alaska? Thankfully we have a ship tour in Skagway so i think it will be a lot of motor coach and train. Then my folks have a 3 hour trolley type tour in Ketchican. They decided they did not want to do much in Juneau in case they are wiped out from Skagway.

Thanks
Hi there! Love to take questions!

The timing of your particular question in relation to my narrative is ironic. As you may have seen, the title of Day 3 is "The Infamous Trip & the Cruise Begins!" As I will detail more in that portion of the report, the morning of embarkation we were walking to breakfast, admiring the Wonder as we walked. Unfortunately, my mom, who was more focused on the beauty of the ship than her pathway, tripped and went face first into the concrete. Long story short (at least here), she was hurt, but still made the cruise and loved it, the ship and all of her excursions.

The single basic concept that we impressed upon her after the fall was if you want to admire something, then take a moment to stop and do just that. She was worried about wasting our time by her slowness, but we simply told her that it did not bother us one bit, that it was all of our vacation.

To your specific questions...how easily did mom get around the ship? Slowly, but easily enough and she used her cane at all times. I think that the calmer waters of the inside passage helped a lot. One thing that we picked up on quickly was to avoid the midship elevators and use either set at the front or back of the ship. These were much less busy. However, she did have one complaint about them...several times the doors did not stay open long enough for her to get to them given her slower pace. This was not a problem if we (or other friendly cruisers) were with her and could grab and hold the elevator door for her, but that was not always the case.

When we had our dinner seating or plans to meet up for a show, presentation, or excursion meet-up, she made sure to leave a little earlier than most would and was always on time. The DCL cast members, especially in the buffet restaurants at breakfast and lunch were AMAZING with her. As soon as they saw her, more than one would rush up to her and offer their services. They would carry her tray or plate as she made her way around the restaurant and escorted her to our table, sometimes even finding a table for us ahead of time. They were so nice.

Regarding out in Alaska and our excursions. On the morning of the third day of the cruise, mom decided to see the ship's doctor just in case. They examined her, did x-rays and concluded that she was ok to do the excursions she had planned. In Skagway and Ketchikan we were all together. She got onto the buses and train (Skagway) fine, slowly but fine. She did all of the necessary walking and saw everything she wanted just fine. And in Juneau, she did her own thing since our excursions were too "exciting" for her. I was worried about her, but she did absolutely fine on her own. Our paths ended up crossing that afternoon as I was returning to the ship and she was heading off to explore the town a bit. She returned happy and safe a few hours later.

So, my advice...trust that they will be fine and will have a great time! Know going in that they may be a bit slower than most in getting around, but the cruise and excursion staff are more than capable, experienced and willing to work with them. Advise them that when they are off of the ship that they may run into uneven paths, both paved and unpaved. Either way, tell them to take their time, be aware, and have fun! Lastly, you make sure to have fun too and try not to worry about them too much! I know, believe me I know, that it is hard not to worry, but you will all have a great time!
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Old 09-07-2013, 11:18 PM   #9
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So exciting to hear about ur vacation. Can't wait to hear more. We are hoping to do an Alaskan cruise soon!!
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:38 PM   #10
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We were on the same cruise as you and your family. Glad that the fall didn't ruin your Mom's trip, I think I saw her a couple of times on board.
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Old 09-10-2013, 03:29 PM   #11
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Day 3 - August 19, 2013 - The Infamous Trip & the Cruise Begins!

The big day had arrived! After checking in with the temporary Disney Cruise Line table adjacent to the lobby to confirm when we could go over to the cruise ship terminal, we walked out of the Fairmont Waterfront en route to breakfast at De Dutch (another DIS Boards recommendation). As we cleared the southern building of the Vancouver Convention Center, the majestic Disney Wonder came into view. She was beautiful!

