A Floridian in Alaska--June 3rd-10th, 2013 (COMPLETE)

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by OrcaPotter, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. ukintheus

    ukintheus DIS Veteran

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    Subbing along. We won't get to Alaska any time soon, but your trip report is very entertaining :thumbsup2, and we are on the Wonder in September. :goodvibes
     
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  3. emilyann415

    emilyann415 DIS Veteran

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    OMG!!!! My receptionist just came and checked on me as I'm laughing so hard. This picture is priceless. I'll have to remember not to ask dining advice from the Pandora lady :rotfl: Great trip report so far.
     
  4. CruznLexi

    CruznLexi DIS Veteran

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    This Floridian leaves in 3 weeks. I am hoping it is fairly decent as I think 60 is cold!
     
  5. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    For convenience's sake, we decided to put out the room service hang tag the night before to have a continental breakfast brought to the room. We didn't want to rush around packing everything and then going out to breakfast. We had a 11 AM PAT and even though we were only about 5 minutes from the port, who knew how long the process would take in Vancouver versus home at Port Canaveral?

    So we get up and get started packing up the suitcases, then the breakfast arrived. There was a table full of coffee, juice, and pastries looking all sorts of yummy rolled in, with my mother wearing a huge grin. I'm thinking, "We're excited! Cruise day! Alaska! And croissants!" We hug, full of happiness, and she whispers in my ear:

    "Breakfast cost you $66."

    AHAHAHA-What.

    We weren't on the ship yet. Those magical hangtags that deliver your daily wake-up call came with a pricetag off the ship. Of course, I knew this, but I didn't realize that they would charge us the approx. $22 continental breakfast charge per person in the room. We had a ton of food as result. So, to commemorate the most expensive muffins I've ever purchased, we took pictures:

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    We ate those muffins, darn it, and we made darn sure they were freaking delicious.

    9:30 AM rolls around and we were completely packed and ready to go, but we had a lot of time before we needed to leave. I may or may not have mentioned before that due to our mad-dash leaving home, we (or rather my father) ironically forgot a lot of things despite packing weeks ahead of time. If you use a CPAP machine, like my father, be sure that you pack ALL the needed parts. We dragged that freaking thing clear across the country, only for him to discover that he forgot the dang face mask--rendering the entire thing moot. Then he gets all mad because he also forgot the one and only battery to the fancy camera he bought for the trip.

    Well, we had the time, Mom and I could go find one!

    So, here's an interesting tidbit: If you need anything, ask for directions to London Drug. It's like a CVS-meets-Sears; really weird. We were directed around the corner and a few blocks down to this place, where you could pick up a TV while you wait for your prescription.

    This excursion took us 10-15 minutes. By the time we got back to the room, we opted to call the bellhop to bring our multitude of bags down for a taxi. Now, I know I've said that most of the taxis in Vancouver are Priuses and can only take about 2 large pieces of luggage. We needed a van, and since boarding a ship means people are getting off of ships and those people needed to go places, meant that we had to wait quite some time for a van. I saw plenty of people walking the streets with luggage, so I'm sure there were those with minimum bags who felt able to walk to the port. You could certainly do it from The Sutton Place if you only have 1 bag, but I wouldn't recommend it. Your 5 minute cab ride would turn into a 20 minute hike.

    While we're waiting for a cab, I'll give you my review of The Sutton Place:
    -- Listed as a 5 star, but I think that's only because they have a top notch concierge service. The state of the rooms and hallways were more of a 4.
    -- While very comfortable, the rooms and hallways need some refurb. Worn-out furniture, worn-out carpets, worn-out trim. Not that it impacted our stay but it was noticeable.
    -- Bed was very comfortable; get a 2 queen room if you can. The layout of our king room made things awkward and Dad graciously took the rollaway.
    -- While the location is not at the port, it's in the heart of everything downtown Vancouver, which really added to our experience.
    - There's a tiny gift shop and a little cafe to the left of the check-in desk which was convenient.
    -- You could get what I booked for cheaper if you take a chance with Hotwire and have a little more patience. I would not spend a dime more than $250/night. But I would stay there again!

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise--Mom (34) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    We tried so hard to travel light, too

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    It was pretty warm in the sun. Notice me wearing nothing but short sleeves. This was the only time this happened.

