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Old 10-04-2013, 04:34 PM   #1
Ellester
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It is hard to believe we have been back from our cruise for almost a month. It was fabulous, although not without a few hiccups. I enjoyed reading all the Alaska trip reports I could find before we sailed and I hope this one can be a help to those planning a trip. A little background: Several years ago, my mom announced that she wanted to take the family on a "once in a lifetime" trip to celebrate her 70th birthday in September 2013. Her family consists of me, my husband, and our four kids. She asked the kids for suggestions, saying the sky was the limit. The kids bounced around several different places around the world. Of course, we did have some practical considerations such as the ages of the kids (4 1/2-15), the health/mobility of my mom (two knee replacements in the past year plus a few other health issues), etc. My mom is very well traveled, at least in the Western Hemisphere. She has visited most of Europe, South America, and Canda over the past 25 years or so. England and Scotland were high on the kids' list as was Hawaii. Then it started getting down to the nitty gritty and my mom announced that she wanted ME to do all the planning. Now that sounds all fine and good but it was very stressful for me. I homeschool all four of our kids and that takes up LOTS of time, since I currently have a preschooler, elementary schooler, middle schooler, and high schooler. I love having them home, but it is a substantial amount of work. In addition, my mom was very tight lipped on a budget. On one hand, I would hear "money is no object" and "this should be something spectacular" and on the other hand, she would complain that she was spending money like crazy on house repairs and medical bills. I am an engineer by training and like things in black and white, so the budget thing was very stressful for me. And I know from plenty of prior experience that even though I am supposed to be the one in charge of planning, I won't do it right and will miss something or make a bad decision in her mind. I have been to Europe once, in high school, on a seven day/four country whirlwind tour (which my mom was also on). So basically I have zero experience planning a European vacation, much less one for 7 people from ages 4 to 70. Meanwhile, my mom is retired and has been to Europe at least 10 times. We ruled out Hawaii or other beach locales due to the fact that my mom cannot take a lot of sun exposure. I hadn't really considered a cruise as an option since a few years ago we did a four day on Carnival to celebrate my Dad's 70th and my dh did not have a good experience so I didn't think he would be willing to cruise again. Then last winter, my 15yo and I were talking about possible destinations while we were all out walking the dog and I mentioned how awesome a Disney cruise to Alaska would be. DH stunned me by saying that a cruise might actually be the best answer since the activities and meals would be preplanned. Well, I jumped on that and got quotes so I could have concrete numbers for my mom. She agreed and we booked the September 2nd Wonder sailing.

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Old 10-04-2013, 04:53 PM   #2
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Our Merry band of travelers: Me (Ellen) - as mentioned above I am a homeschooling mom of four, approaching my mid 40's, happily visiting WDW fairly regularly since 1973. DH (John) - My sweet hubby of 23+ years. A late comer to the Disney lovefest, he is very tolerant of my obsession and enjoys our trips. The kiddos - Anabelle (15), Rebecca (12), Andrew (9), and Natalie (4 1/2) This is from our trip last October to WDW. No trip report for this one, but we spent a great week at AKL-Kidani Village. My mom was also with us, but not in this picture. Grammy (Marcia) - The birthday girl, even though she didn't want any acknowledgment of her upcoming 70th while we were on board. Here is one with all of us.

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Old 10-04-2013, 05:00 PM   #3
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Saturday, 8/31
Today is the day!!!! Off to Canada and on to Alaska! We were up dark and early as our flight left Atlanta at 11:40am. Since it was an international flight, check in was 2 hours ahead. So up at 5 to be out of the house at 7, drive to my mom's house (about 15 minutes) then off to Atlanta (about 90 minutes). I had gotten parking at a Days Inn that provides a shuttle to the airport as part of the parking fee. It was much cheaper than any of the off-site parking garages, $4 a day versus $9+. I called the parking service (onestopparking.com) to make sure that the shuttle went to the international terminal as well as the domestic since the new international terminal is a totally separate building. The guy on the phone has assured me that the Days Inn shuttle also went to the international terminal (I think you can see where this is going). Well, lo and behold, when we get to the Days Inn, they only go to the domestic terminal. Sigh. Oh well. So we wait for the driver to go get the bigger shuttle since our party was 7 (which I had told them ahead of time as well) and there were several other people waiting too and the van he had driven over only seated 9. So a few minutes later we boarded the bigger bus to go to the domestic terminal where we got to off unload all our luggage to reload on the shuttle that goes from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. I was so glad I had given us plenty of time to get to the airport! It was a 10-15 minute ride to get to the new international terminal where we were greeted with two gate agents checking in a huge line of people for the only Air Canada flight leaving that morning. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the front of the line. For some reason, Air Canada makes you go through a gate agent even if you check in online and have no bags so every single person on the sold out flight to Toronto had to check in at the desk! We had ordered wheelchair assistance for my mom and after we finally got checked in we waited another 40 minutes for a wheelchair! It really was ridiculous. I ran up to get some coffee and snacks for the plane and we were the very last ones on. Frustrating to say the least considering how early we were at the airport, but we were on the plane and on our way!!! The flight was uneventful, it was Natalie's first flight and she was SO excited that she was getting a window seat. We got to our row and this is what we saw.