Since we knew that we had plenty of time, we walked slowly on, frequently looking back over at the ship with smiles on our faces. We headed down towards the water across from the Wonder, now in front of the northern building of the convention center. My wife and daughter had trotted ahead, while I meandered with my mom; then, it happened! One second my mom was walking to my immediate left and then she wasnt. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her falling. Unfortunately, I was now a full step ahead and only able to turn in time to see her hit face first into the concrete walkway. There was a loud smacking sound, coupled with that of her Canadian coin currency hitting and rolling on the hard ground. I rushed to her instantly and helped her up onto a bench that was thankfully right there. There was a good amount of blood coming from her mouth and around her lip. Scanning her face quickly, I also noticed a series of small lacerations on her nose, a golf ball size bump above her left eye (I could not believe how quickly that thing appeared), and tears running down her cheeks! I yelled off to my wife, waving my arm wildly for them to come back to help. To say that I was a bit panicked is an understatement.

Cue the angels! Almost immediately, a man in a black suit, a walkie-talkie in hand, appeared from seemingly nowhere. He identified himself as a convention center security officer and said that he saw mom fall from a window one floor up. After quickly ascertaining the situation, he called on his walkie-talkie for assistance and in less than a minute a woman came running out from the building. Maria was her name and she was a first aid attendant in the center. We informed her of what happened and she immediately began checking moms vitals and provided some gauze to help address the bleeding. Next, she started interviewing mom to ascertain the levels and locations of pain and to see if she might have a concussion. After passing the concussion test, Maria began to focus on the bleeding situation. My greatest concern was that mom may have broken a tooth or multiple teeth. Thankfully, mom felt around with her tongue and fingers, confirming that everything was fine there. Marias conclusion was that the blood inside the mouth was due to a laceration of the inner lip that occurred when she hit the ground and it was actually cut by her teeth when pressed so hard against one another (I once had a softball injury like that; painful, but not horrible). The biggest problem was the exterior gash on and below her lip. Maria stated that she thought it would require stitches, to wit my mom stated, But we have to board our ship in a couple of hours. OK, said Maria, Lets go inside to the First Aid Office so I can get a better look and see what we can do. At this point, I told my wife to take our daughter to get breakfast and that I would stay with mom. Sympathetically, she agreed, realizing that we had exposed our daughter, who was starting to get upset, to enough of this. I told her that I would text her with updates as I could and we parted.

Have you ever walked through an empty convention center? Well, it is strange, let me tell you. All of that open space and no people and no sounds. It was eerily quiet. Anyway, back to our story&Maria and the security officer escorted us into the northern convention center building and to the distant First Aid Office. The officer then wished up good luck, told us that we were in excellent hands, and resumed his duties; we never saw that wonderful man again. Now with all of her medical paraphernalia at hand, Maria set to work. An ice pack was promptly strapped to moms forehead and a bandage was placed across her nose. Taking away the gauze mom was holding over the lip wound, she cleaned up the area and offered us an option. She could use steri or sterile strips to help hold it closed, thinking now that it would be enough to then allow it to heal naturally. I looked at mom and she nodded. So, with great care and seemingly expert skills, Maria patched mom up. After several minutes, she was done, next removing the ice pack from moms forehead and the first bandage from her nose. By this time, some light swelling started appearing on the left side of moms nose, just below her eye. Maria said that is was expected and then proceeded to apply three large pressure bandages; one on moms forehead, another across the newly swelled nasal area, and the last across her lower lip and chin. Mom was kind of rockin her inner mummy, but she was ok and even given the situation was in good spirits. We asked how we could pay for her services and Maria simply shrugged, saying not to worry about it, that it was her job. Mom started to tear up again (this time for a good reason), so Maria hugged her and reaffirmed that she was going to be ok.

As Maria escorted us out, we emphatically gave our thanks once again and she wished us bon voyage on our cruise. Having missed breakfast and completely starving at this point, we slowly walked over to the food court beneath the Fairmont and got a couple of smoothies. My apologies for not being able to provide any information on De Dutch, but you know. As planned, my wife and daughter made it there and did enjoy a good meal, not great, according to my wife, but good.

