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Ahoy, Kids! Scrap the Summer Plans...We're Sailing with Mickey to Alaska! (Upd 9/8)

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by MickeyMomTo2, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    All my photos were taken using my Canon Rebel T3. If I am in the picture, then a cast member, an excursion guide, a family member or a random person took the photo. I usually buy the Photopass at WDW, but the photo package on the cruise is WAY more than I want to pay. I am sure there are others who are glad to buy the photo package, so that's just a personal decision. I did use the landscape mode on my camera for lots of the photos. This worked out very well, except in Juneau as I will explain in the next section of the report! Thanks for thinking my pictures are good! I do enjoy taking them, but I'm definitely not a pro!

    I only had two problems with booking so late. 1)My first choice for whale watching was already booked, but I used reviews from Trip Advisor to find another company, and this worked out very well. 2) The Bering Sea Crab Fisherman Tour in Ketchikan was sold out both on their website and through Disney. I was able to book using Shoretrips.com, and this worked great. More expensive than booking with the vendor directly, but still less than Disney.

    As meajuly5 said, it's really not difficult to book Alaskan Excursions on your own. I highly recommend Trip Advisor and this thread: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2723087.

    I also recommend choosing things that are good for everyone. I really wanted to do the train in Skagway, but I knew my kids would be over the scenery in about 3 minutes. (Then, they would have spent the rest of the train ride arguing with each other.) For us, it was better to choose things that kept us moving and engaged. I also talked to them about different excursions. My DS wanted to walk on a glacier, DD wanted to pet sled puppies, and I wanted to see whales. We were able to work all of that into the plans.

    There are so many wonderful excursions that it is difficult to choose, and I hope we can go back someday and try others we missed this time. But, with a little research, you'll find what fits your family the best!
     
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  3. tbower54

    tbower54 Earning My Ears

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    Loving the trip report! Makes me even more excited for our June 23, 2014 cruise! My husband and I cruised to Alaska without children many years ago. It was so amazing that we decided we must take them there (2 DS 5 & 10). And we are also taking my mom. It is on her bucket list and we cannot wait for her to walk on a glacier and experience the beauty of Alaska.

    Looking forward to hearing about your Juneau whale watching adventure!
     
  4. peyjax

    peyjax DIS Veteran

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    Enjoying your report!

    Interesting to me because I was waiting (obsessive watching lol) on a VGT status room for months. We ended up just going with Princess the week before you but our stops were pretty much the same. I am very curious though if the route to get there was the same. My favorite part (scenery on cruise) was leaving Skagway and heading out in the Chilkoot Inlet at sunset. Humpback whales and mountains with the glaciers all while the sun was setting = breathtaking!
     
  5. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    That will be a wonderful trip! We did it in reverse--went with the kids the first time, and plan to go back one day on our own!

    We visited Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, then Ketchikan. I guess we missed the sunset heading out of the Chilkoot Inlet because we were asleep by 8:30 that night! Guess I need to stay awake for that next time!!!
     
  6. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    We woke up on Friday in Juneau. After a quick breakfast, we left the ship to meet our guide from Alaska Galore. For those wondering about booking your own excursions, we found it very easy to do. Every time you step off the gangway, there are guides standing there with signs. On this day, we found the lady holding the Alaska Galore sign, and she directed us to our van.

    The drive to Auke Bay took 20 minutes or so. On the way, the driver told stories about the area, which I found interesting. She also stopped at a place where we could see the Mendenhall Glacier in the distance.

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    Once we arrived at Auke Bay, we were introduced to Captain John. Our family of four and one other family of four went to our boat and headed out to find some whales.

    Captain John and an additional guide accompanied us. They had snacks and water available, and there was a restroom (but we were encouraged to use it for emergencies only--they did give everyone a chance for a restroom break on land before we left). We had just eaten breakfast, but my kids were just STARVING and had to have some of the snacks as soon as they were offered.

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    At some point as we were leaving, my DS realized we were going to be out on the boat for 2.5 hours. He was not happy as he thought this was going to be SO boring. It turned out to be one of his favorite excursions!

    Also as we were leaving, Captain John said that they hadn't been seeing the numbers of whales they usually see in July, but he knew where two moms and their calves had been hanging out, so we headed there. On the way, we passed another glacier, but I don't remember its name.