I was really over Air Canada by this point! But, thankfully the inflight entertainment thrilled Natalie with its touchscreen and ondemand capabilities so she wasn't all that disappointed.





We had a three hour layover in Toronto so we had plenty of time to go through customes, eat at Swiss Chalet, do a little shopping and board the flight for Vancouver.

Apparently Rebecca was overcome with monstrous hunger.



I tried the "poutine" with chicken. Looks much better than it tasted, unfortunately.




This flight was much longer and our window seats actually included windows this time! The entertainment was a hit again (I got to watch "Skyfall" and several episodes of "Big Bang Theory"). It did get a bit bumpy and Natalie got a bit cranky but overall another good flight. We landed around 7:30pm PST, which is like 10:30 EST so we were beginning to drag a bit. The attendant pushing my mom's wheelchair suggested running downstairs to the 7-11 to buy our Skytrain tickets since there were so many of us that we could buy a book of tickets for less than a one way trip for seven at the train platform. That was extremely painless and we were soon on the train with all our luggage headed for downtown. We had booked rooms at the Delta Vancouver Suites which is less than a block from the train station. Very convenient. Once we got off the train, one of Vancouver's many, many homeless people offered to walk us right to the hotel. I gave him a few dollars for his trouble and we were soon in our rooms (one on the 11th floor, one on the 6th). I had thought about using Hotwire and getting rooms at the Pan Pacific, but at the time the price was good we weren't sure my mom was actually going to be able to make the trip and since Hotwire is nonrefundable, I decided a room we could cancel would be the better decision. The rooms were nice, since we were in a "suite" there was a sliding screen door between the bedroom and the sitting room with the hidabed. We were so tired by this point we decided to just order a couple of kids' meals from room service and call it a night. By this time it was 9:30PST, so we had been up almost 20 hours. Natalie fell asleep before her dinner came, so John and I snacked on her chicken fingers and saved the fruit and juice in the room fridge for the morning. Andrew managed to stay awake long enough to eat his grilled cheese and fries. The big girls and my mom were in the other room and ended up not getting anything and calling it a night.
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Old 10-04-2013, 05:28 PM   #4
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Can't wait to hear more. Subbing
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Old 10-05-2013, 05:43 AM   #5
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Old 10-05-2013, 01:02 PM   #6
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Sunday, 9/1
First, let me say that we loved Vancouver! Such a beautiful city. The kids and John were trying to figure out how to move out there. Then we saw the real estate prices and quickly decided that was a pipe dream! Anyway, we all slept pretty well. Not surprisingly, we were up pretty early for the west coast. We were all up and dressed and very ready for breakfast by 8:30am. On a recommendation from the clerk at the hotel, we headed a few blocks away to a little place called Scoozi's. The breakfast menu was a bit different but everything we had was delicious. John, Rebecca and Anabelle had the eggs Benedict (Anabelle without the ham since she is mostly meat-free). I had a breakfast "deep dish" which was kind of like a cross between and omelet and quiche. Very, very tasty and it stayed hot throughout the meal. Very unusual for an egg dish! Andrew and my mom had traditional egg/bacon dishes. My mom shared with Natalie and we also got a huge cinnamon roll which was delicious (although my mom was not happy with the raisins they snuck in there!). The coffee was fantastic! Breakfast took a little while, but we enjoyed the chance to sit and start to savor our vacation!

After breakfast, we had some time before 11:30 Mass at the Cathedral. My mom was getting tired of walking so she and Natalie sat in the park across from the Cathedral. Natalie chased pigeons while my mom rested. The rest of us walked a few blocks to just check out the city.

Holy Rosary Cathedral





Chilling the park





My urban girls!





After Mass we stopped at a 7-11 for Slurpees and some snacks. For some strange reason, there are no 7-11's in Georgia although they seem to be on every corner in most other states so a Slurpee is a special treat for us! John was holding out for a bubble tea which he was happy to find right down the street. We headed back to the hotel to rest for a few minutes and decide what to do next.

Lay's Potato chips had a bunch of regional flavors over the summer. Down here in Georgia, we had "Chicken & Waffle" flavor and "Siracha" flavor. In Vancouver, Anabelle found "Loaded Pierogie" flavor! My husband's family is Slovak and pierogies are a holiday treat, his dad makes them from scratch. Delicious! The chips weren't bad, they tasted suspiciously like "Loaded Baked Potato" flavor. Andrew tried the "Ketchup" flavor, not a hit with any of us.

