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Old 07-31-2014, 10:08 PM   #1
jtkboston
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Warm-Weather Alaska, July 14-21 2014

I'm finally getting around to writing up notes from our Alaska trip a few weeks ago. We had fantastic weather, starting with what the locals called a "heat wave" in Vancouver (but not uncomfortable for us New Englanders).
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Old 07-31-2014, 10:09 PM   #2
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Weekend in Vancouver

We arrived at Vancouver International Airport just before lunch on Friday July 11th. We ate lunch at the airport food court (outside security), then hopped a taxi to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Two adults, two kids, plus luggage (we packed light) fit easily in the Toyota Prius taxi. I got to ride the front passenger seat, and see the city traffic. Not too bad, but a bit unnerving to be driving in the right-hand lane right next to the curbs at about 40 mph.

At the hotel, we unwound in the pool--we had it to ourselves on Friday afternoon. By about 4pm we were all famished again, so we walked to a nearby restaurant that serves poutine--our first time trying it. Quite tasty! After dinner, we shopped at a grocery to get some items to make breakfast in our room. By 6:30pm we couldn't stay up anymore and most (all?) of us went to bed.

Saturday morning after breakfast, we all walked down to Canada Place to walk around the pier. Two ships were in port. We watched some of the loading/unloading work going on for the Zuiderdam, walked to the other side to see the Coral Princess, then hopped on the Expo line skytrain to the Telus Science World museum. Our Boston membership got us reciprocal privileges for free admission. We all loved it there! Live shows, lunch at their restaurant (prices not too bad), dinosaur skeletons, science of sports, and more. Definitely worth a visit with kids.

We returned to the hotel to unwind, watch more TV, surf the internet, and swim. This time it was family hour in the swimming pool. We got take-out food from nearby restaurants. Different places for some of us, I ate a hotdog from Japadog.

Sunday we visited Grouse Mountain.
We walked down to Canada Place, intending to take the "free" shuttle bus. However, that required purchase of a peak pass ($4 more than adventure pass), which we didn't think we wanted. So we took the SeaBus to Londsale Quay, and bus 236 to Grouse Mountain. The SeaBus was fun, although we had to wait 15 minutes for it (and our kids were all out of patience). The bus up the mountain was annoying as it was PACKED full of people and we had to stand.

At the top of the tram ride, we walked up to the Grizzly Café where I got a snack. Then the lumberjack show: totally scripted, pretty funny, and entertaining. After that, we all had lunch at the Rusty Rail BBQ, then watched the outdoor bird show (eagle, hawk, owl, falcon) before returning to the base area. The return bus to Canada Place is free, so we took it--much nicer than the ride up.
For dinner, we ate at the Pacific Centre food court. It was Sunday so they were closing early, and we got discount deals on combinations from the Fiery Wok, which was trying to clear inventory before cleaning up.

Monday morning, the girls and I got up early to walk down to Canada Place, at just the right time to see the Disney Wonder sailing into view. I got a bunch of photos of her arriving at port. She turned around and backed in to dock along her starboard side. We came back to the room, I had breakfast with my mom in the Roof restaurant, and I sent a ship photo to my co-workers that had tried (unsuccessfully) to find a way to stow away in my luggage. We took a taxi down to Canada Place, dropped our bags at the luggage drop, then went back up to street level. My girls and I went to the Fly Over Canada attraction (definitely worth a visit), then we all went down to check in and embark.
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Old 07-31-2014, 10:47 PM   #3
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On board the Disney Wonder: Embarkation day and first sea day

We had an 11:00 port arrival time. US Immigration, US customs, then check-in for the ship, then wait for registration for mickey bands for our younger daughter for the Oceaneers Lab. After that (fairly long line for mickey bands), they were just calling our boarding number, and on we went! We boarded around noon, went to handle a few things at guest services, then to Parrot Cay for lunch. We took the girls to open houses at the Lab and at Edge, went to a meet-up for our fish extender groups, and then to the sail-away party. We didn't actually sail as scheduled--a plane from LA to Vancouver with 20 guests was delayed multiple hours, and the captain held the ship for them. Given the next port call (opportunity for guests to join us) was 3 days hence, everyone I talked to was quite understanding of a slightly later sailing time.

Before dinner, we delivered some fish extender gifts. I washed some laundry (what we wore around town in Vancouver).

