1. Follow the DIS on Instagram! www.instagram.com/the.dis

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. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Day 7 - August 23, 2013 - 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!

    From the moment we decided to first book an Alaskan cruise, I knew that I wanted to go dog sledding. As we neared the date for booking our excursions, I researched all of the various options (excluding those run on dirt roads, away from the snow, because frankly that does not count), discussed them with my wife and daughter, and decided that Juneau, sledding atop Mendenhall Glacier, was the best place to do it! My wife and daughter, neither too keen to fly in the helicopter, much preferring whale watching and a salmon bake, decided on another excursion. The night that our booking window opened, I was online and nabbed a spot first thing! I grabbed the first time available for that morning, and here is why: in 2011, while on the Disney Dream, I booked the second parasailing (another bucket list item) excursion on Castaway Cay; as I sat there eagerly awaiting my turn, the first group returned, laughing and talking about how religious their experience was; unfortunately it would be the first and only parasailing for the day because the wind was determined to be too strong and my ride was cancelled. This time, I figured lightning couldnt strike me twice, but not to tempt fate I reserved the earliest time slot available. Too bad, this logic does not play well with reality one bit. In any event, I was so excited about the opportunity!

    Finally, the big day came...we docked in Juneau! We went up for a quick breakfast and then I excused myself to head over to Wavebands for the meet up. Why wife actually teared up a bit because she knew how excited I was for this and was so happy that it was finally going to happen. Grabbing a seat in Wavebands, I observed the same symphony of orchestrated chaos among the cast members as I had the day before in Skagway. Soon, I saw a male cast member enter the room and whisper something into the ear of a female cast member organizing the paperwork on the center stage table. All I could hear from this conversation was the woman saying, OK, I will tell them. Immediately, my heart sunk down into my stomach and I knew something was wrong. The woman called out our group and asked us all to come together in a seating section stage left. Once all there, after a sigh of her own, she spoke, "We are sorry to inform you that..." You can guess the rest of what she said...lightning had indeed struck twice! Apparently, while the weather in Juneau proper was fine for flying a helicopter, it was not conducive on top of Mendenhall Glacier for landing. To say that we were all disappointed is an understatement, but safety first always. You could just feel the energy drain away from everyone in our group. As the cast member continued her speech (which I am sure she had given many times before), talking about refunds and alternative excursions, I got up and headed straight for the Excursions Desk.

    A quick word about the weather during our Alaskan cruise...for the most part we enjoyed fabulous weather. It was definitely chilly, mostly overcast, but there was no bad weather per se, just a few moments of light rain here and there. The weather did sadly play a role in affecting my plans in Juneau this morning, but that was the only time that it did. It rained a bit as we got off of the ship and during our excursion in Ketchikan, but that in no way impacted the memories and laughs that we had that day (more on this later)!

    Unlike my experience on Castaway Cay, though I didnt really want to, this time I prepared for the worst! In my pocket, printed on a piece of paper, were the names of two alternative Juneau excursions to my liking. I was second to arrive at the Excursions Desk from our group. Standing there, I listened intently as a family discussed options with the cast member and the viability of other Mendenhall dog sledding trips occurring later in the day. The cast member simply shrugged her shoulders, saying, If Disney could control the weather, then we would, but we cant, so there is really no way to guarantee whether or not we will be doing this excursion today. The family chatted briefly amongst themselves and decided to chance it, booking the same excursion for later in the afternoon (I found out later that evening that all of the Mendenhall dog sledding excursions were eventually cancelled; I hope that family found something else fun to do). I, on the other hand, decided that I didnt want a maybe at this point. I wanted to do something fun and exciting, so I booked the Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip! That doesnt sound very exciting to you? Well, names can be deceiving!

    New excursion ticket in hand, I returned to Wavebands to meet up for the float trip. Our group was summarily called up to get our character stickers and before we knew it we were heading off of the ship to our shuttle bus. After a 20 minute or so drive, we found ourselves dropped off next to the eerily placid, bluish-grey Mendenhall Lake, nestled in front of the mighty glacier. Liability paperwork signed, we met our excursion crew and began to suit up! Suit up? Yes, we suited up! Everyone was asked to remove their shoes (and other loose items) and place them into a large bin (read this as, no loose items equals no camera, so sadly no pictures...but maybe not). We were then given a set of waterproof chest waders, lifejackets, and calf-high boots to put on, which believe me, is not really the easiest thing to do. Resting partially in the water sat our conveyance du jour, a large river raft, divided width-wise by four benches (bench #3 belonging to the guide/rower) that, as we would learn, would not only serve as our seats during this adventure, but our sole means to hold on for dear life (if necessary)! After receiving a bit of instruction on how to properly board the craft and safety guidelines, we were assigned our seating locations and one by one mounted the vessel. No, the next few minutes were not the most glamorous for us novice rafters. I could totally hear the Benny Hill theme song as we tried to climb in and claim our spots.

    Finally, we pushed off and headed out into the lake. A second raft, piloted by another staff member, took the lead and carried the bin with our personal belongings. The plan was to float across the flat, calm lake towards a river head on the opposite side and then down the river. This portion of the trip was most tranquil (quoting Alex Winter as Bill in Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure), offering a tremendous straight on view of the glacier. Even though we were not floating right in front of it, you could still be is awe of its grandeur and beauty. At the southeast corner of the lake we entered Mendenhall River, our course for the next six miles. Almost immediately the current increased, though it was still pretty tranquil; lets just say that our raft pilot, who I should add was the only one of us rowing (we were not given paddles), didnt have to work as hard to keep us moving forward. Gradually, the speed increased and within minutes we were immersed in our first bout with whitewater! In a word, it was exhilarating! According to our guide, we would be experiencing stretches of Class II and III whitewater along the way. I dont know what class we had, but it was fun!

    Now, on their website, the company that contracts with Disney to run this excursion states that the rapids are perfectly safe, just exciting enough for beginners and appropriate for all ages -- a treat for experienced rafters too! I would say that this is a fair description of what we experienced. At no time did I feel in fear for my life, which is a good thing, but still there was plenty of excitement, pure joy, and adrenaline, especially when some of that frigid water splashed up and went down the back of my shirt! Brrrr!