Since we still had some time before we could walk over to the cruise ship terminal, and we had not yet needed to check out of our rooms, I escorted mom to her room, cracked an ice pack (provided to us by Maria) for her, and then went to crash in our room to decompress. My wife and daughter soon arrived and hugs were shared by all. Everything was going to be ok.

The time to leave soon arrived. Our luggage had been claimed by the bell desk, pre-arranged by Disney for transport to the ship, and we were on our way! It was a pretty good distance between the front of the building and where the first check point (i.e. security) was. Along the way, we found ourselves navigating around a myriad of people returning from the previous Disney cruise and one other ship that had just docked, lethargically heading, with luggage and family in tow, to their awaiting airport buses and taxis. Eventually, we made to and through security and then Customs, again, as in the airport when we first arrived, being assigned a nice short line to assist my mom. Finally, we arrived at the DCL check in area. Since we are Silver Castaway Club members and this was moms first Disney cruise, we expected to be separated at this point, but the cast member on duty told us that we could all check in together using the shorter Castaway Club queue. The process was seamless, except for one little thing&moms picture. As veteran cruisers know, the cruise lines take your photograph and link it to your key to the world card and onboard account. Needless to say, at this particular moment, mom didnt feel very photogenic, rockin her inner mummy and all; but what are you going to do, eh? Sorry, a little Canadian stereotypical lingo there.

Assigned to boarding group #2, we found some seats (folding chairs) and hunkered down for a little wait. Side comment to Disney Cruise Line&if you can, please try to come up with a better seating solution here, thanks! Mom, being the sociable person that she is, struck up an immediate conversation with a nice older couple seated next to us (who, as it turned out, were our next door neighbors onboard the Wonder; what are the odds?). I, on the other hand, stared intently at my key to the world card to identify our main dining room schedule. Ours was going to be Animators Palate (show menu), Parrot Cay (Formal Night), Parrot Cay again (main menu), Tritons (main menu), Animators Palate (Semi-Formal Night; Toy Story menu), Parrot Cay a third time (Taste of Alaska menu), and finally Tritons (Til We Meet Again menu)! A Disney Vacation Club representative soon approached and we chatted a bit. Next, a DCL rep came up, motioning to the childrens programs desk, asking if we had already enrolled. Since we took care of that online months before, we were all set there. Finally, a security officer with a dog came by, sniffing all of our carry-ons (the dog, not the officer); not exactly sure what there were checking for, but the pup did give my daughters doll, which was sticking out of her backpack, a quick lick to the face, which gave us all a great, much needed, laugh!

Time to board! After the special guest family was announced and welcomed onboard, group #1 soon followed and then it was our turn! We enthusiastically marched down the hall to the card scanning stations. My wife, daughter, and mom made it through without a hitch, then came my turn. The cast member ran my card through and nothing. She tried again and again and still nothing came up on her screen. She examined my card and immediately noticed some sort of smudge or residue on the magnetic strip. I needed to new card. Luckily, they had a device right there to do just that! After checking my passport, they issued me a new card, brought up my account and I was in!

First on the agenda was to sign up for a few onboard activities. Stop #1 was Guest Services, where we got tickets to the Disney Friends Tea for my wife and daughter. Stop #2 was Wavebands to get tickets for beer tasting (me) and chocolate tasting (my wife and I both). Stop #3 was the Oceaneer Club to get our daughters RFID tag and wristband. Tickets in hand and wristband attached, we then grabbed mom, who had found a nice comfy chair on deck 5 looking out over the main lobby, and headed to Parrot Cay for lunch.

I will use this point in the narrative to make a singular commentary about the buffet meals we experienced on the Wonder for the duration of the cruise. This way, I will not need to go into detail each time and essentially say the same thing. In our opinion, the food served at the buffets was hit and miss. Breakfast and lunch, our feelings were the same (save for the Palo brunch buffet, which I will enthrall you with details in the next chapter). There were several excellent, very tasty, items offered, but a good portion of the food was nothing special. I know, I know&what did we expect? Honestly, it was just what we expected; some great, some good, some not so good. Just to throw it in though, my favorite buffet items without a doubt were offered on the seafood day (which I think was on our second day at sea)&chili-lime shrimp stir fry and bbq beef tenderloin (yeah, I know, but not everything was seafood!) with a guava barbecue sauce&soooo good!

