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Old 11-10-2013, 12:15 AM   #181
dbarker
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Thank you so much for your Trip Report. I love that you are from the South and giving that perspective of the "cold". We are from Texas and heading to Alaska next August. When we leave home, the temps will be steady 100+ every day. The break to Alaska will be much appreciated.

We are looking forward to more TR; but are very understanding.

Again, thank you so much.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:46 PM   #182
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Day 7, 8, 9 - Ketchikan ... Catching Up!

:
If you are still following this thread (trip report), I commend your everlasting patience! I am deeply sorry that I haven't updated this at all since August. The last 4 months of 2013 were not kind; it was a roller coaster ride of facing the challenges at work, family illnesses, family crisis, holidays, and my own health. I have been meaning to update for a long while, but for one reason or another, have not had the best opportunity.

So today, I am going to write up the rest of how this amazing vacation went. To save on time, I am not going to post photos. Instead, you can view them all on my Flickr account here. ... or, at least you could, if I could get the link to work. Ugh, I'll work that out later.

Day 7 - Ketchikan
Of course, nearly 7 months later, it's hard to remember all the little details. This was our last port of call and we weren't due in to the dock until later in the morning. We didn't plan anything for this port; I wanted us to have a more relaxed day to just walk around, plus, I couldn't afford to do another big excursion anyway. After the success at Triton's for breakfast the day before, we decided to put forth the effort to be there before breakfast ended at 9:30. Now, I understand the need for time to turnover the restaurant for lunch, but IMHO I wish Triton's was open later for breakfast. Especially if the ship isn't in port yet.

Well, there's the problem. We weren't the only ones wanting to avoid the madhouse at the buffet. Triton's was packed; turns out there was a character breakfast that morning, so more people were going to Triton's instead. While it didn't take long for us to be seated, it took forever for our order to be taken and for the food to be brought out at all. Half of what we ordered did not even come out either, and when my mother asked for her eggs, the waiters were confused--then apologetic that because the kitchen was backed up, there would be a long wait. We were pretty disappointed, especially after such a wonderful experience the day before.

Honestly, I do not understand the claim that the smaller ships are less crowded. We never had a problem with service on the Dream, or a problem with crowds, either.

We went back to the room and watched the ship pull into port. This time, we were directly downtown. The weather this day was the typical Alaskan rainforest climate: cold, wet, and drizzly. We dressed in layers and broke out the rain gear. Now, Florida tends to have days like this. Rain usually heralds a cold front moving in. Sometimes it's already cold.

We don't go outside on those days.

So it was testament to our excitement that we were willing to brave such an ugly day to shop and see the town. I wanted to see real totem poles and found out there were a few within walking distance downtown. The rain alternated between light and steady. We hopped from shop to shop, stopping first at a big Christmas store--where Mom insisted I take a photo on Santa's lap. I told him it had been quite some time since I had done such a thing but he had no problem. Despite the crowd, the poor guy was all alone.

Not much to say about this day, other than we just scuttled from shop to shop--both to see things and stay out of the cold rain. I found Whale Park, where a few totems are, and took some ugly photos with them. I was disappointed that it was so hard to find authentic Alaskan items to take home that were also affordable. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I settled on a $50 bear figure made of jade. Most of the stores were either jewelery stores or the same mass-market "Alaskan" souvenir shops.

For lunch, I wanted real Alaskan crab. I had read here on the DIS that were very pleased with the crab they ate around the ports. The rain began to fall harder at this point, so we aimed toward a restaurant I saw next to the lumberjack show, but the weather forced us into this little mall. There was a small seafood place inside that offered crab, so we decided to try it. It was crowded, and we waited over 15 minutes for a table. ... ONLY to find out, they were completely sold out of crab! All they had was the most expensive king crab. Now, their prices were no different than they are here in Florida--in fact, I felt they were more expensive. And to be sold out? In the very place where they are fished? I was not happy. I ended up with a crab quesadilla that wasn't that great at all.

Because of the weather and all the walking being hard on my father, we didn't venture out to Creek Street. I got some Orca Corn (OMG SO GOOD) that was being sold by the store that I assume leases space to the person who makes it. His/her shop was closed, but there were some bags available to buy via the store. After a few more photos, we were thoroughly wet, cold, and tired.

The awesome thing was, after going through security back on the ship, they had hot cocoa and cookies waiting on a table when you were through. Loved that touch! (BTW, it was super weird boarding the ship/leaving the ship through the lobby and going through security in the lobby. SO used to the Dream and doing it all on deck 1).