At dinner, we met our table-mates, a family of three with a girl aged between our girls' ages. The girls all got along well during the cruise. Parrot Cay was very loud, more so than I remember any of the restaurants on the Fantasy. I ordered a bottle of wine to last me the week: one glass a night, and they store the remainder back in the galleys.

Tuesday morning, sea day: the ship's horn was tooting frequently while we sailed through fog banks overnight and this morning. We were in and out of fog for a while until about noon, when all the fog and clouds burned off and it turned sunny. I saw some dolphins swimming next to the ship this morning.

At lunchtime, we ate at Beach Blanket Buffet. We split up for sea-day activities. Our youngest daughter swam in the pools (many kids in the pools, but not as many as you'd see on a Bahamas or Caribbean cruise). The water temperature was fine for swimming, just have a towel ready to dry off as soon as you get out. We are used to swimming in a heated outdoor pool in winter at a New England ski resort, so the air temperature was just fine for us.

I took an "Art of the Theme" ship tour (quite interesting, I recommend it). Dinner (formal night) was in Triton's, where the noise level was much lower than Parrot Cay.

Tomorrow: Tracy Arm fjord and Sawyer Glacier! 7000 foot peaks next to the water ?!!?!?
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:05 PM   #4
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July 16, 2015: Tracy Arm fjord.

Wow. Wow! WOW! What fantastic scenery. We awoke to sunshine and a few clouds, and it remained that way all day. The weather was so nice in the fjord that the crew launched a lifeboat with photography crew to film the ship. They offered copies of the photos for sale in Shutters.

In the morning, we did a few things around the ship, some walking on deck 4, etc. I stopped in for a bingo session (mostly just watching until the final round), using free cards (we got them from the DVC presentation we attended earlier in the week). We didn't win anything , but the CMs made the hour of bingo fun and entertaining!

About noon, we entered Tracy Arm fjord. I went up on deck 9 & 10, walking around from side to side and fore to midship. People at the railing were quite kind to let a person in for a moment for a picture, or to take a picture of you with your own camera. I got lots of photos that I'm still sorting through! We saw mountains, hanging glaciers (ice sheets end half-way down the mountain), waterfalls, and many beautiful small icebergs. We saw harbor seals resting on icebergs, but not much other wildlife. Everything was spectacular in the golden sunshine. The CMs set up a barbecue on the aft deck outside of BBB, and had soup in bread boules, hot cocoa, coffee, and chocolate chip cookies behind the windscreen on deck 9, just forward of the sports deck. The club/lab had children up in the sports deck for outdoor fun and games.
Everyone had a smile on their face.

Our girls played in clubs or with friends most of the afternoon, rather than hang out on deck with Dad (me).
After we turned around and headed back out of the fjord, I went swimming in the Quiet Cove section and sat in the whirlpools. The water was warm and uncrowded.swimmers.

At dinner, we were at Triton's for the rotational menu. I found the lobster macaroni a bit uninspiring--too much macaroni, not enough lobster. I guess I was expecting something like the lobster ravioli from the Fantasy? Tasty desserts, though!

The evening show, Ricky Kalman's hypnosis show, was absolutely hilarious! The hypnotized participants had a lot of fun too, so everyone was laughing along with them rather than at them. If he's on board one of your cruises, definitely go to the show, and if you're inclined, volunteer to go up on stage for the show!
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:25 PM   #5
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Port Calls! Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan

Thursday, July 17th: Skagway.

Mom and I took the White Pass & Yukon Route scenic railway ride. We rode round-trip on the train, up to the summit, with lots of great vistas and places for photographs. The girls would have been bored, it's a good thing we didn't book them on the ride! (We were briefly in British Columbia while the crew swapped engines between ends of the train, but nobody disembarked so there was no need for passports on this specific excursion).

Mom & I got back to the ship for lunch, then I went to the town to look around and get some souvenirs. I met the family at the dock for the sled dog musher's camp. EXCELLENT, see my review in the Alaska excursions review thread.
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Skagway Sled Dog and Musher's Camp (July 2014)
Dinner was at Animator's Palate. The show is different from the Fantasy--entertaining in its own way.

[In Skagway: Verizon Wireless service: "Extended" with spotty data availability. Seemed OK and part of the national plan, as far as I can tell. Phone calls home to say hello to parents went fine.]


Friday July 18th: Juneau. It rained on the ship overnight, but by breakfast time it was clear, sunny and warm for our port call.

[In and around Juneau: Verizon Wireless: LTE service, good enough to check e-mail, Facebook, etc. and even check in on Facebook at the Mendenhall glacier.]