Pierogie = Good!



Ketchup = Bad!




We ended up deciding to head to Chinatown. First we bought two-day tickets on the Big Bus hop-on/hop-off tour. Because of the route, we decided to walk to Chinatown and explore and then pick up the bus there. My mom wasn't sure she could walk all that way so she took a cab with Natalie and Andrew and met us in Chinatown. We shopped a bit and visited the gardens.

Chinatown Gate




Free part of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens



My mom got the three older kids little Chinese necklaces with their birth year animal and I bought Anabelle a little watercolor scroll with a panda on it. She has loved pandas since she was tiny and still sleeps with a stuffed panda her grandparents got her at the Atlanta Zoo some 13 years ago! Next we decided to get something to eat since it was getting close to 3pm. The only restaraunt we saw close by was Floata Seafood which was a very scary elevator ride up three floors. The place was huge and had a large dim sum menu. We were very excited until they told us that since it was 3pm, most of the menu was unavailable. We ended up ordering several things and enjoyed most everything. The service was terrible though. We had to ask for water several times, never got the rice we ordered, etc. But at least we weren't starving anymore!






We stopped for a few treats at the Chinese bakery on the way out.



John took Andrew and Anabelle to see the Jimi Hendrix shrine which was a few blocks away. Andrew plays guitar and saw an ad for the shrine on one of the tourist maps so he was eager to check it out. It was several blocks so too far for my mom and Rebecca really wanted to stop in a shop we had passed so we went that way instead. Sadly, Andrew returned grumpy with the news that the shrine appears to be permanently closed, or at least closed for the season.




But on the plus side, I got a really cute 2010 Olympics shirt for Natalie for $2.99! She also got a little Chinese fan that she adored and Andrew got a Vancouver baseball hat to add to his immense collection.




We headed to the Big Bus stop and in a few minutes an open topped bus arrived and we hopped on. Since it was nearing the end of the day's run, we decided to just ride the bus around the whole route and get off at the stop closest to the hotel. We got a good overview of Vancouver and thankfully the driver did not ACTUALLY hit the two pedestrians but man, it was close! He also almost took off the door of a truck. We began to realize that all the honking we were hearing might be related to his lack of driving ability!

Bubble Tea Stand! (we didn't stop here)



Views from the HOHO bus!





These guys all had life jackets on for some reason that day, when we passed them again after the cruise the jackets were off. Guess they learned to swim?



My MIL's name is Sylvia, so I took this for her!



Giant tree on top of a building




Andrew is not a fan of the candid shot.



Crossing to Granville Island




By the time we got back to the stop near the hotel, it was nearing 7pm and we were feeling bit peckish. We stopped by a couple of places in Gastown, but they only had seating outside available and it was a bit chilly for our Southern selves. We ended up just having sandwiches at Tim Horton's right by the hotel. Everything was surprisingly tasty and really hit the spot. We knew after getting on the ship the next day we wouldn't be lacking for food, so a light dinner was just fine! My mom headed back to the hotel and the rest of us took a little walk down to the corner to get some iced coffee. I had wanted to try Blenz, which seems to be a chain in Vancouver. Honestly, without sushi bars and coffee shops, Vancouver storefronts would be half vacant! We got some icy decaf coffee beverages and some very tasty gluten free cookies the barrista recommended. The coffee was good, but my iced mocha was SO sweet and rich. I actually put 2/3 of if it the room fridge and thinned it with black coffee in the room the next morning and it was STILL too sweet (and I have a sweet tooth of massive proportions!) We headed back to the hotel, got the little ones showered and settled into the hidabed and tried to get some sleep before boarding in the morning!
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Old 12-12-2013, 11:36 PM   #7
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Definitely subbing! This is so building my excitement for my June 2014 Alaskan cruise I just booked!
I can't wait to read more!
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Old 12-13-2013, 07:01 AM   #8
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I'm really enjoying your trip report! My fiance and I are taking the same cruise next July for our honeymoon, so I'm reading all the reports I can find. Looking forward to more!
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:57 PM   #9
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What a fun TR! I LOVE the pic of your kids on the handcart- they are hilarious!
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Old 12-30-2013, 10:31 AM   #10
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Thanks, TwinDaddy! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes, my mom is a piece of work. I do love her but as a family friend once said, "she is not an easy person to love"! She actually wasn't going to come to our wedding. She ended up coming, wearing a dress she had worn to her gynecologist's son's wedding. She is smiling in none of the pictures. Guess we showed her cuz we are still happily married 23 years later! Christmas Eve is the first time my DH had seen her since the trip (she lives 15 minutes from us). I am only back talking to her somewhat regularly now. I am just glad I don't go through life so negatively! And believe me, I edited quite a bit out. I finally spoke up to her on the last night about how poorly she was treating one of my children in particular and she responded with "well, after this trip we can just cut off all contact. You never have to see me again." Yes, she really said that, but honestly it is par for the course with her! I'm sorry you have a similar issue with your MIL but it is comforting to know I am not the only one out there! Sending hugs right back to you and your DW!!! ((((hugs)))) And I'm sure Anabelle would love a picture of "her" saloon!
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Old 12-30-2013, 08:34 PM   #11
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Oh wow. Huge hugs to you. My mom made a similar scene to the ones you describe on the way to my wedding shower. It is so hard dealing with negativity. And I am truly sorry one of your little ones was treated poorly, that is what my MIL does. Your family is just precious and I appreciate your honest and down to earth report!
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellester View Post
Thanks, TwinDaddy! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes, my mom is a piece of work. I do love her but as a family friend once said, "she is not an easy person to love"! She actually wasn't going to come to our wedding. She ended up coming, wearing a dress she had worn to her gynecologist's son's wedding. She is smiling in none of the pictures. Guess we showed her cuz we are still happily married 23 years later! Christmas Eve is the first time my DH had seen her since the trip (she lives 15 minutes from us). I am only back talking to her somewhat regularly now. I am just glad I don't go through life so negatively! And believe me, I edited quite a bit out. I finally spoke up to her on the last night about how poorly she was treating one of my children in particular and she responded with "well, after this trip we can just cut off all contact. You never have to see me again." Yes, she really said that, but honestly it is par for the course with her! I'm sorry you have a similar issue with your MIL but it is comforting to know I am not the only one out there! Sending hugs right back to you and your DW!!! ((((hugs)))) And I'm sure Anabelle would love a picture of "her" saloon!