We did some more shopping damage on the ship before going back to the room to warm up. We had Palo scheduled for that night; I was disappointed to miss the "Taste of Alaska" menu, but to be honest, I didn't see anything that really appealed to me listed. Naturally, by the time we got to Palo, the sun came out. I can't remember what time the ship left Ketchkikan, but it was after we got back to the room from Palo.

Now, Palo is something that many people here on the DIS rave about. This was my first experience and while it was very nice, I felt the food was no different in taste than what we got in the MDR's. I was also expecting this 3 hour long extravaganza of food, but this was not the case. Even the famous chocolate souffle did not meet expectations. In fact, I did not like it as much as the Grand Marnier souffle--and I'm a chocolate person! Also, shockingly, the were not quite as accommodating for Dad's diabetic needs as our dining team was. Overall, I'm glad I tried it, but I'm not booking the dinner again unless it's on a "date." Seeing bald eagles during dinner, though, was awesome.

I forget what the show was that night, or what we did, really. We may have made it an early night.

Day 8 - Last day at sea

I booked the Palo brunch, also. Though we had plenty of time that morning to get dressed and get there, for some reason, we ran out of time and were rushed. We made it just in time for our reservation, and then my parents had to use the restroom! But if this had not have happened, then I wouldn't have had the following experience:

While I waited, I stared out the window of the door that led out onto the deck. Other than the inside staircase, this was the only exit out of Palo. I had seen a lot of dorsal fins on this trip, and I felt pretty confident in my species identification skills. Well, I saw a fin or two and thought, hey porpoises! But as I kept staring, the animal surfaced again and it became clear that no, this was not a porpoise.

It was an orca!

They are, as you may guess, my favorite animals of all. Seeing wild orcas was one of--if not the--top things I wanted to see on this trip. Sadly, I hadn't seen any at all and was resigned to the concept that I wouldn't on this trip.

At this point, my parents had just come out of the restroom. I was beside myself with elation and thrust myself at the door to open it so I could go outside for a closer look. The ship was moving fast and it was a foggy day--we were in one of those spots open to the ocean, so there was no land we could see.

The door would not open. It was locked!

Locked! I couldn't believe it. As I struggled, the orcas were moving past the ship pretty fast. I have to admit, I was so frustrated that I was so close and yet so far, I got emotional. I knew if I tried to go down to a lower deck, they would be gone by the time I made it outside. When there was no use to open the door, I tried to take video from where I was. Sadly, you catch split-second glimpses before they are gone. My thought was this was a transient pod--meaning, a small family of orcas that travel far and fast, feeding on marine mammals like seals, dolphins, and other whales.

The waiters in Palo gave me a few candid looks as we walked in; I was embarrassingly tear-stained. We were seated at the same table we had the night before, then given a tour of the buffet tables. Now, much of the food was a bit too "exotic" for my taste, but I made an effort to try new things. I especially enjoyed the cheese table (and I'm very picky when it comes to cheese). The crab legs were hard to eat, but everything was good. We were full very quickly, which was disappointing because for the price, I couldn't eat any more. I've read of folks on here who spend hours just continuously eating. Not sure how you can do that. I did feel that the brunch was better than the dinner, and definitely a spread you can't find elsewhere on the ship.

Are you supposed to get thank-you chocolate delivered to your room after your meal? That never happened. Also, I seem to remember folks getting a rose after their dinner, too. Or is that Remy?

We spent the rest of our day at sea putzing around. I played and lost at more trivia. If I remember correctly, this was another semi-formal night. Mind, we hadn't started packing yet. This would prove to be a bad thing, later.

Dinner was in Animator's. Up until then, I did very well watching what I ate and taking all precautionary medications to avoid a digestive upset. Let's just say I must've gotten cocky, because I ordered the lobster bisque. Ironically, I didn't like it at all at first. My mother sent hers back, but I kept at it. This would prove to be my biggest mistake.

After dinner, I went to guest relations to check on our account and apply all the gift cards we had. My parents ran back up to the room and would meet me back downstairs for the final show--Disney Dreams, I believe. Or was it Wishes? I don't remember. I just know I was looking forward to it as the big finale to our amazing vacation. With the account settled, I found Dad and we went to get seats for the show. While we waited for Mom, I started feeling sick to my stomach. And it intensified. By the time Mom arrived and the show began, I spent the next 45 minutes trying everything to focus on the show and not on the fact that there was a very real possibility that I would need to fly out of the theatre faster than Tinkerbell and find a restroom. I was miserable and upset that my body was ruining my last precious hours on the ship.

Mom had told us before the show started that she ran into our stateroom host, and he had asked where our bags were. She told him we weren't packed yet and were going to the show. He emphasized he needed the bags by 9:30. Mind, bags didn't need to be out until no later than 10:30. She told him we would do our best.

