Vancouver & Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder: August 17 - 26, 2013 (With Pics!)

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by gregf71, Sep 5, 2013.

  1. dbarker

    dbarker DIS Veteran

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    I love your trip report. I can't wait for the next part.

    We are going next summer.
     
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  3. DindelsPA

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

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    Great trip report! Making notes for our journey next August. :goodvibes
     
  4. CelticPrncss

    CelticPrncss Earning My Ears

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    Fabulous trip report, love the photos!! So sorry to hear your mother did break her nose. We are cruising on the Wonder to Alaska June 2014. Can't wait to read more of your trip report!!
     
  5. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    A little inter-pre-post-trip mini addendum (it makes sense, trust me)...plus more Tracy Arm photos!

    So, I decided to wait to mention this until I had actual confirmation, but for those of you who have a Disney Visa credit card, you may find this information useful. Pre-trip, I read here on the DIS Boards about the possibility of pre-purchasing stateroom credit, which can be used to pay for everything assessed to your room account (drinks, souvenirs, excursions, gratuities, etc.). The benefit being that this "purchase" qualifies for the 6 months at 0% perk offered by the card. Since the last post I found about this was several months old, I decided to check if it was still valid. A couple days before we left for Vancouver I called DCL to confirm if it was still the case and their response was, "It depends on how Chase codes these types of transactions." So, I called Chase, asked the same question and they said, "It depends on how Disney codes these type of transactions." :rolleyes2

    After chatting with my wife, we decided to just do it, so I called DCL and made the purchase. A few days ago, I checked our online statement and sure enough, it qualified! Hopefully, this will continue to work in the future. In our case, it allowed us to save a bunch of Disney Gift Cards and use them to cover the majority of our costs post-sailing at Disneyland!

    And one thing that I forgot to include with the Tracy Arm report...as we were heading up towards the Sports Deck to catch some views of the glacier, we stopped at a push cart, manned by a cast member, because our daughter was cold and wanted a hot chocolate to drink. Seeing no other close by option at that time (not wanting to walk back down to the opposite end of the ship to the drink dispensers), we went ahead and bought her one here. Yep, they charged us for it. To our surprise, when we got to the front of the ship, there were free hot beverage dispensers. Sneaky Disney Cruise Line, really sneaky! Moral of the story, ask before your buy!

    Now, couple more Tray Arm day pictures!

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    Day 6 in Skagway is coming soon!
     
  6. jjgarv

    jjgarv Gotta get away to where the boat leaves from...

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    Greg-
    Thansk for the heads up on pre-purchasing stateroom credit......can you share a little more on how you did this? What did you request when you called DCL? Do you know how it was coded...and by who (DCL or Visa)
    Thanks for any insight!
     
  7. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    Hi -

    I simply called DCL and told them that I wanted to pre-purchase onboard credit for our stateroom account. They asked how much and on what credit card number I wished to charge it to. That was it!

    The DCL cast member I spoke to could not, or would not, confirm or deny that it was eligible for the 0% perk; the same for the Chase Visa people. I don't know how it was coded because it does not indicate any special code or status on our credit card statement. Why it is such a mystery I don't know, but it worked for us and it has worked for others in the past. Hopefully, it will continue to be a perk that we can all enjoy on future cruises. :thumbsup2

    If you are curious, do a search in the Disney Cruise Line section of the DIS Boards using "Disney Visa" and you should see other recent conversations about this topic.
     
  8. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    Day 6 - August 22, 2013 - Skagway: Mountain Rails, Gold Rush Camp and Shopping (Oh the Shopping  My Spider-sense is Tingling)!