    The full length of the river was not totally white water. In between the more rapid sections laid expanses of complete serenity. Tall forest green trees (yes, forest green, get it?), claimed by our guide to be home to lots of bald eagles, surrounded us on both sides. Where the water did level out, we soaked in views of the riverbank, dense foliage, and distant snowcapped mountains...and several submerged automobiles (our guide explained the purposeful reason for that, which was interesting). At one point, our pilot steered our raft near the riverbank to find teams of salmon attempting to swim upstream. Later, he called our attention up towards the sky as a lone bald eagle flew directly overhead! And, what I thought to be one of coolest memories from the trip, he brought us to a meeting of two rivers, where our glacial blue-grey water intersected that of a dark green river. The spiraling colors in the water where the two mixed together was so unusual. I wish that I had my camera for this, but oh well.

    As we neared the end of our final section of whitewater, we all noticed a man standing on the riverside taking our picture. I didnt know this it at the time, but these pictures would be made available to us at the end of the ride. At the haul-out we rolled off of the raft and walked up to a makeshift rest area where they had our stored personal belongings, drinks, snacks, and a photo printer station set up. After removing all of the rafting gear and re-shoeing, I hopped over to the picture station, reviewed the four prints that they were offering, made my selection and got my souvenir (one print was included in the price of the excursion, but you could buy more if you wanted):

    [​IMG]

    Once everyone was ready, we boarded our shuttle bus and returned to the ship. At this point, I was still a little bit hungry, so I popped up to deck 9 and grabbed a slice of pizza. I then returned to our cabin, grabbed the camera and headed back off of the ship. My destination was the top of Mt. Roberts! Now, even when I originally planned on going dog sledding, I also scheduled the Mt. Roberts excursion as well. While my wife and daughters port adventure would take most of the day, the dog sledding or the river rafting were only a few hours, so I knew that I would have time to do something else in Juneau. Conveniently, the pass for the Mt. Roberts Tramway was for the whole day. Off the ship, I jumped on the next shuttle bus into town, which dropped us off right next to the tramway base. I should note here: the Wonder docked somewhat inconveniently away from the town center. While one could walk to the downtown area, it would take some time, so they arranged buses to shuttle us back and forth. Later on, while walking by the Red Dog Saloon, I saw another cruise ship docked seemingly on top of the town. I dont know how these parking spots are assigned, but those other cruisers certainly had a better one. Cest la vie!

    With very little queue in the tramway base, I quickly found myself in the tram, heading up and up and up towards the peak of Mt. Roberts. The incline of the cable system that carried us up the mountain was very steep, but the tram stayed comfortably level the entire time. In less than a minute, we arrived at the upper terminal! I stepped out and immediately went to the partially enclosed observation decks on either side. I say partially enclosed because the windows could be opened, which definitely made for better pictures:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After taking in the incredible view, I headed back towards the main complex. Surrounded by spruce trees, the Mountain House includes a bar & grill, a theater, and access to a nature center. I bypassed all of these. Instead, I headed out back to the hiking trails for a leisurely walk around. After about thirty minutes of soaking in nature, and I swear I never came upon one of those Bear Viewing Stations their website mentioned, I returned to the main building to check out the resident bald eagle. The Juneau Raptor Center Bald Eagle Display is permitted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to care for injured birds and allows them to be displayed for educational purposes. This magnificent bird was there today:

    [​IMG]

    According to the attendant, this illustrious emblem of our nation was shot through the beak and suffered a fractured wing by a human assailant. No longer able to fly, she cannot be released back into the wild. A bit of a show off, the eagle seems to like kids and frequently spreads her wings out wide and flutters up and down when she sees them. A father and son soon joined me at the exhibit and sure enough she did her thing! Leaving a bit of cash in the donation box, I headed back to the tram station and returned to sea level.

    Heading down Franklin Street, I had two stops in mind, well maybe three. The first was a local store that supposedly specialized in local arts and crafts, but I found the selections too artsy for my liking. They had some very nice things, just not what I was looking for; plus, I kept reminding myself that many others said that Ketchikan offered the best shopping. Continuing down Franklin, I arrived at my second destination&the Alaskan Brewery Company Store! Cue the angelic chanting of Franciscan monks again! Wow, what a great store...if you like beer! While they didnt actually sell any of their alcoholic products, they did sell anything and everything that they could paste those product labels onto. Shirts, sweatshirts, hats, coasters, drinking glasses of all shapes and sizes&they even sell their beer taps. I really wanted one of these, but I was fearful about safely lugging it home...perhaps a visit to their website might be in my future! Anyway, while I had read that they did offer a for fee (not free) shuttle service from the store to their actual brewery for a free (yes free) tour and tastings, the primary reason for coming here was to buy a gift for my brother and his wife, who were watching our house while we were away. They too are beer aficionados, so I knew that they would appreciate something nice from here. Searching through the store, I came upon the perfect gift: a nice German made set of drinking glasses etched with the Alaskan Brewing Company primary logo. Purchase made, I walked back towards the ship, popping my head into the infamous Red Dog Saloon for a second. Not impressed, I quickly departed. Nearing the shuttle bus pickup, I walked by a jewelry store (one of many), where an aggressive salesman (I mentioned before that I hate aggressive salesmen, right?!), noticing the hat I was wearing (purchased from the Roots store in Vancouver), asked me if I was from Vancouver. I responded that I was from Southern California, San Diego to be specific, and he immediately smiled and got excited! So am I, he chirped, And so is my girlfriend who is working here with me! He asked me where specifically in San Diego, so I told him and as it turned out they grew up not far from where I did. Noticing my Disney Cruise Line lanyard, he asked if I had claimed the free charm that their store was offering. Since I had not and I knew that my daughter and mom were collecting them as they could from shops in the various ports, I agreed to enter the store to get them. Meeting his girlfriend, we exchanged pleasantries about our childhood homes, and she was kind enough to give me two charms (since I mentioned both my daughter and mom). Of course, she then offered to sell me a beautiful gold chain at a great price to hang them from (ugh!). After politely declining, I thanked them and returned to the ship.