The time arrived for us to go to our cabins! We escorted mom to hers first, deck 7 aft. Mom, because of her physical needs, reserved an interior accessible cabin. The space was nice and big, with a good amount of open space and a singular bathroom. One of the really cool things about her room was that it was a hop, skip, and a jump (no, not by her) away from the secret aft deck!



Our cabin was on the opposite side of moms, located midship. Interestingly, and I suspect that DCL did this purposely, our cabin was the exact same one that my wife and I honeymooned in 12 years earlier! Cue the Awwwws! To be honest, the space looked exactly how I remembered it, even down to the prints on the walls; the only difference being that you could tell here and there and it had been a dozen years and a few things needed a little attention. Hopefully, the Wonder will get that bit of TLC after the Magic completes its upcoming servicing. Hanging outside of the second bathroom, I found the tuxedo that I had pre-arranged for Formal Night. On the bed was our Castaway Club gift, a large blue and black backpack, which was very nice. Over on the desk we found a variety of things, including our dining confirmation tickets, which confirmed our character breakfast morning (Saturday on Ketchikan day), two Palo envelopes, confirming our upcoming brunch and dinner reservations, and a letter from the Vista Spa asking us to call them to confirm our previously scheduled treatments. Lastly, up on top of the set of drawers, sat a chilling bottle of champagne and two glasses! Accompanying them was a note from our AAA travel agent, wishing us a wonderful cruise! Soon, there was a knock at the door and our room steward, Cho, was there to greet us! He welcomed us very warmly and assured us that he looked forward to assisting us during our cruise.

One other item to note, even though we were in separate cabins, ours and my moms reservations were linked. As such, I went to Guest Services to inquire if it was possible to link our respective key to the world cards to one anothers cabin doors in the event that either of us needed to get into the others room. While they could not link our card to moms door and vice versa, the link between our two reservations allowed them to issue a second set of key cards for both rooms. It was a nice option to have.

Before we knew it, it was time to muster for the safety drill. Thankfully, guests are no longer required to wear a life preserver to these things! Our daughter was very unhappy during our drill on the Dream in 2011. As the alert sounded, we headed to our meeting location and lined up as instructed. The process went pretty quickly, faster than I recall it did on the Dream, and we were headed back to our room to see if our luggage had arrived. Since my moms room was an accessible cabin, her muster spot was not on deck 4, rather it was in Animators Palate. Prior to the drill, moms room steward introduced himself and offered his assistance. When the time came, he escorted her and others in the nearby accessible rooms to a designated elevator and into the restaurant for counting. Once the drill was over, he escorted them all back. Very classy DCL, very classy indeed!

By the time we returned to our cabin, none of our bags had arrived. Since we had the early seating for dinner, we were a bit concerned. The only thing that we could do was wait and what better place to wait than our verandah with its view of Canada Place! Not too long afterwards, we heard a loud noise outside our cabin door, signifying that something had arrived! Over the next thirty or so minutes all but our daughters bag had been delivered. She was understandably a little upset, so I decided to take her up to the top deck to walk around a bit, check out the view and see about a sweet treat!

Satisfied with our little jaunt upstairs, we came back to our cabin to discover my wife unpacking things into the closet, drawers and bathrooms, including things from our daughters bag! Thank you, Fairmont Vancouver and DCL to getting our entire luggage transferred over successfully! Soon, it was time to set sail! Since we were still unpacking and heck we paid for a room with this thing attached, we decided to skip the Sail Away Deck Party and instead wave to folks from our verandah, sipping our champagne along the way (with mom of course, who popped over to join us).