    The Wonder pulled into Skagway early in the morning with all ashore starting soon after 7am. Our planned excursion for the day, the White Pass Railway and Trail Camp, was scheduled to meet up at 7:10am in Wavebands. After grabbing a super quick breakfast (and making sure that we had our passports, which were required for this excursion), we arrived at Wavebands to find several cast members in the middle of the room furiously organizing a variety of papers and handheld character signs. Multiple tour groups were meeting here as well, so as each respective time arrived, one of the cast members would call out and have a representative from each family bring their tour tickets up to the table to check in and receive their designated character stickers; if memory serves, we were Donald Duck for this one. Once everyone was checked in for our tour, another cast member claimed a Donald Duck sign and then we were instructed to follow her off the ship to our awaiting bus. While the distance from the ship dock to the train was totally walkable, at least for those of us not limited in any way, I appreciated the fact that a bus was provided to take us over. Within a few minutes, the bus delivered us to the train depot, where our local guide stepped out to confirm which rail car our group would be admitted to. This too was another nice touch in that we didnt have to run up and down the length of the train to find available seating! Thankfully, the car assigned to our group sat immediately in front of us, so we all climbed in. Taking the advice from several DIS Board members, we grabbed seats on the left side of the car. This proved to be excellent advice as it offered the best views overall throughout the length of the rail portion of the excursion.

    How did mom fare with getting into and out of the bus and train you may ask? Well, it was a challenge, but with my help she got in and out just fine. That seemed to be the standard operating procedure for the other families who toured with us who also had disabled parents. Neither the bus nor the train offered any mechanical lift options that we saw, which would have been more appropriate for a wheelchair anyway. However, in both cases since the drop off was rather high, an extra step was provided for everyone. And, in the bus, they did reserve the first seats on both sides for handicapped guests. For the sake of clarification, we did not request any special assistance ahead of time for mom from DCL or the tour operator as we really didnt think that she needed it. Now, back to the train!

    Soon, we were off, as the two lead green and yellow locomotives slowly eased all of the rail cars forward! Gradually picking up speed, we headed out of the town proper, through residential back woods, and finally up into the nearby Tongass National Forest. The incline did not seem very steep, at least from our perspective. The scenery along the way was amazing! As we rose up and along the mountains, we looked down upon the lush green valley below. Colors abounded! Forests of dark green pines covered the land, small white plunging waterfalls checkered the mountainsides, and a dark blue river snaked through the valley floor. All along the railway, a rainbow of wild flowers peppered the landscape.

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    My personal favorite part of the trip was Tunnel Mountain. I just loved the fact that we were travelling through a mountain:

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    As the elevation increased, the visibility decreased, as did the temperature outside. Gradually, the train windows started fogging up, making photographing through them much more difficult. Granted, I could have joined the folks standing outside on one of the platforms between the rail cars, but it was crowded out there and it was nothing that a few frequent wipes up and down the window didnt fix:

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    After passing through Tunnel Mountain, we soon reached White Pass Summit and officially entered British Columbia (the reason why we needed our passports), en route to our final stop of Fraser. Upon our arrival in Fraser, we were instructed that we needed to remain in our train car until it was cleared by a Canadian customs officer. One by one, an officer walked through the cars (I cannot recall if they collected any form from us or not), eventually getting to us and giving the all clear. Off of the train, bathroom facilities were available for those in need and tour buses sat waiting for their passengers. We located ours quickly, as it (and the guide) was the same one that took us from the ship to the train back in Skagway. To stretch our legs a bit and enjoy the fresh clean air before boarding our bus, I chased my daughter around trying to reclaim the WP&YR hat that mom bought for me during the ride up the mountain (did I mention that I love baseball hats?)! You can gauge my success in this venture in a future picture.

    Now, safely on the bus, the next phase of our excursion was a ride down the South Klondike Highway to the recreated gold miners camp, called Liarsville! During this leg of the trip, we came upon several cars and a tour bus pulled over along the side of the road. Many people were out, looking excitedly down into a gorge, cameras and binoculars in position. Noticing this commotion, I looked down, scanning along a quiet stream that rested at the base of the gorge. Then I saw it, well I think I saw it! Down at the side of the stream, leaning down towards the water to get a drink, was what looked to be a bear! Regrettably, my camera was put away and before I could alert my family our bus took a turn and the bear was out of sight. So, officially, I saw a bear! Well, maybe&

    As soon as we arrived in Liarsville, the first thing that we needed to see was the restrooms! Unfortunately, we were not the only ones who had that particular need. I mention this because the camp offers only three unisex facilities (at least that we were made aware of), located behind the General Store. Since we arrived at the same time as a few other tour groups, there was already a line and our group only made it longer. In addition, since the line queues directly in front of the restrooms, total discretion (i.e. sounds) cannot be always guaranteed if you know what I mean.