    As I stepped off of the shuttle bus, I noticed mom walking down the gang plank. I paused to meet her and see how her day and earlier excursion had gone. She had chosen the Deluxe Tour of Juneau, which took her to Mendenhall Glacier, the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure, and finally the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. She absolutely loved it! She said that the glacier was magnificent, while the hatchery was just ok. The gardens, though, were her absolute favorite. She pulled out a number of post cards that she bought there and told me how beautiful all of it was. While there, they provided a gold cart to transport guests to a viewing platform, offering scenic views of the Mendenhall Valley. Top it off with a little tea and pastry service at the end and you had one happy mom. Glad to hear that she had such a splendid time, I told her that I was going back onboard to get a late lunch; she wanted to go into town to look around, so I directed her to where that shuttle picked up and we parted ways.

    After a solo visit to the Beach Blanket Buffet, I returned to our cabin to relax. Not long after, my wife and daughter arrived, immediately wanting to know how my dog sledding went. With a sad smile, a shake of my head, and a shrug of my shoulders, I told them it was canceled due to weather. My wife almost started to cry, but then I told them about what I did do, showing them the wonderful picture from my whitewater adventure and the sadness dissipated quickly. Their excursion was the Best of Juneau, which included whale watching (guaranteed whale watching mind you), a visit to a local lodge with a salmon bake lunch, and finally time at the Mendenhall Glacier. They both had a wonderful time! According to my wife, the whale watching vessel was the nicest that she had ever been on! In years past, she has been on several such excursions out of Southern California, both as a passenger and as a staff volunteer, so she definitely had other vessels to compare to. The crew was ever so nice, professional and knowledgeable. Did they see any whales? Aye matey, humpbacks -- but at a safe distance of course (for them and the whales)!

    She absolutely loved the Orca Point Lodge (first image below), their lunchtime salmon bake destination. Located on the southwest corner of Colt Island, well west of Juneau, on the other side and opposite of Douglas Island, she raved about how nice the facilities were. She added that the food was good, not amazing, but decent. Heck, our daughter ate it with glee, so that is a definite two thumbs up! Lastly, their adventure took them to Mendenhall Glacier, where they enjoyed the Visitor Center and wonderful views of that frigid giant wall of frozen goodness.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Time for dinner...well, sort of! Tonight was a combo...semi-formal night paired with Toy Story night! All of the main dining rooms would be offering the same Toy Story inspired menu and this evening we were back in Animators Palate. Conveniently, this was also Palo night for my wife and me! I say conveniently because it was one less night that we would have to really dress up for dinner. Knowing that our daughter and mom still needed to eat dinner, we planned to join them in Animators, expecting on eating lite. But before going to the restaurant, we first headed to the main lobby to check out the Pixar Pals Party!

    As it turned out, the Party was basically a super hyper cast member, who as it turned out was the same one who told my dog sledding group that our excursion was cancelled this morning, dancing and yelling over loud pulsating music with a variety of Pixar characters. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible were there, as were Flick from A Bugs Life, Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc., and Carl, Russell, and Dug from Up! One by one, each character showed off their best moves with the cheery cast member in front of Tritons. We watched the happenings from up above, where it was safe, and much less crowded.

    Party over, we hit Animators Palate. Awaiting us, were our usual drinks, iced tea for my wife and mom, a Shirley Temple for our daughter and a Roy Rogers (Coke with grenadine) for me. Fully expecting not to eat anything in order to save room for Palo, I then read the menu...lobster!!!!! Um, there is always room for lobster, right?! Or is that Jello? I always get those confused. Anyway, I couldnt miss out on lobster, could I?! Darn right I couldnt! Informing my disapproving wife of my decision, I explained my selection and the reasons thereof to Januar and he said, No problem. Perfectly pleased, I sat back with a grin, looking very forward to my upcoming crustacean! As the entrees arrived, Januar placed my plate in front of me, offering to separate the meat from the shell for me and drizzle it with clarified butter. Yes, thank you, I replied. With the expertise of a chef, he did the deed and it was time to feast! The lobster was wonderful; full of rich flavor and impeccably prepared. As I relished each delicious bite, I glanced over to my wife, who was enjoying a few bites of bread, and smiled happily. She just shook her head and smiled back.

    Once our daughter and mom finished their meals, we escorted them to the Walt Disney Theater, where they planned to spend a little quality time together and see the Toy Story stage show. Afterwards, mom would sign her into the kids Club and we would claim her after our dinner. As we arrived at Palo, I was pleasantly surprised to see the honeymooning couple from Pennsylvania sitting in the lobby. I greeted them, introducing them to my wife, and then Matt, the husband, asked me how I did on the Disney parks attraction trivia contest that they ended up leaving. When I told him that I won the whole thing by myself and received a prize package, they both laughed and Matt, shaking his head, said, I knew that we should have stayed! Did you win a hat, he asked (he really wanted one of the hats from the sports trivia contest). I nodded with a big smile, replying, Among other things. He simply smiled and shook his head.

    Escorted to our table, we were very pleased to discover that our server this evening was the same man who took care of us at brunch earlier in the week. He greeted us very warmly, asked us how my mom was doing, and then gave us the 411 on his plans for our meal. With the exception of selecting our own entrees, we basically let him manage the wonderful meal that we were about to experience. As it turned out, his selections for us perfectly matched out tastes and likes. He started with two glasses of the house red wine for that evening; full bodied, rich in flavor, and delicious. The warm bread service came next, served with a variety of fabulous dips. This was followed by the antipasti course, which included a plate with thin sliced prosciutto and bresaola (an aged, air-dried, salted beef), Parmesan Reggiano, marinated olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Accompanying this was a second plate with fried calamari and cherry peppers (which were quite hot). As a post-antipasti and pre-entrée treat, he then brought us a tapas size portion of the lobster and mascarpone ravioli, which was stunningly, amazingly, wonderfully good! As our entrees, my wife and I both ordered the Palo Beef Tenderloin, served with both the signature red wine and gorgonzola sauces. Both of our entrees were, to steal a line from Marry Poppins, practically perfect in every way, but there was no practically about it! Dessert was of course the famous Palo Chocolate Soufflé and coffee; hands down, one of the best desserts we have ever enjoyed. As the grand finale, we were presented with two small glasses, partially filled with a bright yellow liquid. Your digestivo, he eloquently stated. Light and lemony, this concoction, which was not Limoncello, was partially lemon sorbet and partially liquid manna from Heaven; it was truly the flawless ending to an impeccable meal. And no, my earlier lobster snack at Animators Palate did not prevent me from finishing everything at Palo. You see, there is always room for lobster!