We took a multi-stop excursion, reviewed here:
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Alaska Salmon Bake, Glacier and Hatchery
For dinner: lobster! (Toy Story menu). We skipped the Pixar Pals party, but we did go to see the show "Toy Story: The Musical". It's a 45-minute stage version of the first movie, very nicely done and enjoyable by all ages.

Saturday July 19th: Ketchikan.

We docked around 10:30, so we didn't have to get up early. But we did have our character breakfast, so our youngest daughter and my wife and I went to Parrot Cay for 8:00 breakfast. We got to meet and take pictures with Mickey (Captain outfit), Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. We lounged around the ship through lunch, then went ashore for a Ketchikan Duck Boat tour (we booked this directly with the operator, again to save money on the price for our 11-year old daughter). Afterwards, we walked around the town a little bit, going down Creek Street to see the historical sites. Dinner was at Triton's--A Taste of Alaska. I tried the elk for my main course, which I had liked years ago in Vermont, but this preparation of it was not to my liking. So later on, as I was still hungry, I went up to deck 9 to get a hot dog from Pluto's.

[Verizon Wireless service in Ketchikan: fine for voice and data.]
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:37 PM   #6
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Sea Day, See You Real Soon :(

Sunday July 20th was our final sea day. Overnight we switched back to Pacific time, losing an hour.
Everyone slept in a little bit, as long days and late nights were catching up with us.
We each found some activities in the Navigator to enjoy, miscellaneous ship activities for the day: 80s music trivia (name that tune), Mixology, Maleficent (for me), napkin folding, and so on. Our tablemates invited the girls to a party for their daughter's birthday which worked out nicely to keep them entertained. My wife and I had our Mixology class--a little bit different from the one on the Fantasy. It was fun and intoxicating .
Our final dinner was in Animator's Palate: where I finally ordered the beef on the lighter fare menu, and it was tasty. The show in AP had the crew/cast parade through the restaurant with a show of the national flags for all the CMs on the ship--over 50 countries represented.
We went to see the show (Disney Dreams), which weaved together musical numbers from several Disney movies/shows into a story of a girl's dreams. Afterwards we had to face reality: time to finish packing and put our suitcases out for the luggage to be sent to the port. I had saved some chocolate chip cookies from the lunch buffet, so we took those to the ice cream dispenser on deck 9 and made ice cream sandwiches. Yum!

Disembarkation: we went to AP for breakfast at 6:45, then waited on deck 4 for our luggage tags to be called for disembarkation. Once inside the port, we collected our bags and went through Canadian customs/immigration--very laid back this time, just about walked through and just handed a declaration to one agent.
We had a snafu at the limousine area (the port's attendant that had a phone didn't relay to the holding area that we were ready for our limo until an hour after I first asked her to), but we got into the limo and to the airport without the need to rush anything--checked in, went through more security, got lunch to go at an airport Burger King, and boarded the plane (12:30 departure) back to reality.
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:40 PM   #7
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One final note, I have some photos at https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A2GWZuqDGSjxDz and will post some others in the picture of the day thread, for example:
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A salmonberry
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:49 PM   #8
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We had the BEST time on this cruise. Absolutely stunning beauty!!
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Old 08-01-2014, 07:49 AM   #9
motheroftheyear
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Thanks for posting!

What limo service did you use to get from the port back to the airport?
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Old 08-03-2014, 06:14 PM   #10
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Thanks for posting! What limo service did you use to get from the port back to the airport?
we used Aerocar. The limo service was fine, once the incompetent port dispatcher called for the car to come to the pick-up area.
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Old 08-03-2014, 09:11 PM   #11
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So in Alaska/Wonder cruises they have you disembark by tag? This was the case with us on the Magic in 2012 but not the case in Venice last month. They simply assigned two separate breakfast rotations (based on dinner rotation) and then you were free to walk off once you were done with breakfast.
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Old 08-03-2014, 09:37 PM   #12
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So in Alaska/Wonder cruises they have you disembark by tag? This was the case with us on the Magic in 2012 but not the case in Venice last month. They simply assigned two separate breakfast rotations (based on dinner rotation) and then you were free to walk off once you were done with breakfast.
Yes, the cruise terminal space to put out luggage is limited, so they can't take all the passengers at once.
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:48 AM   #13
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Thanks! I didn't think about the storage capacity at the port, good point!
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