    The camp itself was pretty sweet. Hidden among the trees and completely unpaved, the various buildings, structures, and activity areas that encompasses the bulk of Liarsville, form around a central open space. From here, you can view into tents that offer recreations of camp life during the gold rush days:

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    Just beyond them lays the Liarsville Hippodrome, an open air building with wooden benches where a cast of sourdoughs and dance hall girls entertains guests with a funny melodrama, poetry, and songs. We happened to arrive just in time for the show. Overall, it was fun; silly, but enjoyable. At one point, all of the kids in the crowd are invited to come up to participate in the show. Basically, they all encircled the performer on the stage as he told a funny story. Immediately afterwards, it was time for our group to learn the art of gold panning. My daughter and I went over, claimed our pans (with dirt already included), and listened earnestly to the instructions. Everyone is guaranteed to find gold in their pan! Now, there is no promise as to how much gold you will find, but you should absolutely find something! Dip, soak, shake, dip, tip, shake some more, and tip again; repeat and repeat and repeat until you expose your bullion! Eureka! Or should I say, Eureka! Yeah, it was just a couple flakes of gold, but our daughter loved the experience:

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    Did you notice the hat that she is wearing? Yes, I did eventually get it back, but quoting Aragorn in Return of the King, Not this day. Not this day.

    After about an hour in Liarsville, we boarded the bus for our return trip to Skagway. Once back into town, the tour guide dropped off some folks along Broadway Street, while the rest of us returned to the ship. A quick bite to eat for lunch onboard and then we jumped back off to head into Skagway for a little exploration and shopping. The town itself was very nice, offering a bastion of shops just waiting to separate you from your money!

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    I was on the hunt for something of the totem pole variety and hopefully some scrimshaw (legal of course). My wife, on the other hand (queue the Spider-sense tingling), was looking for jewelry! Needless to say, Skagway offered several locations that could fulfill all of our shopping desires. In the end, I came away with a small piece of scrimshaw, a portion of preserved mammoth bone with a bear inscribed on it (in recognition of my possible sighting earlier in the day), but no totem yet. Perhaps I was a bit naive going in, but I was really surprised at the high prices on the souvenir totems, even the smaller ones. As a result, and recalling reading that the best shopping was still ahead in Ketchikan, I decided to wait. As for my wife, she found an absolutely beautiful piece of jewelry, which came with a second piece for free that she gave to our daughter! It was a good day for us all!

    Tonight, our dinner would be in Tritons! Vive la France! Our appetizers were the Duck Confit (me) and Chilled Jumbo Shrimp with Asparagus (my wife). For the soup and salad course, one would have to be crazy not to order the Chef Louis French Onion Soup! Not being crazy, we all ordered this and it was AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS! For her entrée, my wife ordered the Seared Sea Bass, which she enjoyed very much. I, on the other hand, ordered the Three-Cheese Lobster Macaroni. Januar, our server, immediately shook his head and said, No, no, it is not very good. Really, I asked. Yes, order something else and I will bring you some to try. Luckily, I had a close second choice, the Crispy Roasted Duck Breast with Pomegranate Jus. Boy, was Januar right on! He brought me a small bowl of the lobster macaroni with my other entree, telling me if I liked it, then he would bring me more. I took one bite and immediately realized that he offered me sage advice. I took one more small bite just to make sure the first one was not a fluke, but the taste was the same, so I set down the fork and pushed the bowl away; Januar claimed it quickly, smiling with a little glint in his eye, essentially saying I told you so. Thankfully, the duck breast was excellent! Dessert? Well, I had to have the Crème Brulee and my wife thoroughly enjoyed the Grand Marnier Soufflé! Both were outstanding!