    As we were finishing up, the honeymooners (no, I am not going to call them Ralph and Alice), finished with their Palo experience, walked by our table to wish us well and say good night. They told us that their meal was unbelievable as well and one that they will never forget. Soon afterwards, the couple that we met while queued up for our picture during Formal Night also passed by our table to say Hello. They too just finished a wonderful Palo meal and asked how my dog sledding excursion went. They were kindly disappointed for me that it had been canceled, but pleased that I found a happy alternative. We wished them a wonderful rest of the cruise and bid them good night. What were the odds that we would run into both of those nice couples that evening? It had me humming Its a Small World the rest of the evening.

    Arriving at the Club to pick up our daughter, we learned that she had been transferred over to the Lab because it was Chill night. Basically, all of the girls were having fun in the Lab, while all of the boys were chillin in the Club. Special events were planned for each group; for the girls, they were doing their hair, putting on make-up, and painting their finger nails (all things that our little girl loves)! Seeing us at the Lab kiosks, our daughter immediately ran over to us, waving her arms, and happily yelling, Go do something else! Go do something else! Needless to say, she was not ready to leave. My wife and I looked at one another, agreed to let her stay for a bit more, and then found ourselves back at the Outlook, ordering another round of specialty coffee. We claimed her about an hour later.

    Up next - Day 8 Ketchikan: Saxman Native Village, the Lumberjack Show, Shopping, & Taste of Alaska Night!
     
  2. Avatar

    Google AdSense Guest Advertisement


    to hide this advert.
  3. Phil'sFrontier

    Phil'sFrontier DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2009
    Messages:
    1,155
    awesome trip report. I am a short drive from skagway, in Whitehorse btw.
    Skagway and Juneau are frequent trips for me...they are both beautiful
    I heard something interesting about the Fairmont today on the news. Seems a single buyer has purchased parts of 3 top floors for a total cost of 55 million dollars! yeah I would say that's a nice hotel.
     
  4. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Hello all faithful readers -

    It appears that we reached the free monthly bandwidth quota for the hosted images. Rest assured, the quota will reset later this upcoming week and the pictures will return...as will the next chapter of our adventure!

    :thumbsup2
     
  5. CT15

    CT15 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2005
    Messages:
    12
    Thanks so much for your advice- we booked our cruise for next year -we are very excited!!
    Can you expound on the formal/semi- formal nights? My husband is not very excited about tux/ or suit.. is formal night "FORMAL'" or more what you could wear at Palo for dinner?

    Great reports- keep'em coming!!
    -C.
     
  6. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Ah yes, the great Formal/Semi-Formal nights debate. Search around the DIS Boards and you will find several threads about this topic. Is Formal Night formal? Is Semi-Formal Night really semi-formal? The answer is...they are only as formal or semi-formal as you want them to be for yourselves. In neither case are you obligated to meet a certain standard. I chose to rent a tuxedo and enjoyed very much wearing it to dinner and the Golden Mickeys that night. It also helped make for a wonderful family photograph! I chose to put on a nice pair of slacks, a nice shirt and tie for Semi-Formal night. I viewed both as special occassions since I so rarely get to dress up for dinner. The fact is that I am generally a very casual person who prefers the comfort of shorts and a tee-shirt anyday (it helps that I live in Southern California), but in these instances I wanted to look dapper for myself and my family...makin' memories!

    Scanning around the dining room those nights, people's attire ran the gamut. I was certainly not the only man wearing a tux on Formal Night, but admittedly we were the minority. Most gentlemen wore nice pants, a button down shirt (either long sleeves or camp shirts), a nice jacket and a tie, though several skipped the jacket and tie altogether, preferring the more casual open collar look and that was fine too. And there were several others who just went even more casual. If anyone judged anyone else I certainly didn't hear it. And if there was judging, who cares?! The point is to enjoy yourselves. It is your cruise. It is your vacation.

    Have fun! :thumbsup2
     
  7. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    And we are back...pictures too! :banana:

    Day 8 - August 24, 2013 - Ketchikan: Saxman Native Village, the Lumberjack Show, Shopping, & Taste of Alaska Night!

    Character breakfast day in Parrot Cay! As a reminder, your character breakfast time is assigned to you and specified in the same ticket packet that details your main dining room schedule. Since our arrival time into Ketchikan this morning was not until after 11am, this worked out perfectly! The process is similar to main dining dinner…you are escorted to your assigned table, where your dinner servers are awaiting to take care of you. The meal is menu service, not buffet, and frankly very basic, especially when compared to other character meals we have experienced in the Disney parks. That said, the characters and the fun we had with our beverage server more than made up for it! Present at the breakfast were most of the Fab 5. I had hoped that given that this was an Alaskan cruise that they would be decked out in their Alaskan attire here, but instead they dressed more for the restaurant theme (tropical for Parrot Cay).

