It is hard to believe we have been back from our cruise for almost a month. It was fabulous, although not without a few hiccups. I enjoyed reading all the Alaska trip reports I could find before we sailed and I hope this one can be a help to those planning a trip. A little background: Several years ago, my mom announced that she wanted to take the family on a "once in a lifetime" trip to celebrate her 70th birthday in September 2013. Her family consists of me, my husband, and our four kids. She asked the kids for suggestions, saying the sky was the limit. The kids bounced around several different places around the world. Of course, we did have some practical considerations such as the ages of the kids (4 1/2-15), the health/mobility of my mom (two knee replacements in the past year plus a few other health issues), etc. My mom is very well traveled, at least in the Western Hemisphere. She has visited most of Europe, South America, and Canda over the past 25 years or so. England and Scotland were high on the kids' list as was Hawaii. Then it started getting down to the nitty gritty and my mom announced that she wanted ME to do all the planning. Now that sounds all fine and good but it was very stressful for me. I homeschool all four of our kids and that takes up LOTS of time, since I currently have a preschooler, elementary schooler, middle schooler, and high schooler. I love having them home, but it is a substantial amount of work. In addition, my mom was very tight lipped on a budget. On one hand, I would hear "money is no object" and "this should be something spectacular" and on the other hand, she would complain that she was spending money like crazy on house repairs and medical bills. I am an engineer by training and like things in black and white, so the budget thing was very stressful for me. And I know from plenty of prior experience that even though I am supposed to be the one in charge of planning, I won't do it right and will miss something or make a bad decision in her mind. I have been to Europe once, in high school, on a seven day/four country whirlwind tour (which my mom was also on). So basically I have zero experience planning a European vacation, much less one for 7 people from ages 4 to 70. Meanwhile, my mom is retired and has been to Europe at least 10 times. We ruled out Hawaii or other beach locales due to the fact that my mom cannot take a lot of sun exposure. I hadn't really considered a cruise as an option since a few years ago we did a four day on Carnival to celebrate my Dad's 70th and my dh did not have a good experience so I didn't think he would be willing to cruise again. Then last winter, my 15yo and I were talking about possible destinations while we were all out walking the dog and I mentioned how awesome a Disney cruise to Alaska would be. DH stunned me by saying that a cruise might actually be the best answer since the activities and meals would be preplanned. Well, I jumped on that and got quotes so I could have concrete numbers for my mom. She agreed and we booked the September 2nd Wonder sailing.