    The plan for tonight was to take in the comedy show and then whatever. Originally, we were going to go as a family, but inevitably our daughter wished to go back to the Club (I think she may have known something). Giving in, we checked her in and then the rest of us headed to the theater, easily finding seats. Not that we were really early mind you, but there were just a lot of open seats (the reason why may become clear in a moment). The entertainer was a prop comic, at least I think he was, because I will be honest, I started nodding off a few minutes into his act. I dont think that I actually fell asleep, but the next thing I know he is bowing, most of the audience is clapping while others are retreating, and the lights came on. I dont recall being overly tired that night, but then I dont recall him being very entertaining either.

    Mom decided to call it a night, so my wife and I, knowing that our daughter would put up a fight if we attempted to claim her, decided to step out onto deck 4 to enjoy the environment. Well, that was the plan anyway. As we stepped out onto the deck, we were immediately met by a burst of cold wind. Initially thinking that it was not that bad, we found two available deck chairs with blankets, kicked back and covered up. Did I say covered up? The truth is that these blankets, with their smaller size and thinner thickness, were not the best options for keeping us warm in what amounted to a wind tunnel. With blankets discarded and deck chairs abandoned, we headed back inside to Shutters and checked out our latest photos. Another visit to the Outlook Café for some coffee and then we called it a night too.

    Up next - Day 7  Juneau: To Dog Sled or Not to Dog Sled (That is the Question!), plus Whale Watching, Mendenhall Glacier, & the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure! Oh&and Palo Dinner too!
     
  9. bridgetmck

    bridgetmck Mouseketeer

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    Really enjoying this thread. Great info & detail!
     
  10. CT15

    CT15 Earning My Ears

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    Gregf71, I am late to join this tea party, and hope you can help.. I am planning to take the Alaska cruise next July- but am trying to decide if I should fly into Seattle and drive to Vancouer or take puddle jump in. I think the drive would be nicer, but not sure how much of an effort customes broarder crossing will be- does anyone have any suggetions on this?
    also looking to try to scope out the excursions and am blown over by the number of excurisons to choose from at each port.. HOW to choose!! ANY ADViCE IS WELCOME!! THANKS. ;o)
     
  11. Ndsmorrison

    Ndsmorrison Mouseketeer

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    Enjoying reading about ur family vacation!! Loving it!! I'm really looking forward to our Alaskan vacation/cruise hopefully soon!! Post more pics!!! Alaska is beautiful!!
     
  12. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    Hi! Since I have not done both, I cannot compare flying into Vancouver versus driving up from Seattle. That said, either way, the Customs policies should be the same, so the process should be the same. The only difference might be the time it takes and the secondary costs involved. If you fly into Vancouver, then you have the cost of the plane tickets and transportation to and from the port. If you drive up from Seattle, then you have the cost of a rental car, gas, maybe food along the way and possibly long term parking while on the cruise; though I suppose you could rent in Seattle, drop off in Vancouver (which may cost more), and then rent another car in Vancouver and return it in Seattle. The other thing to consider is your time. The flights between the two cities was 30 to 40 minutes, plus time in the airports, while the drive can take more than 2 and a half hours. My advice is to write down the pros and cons of both for you and then decide which one makes the most sense. I can tell you though that if you have the opportunity to spend a day or two in Vancouver before or after the cruise, then you should do it.

    For the excursions, yes, there are lots to choose from. My advice here is to read all of the details for each excursion because their names are sometimes lacking information. For example, in Juneau, I went on the Mendenhall Glacier Float trip. By the title, one would think that this would be a pretty calm, relaxing tour. But, if you read the details, you discover that it included sections of whitewater rafting! I don't know about you, but whitewater rafting is not something I would describe as relaxing. Anyway, the more you know the better. Truly, you need to decide what would mean the most to you and what you really want to do. Once you figure that out, then book it! Maybe you break things up a bit...one port you do something adventurous, then something more cultural in another, and then another thing more natural in the last. It is really up to you. And ask yourself, "When will I be in Alaska again?" We definitely want to go back someday, but with so many other things to see and experience in this world the odds are that we will not return for many, many years.
     