    A quick aside regarding the Alaskan attired characters…if you want photos of or with the characters in their special outfits, then make sure to review the daily Navigators and inquire with Guest Services to ensure when and where it is happening. I had read prior to the trip that during the visit to Tracy Arm, the Alaskan characters would be on decks 4 and 9. We must have had bad luck that day because we never saw any while we were on the upper deck and while on deck 4 we only found Minnie, but as we approached the associate cast member informed us that she was taking a break, returning in about 30 minutes. It was at that point that we returned to our cabin to enjoy the views from our verandah. Later that afternoon, we happened upon Donald setup in an interior location, but unfortunately we did not have our camera with us and the photo that the cruise photographer took did not come out very well. Thankfully, upon confirming with Guest Services, we learned that Alaskan Mickey and Minnie would be in front of the Disney Theater later that evening, which we made it to and got a nice family picture. In the end, we never took or were in a photo with the other Alaskan characters, but there was a nice alternative. In Shutters, we decided to purchase one of those 8x10 display folders for the Tracy Arm photo we had taken of us. The folder includes three sleeves/slots, two of which are pre-filled with an 8x10 of the Disney Wonder in a field of icebergs and another of the Fab 5 in all of their Alaskan glory!

    Now, back to the breakfast! As with any other character breakfast, the process is to wait at your table for the characters to come to you. One by one, we were visited by Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. Smiles and laughs gleefully sprang from our table. The most fun though came from the napkin hats! Napkin hats? Yes, napkin hats! Apparently, one of the assigned tasks of the beverage servers during this event is to create a menagerie of headwear for their guests using their extensive napkin origami and engineering skills. I call them “napkin hats,” but the fact is that they fastened anything and everything they could to the napkins, including coffee mugs, spoons, and forks. It was really fun to see all of the hilarious creations around the dining room and everyone having so much fun with them!

    [​IMG]

    We arrived in Ketchikan around 11am and needed to muster for our port adventure soon afterwards. Today’s excursion, for all four of us, was the Saxman Native Village & Exclusive Lumberjack Show! Similar process as before, we arrived at our meeting location, this time at the Walt Disney Theater, and were then escorted out to the awaiting tour bus. It was raining this morning, but not bad at all. In fact, our bus driver commented on the “nice” weather that we brought with us, adding that a day without rain in Ketchikan is a rare day indeed. It ended up raining lightly off and on most of the day. The drive from the ship dock up to Saxman lasted only about 10 minutes. Once there, the bus parked in front of a long building, somewhat separated from the rest of the complex, where we entered and grabbed seats (folded chairs) in what can best be described as something resembling a community center hall. Once the group was settled, a single young man, probably in his early twenties, ascended the stage, introduced himself as a member of the Saxman tribe, and attempted to teach us all a bit of the local vernacular (greetings mainly) and the related customs. We gave it our best shot. Next, there was a short video about the tribe and the village, followed by a quick visit to an adjoining room where two women had set up some tables to exhibit and sell some tribal crafts.

    The next portion of the Saxman visit was to be in the village proper, a short walk down the hill from the hall. For those who needed assistance, they provided transportation via an extended golf cart, so mom took advantage of that. Once down at the village, we were ushered into the tribal house, where we enjoyed a very nice native dance performance by a group of children (mostly teenagers with a few adults mixed in). Presentation over, we exited the front of the house into an open grassy area decorated with a variety of totem poles:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Following our tour guide or listening in to one of the other ones, we learned the stories being told by each totem around the main hub. My favorite tale detailed the origin of a pole capped by a figure representing Abraham Lincoln. Long story short, long ago, a U.S. Navy ship named the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln arrived in Ketchikan to assist in peacekeeping between the local tribes. In honor of the fine work that the Captain and crew of the Lincoln did, the tribe commissioned the carving of a totem pole. Unfortunately, the only image the carver had of Abraham Lincoln was of his upper body, shoulders, face, and of course his famous hat. Since he had no clue how tall the former President truly was he based the length of the legs and lower body of the likeness on the much shorter measurements of men in his tribe. As a result, the proportions are a little off.

    Granted a little time to explore on our own, most of the group headed straight for the restrooms and gift shop. Mom purchased a couple post cards, but nothing really jumped out at us. The most amusing thing about this though was watching and listening to a frustrated shuttle driver, trying desperately, and threateningly (“I will leave you!”), to get his group aboard his bus. I don’t know if he succeeded, but he did eventually leave and I didn’t notice anyone running behind the bus. Free time over with, our group then reorganized in the nearby standing room only carving shed. Here, the same young man who greeted us at the community center introduced us to a tribal carver and talked to us a bit about the art of totem carving. One slightly awkward moment occurred when, even though he was very clear that all questions should wait until after his speech, one particular woman repeatedly interrupted with inquiries. At first he was nice about it, but soon his tone and response became a bit irritated and short; eventually she got a clue. Questions were mostly addressed to and answered by the carver, an older gentleman, who seemed to be less than excited to be there and who gave mostly brisk answers. All in all, it was neat to see a pole in mid-carve and to learn about the skills and unique tools they use to craft their art, but seeing them finished and displayed on the grounds in all of their majesty was the best part of this visit. Tour now complete, we boarded the bus en route back to downtown Ketchikan for the lumberjack show, but before we left we received one final visit from our Saxman tour guide, as he thanked us for coming and handed out a free postcard to each of us. That was a nice final touch to an enjoyable visit.

    The Great American Lumberjack Show sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Ketchikan, a less than 5 minute walk from where the Wonder docked. Having been dropped off early, a few blocks away, by the shuttle bus, we meandered to the show, window shopping along the way. There was indeed some fine shopping to be had post show! Anyway, we entered the main building, making our way through the souvenir shop to the competition arena. The seating area offers multiple sections of bench rows; I estimated about 20 rows up. Most of the benches are covered, excluding the first few rows of each section. Claiming our seats, we nestled in, snacking on some popcorn that mom bought from the concession stand, watching the rain start to fall again. Rain or shine the show would go on!

    Truly, I was really looking forward to this! As a kid, for several years Sea World San Diego had a lumberjack show and I recall absolutely loving it. I hoped that this performance would be just as good as I remembered…I was not let down in the least! As the show began, an emcee came out, welcomed us to the show, and introduced the two teams that would be competing. The arena seating was then virtually split in half, one side being represented by one team and so on. After a quick cheer competition to see which side could yell the loudest, the games began! To keep score, the winning team of each event received a piece of the wood they used during it. That piece of wood was then given to an audience member from their side, always a kid I think, not only as a tally, but also as a souvenir. At the end of the show, they counted pieces of wood to decide on the ultimate winners!