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    We got to the spot where the whales had been hanging out. There were a couple of boats there already. Soon, the two moms and calves were showing themselves, but all we saw for a little while were lots of glimpses of whale backs. (By the way, it was very cloudy on this day--didn't rain on us, but cloudy. Several flight excursions in Juneau, including the Taku Lodge, were cancelled because of low visibility.)

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    Occasionally, we got to see tails and fins. In some of these pictures, you can tell that there are two whales next to each other.

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    The captains cannot move their boats within a certain distance of the whales. They must stop and idle. However, the whales don't always follow the rules, so they sometimes come close to the boats. We were lucky enough to have this happen. Two of the whales decided to come closer to us.

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    I hate to quit before the most exciting part, but I have to go pick up my son from school! I'll try to post the rest tonight!

    Coming Up...A Whale of a Good Time in Juneau, Part Two!
     
  7. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    At the beginning of the excursion, Captain John asked that we all use "clock lingo" to tell when we saw a whale. So, instead of saying, "There! There!", we were supposed to say, "2 o'clock!" We had been doing pretty well with this until I saw a whale breach next to our boat. I used no informational language--it shocked me so much that I just screamed! :) No one else saw it happen, but we all saw the splash. That's all I captured on camera as well.

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    We got a good laugh out of it and hoped it would happen again. For a few minutes, we just saw more of this...

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    Then, the whale decided to play some more. I only have two disappointments from our trip: we never saw a bear, and the following photo is blurry. I still had my camera on landscape mode, so the shutter speed was too slow to capture the action. Sports mode or auto would have been much better!

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    After showing us this amazing sight, the whale seemed to disappear. A few minutes later, we were standing at the back of the boat near the motor, and I screamed again. Why? The whale surfaced RIGHT. NEXT. TO. THE. BOAT.

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    The whale moved away a little bit, but we were able to get a few more pics before we had to say good-bye.

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    On the way back to the dock, we took some fun shots, saw some seals, and passed the glacier again...

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    We had a wonderful morning! All of us ranked this as one of our favorite excursions. We appreciated the whales cooperating, as I am sure experiences vary. We did not see Orcas, but the humpbacks put on a great show for us. It was a fantastic experience!

    Coming Up...An Afternoon in Juneau
     
  8. canadiandisneycruise

    canadiandisneycruise Mouseketeer

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    Loving reading this! Thanks so much for being so detailed. So each boat takes out 8? Was there an age restriction?
     
  9. ProudMommyof2

    ProudMommyof2 DIS Veteran

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    WOW!! What amazing experiences your family has to remember. My kids would love a whale watch like that!
     
  10. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    It depends on the company. Alaska Galore advertises 6-12 passenger boats, I think. There were also boats out there that had hundreds of people on them. Some of the cheaper whale watching tours booked through the cruise lines are these larger boats. We really wanted a more intimate experience and felt it was worth the money. As far as age restrictions, the only company I know of with age restrictions is Harv and Marv. They only take six passengers, and if you have kids under 13, you must either fill the boat with six or pay for six and go with fewer. The will not allow kids to go with other customers. Harv and Marv are very highly rated, but since we did have children, we didn't want to pay for six passengers when we only had four. If you check out trip advisor, you can find other whale watching companies. I can remember Rum Runners was one of the higher rated ones, but there were others.

    You can't tell from the pics, but there were quite a few boats in the same general area. You can see one of the boats that held hundreds of people in the background of one of the seal pictures.

    It was amazing. My son decided 2.5 hours wansn't too bad after all! :rotfl:
     
  11. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    I have more quiet time than usual today, so I thought I'd go ahead and write the third portion of our day in Juneau.

    After whale watching, we went back to the ship for lunch. When Alaska Galore took us back, they dropped some people in Juneau and took the rest of us to the ship. The ship actually docks a few minutes outside downtown. It's about a 15-20 minute walk at a leisurely pace, less than five in a car/bus. Disney operates a free shuttle from the ship into town, so just look for the big charter buses just off the gangway if you need one.