Dinner tonight was at Animators Palate! My personal favorite of the three main dining rooms, I was very excited that we got to begin our cruise here! I will simply say that I was disappointed in the AP on the Disney Dream. If I want to see Turtle Talk with Crush, then I will go to California Adventure or Epcot. I very much prefer the traditional AP show on the Wonder and Magic. OK, off of the soapbox&upon being seated at our table, we met our servers, Januar and Levi. Both were very polite, helpful and treated us all very well throughout our entire cruise. For our meals, I will only comment the best that I can recall. As our appetizers, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ahi Tuna Tartare while my wife loved, and I mean loved, the Sesame-flavored Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake. As our entrees, my wife enjoyed the Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon Fillet and I devoured the Asian Marinated Beef Tenderloin in a tamarind-barbecue reduction with wasabi mashed potatoes. Desserts were the Strawberry Sable with Passion Fruit Cream and the Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake&both wonderful!



After dinner, our daughter wanted terribly to go to the Oceaneer Club for a little while, so we checked her in and the rest of us went to check out the onboard shops. To our pleasant surprise, since this was the second to last Alaskan cruise of the season, everything that was Alaskan was marked down by 40%! A long sleeve tee-shirt, a DCL Alaska character nesting doll, a refrigerator magnet and an Alaska cruise Stitch pin were all ours! I had hoped to find a baseball cap to commemorate the cruise, but alas they had sold out of them. Maybe I would acquire one another way later on during the cruise...hmmm&we shall see&

Purchases made, my mom called it a night and we made plans to meet for breakfast the next morning, or should I say, brunch at Palo! My wife and I decided to meander around the ship on our own for a bit, grabbing a hot chocolate on deck 10, before claiming our daughter and returning to our cabin for some much needed shut eye.

A final thought to our angels in Vancouver&THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and THANK YOU again! You saved our vacation, our cruise, and our forever memories! The kindness that you extended to us will never be forgotten!

Up next - Day 4  Palo Brunch, the First Day at Sea, & Formal Night!

Last edited by gregf71; 09-20-2013 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 09-10-2013, 05:00 PM   #12
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Joining in. I'm so glad nothing too serious happened to your mom. I'm sure it was so scary. I hope she will be able to enjoy the cruise. I can't wait to see all the pictures of Alaska.
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Old 09-11-2013, 04:24 PM   #13
gregf71
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Day 4 - August 20, 2013 - Palo Brunch, the First Day at Sea, & Formal Night!

Before I continue with our story, I wanted to share a little bit more about the first aid attendant that helped us in Vancouver. Yesterday, I spoke to my mom, who told me that she phoned the Vancouver Convention Center in order to confirm their mailing address and Marias last name, so that she could send her some flowers. The VCC staff person was enthralled by moms story and told her that Maria is actually a licensed physician in Mexico, who recently relocated to Vancouver and is working on obtaining her medical license there as well. Mom put it perfectly, If I was going to fall, that was probably the best place and best time to do it! Now, back to our show&

The plan for this morning was to get breakfast for our daughter, check her in to whichever Oceaneer facility she wanted (she greatly preferred the Club) and then head back to the cabin to get ready for our 10:30am brunch reservation at Palo. We arrived at Palo a few minutes early, took a seat in the lobby and waited for mom. Unfortunately, we reached 10:30am and there was no sign of her. Using our Wavephone, we called her cabin, but there was no answer. We decided to be seated at our table, nicely situated along the windows, waited a few more minutes and still no mom. Given the fall the day before, I was concerned, so we agreed that I would run down to her cabin to check. I hustled down there and knocked on the door; no response. Using the extra keycard that Guest Services gave me, I entered the room and she was not there. OK, cool, I thought and headed back up to Palo. When I came around the corner and re-entered Palo, I saw mom sitting at our table. Phew!

Our Palo server was an amazing gentleman! Immediately, he poured each of us a glass of champagne. Then, he took the time to introduce himself to us, ask lots of questions about our likes and dislikes, and then gave us a description of what we were about to encounter just over there. We began salivating hearing him describe the delicacies that awaited us!