    All of the usual events were there, including chain sawing, axe chopping, pole climbing, and log running; but my absolute favorites were the axe throwing and the log rolling:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There were also a few audience involved events (I wonder if these are what made it Disney “Exclusive”), such as musical “log” chairs, where (and I cannot recall exactly on this point) either the overall winner or all of the participants (all adults) actually received a log chair. Our daughter was the lucky recipient of a hunk of wood, a full heavy disc of wood (easily 3 inches thick and almost 12 inches in diameter), not a small chunk, from one of the sawing events. She was ecstatic, but my wife and I immediately looked at one another with wide eyes, thinking about how the heck we would pack that thing. In the end, our team proved triumphant and a mighty cheer was roared!

    While the lumberjacks posed for pictures with those who requested it, the rest of the crowd, including us, exited through the gift shop (I wonder if they learned this from the Disney parks?). Disc of wood in hand, we walked up to an employee at the cash register, asking what our options were with it. Motioning up to a series of Priority Mail boxes mounted up on the wall behind her, she told us that we could have it mailed to our home. We showed her the size of our souvenir and she pointed to the $15 box. Did we really want to spend $15 to ship a disc of wood home; a disc of wood that honestly we would do nothing with. We looked at our daughter, who upon sensing our feelings on this issue immediately extended her lower lip, saying, “Please.” My wife, being the genius that she is, asked, “If we buy you something else for $15 would that be ok?” In a millisecond, our daughter’s extended lower lip turned into a big smile. “OK,” she exclaimed excitedly and she handed over the wood! Pointing over to a set of large bins near the front door, the employee told us to simply toss the wood into one of them as we left.

    With our port adventure now officially over, we had a little time to check out the shops before needing to return to the ship to change for dinner. I will say this…we did think it to be a bit of a bummer that with the later docking time, the length of our tour, and our earlier dinner seating, we really didn’t have much time at all to explore downtown Ketchikan. I know, we chose to do the excursion, knowing how long it would be, and we chose the earlier dinner seating, but it would have been nice if the ship stayed in port later into the evening in order to allow guests more time to do things. OK, off of the soapbox…back to shopping. The primary shop that we all wanted to hit was Christmas in Alaska. It was huddled half way between the lumberjack show and the Wonder. After making a few purchases in this wonderful shop, our little group separated. Mom, satisfied with her acquisitions, headed back to the ship, while my wife decided to quickly find a nearby jewelry store for their free Alaskan charm. Still on the hunt for something of the totem variety and with time running out, my daughter and I checked out a shop called Caribou Creek Company! Back in Skagway, I had found an orca totem carving that I really liked. It was not a totem pole, but rather something resembling a whale jumping up out of the water, arching forward. At that time, the price put me off, plus I figured I would find it easily in the other ports. No dice in Juneau and initially no luck in Ketchikan…until, there it was! Now realizing the market price for this item, I resolved myself to the cost. Each one being a bit different, I picked my favorite one and continued to look around the store. Against the opposite wall, I came upon a large basket filled with many odd shaped totem carvings. It was full of totem style moose heads! The sign read, “Clearance. $10.” I picked one up and immediately fell in love with its quirkiness! Add to this that I never saw one like it in any other shop, in any port, so I figured it was more unique! Or, they were so darn weird (and ugly) that no one else sold them (hmmm?). I showed one to my daughter, asking her opinion, and she smiled from ear to ear. I asked her which one she liked better (the orca or the moose) and she pointed to the moose. Done deal! I had my totem!

    Back on the ship, dinner tonight had us back in Parrot Cay for the Taste of Alaska menu! I was very excited about what this might offer and I will be honest, in the end was a bit ambivalent. To start off, my wife and mom ordered an Ice Berg, one of the specialty cocktails made with Bacardi Silver, Absolut Vodka, Cointreau, Peach Schnapps, Sambuca and Sprite. They looked and tasted wonderful:

    [​IMG]

    Not wanting to be left out of the adult beverage group, I asked Levi, our beverage server, if I could get a Witches Brew. I explained the backstory (see Tracy Arm day) to him and told him that they had the recipe at the nearby Promenade Lounge. Lickety-split, I had one of my favorite drinks:

    [​IMG]

    For our appetizers, my wife requested the green and white asparagus spears, while I ordered the cheese and carrot soufflé. Honestly, I chose this because none of the other three offerings interested my palate. I am not a fan of asparagus or salmon and I really do not like crab legs (give me lobster or shrimp any day!). As our soup and salad course, I had the yellow pea soup, garnished with sour cream and bacon, and my wife had the mixed green salad. I found the soufflé and soup to be fine, but nothing special. Neither was as flavorful as I had hoped. My wife, on the other hand, really liked her selections. My wife’s entrée was the honey-mustard marinated Alaskan salmon and I wanted the juniper-spiced elk tenderloin in a black currant sauce. When I initially ordered the elk, Januar, our server, immediately asked me if I was sure. I said absolutely, but remembering his sage advice about the lobster macaroni and cheese from the other evening, I accepted his offer to bring me a little to try first. Upon receiving my sample, I took one bite, closed my eyes and smiled, and nodded approvingly. “You like it,” he asked. “Oh yes, please bring the full order,” I replied. “You are brave,” he retorted and with that I got my entrée. Yes, it was different, but it was very flavorful, very lean, and very satisfying.

    As the dessert menu arrived, I was shocked to see that of all nights there was no Baked Alaska offered! I asked Levi why it was not there and he simply smiled, telling me, “Tomorrow night!” For dessert, I had the Taste of Alaska Sweet Temptations, which included a chocolate truffle torte, poached pear hazelnut cake, and vanilla panna cotta. They were all delicious! My wife ordered the Cool-n-Crunch Sundae, made of chocolate mint ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and crunchy meringue. She was very happy with her choice! All said and done, I felt the Taste of Alaska menu was, for me, hit and miss. While I found the appetizer options somewhat lacking (at least for my palate), my entrée and dessert more than made up for it!