When the show ended, we beelined back to the room. I went straight into the restroom, while my parents frantically began packing. Meanwhile, I kid you not, our stateroom host was knocking on our door, wanting to know if we were done. He did this literally every 5 minutes--trust me, when you're trapped in the bathroom by the door, you count. It was incredibly annoying, and you could tell he was impatient with us. I felt bad, not only literally, but also that I couldn't help. My stomach was in an uproar. When it was clear nothing more could be done on that side of the restroom, I moved into the tub side and drew myself a hot bath to help the cramps. My parents, meanwhile, were tossing everything into bags without much care as our host waited impatiently by the door. We were completely mystified and annoyed with the hassle. NONE of our previous cruises gave us such trouble about the bags. By the time I could come out of the bathroom around 10, the bags were gone. We were so upset with what had been a perfectly fine stateroom host.

My tip: As depressing at it may be, start packing in the afternoon of your last day. Have your bags ready to go before the show (1st dinner) or dinner (2nd dinner). Never have we been so badgered before, though. We made sure to comment about it on the survey card.

Day 9 - Disembarking in Vancouver/Airport Hotel

We didn't plan on going to the 6:30 AM breakfast, but the very early sunrise made that decision easier. I still felt horrible; just an overall feeling of ill, though there was no more need of a restroom. Such a depressing way to end the trip of a lifetime! We got on the massive line waiting for Animator's to open and watched the ship enter the harbor into Vancouver. Our beverage server was very pleased to see us, and I'm glad we got to say a final good-bye to her. Our waiter, however, was pretty indifferent. He seemed pretty overwhelmed by the large family occupying most of his tables. I ate some fruit and toast with some mint tea, but felt no better for it.

Our luggage tags were purple Minnie. Unlike the Dream (or rather, Port Canaveral), we had to wait for our tags to be called to leave the ship. We scouted some chairs in the Promenade Lounge with the rest of the waiting masses, where I promptly took a nap. So depressing! At least I had a dummy date booked, so I knew we would return within 2 years (even sooner; FL res rates makes a quick getaway on the Dream easy in the winter months). Finally, around 9:30, Minnie was called.

They staggered folks walking down the gangplank and into the terminal. I had our passports out and our declaration forms, totally anticipating having to through Canadian customs. But after handing over our declaration forms, no one asked for our passports. It was so strange! At Port Canaveral, they are pretty strict at the customs area. But there was literally nothing at Canada Place. We didn't even stop when we handed over our forms. We were back in the terminal where we checked in, only now all of our luggage was laid out. There were plenty of luggage carts, so we grabbed one and loaded up. We followed the confusing masses toward where we hoped the taxis were. Again, because of all of our luggage, we needed a van. Vans were at a premium, so we waited in a line forever. Meanwhile, I was still feeling crummy. It became quite annoying to see families from the other cruise ship jump our line because they had a porter. I'm not sure why this was allowed, but it was rude. When we finally got loaded into a van, we headed toward our post-cruise hotel at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport.

This turned out to be another great decision. Due to such a long flight back home and the early wake-up call, I felt it prudent to just stay an additional night at the airport hotel. The Fairmont there was pretty epic--great view of the runways and terminals (this pleased Dad), an enormous bathroom with a spa tub and separate shower, and access to the restaurants and shops in the main terminal. If you join the free President's Club with Fairmont, you also get free wi-fi.

Sadly, I promptly fell asleep for a few hours. Mom explored the airport, which I had wanted to do. But I still didn't feel much better when I woke up. We went out walking but all I wanted to do was rest. My parents ended up going out to eat somewhere while I took another bath (and a shower, lol). Needless to say, it was an early night.

Day 10 - Flying home

OK, so keep this in mind in case this is something you may want to do if you stay at this hotel. We had so much luggage, we thought it worth the cash to hire a service which--we thought would take our bags to the check-in counter where we assumed they would take our bags to security. On time, the bellhop came for our bags at our desired time and told us we could meet him at the bottom of the elevator. Ok, we do this, only to be told that an additional valet would then take our bags onto a golf cart and then take all of us to the United desk.

Which was only 100 feet away.

The valet was a little bemused that we would hire the service to go such a short distance, while we confessed we thought they were taking our bags directly to the counter. He then admitted that while the check-in desk for United was at the end of the terminal, we would have to take all of our bags--ourselves--back down to the middle of the terminal where we had to personally load our bags into the x-ray machine.

This was a bit of a challenge. Even more so when the attendant at the x-ray machine literally does nothing to help you load your bags onto the belt. He watched me struggle to lift our big bags onto the belt. Watched me.