    Finally, the van arrived and we were at the port within minutes. The entrance to the port is underground ... or below the hotel/convention center, however you want to look at it. The Norwegian Star was also in port that day and all the ships' passengers enter through the same place. Which meant a lot of people going hither and thither and very few signs to tell you where to go. Now, make sure you have all of your cruise documents and your passports out. You will show them several times from this point forward.

    First, all passengers for both ships were funneled into security. We had to show our cruise documents and our passports. Despite the crowd, this only took about 5 minutes or so. Next, you are funneled into U.S. customs. I guess since we were headed strictly to U.S. ports, we had to do this pre-cruise. Again, a long line but it only took another 5-10 minutes. You're told repeatedly to put your cruise documents away but to open all your passports to your ID page and stack your family's passports on top of each other on the right page. After 1 minute with the customs guy, we were then directed behind customs and that's where the Disney folks separated from the Norwegian folks.

    By now, it's around 11:15 AM or so, I'm guessing. I didn't really pay attention to the time. We walked directly up to a temporary DCL booth to check in. Originally, I was going to ask about upgrades, but a glance to the right showed a completely full waiting area. Those folks must've arrived no later than 10:30. So I didn't bother to ask; it turned out to be a full sailing anyway. We got a #4 boarding time and then we had a choice: sit in the crowded area that's close to all the music and a spot clearly intended for characters to appear, or in the completely separated waiting area on the other side of the terminal but still within sight of the entrance to the gangway?

    I wanted to be in the heart of the action! So, we managed to find 2 empty folding chairs (yes, all the seating is folding chairs) and I sat on the floor. Now, the whole check-in and waiting process at Disney's terminal in PC is of course the best experience. Vancouver wasn't bad or stressful, but it wasn't as streamlined or as no-brainer, and the lack of a dedicated space for check-in and luggage retrieval was weird. (A bit of a preview: You pick up your luggage in the same area you checked-in for the cruise.)

    There were 2 speakers playing random Disney music, the kids' club check-in area, and a few banners placed here and there. The Wonder was right outside the windows. I kept waiting and waiting for characters to come out for photos, but they never did. I'm not sure what was going on with boarding today, but it seemed like everything was behind. Judging by how few characters-in-the-waiting-area photos there were in Shutters later in the cruise, they clearly came out toward the very end of boarding.

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    This is not the only waiting area ... back on the other side of the check-in booths was another area that seemed a bit bigger and was nearly empty. But it wasn't close to where you expected characters to appear.

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    Boarding did not begin until just after noon. Within about 10 minutes, boarding group 4 was called and we excitedly made our way to the gangway. There were 3 or so boarding photo stations (we did not buy it; Mom forgot to take her sunglasses off) and then we were stopped at the point where they scan your KTTW cards for the first time. Well, for some reason, our boarding group was held there for several minutes. I'm not sure why. Once they started boarding again, within a few short minutes we were being announced on board.

    Now, I was plenty prepared for the small size of the atrium compared to the Dream. I expected it to feel tiny and it definitely was, but I tried very hard throughout the whole trip not to compare too much. We were directly immediately to Parrot Cay for lunch. It was amazing how the dining room was identical to Enchanted Garden except for size and decoration.

    Here's another observation: They weren't nearly as on top of hand sanitizing as they were on the Dream. Several times we went into restaurants and such without anyone at the wipe station; we took them on our own.

    Another thing, while everything looked (and was) very yummy at the Parrot Cay buffet, the selection wasn't nearly as vast as it was in Cabana's on the Dream. Not to mention there was simply not enough room for everything on the buffet lines, so tables were set up around the perimeter for things like bread and soups and ice cream.


    I missed the crab legs and mussels on the Dream, but lunch was still good and fresh. We took our time, kinda not believing we were finally on this vacation, then we decided to go up to the top decks to look around.

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    Another rare beautiful day in Vancouver! I will say this: The Wonder/Magic clearly have the superior adult pool space. Such a shame I didn't enjoy any of it because it was too wet and/or cold.

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    It was weird that the sports area was at the front of the ship, versus the back on the Dream. As much as I said I wouldn't do comparisons, I like this area on the Dream better. After being on bigger ships the past 3 or so cruises, being on a much smaller ship was quite an adjustment.