    Dinner over, we headed over towards the shops and the Walt Disney Theater to queue up for our picture with Alaskan Mickey and Minnie. Another visit to the shops and I yet again took advantage of the 40% off all “Alaskan” items, this time nabbing a nice dark blue pullover that I had been mulling over. So what to do next, how about a movie?! Checking the Navigator, we confirmed that Monsters University would be showing in the Buena Vista Theater shortly, so we high-tailed it over, grabbed some seats and enjoyed the flick. My opinion, it was fun, but nowhere near as good and the first Monsters movie.

    After the movie, mom headed back to her cabin to retire for the evening, while the three of us decided to stroll around the upper deck a bit. Since it was a bit chilly, we agreed that a nice hot beverage was in order. After grabbing a free hot chocolate from the deck 9 dispensers for our daughter, we found a table in front of the Funnelvision, where they were playing Teen Beach Movie (cue excited 7 year old!). Taking turns, my wife and I walked down to the Outlook Café and each got a specialty coffee. So, we now had hot drinks and a movie…what else do we need? Snacks of course! And what happened to be open right next to us? Pinocchio’s Pizzeria…taco pizza! Nom, nom, nom!

    Up next - Day 9 – Day at Sea, Part Deux: Chocolate Tasting & Spa Day!
     
  8. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Day 9 - August 25, 2013 - Day at Sea, Part Deux: Chocolate Tasting & Spa Day!

    It was with both excitement and a little melancholy that we greeted the final sailing day of the cruise. Yes, this cruise as a whole was all about family, creating forever memories with my wife, daughter and mom, but today was primarily for my wife and me! I won’t bore you with the morning details since they were nothing new and exciting…breakfast, kids club for our daughter, lunch, more sitting on the balcony staring in awe at the scenery (including a pod of dolphins jumping the ship’s wake and inhaling the wondrous scent of a local’s fireplace), mom wandering around the ship to snap some final pictures, a little packing…blah, blah, blah. Now for the good stuff!

    A little before 1pm, my wife and I arrived at the Cadillac Lounge for our Chocolate & Beverage Pairing class. As you may recall, we purchased tickets to this event on embarkation day. A cast member greeted us at the entrance, checked our tickets, and escorted us to a private table next to a window. Each table was set up for two people (though some were clustered together for larger groups) with a menagerie of shimmering sweets and glistening glasses, partially filled with a spectrum of liquid delights (some of them even being chocolate)…and there was also a piece of cheese! Joy!

    [​IMG]

    As the class began, another cast member introduced himself and detailed what we would be sampling and savoring for the next 30 to 45 minutes. Apparently, this tasting was new for the Alaskan cruises this year, or at least the selections being offered were different from previous seasons. He provided a brief history of cacao beans and the evolution of modern day chocolate. Directing our attention to the sweet temptations adorning our tables, he described the various types of chocolates and caramel being presented, Valrhona products to be exact, which is apparently the chocolate of choice for fine pastry chefs. Gesturing towards the bar, he presented the different spirits that we were about to imbibe (I am using fancy words to describe this event because it was fancy…ok, yes, the truth is that I have been reading “Fancy Nancy” books to our daughter lately) which included the DCL exclusive Pink Champagne (Taittinger Prestige Rose), a Cervantes Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley, a Noval 10 year old port wine, and “a very special” blended Glenmorangie Signet Scotch Whiskey (so special that it is actually malted with chocolate and sold by the glass for upwards of $35.00…which by the way was the cost for the entire tasting).

    The process was pretty straight forward; each beverage was meant to be paired with one or two of the sweets (or cheese). You first take a small sip of the alcohol to appreciate it on your palate. Next, you sample a bit of the chocolate goodness to do the same, essentially allowing it to coat your taste buds for what comes next. Finally, you take a second sip of the same drink, this time experiencing an entirely different taste sensation as the two flavors embrace on your tongue. It was pretty awesome!

    Our first pairing (and actually my favorite of all of them) was the champagne and the liquid white chocolate. The salmon pink colored champagne was dry and smooth and the white chocolate was creamy and rich. As an aside, generally my wife and I both dislike white chocolate, but this was absolutely delectable, like no other white chocolate we have ever tasted! Next, we tasted the champagne again and Wow! While the first sip was smooth, the second sip exploded with powerful fruity flavors! The red Bordeaux blend was pretty potent on its own; strong fruity overtones with a decent alcohol burn. It was matched with a triumvirate of dark chocolate, white chocolate, and caramel chips, each slightly melted. When paired with the wine, the experience changed significantly. The fruity notes were still there, but more vivid and intense, with a more subdued taste of alcohol. We had a similar experience drinking the port wine with the liquid caramel and the parmesan cheese (sampled separately of course)! Finally, the whiskey! By itself, it was so good! At 46% alcohol, it had quite a burn. Using a small chocolate stick, we combined it with liquid dark chocolate. While it did reduce the burn of the whiskey somewhat, it was not by much, but you definitely could taste more of the overall flavor.

    Glowing happily from our wonderful chocolate and alcohol experience, my wife and I walked around a bit, killing time until our scheduled appointment at the Vista Spa. Happening upon an available shuffleboard set, we played a game, discovering that alcohol and chocolate apparently improve my athletic and dexterity skills exponentially! I think that the final score was something like 45 to 0. Luckily, my wife was too content to be terribly irate, though she was getting a bit annoyed every time I knocked one of her discs out of the scoring zones.

    Finally, it was time to go to the spa! We checked in at the front desk and within a few minutes were escorted to our respective (gender specific) changing rooms to undress and await our therapists. Selecting a locker, we both changed out of our clothes and into the provided white spa robe. Plastic sandals were also made available, which all seemed to me to be one size and too small. I thought that they were required, so I shoved my feet into a pair, but they were certainly not very comfortable. At this point, I wandered into the adjoining room, where there was a small glass-sided sauna and 5 or 6 hard tiled lounge chairs. I sat down on one of the chairs, eagerly awaiting the call to begin our treatment. While I sat there, another man arrived, disrobed completely, and entered the sauna. I did mention that it was glass-sided, right? All I could think about at this point was the Auctioneer from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, “Shift yer cargo, dearie, show ‘em your larboard side…no need to expose your superstructure!”