    We went back to the ship and ate lunch before taking one of the charter buses back into town. We wanted to go out to the Mendenhall Glacier for a few hours. (We were really hoping to see a bear, but that didn't happen.) We got into Juneau a little before 1:00 and booked a ride to the glacier on the "Blue Bus" at one of the kiosks just as you exit the shuttle. This bus took us to the glacier at 1:00--it picked up in Juneau on the hour and at the glacier on the half hour. There was also a "White Bus." We didn't know it at the time, but there were two white buses, and they picked up on the hour and half hour at both locations. Also, if we had to do it over, we would have only booked one way. Then, when you are ready to leave the glacier, you can hop on the bus that comes first, rather than waiting for the one you've already paid for. The only catch is that you have to pay cash if you pay to ride back at the glacier, so be prepared with $8 per person.

    We got to the glacier around 1:30 and headed to the Visitor Center. There is a small fee to see the exhibits and movie in the center, but we did not do that (we did hear it was worth it--we just chose not to). There were a few hands-on areas outside the center, and my DD enjoyed them.

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    We left the Visitor Center area and walked towards the falls at the foot of the glacier. You can see both in this photo from the Visitor Center.

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    We did not see a bear on our hike, but we did see this cute little guy.

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    The path to the waterfall was very easy. Flat and paved. It looked like this.

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    Although the hike wasn't anything spectacular, the views at the end were nice!

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    The kids spent some time throwing rocks...

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    Then we decided to head back. It was about 2:20 at this time. DS wanted to sprint back and see if we could make the 2:30 shuttle, but DH and I vetoed the plan. We walked back at an enjoyable pace. Back at the parking lot, we had about 45 minutes before the arrival of the "Blue Bus" (this is when we were wishing we could pay cash and ride the first available bus), so we decided to walk along the raised wooden paths made for bear viewing. They are near a stream, and when the salmon are running, you can stand on the wooden paths and watch bears eating salmon. We only saw one salmon, and we saw no bears.

    My DS did think it would be funny to pretend to be a bear, so he jumped out from behind a bush and growled at DD. If there were any real bears around, they were probably scared off by her scream. :)

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    We enjoyed our visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. Because we had already had such a good view of the Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm and walked on the Meade Glacier, the kids weren't quite as wowed as they had been initially, but it was still a fun and beautiful afternoon. Bears would have made it even better.

    We boarded the Blue Bus at 3:30, arrived back in Juneau near 4:00, and took the free shuttle back to the ship. We arrived a few minutes after 4:00, in plenty of time for our 4:30 All Aboard time.

    Coming Up...A Pleasant Pixar Evening
     
  12. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    Great whale sightings!
     
  13. WDWaddictt

    WDWaddictt DIS Veteran

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    Just joining along...loving your TR so far!

    The whale watching looks awesome...I would love to do that. How exciting!
     
  14. DindelsPA

    DindelsPA <font color=red>Pour the clown juice in my dirty b

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    Love reading your TR! After much debate, we decided to book AK for August 2014 so I appreciate your insightfulness. :goodvibes
     
  15. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    Thank you both for reading!
     
  16. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    We ended our enjoyable day in Juneau and boarded the Wonder around 4:15. At 4:30, there was a Pixar Pals party in the atrium, so DD and I decided to check it out. Quite a few Pixar characters came down the stairs and mingled/danced in the lobby. It was very crowded, and although they tried to get you to follow the dance moves with the characters, DD wasn't really into it very much. The characters don't stop for photos--you just take what you can get. I wish they would add some of these characters to the photo opportunities scheduled during the cruise.

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    After about 5 minutes, we got a text from the kids' friends (our former tablemates) on the wave phone, so all four kids met up and hung out together until it was time for us to go to dinner. We returned to Triton's, which had been our dinner location on the first night. The kids practically slept through the first meal at Triton's, so it was nice to enjoy a second meal there. The menu was the Toy Story 3D menu, and they handed out 3D glasses to use with the menu. The kids thought this was fun, but I thought it was kind of weird because you really didn't need them.

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    I had the Prospector appetizer (a flatbread that was so-so), Sid's Mexican Fire-roasted Tomato Soup (VERY good), Sheriff Woody's Favorite Marinated Delmonico Rib-Eye Steak (can't remember), and the Opera Slice (good).

    I can't find it on the Navigator from that day, but at some point after dinner, DD and I met the officers in the lobby. She wanted to trade pins with them during the cruise, but we forgot her pins at home, so this picture was the next best thing.