Next was security. This was relatively quick and painless but they did have to search my carry-on. I think I left a water in there or something. This was followed by US customs. Here they had these computer kiosks that scan your passport and a ticket popped out. Only, I did something wrong, and Dad ended up with 2 different tickets. When it was our turn at the agent, the guy--who was probably one of the more genial customs agents I've dealt with--had to call someone because Dad had 2 tickets. But we were through. Naturally, our gate was at the very end of the airport. By the time we arrived, we barely had enough time to buy some breakfast before they began boarding.

Our flight to Houston was uneventful--though our transfer in Houston was again a schlep across the airport. The stark difference in weather was obvious--it was close to 100 degrees there! How we missed Vancouver and Alaska already! AGAIN, we barely had time to find dinner before we were being boarded on our flight into Orlando. It was a bumpy ride, but we made it home safe and sound.

Final thoughts:

- This trip was worth EVERY penny. It was easily the best trip we have ever had, despite any hiccups.
- Take a lot of photos, but don't spend the entire time behind the lens. I wish I had done less struggle for the perfect shot and more just enjoying it all with my own eyes.
- Don't be afraid to book excursions privately in Alaska. Unlike in the Caribbean/Bahamas, we were never heckled in the ports.
- While I enjoyed the Wonder, the Dream is still my preferred ship. She is my "home" ship and I'm happy to go back on board next month. I still want to experience the Magic--especially since she's been refurbished--and the Fantasy. I did not find the Wonder to be any better for being smaller.
- If you're from a warmer climate where a rainy/breezy 50 degrees is "cold" to you, make sure to pack layers. However, you only need a few outer layers as they can easily be worn all week without needing a change. Don't go overboard packing 7 days worth of winter wear. See my packing list earlier in the thread.
- I do not regret having the verandah. While I wanted to spend much of my time out on the upper decks, having that verandah to run out onto when I was in the room was priceless. Having a window would've been fine, but the moisture in the air, I would imagine, would make it hard to see out of sometimes.
- Plan for at least one day to explore Vancouver. I would've liked an extra day, but hotels can and are expensive there. Also, if your journey home is longer than, say, 3 hours--I would add an extra day after disembarking to space out the long trip home. Staying at the airport hotel before going home was an excellent decision and made the long flights more tolerable.
- Lastly, I'm glad I went with Disney for this trip. Although, unless they begin offering different Alaskan itineraries, I would love to go back on a different line that goes further north. Besides, I spent so much time wanting be outside, the inside of the ship didn't matter as much. Sure, the characters in costumes were great--but considering how I did not experience that whole "random characters out-and-about" interaction on the decks, I wouldn't pay extra counting on having that.
... now, if I had to have young children on my trip, then I wouldn't do it with anyone other than Disney.

At last, there it all is. Sorry for no photos on this post. I hope I did the ending justice!
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Old 01-04-2014, 08:49 AM   #183
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Thanks for taking the time to finish your trip report! Sounds like you had an awesome time. I'm another Floridian going to Alaska next July and appreciate your comments about weather. I've already started preparing for the cold.
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Old 01-06-2014, 10:31 AM   #184
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Thanks for finishing your TR
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Old 01-06-2014, 03:26 PM   #185
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Thanks for your TR. It sounds like it was an amazing trip over all.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:18 PM   #186
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Glad to hear the end.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:23 PM   #187
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Glad to hear the ending.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:24 PM   #188
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Thank you for taking the time to finish this up despite all that you have going on at home and work. I am still on the fence as to whether an Alaskan cruise would be something I would enjoy as I am NOT a cool/cold weather gal! Reading others experiences helps to get a good idea of what it's like.

Thanks again!
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Old 01-11-2014, 12:18 AM   #189
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Thank you!

Thoroughly enjoyed reading it as we are booked for the 2nd week in June this year.

I can also tell you that when we were on Deck 1 of the Magic, and we mustered in the theater
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:51 AM   #190
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Thank you for your TR- felt like I was there!
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Old 01-14-2014, 12:34 PM   #191
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Awesome trip report!

Thank you for the weather & packing details! We are also Floridians going on this trip next summer. I am trying to make sure we have all the warm clothes we need now, because you won't be able to buy a sweater in Florida stores after the next couple of weeks.
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Old 01-31-2014, 08:59 PM   #192
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Orcapotter, LOVE your sense of humor and your writing style. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your TR!

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Old 04-11-2014, 01:19 PM   #193
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That was a wonderful TR. I love your sense of humor! I hope all is well with your family now. Thank you for the time and effort you put into this!
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Old 04-27-2014, 07:18 AM   #194
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I've just finished reading your trip report and it was amazing. I'm preparing for our trip in August and I've gotten many tips from your report. :thanks Its also making me more and more excited.

I'm also sending you a pm.

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