    We headed down to the room after 1:30; the one major plus to the smaller ship was how easy it was to get to our room from any deck. Only, the elevators are half the size as the Dream and oddly spaced out. We had a lot of problems with full elevators at even the off-times and the distance between the elevators made it challenging if you are waiting on the left/right and the one that comes is on the other side. Often, folks who just walked up would fill up the elevator you just waited 5 minutes for. If you're able, take the stairs. The stairs were a lot easier to use on the Wonder.

    Strangely, even at close to 2 PM, most of the stateroom doors were wide open and stewards were still cleaning. I almost stopped myself, thinking we weren't allowed to enter yet. I never noticed this on the Dream, and we would get to our room at 1:30 sharp. Bizarre for a ship half the size. But when we got to our block of rooms, all the doors were closed, and our room was ready. We had 6078 almost completely midship; I believe this was a 5B or C. Our first DCL cruise was a VGT and we were spoiled with a 4C; I couldn't afford that for this trip and man, it would have been a little easier if I had. But still ... the staterooms on the classics are supposed to be bigger, right? Perhaps a little bit wider ... but I honestly didn't think they were any bigger.

    Also a first for DCL was how long it took to get our luggage. On the Dream, we got all of our pieces almost right away after we got in the room. On the Wonder, it took most of the afternoon to get all of our pieces. It was such a surprise. After taking in the sights from our verandah and settling in with what luggage we had, we went to tour the ship more.

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    Last time, we got the backpack, keychain, and 2 of the flip-flop rice krispie treats. This is what we got this time. The text on the keychain from January is already wearing off.

    Continued in next post ...
     
  6. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (241) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    Most of these magnets I created myself; a few were from other DISigners, but the rest were all me. I'll post the new DISigns to my DISign thread soon.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (249) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The mural behind the elevators; you could get up close and personal with them on the 6th deck. Most of the time the doors that gives you access to this area was open.

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    I sadly never went in here.

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    Here's another strange thing. I never had problems getting to know the Dream right away. There were navigators, times, and maps available everywhere. On the Wonder, we were never given the times nor a map of the ship. You had to request both from the guest services desk. I also had the strangest issue remembering where everything was. And I pride myself on being really good with directions and needing to only go somewhere once to know how to get there again.

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    Alaska exclusive merchandise: Nesting dolls (approx $30)

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    Mom bought me the LAST Alaskan Pluto later that night. No more showed up for the rest of the cruise.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (285) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Disney Alaskan plush. While cute, the quality is the same as what you find in a claw machine, only x10 the price. I was disappointed; Pluto would be the only Disney plush I obtained.

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    OK, I lied. Later in the cruise, I caved and bought this adorable grizzly bear who happens to be a puppet and with Mickey paw pads. He is adorable and you'll be introduced to him later in the report.

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    There are only 2 main gift shops on the Wonder versus the 3 on the Dream (not counting the pool and liquor places) but I was glad there seemed to be more "Wonder" items than the Dream ever had. There were about a dozen Alaska items, many of which I bought over the course of the cruise. The Pluto was the only thing to sell out. I was disappointed that there were only 2 Alaska-themed pins; if I wanted, I could have bought some of the Panama Canal pins. There was also an Alaska Vinylmation with an Orca theme. If you can recognize this particular orca, you'd know he's actually from the TV animated series, The Little Mermaid, from the 90's. Ariel's silhouette appears on the left ear.

    We went to pick up Dad from his usual post-boarding nap to get to the muster drill on time. I really wonder what staterooms you have to stay in to get to muster inside the lounges or theatres. We've always had to muster outside on the deck. It did not take long at all, and we waited for the crowd to clear before heading up to deck 9 for some hot cocoa and watch us sail away.

    The sailaway party was probably the only time I was impressed with half the number of passengers as the Dream. We had no problems getting close to the stage after the show started, but the show wasn't nearly as long as the Dream's. They also didn't blow the horn. In fact, it didn't go off until we were about to go under the bridge. We left the party to get close to the front of the ship. On the Dream, we never had to fight for this area. On the Wonder, it was always a madhouse up there. I took video from the time we left the dock until after we cleared the bridge. I will eventually upload video but in the meantime, enjoy more photos from day 1:
     
  7. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (297) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    I think everyone agrees that Shutters on the Dream/Fantasy is superior to the classics.

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    Knowing what's on the Dream, it amazed me how well they duplicated the atmosphere from the classics onto the new ships, even for being made at a different yard.

