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Old 09-05-2013, 01:31 PM   #1
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 57

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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