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    DD and I also saw Toy Story the Musical after dinner. This was my least favorite of all the shows, and I was really struggling to stay awake. DD enjoyed it, but I was glad to head back to the room to sleep when it ended at 9:30! Before turning in, we took some time to take photos with our towel animal of the day. This was their favorite from the week!

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    Coming Up...Fishing for Fun in Ketchikan!
     
  17. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    Not a fan of the Toy Story show either. Keep the updates coming.
     
  18. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    We woke up on Saturday morning with a few hours to kill before arriving in Ketchikan (All Ashore was listed as 11:15). DH and I were glad to have the opportunity to exercise. He went to the fitness center, and I went to Deck 4. Afterwards, we went to breakfast with the kids, and then DD and I went to see Snow White and Dopey. Snow White paid special attention to my DD's shirt, which said something about chocolate. Snow White said she likes chocolate, too. :)

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    Donald was out next, so we stuck around and somehow managed to get DH there for the photo.

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    Not long after, we realized the ship was docking early, so we went back to the room and got ready to leave. Our excursion wasn't until 1:30, so we decided to go explore Ketchikan before lunch. I think we left the ship around 10:15 or 10:30.

    I loved Ketchikan. It seemed like a picturesque fishing village nestled in the mountains. Skagway's mountains were more imposing, but Ketchikan looked like a postcard to me.

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    My DS had looked for souvenir baseballs in both Skagway and Juneau, but hadn't found any. He hit the jackpot in Ketchikan and found several that he liked. DD also bought a geode with a little Alaskan scene in it (she's all about sparkly things). After we found their souvenirs (it was their last chance to buy in Alaska), we walked up to Creek Street and around town a bit.

    (Not sure why DH looks angry in this pic. :))

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    We finished exploring and got back on the ship for lunch. We went to Beach Blanket and ran into our former tablemates. We ran into them for so many breakfasts and lunches during the week that it became a joke. These accidental meals together made all the kids happy, and it was nice for us to sit with adults at one table and kids at another every now and then. They were planning to go to the Lumberjack Show, and we had booked the Bearing Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour. We were all excited, so after visiting for a while, we went our separate ways.

    We left the ship a little before 1:00 to go to our tour. When we booked at 31 days out, the Crab Fisherman's Tour was booked on the Bering Sea website and through Disney. I was able to snag four spots through Shoretrips, which cost more than buying directly, but less than Disney's price. I printed vouchers at home, and then handed them over as we boarded the Aleutian Ballad.

    We don't watch Deadliest Catch, but the Aluetian Ballad was featured on one of the seasons. The owner has now retrofitted the ship for tourists. When you board, you are in a small arena type area. One tip--sit in the lower section. It seemed pretty warm in Ketchikan, but we knew we'd be out on the water, so we wore layers. We were still FREEZING once we got going. Thankfully, they offer heavy coats to all passengers and have heaters above the seats, but the lower seats are also blocked from the wind by the walls. I was really glad to have an extra buffer from the cold!

    When we got on, there were a few things to see in the touch tank, and some fish ready to be used as bait. We claimed seats and then walked around for a few minutes (walking around is used loosely...the ship was much smaller than I expected).

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    Hooray for complimentary heavy coats!

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    When it was time to sail, we sat down and listened to the fishermen. They talked about their lives as crab fisherman and told lots of interesting stories. They were funny and informative. When we got a good distance away from Ketchikan, they pulled in some lines they had left out on the tour before ours. They had quite a catch!

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    Check out the eyes. They said the change in air pressure makes them pop out like that.

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    Next, they showed us how they put the hooks on the line (lots and lots of hooks) and bait the hooks with chopped fish pieces. Then, they threw the new line out.

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    Coming Up...Fishing for Fun in Ketchikan, Part Two (which will include crabs, sea creatures, and LOTS of eagles)!
     
  19. ProudMommyof2

    ProudMommyof2 DIS Veteran

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    That's it! I need to take this trip! Waiting for 2015 rates and dates to be released.
     
  20. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    Lovely photo of your DD and Donald.
     
  21. MickeyMomTo2

    MickeyMomTo2 Lauren S. @baseballsbows

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    You won't regret it. I'm thinking we won't be able to top this trip for a while!

    Thank you!
     

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