Wow, my MIL and your mom are seriously the same person! She would say the same thing your mom did!

After our wedding, she said she was going to sue the wedding venue because she fell on the walkway and laid there for 30 minutes and no one helped her. This was the walkway to the bathroom, right next to the patio where we were having the reception. We would have noticed and heard her. I told her I would testify for the venue and make sure they gave her nothing, as I knew all her dirty secrets. She backed down.

At the wedding, we put disposable cameras on the tables for guests to take pictures and turn in afterwards. One was missing. When she passed away I found the pictures from that camera in her apartment. She would do the emotional blackmail "cut off all contact" thing all the time.

I heard a great quote once...you get two chances to have a mother daughter relationship. The first one failed, set that aside and make the best of your second chance.

You are not alone in your struggles, believe me!

Thank you so much for all the work you put into your trip report, I am only 189 days away!!! When we are in Ketchikan I will see if we have time to find Annabelle's!
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Old 12-31-2013, 06:38 AM   #13
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Thanks so much for your trip report! I'm sorry you had a rough go with your mom. Traveling with parents can be really fun or really bad. Glad you had a good time beside that, though!
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:18 PM   #14
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Thanks for your report! I'm even more excited for our Alaska cruise in June!
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Old 01-02-2014, 02:07 PM   #15
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Iím so sorry to hear that your mother was not enjoying the cruise very much. I can imagine that caused a lot of stress for all of you - you probably needed that drink of the day!

Otherwise, your Ketchikan day looks like it included a great morning on the Wonder. I canít believe you actually had a sunny day in Ketchikan! WOW!!! Yikes - that is one disturbing cautionary tale from the totem pole! Amazing to see all those salmon! Too bad you werenít able to find a bear.

Oh, I loved that Cranberry Cinnamon drink too!!! I think itís quite something that several officers met with your mom, and itís too bad that she couldnít look at that as a nice gesture and take on a bit more positive attitude. I have to say, the service we had on the Wonder was amazing - above and beyond anything on the Fantasy (despite the fact that the service on the Fantasy was incredible - I think it may be because the Wonder is smaller; everyone gets to know you more). I, however, did not experience how the Wonder handled allergies or intolerances. I canít understand why they couldnít get your motherís food out with everyone elseís. On the Fantasy, I did notate my reservation with my food intolerance; the servers took my order for the next night each preceding night, and my food was always brought out in a timely manner. I would think they should be able to do the same on the Wonder. Itís just bizarre to me! Especially not even managing to get it together that last night.

The princess gathering - one of our absolute favorite DCL things. Sounds like Natalie had a great time!

The chocolate and tequila tastings sound great! I definitely need to manage to do some of the tastings - never seem to find the time!

Sounds like a great pin-trading experience!

Your early-morning pics are beautiful. But so sad the trip is over. You really made the most of that last day though. I think thatís great! The sushi looks incredible!
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