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    The ship was in very good shape considering her age. But you could tell the carpet was tired in areas.

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    About one of the only events you could claim was "less crowded" than the Dream.

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    Bathroom in Route 66

    I had requested PTTAPTA for our dining rotation and it was granted, along with our 4-top table request. Our 1st two cruises on other lines, we shared a table with other families. It was never a bad experience, but until we happened to have our own table for our 1st DCL cruise, we realized we enjoyed our privacy that much more. So we were back in Parrot Cay for dinner the first night. Our server had a name I could never pronounce; he was nice and relatively quick, but we didn't bond with him nearly as much as with our assistant server, Julie. She was a sweetheart, even if she was slow at times with everything. We shared them with some pretty big families, including 2 twelve-top tables filled with a family reunion. That probably explained why our servers were slow. Our head server, Harry, made himself present every night and helped clear things away. When we stated Dad was diabetic, Harry made sure to give him the next night's menu right after dinner so that the chef could prepare what he wanted with minimum sugar. They were very attentive to him, which is what we've come to love about DCL.

    Many reports I read before I left stated that PC was their least favorite menu. To be honest, I don't remember at all what I ate this night. All I know is that it was all "good" but I remember leaving and thinking it was not my favorite.

    We opted to skip the "Welcome Aboard" show, since I remembered hearing that it was usually not something to bother with--just a sampler of what we would see later in the cruise. So, Mom opted to go shopping, and I ended up taking Dad to the Buena Vista Theatre to see Oz: The Great and Powerful. Mom saw it in theatres and wasn't impressed; I wanted to see for myself. In the end, I had to agree with her.

    After that, it was time to turn in after a very long day. I was on the sofa bed, which I had been dreading. I had a horrible time on the sofa bed on the Dream. I'm used to a pillowtop mattress at home, but my parents are older and therefore, they needed the bed more than me. We had run into our room steward, Gede, earlier in the day and I requested he leave me some extra pillows. To my delight, I was able to counteract the marble slab with some extra padding; it also helped that I didn't have a cold on this cruise. The other bonus? We were so active during the day that when it was time for bed, I was usually asleep before we even turned the lights out. That doesn't generally happen at home.

    Up next: Day 2--Day at Sea
     
  8. Silly Little Pixie

    Silly Little Pixie <font color=blue>My name is Inigo Montoya. You kil

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    First, your pictures are beautiful! Wonderful details. What kind of camera are you using? (Mine started dying on this trip so I am in need of a new one :sick:)

    Did you enjoy the trip? So far it seems like not so much, it seems it didn't measure up to the Dream for you.
     
  9. hannah's dad

    hannah's dad Mouseketeer

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    Great report - we were on this cruise and its is great to relive it through your perspective.

    One comment about receiving information such as a map of the ship, times, etc...our previous dcl cruises have been on the wonder (twice) and magic (twice) and I recall always getting the daily navigator, the trip navigator, and a ship map upon boarding or arrival at the port. For this cruise, we only received the trip navigator and also had to go to guest services to get the navigator for that first day/night. I think this was a deficiency for this particular cruise director and staff as opposed to a difference in the new ships versus old. Our previous experience on the wonder and magic was like your previous experience on the dream.
     
  10. travellingwithnikki

    travellingwithnikki I've visited every Disney Park in the world!

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    Yeah there were a few problems with the start of the sailaway party wasn't there?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_GrM-UsYNY

    I watched the next cruise sail out from Vancouver after we got back and they had at least two horns - once during the party, once when leaving the dock and probably one by Lions Gate Bridge. It was just unlucky for us that it messed up during our party. Oh well, next cruise and all that. :)

    We were on deck seven on this cruise and our cases were already waiting for us when I boarded - very impressive!
     
  11. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    Thanks! I/we actually used 4 different cameras on this trip (Dad loves cameras and keeps buying new ones but rarely uses them himself; I usually end up with them). Most of the shots are on my Nikon S8200. Others, particularly coming up on Tracy Arm day, were taken with our Canon G15 and Mom's Canon Powershot ELPH100HS. I was impressed with the quality of the photos, especially in low light conditions. I should have used a tripod in many of the cases, though. I do not have a steady hand.