Now, it was time for the formal culinary tour! As mom stood up, our server (and I so wish that I could recall his name), held out his arm for her to hold and then lead us all to the center of the restaurant. There, he proceeded to outline the goodness that covered the four buffet tables: breads and pastries, cheeses, fresh fruit, seafood (including crab legs and smoked salmon), caviar, cold cuts, salads, grilled marinated vegetables, and dont forget the dessert table with so many wonderful sugary things that I felt a cavity starting just looking at the variety of incredible offerings. Adjacent to the buffet tables sat a group of stands with examples of the days made to order options (I may be mistaken, but I think that some of these selections change each day the brunch is served). Our server claimed a plate for mom, escorted her around the buffet tables, plating her choices for her, and then brought her back to our table. We too returned to our table and then decided on our made to order items; they were:

The pancakes (my wife)&



The pork loin (me)&



And the famous, grape and gorgonzola pizza with port wine reduction drizzle (to be shared by all of us)! I meant to take a picture of this, but alas it looked, smelled, and tasted (3 for 3!) so INCREDIBLY good that we devoured it before I had a chance! Oh well&do a Google image search for it and you will find many pictures from other very satisfied diners!

For dessert, we each had the strawberry soup with assorted smaller sweets on the side:



Everything, and I do mean everything, we enjoyed during this meal was wonderful! The service was impeccable, the ambiance sublime, and we were all very, very satisfied. Do yourself a favor on your next Disney Cruise&book a Palo Brunch!

With Brunch over, we went back to our cabin to quickly change and then checked in on our daughter in the Oceaneer Club. She was happy as a clam and chose to eat lunch there. Our remaining schedule for the day had my beer tasting seminar and my wife and mom planned to hit the Alaska Port & Shopping Show together. My wife also planned for a manicure this afternoon, but we received a call from the spa informing us that the cast member was ill and needed to reschedule the appointment. Unfortunately, the times they had available did not work with our schedule, so she decided to simply cancel it.

With our daughter content in the kids club and my wife and mom off to the shopping seminar, I moseyed over to Diversions for my beer tasting. I grabbed a seat and table by myself and relaxed, playing games on my phone, as the cast members finished setting up. Little by little, more people arrived, topping out at about 30 or so I estimated. A young couple asked if they could share my table and I whole-heartedly agreed. They introduced themselves, telling me that they were from Pennsylvania, on their first cruise ever, and on their honeymoon. After congratulating them, I told them that my wife and I too had honeymooned on the Wonder *cough* years ago and loved it! We chatted about the ship, its many offerings (especially Palo), and the exciting cruise that was still ahead of us. Then, the beer started to flow! A cast member graciously welcomed us all to the event and described for us what we were about to experience. During his spiel, another cast member delivered 5 tall, thin glasses of different brews to each person. They included a lager, an IPA, one crisp summer ale (Alaskan Brewing Company Summer Ale if I remember correctly), an amber ale, and a Guinness draft, my personal favorite. One by one, we enjoyed each beverage, as our host discussed the nuances of each and why they were chosen for this tasting. I meant to take some pictures of this, but you know&there was beer sitting there that needed to be drunk! Priorities, people, priorities! *BURP*

As the beer tasting was breaking up, another cast member arrived, announcing that sports trivia would be next...with prizes (DCL baseball caps, and not ones they sold in the gift shops  could this be when I get my precious souvenir hat?)! My compatriots from Pennsylvania looked at me and asked, You want to team up?! So, we did! A half dozen or so teams formed around the tables and it was on! Answer sheets and pencils to the ready, we did our best with the 50 questions, covering all types of different sports. Some we knew immediately, some we had to think about, some we had no idea whatsoever, and some we totally guessed on (and actually got some right). Checking the answers was totally on the honor system. In the end, we came in second place, missing one or two more than the winning table. Oh well, it was fun, though the honeymooning husband was not pleased because he too wanted a hat (more on that in the future).