  13. RweTHEREyet

    RweTHEREyet DIS Veteran

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    Thoroughly enjoying your trip report and your pictures. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. :goodvibes
     
  14. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    Update -

    A couple of things:

    • Apologies for the tardiness of the next day's report. Our laptop gave up the ghost and we are in the process of replacing it.
    • Also, regarding the pictures in the trip report, they might be temporarily not viewable for awhile. Photobucket has a monthly bandwidth limit and we are getting very close to it with so many people reading about our exploits in Alaska. Rest assured, if they become unviewable, then it will only be for a few days. Once their monthly bandwidth counter resets, so will the photos.

    More Alaskan fun coming soon! I promise! :)
     
  15. CT15

    CT15 Earning My Ears

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    :cool1:
    Thanks so much. Since my question to you we have decided to just go to Vancouver direct and skip the Seattle part. Too much to try to figure out.
    CAn you tell me what you thought of the Fairmont H20 Front? we are thinking of staying there, but we want to spend 3 nights in Vancouver, and price that DCL quoted was a bit pricey- your thoughts? Anyone have any procs cons to a Disney hotel versus not? Does is matter during the boarding process?


    And thanks so much for your trip report- it was great by the way!
     
  16. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    We found the Fairmont Waterfront to be absolutely wonderful! The rooms were very clean, the bed soft, the tub/shower/water pressure great, and the staff very welcoming and helpful. And, the location cannot be beat, especially on embarkation day. We did not dine at their restaurant, but I read many popular reviews about it beforehand. That said, there are tons of great restaraunts (and shopping options) within walking distance, not to mention the quick service food court beneath it. Yes, the add-on for the pre-stay at the Waterfront was expensive, but I felt that it was totally worth it. Now, I should add that we used our Disney Visa to pay for the whole thing, so adding the pre-trip stay to our package through DCL allowed us to include it in our 6 month 0% finance perk. If you can do that, it makes the cost more palatable.

    Does it matter with the boarding process? Yes, I think that it did. Before I detail that, let me add that because this was a Disney affiliated hotel, they had baggage transfers set up for us. We just had to leave our luggage in our room and it was subsequently claimed by hotel staff and transported to the cruise ship. It was super easy and made it so much easier for us when we walked over. Now, regarding the boarding process...since we purchased the add-on through Disney, we did not need to schedule an arrival time at the port. We were simply told that we could head over whenever we wanted once it opened up for our cruise. This allowed us to get there as early as possible and as a result we checked in earlier than most and got assigned boarding group #2. So, to be succinct, the add-on offered us very comfortable accomdations, dare I say somewhat luxurious, super close to the amenities of Vancouver, and it gave us the opportunity to board the ship earlier than most and enjoy our time more. Was it worth the cost to us? Yes, definitely!
     
  17. bridgetmck

    bridgetmck Mouseketeer

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    Greg71,
    How did you find out that the Fairmount was Disney affiliated?
    Thx!
     
  18. topsy

    topsy Mouseketeer

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    Really enjoying your trip report and style of writing. You are successfully helping to distract me from writing my own TR! :surfweb:
     
  19. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    Hi -

    Thank you so much! I am glad that you are enjoying it!

    Cheers!
     
  20. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

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    Short answer...we asked our Travel Agent who confirmed with Disney what our choices and the associated prices were.

    Long answer...while researching on the DCL website, in the 'Cruises & Destinations' tab, I clicked on the 'Packages' link. On this new page, there was a link for 'Pre- and Post-Cruise Hotel Stays.' Clicking on that, there was a very general paragraph listing cities where they offered the add on, Vancouver being one of them. I emailed our Travel Agent for more specifics, my wife and I discussed it, and Bob's your uncle. :goodvibes
     
  21. bridgetmck

    bridgetmck Mouseketeer

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    Thanks! That helps! Just getting a list of things 'to do' in order to be ready for August.
     

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