    This was my favorite cruise/trip of all time, actually. I know so far it doesn't necessarily seem that way but like I said, I tried really hard not to compare the ships, especially since I knew sort of what to expect as far as the differences. If this had been a Caribbean trip, I would have been a little disappointed in the ship after being on newer ships. I actually loved the Promenade Lounge on the Wonder; I wish the Dream had something like that. I loved the adult pool area better, even if I didn't really use it; though I really enjoy the more comfy chairs and lounges in the Dream's Quiet Cove. I appreciated how much faster it was to get around the Wonder, but I actually got lost on the Wonder a few times, and that never happened on the Dream.

    It sounds like other issues were the result of the cruise director management, as others have commented. I definitely got a Navigator when we entered the check-in area of the terminal, but no times guide or ship map unless you went to GS.

    I guess since so many seem to put the Classic ships above the newer ships as so much better, as far as layout and crowds, I was let down when that wasn't the case at all. In fact, I felt this sailing was REALLY crowded and I had a lot more issues with crowding on the Wonder than I ever did on sold-out sailings of the Dream.
     
  12. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    Yeah, there were clearly some hiccups during the show. I think the horn was supposed to go off, but didn't. Obviously that was the case. Still! It was the best cruise.
     
  13. AZMermaid

    AZMermaid DIS Veteran

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    The curtains look a little thin- did you have issues with too much light at night?
     
  14. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    Not really. There are sheer curtains the room steward would close during the day, then much thicker blackout curtains he would pull closed at night. You just need to make sure to overlap them; there were a few early mornings that the early sunrise was peeking through a gap in the curtains, so I just got up to pull them closer together. If it's really a big concern, if you remember to bring some clothespins, they would definitely keep the curtains closed with no light peeking. I sleep with an eye mask, too, so that helped as well.
     
  15. Luv2Diz

    Luv2Diz We love the Wonder and Magic of Disney cruising!

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    I can at least partially answer this! We had cabin 2024 on our first cruise and our muster station was in the WD Theater. We've since had cabins on decks 7 and 8 and had to muster out on deck.

    Gorgeous photos. I'm really enjoying your TR!​
     
  16. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    We've been in Deck 7 aft staterooms twice and the muster is AP.

    Glad you were able to sleep well on the cruise.

    $66 for breakfast :faint:
     
  17. zimaaaaah

    zimaaaaah Mouseketeer

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    Love the detailed and picture-blessed trip report! Thanks for taking the time to write it. Not going for a while so it helps pass the time. :flower3:
     
  18. twinmum

    twinmum DIS Veteran

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    Great start! I'm really hoping for a family cruise to Alaska sometime soon. We couldn't make it happen this year as we left it too late - because one of our sons uses a wheelchair, we need a HA cabin and they are very difficult to get unless you plan way in advance. I'm enjoying all the detail, always gives me more support when I pitch the vacation plan to my hubby.

    Thank you!
     
  19. Meekins

    Meekins Earning My Ears

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    Wonderful trip report - thank you so much for taking the time to write it and include your great pictures. I am a "planner" and we leave in a little less than 3weeks....so nice to be able to read up ahead of time!

    Looking forward to the next chapter! :thumbsup2
     
  20. RweTHEREyet

    RweTHEREyet DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 1999
    Messages:
    6,411
    I can see that it would be hard not to compare the classics to the newer ships. We are lucky that we have been on all of them and do find things we love about each. I do remember after being on the Magic and the Wonder that I felt the cabins on the Dream and Fantasy did seem a bit smaller, but not enough to see that much of a difference.

    Our last three sailings were on the Dream and the Fantasy, so it will be interesting to be going back to the Wonder. I do appreciate the smaller size of the Wonder.

    Thanks again for your report and all the lovely pictures. I love the Disney themed nesting dolls. A set of those are going to have to go in my curio cabinet. I wonder if they were made in China and not Russia? :rolleyes2

    While they didn't have crab legs for the embarkation lunch, they did have the peel 'n eat shrimp, yes? ::yes:: I hope.


    Looking forward to more of your report and your thoughts.

    And I totally agree on the $66 for continental breakfast. :faint:
     
  21. Goldeelox9

    Goldeelox9 Our Disney Cruise Line Wedding ~ November 4, 2008

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2003
    Messages:
    2,565
    I am loving your trip report. It's fully though to see how much you love the dream, when I feel the same way about the Wonder. I guess it has to do which what ship you sail first on and claim as your own. LOL
     

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