Back to the room to chill on the verandah (I did A LOT of that on this cruise, soaking in the scenery) and snap a few pictures:





Soon, my wife, her hands full of handouts from the shopping show, and our daughter arrived. Time to start getting all gussied up for dinner&it was Formal Night! Dinner tonight was in Parrot Cay with the Golden Mickeys menu. As our appetizers, my wife chose the prosciutto with chilled honeydew and I the crispy cheese ravioli; both were excellent. Broccoli and Maytag blue cheese soup next for me, while she enjoyed the sangria bisque. For our main courses, my wife ordered the grilled ginger-lime swordfish, I ordered the oven-roasted duckling with dark cherry glaze, and mom requested the oven-roasted turkey breast. Mom and I loved our entrees, but my wife found the swordfish overcooked on the edges, though excellent on the interior. Dessert brought us the crème brulee, the Golden Chocolate Award (milk chocolate mousse and chiffon cake with ganache), and ice cream for mom. I should note that yesterday, mom chose only liquid items for her meals in order to minimize chewing and to hopefully enhance healing. Today, things started to feel better, so she finally started enjoying (and chewing) the food!

After dinner, mom decided to skip the show, instead preferring to grab her book and find a nice comfy chair. We wanted to see the show tonight, but looking as good as we did also wanted to get a family photo taken with one of the backgrounds set up in and around the main lobby. The line for our preferred background looked pretty good, so we queued up, thinking that we would make it to the Golden Mickeys with plenty of time. Unfortunately, as we soon discovered, the line didnt move terribly fast. As we neared the photographer, we realized that he was taking multiple shots of each group, often in different poses, including taking separate shots of parents and kids. Luckily, they were also offering complimentary cocktails from walking, tray carrying servers, which made the wait much more pleasant. So, we enjoyed a drink each, chatted up a nice older couple (Castaway Club Platinum members) in line with us, and waited for our turn.

Pictures taken, we rushed over to the Golden Mickeys! The theater was packed! Just as we were about to give up, I noticed a few seats together in the second row, stage left. The view would not be great, but our daughter would be happy and that was the most important thing. In front of us were seven (and this is an important number) seats occupied by kids that I didnt think were really together, with a single young woman, who I noticed to be a cast member, in the seat to their immediate right, trying, and failing miserably, to keep them sitting and somewhat behaved. The Cruise Director soon arrived on the stage and introduced the Captain and his officers. After a quick, little speech from the Captain, everyone left the stage and the show began. Almost immediately, the seven kids and the cast member quickly all rushed off through a side door leading back stage. Hmmm&interesting; I wonder if this had anything to do with our dining room server recommending that we arrive at the show as early as possible with our daughter. Not long into the performance we had our answer as Snow White lead her seven dwarves (in costumes) up onto the stage to join in the show! It was very cute and they all did really well. Once that scene was over, they all trotted back stage again, coming out soon afterwards, back in their regular clothes, returning to their respective families. Overall, the Golden Mickeys was an enjoyable show. It felt a tad short and unfortunately my view was limited given my seat location, so I missed a lot of what happened near the rear of the stage. Our daughter loved it, so we were all happy!

Show over, we returned to our cabin to change clothes to something more comfy. Our daughter asked to go back to the Club, so we delivered her for a little bit of playtime and my wife and I went up to the upper deck, grabbed a couple hot chocolates, found two corner seats in a completely empty Outlook Café and enjoyed a little alone time to end the day. It had been a good one!

Up next - Day 5  Tracy Arm, Glacier Ice & Seals, a little Witches Brew, and the Quest for a Hat, Part Deux!

Last edited by gregf71; 09-20-2013 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 09-11-2013, 09:50 PM   #14
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I am loving your trip report! We cruised Aug. 5-12 and we had a great time! My husband and I did the beer tasting and also stayed for the sports trivia. The week went by so fast, looking forward to the rest of your TR!
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:26 PM   #15
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Joining in as well....
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