    Finally, I heard a woman’s voice calling my name from the hallway. Walking out, I met my therapist, a nice young woman from England. Just behind her was my wife, chatting with her therapist, a woman from the Philippines. After the introductions, they escorted us to our private villa, a two room space with a massage room in the front and a lounging balcony in the back! We had reserved the Couple’s Choice, a 130 minute package which included a foot treatment with a salt scrub, a hot tub with essential oils, milk bath and other fruffy things thrown into it, a 75-minute spa treatment of our choice and lastly a tea and fruit service on a couples recliner with views of the Alaskan (possibly Canadian by this point) wild going by. Overall, the experience was wonderful! I truly love getting my feet rubbed and scrubbed, so that was great! The private hot tub was relaxing, though the controls were a bit wonky. For our primary treatment, while we could have each chosen something different, we both selected the Elemis Aroma Stone Therapy. My wife had first experienced this massage on the Disney Dream back in 2011, so when she saw that it was on the list of options for this package, she jumped at it! Hearing her description of how fantastic it was back then and seeing how excited she was to get it again, I felt that I had no choice but to select it as well. Basically, after applying a goodly amount of massage oil to the select area (arms, legs, back, shoulders, etc.), they positioned a number of palm-sized smooth stones that were heated to just the perfect temperature. After a few moments, the masseuse would then use the stones to rub the area. For lack of a better word, this massage was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Do you want to know how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious it was?! I was so relaxed that I fell asleep about half way through it. Simply divine!

    With the massages completed (and me conscious again), we robed-up and returned to the back room for our tea and fruit service. Reclining on the very comfortable couple’s lounger, we enjoyed a nice spread of fresh fruits and a piping hot pot of tea. Giving us some privacy, the therapists left the room, closing the adjoining door and pulling the curtains closed. Now, one of the selling points about these spa villas is that the balcony can be opened up, offering the guests the luxury of relaxing on their own private verandah, soaking in the fresh air while admiring the serene environment. The images on the website make it look so nice. The problem was that we were in Alaskan (or maybe Canadian) waters, so truly opening up the exterior windows was not really an option because it would be cold! So, the windows stayed closed, but not entirely as we soon discovered. As we lay there, attempting to enjoy our serenity, seemingly incessant winds pounded against the glass, causing them to shudder and bang ever so loudly. Next came the wail of a tiny little banshee (with great big lungs), as the wind apparently found a small opening in the windows to push through. Still, with all of the shuddering and whistling coming from the windows, we managed to thoroughly enjoy the moment.

    Time up, our therapists opened the curtains and sliding door, summoning us to the front room. Here, they provided us “recommendations” for spa products that they felt we would enjoy (I did mention before that I hate hard sell tactics, right?), but we tactfully declined. Signing our respective receipts, we thanked them justly for their services and then returned to our respective changing rooms for quick showers and to get dressed. We left the Vista Spa feeling very content.

    Claiming our daughter from the club, we returned to our cabin to get dressed for the final dinner of our cruise…the ‘Til We Meet Again menu at Triton’s! Without a doubt, tonight’s meal was my favorite of the main dining rooms, though not my wife’s. As our appetizers, I ordered the grilled potato and goat cheese Napoleon with balsamic-basil vinaigrette…in a word, AWESOME! My wife requested the sesame-crusted tuna sashimi and liked it very much as well. For our appetizer/salad course, my wife simply ordered the cranberry salad, which she enjoyed just fine. I, on the other hand, had the lobster and crawfish bisque with roasted corn relish…again, AWESOME! As our entrees, I requested the garlic and rosemary marinated lamb sirloin and my wife ordered the roasted red snapper. Here is where our experiences went into different directions. While I found the lamb to be tender and delicious, my wife only took two bites of the fish and pushed the plate aside, choosing instead to enjoy more of the bread and associated dip. What was wrong with it? Plainly, it just tasted bad.

    Finally, it was time for dessert! If you recall, during the previous night’s dinner, the Taste of Alaska menu, I was shocked that Baked Alaska was not an option for dessert. When I asked our drink server about that, he simply smiled and told me to wait until tonight. Thankfully, there it was and we all ordered it! But before even one slice hit a table, there was a parade. At the end of the entrée service, we noticed a rustling among all of the servers as one by one most of them made their way back to the kitchen. Soon, they, some holding up international flags and others clapping happily, and the chefs, each holding up a fiery Baked Alaska high into the air, all marched out and around the dining room. Eventually settling in the main walkway, they led the entire restaurant in cheers and applause for a most excellent Alaskan cruise! Festivities over, everyone returned to their duties and the headline dessert was served and it was delicious!

    [​IMG]

    The rest of the evening? Well, after dinner we returned to our cabin to change into something more comfortable and I took our daughter back to the club for one final visit while we finished packing. Our room steward was kind enough to set our television to the DCL channel that provided all of the information we needed for disembarkation the next morning. After returning to the cabin, I quickly finished packing my bag and weighed it to make sure that it remained under 50 lbs. Phew! Realizing that it was best for me to get out of my wife’s way while she finished up, I popped out to the verandah to enjoy the sunset one last time:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As darkness finally fell, we claimed our daughter from the club and turned in her RFID wristband. Thankfully, unlike our 2011 Dream cruise, she did not shed a single tear. Please understand she loved every minute she had in both the club and the lab, but for whatever reason the emotions were not there this time. Meeting up with mom, we headed to Shutters to use the rest of our photo credits, and then up to deck 9 for some free hot beverages. We grabbed a table and reminisced about our Vancouver and Alaskan adventure until it was time to call it a night…and a vacation.

    Up next - Day 10 – Disembarkation & Returning Home!
     
  9. twindaddy

    twindaddy DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Loving your report, looking into doing many of the same excursions next year. Also curious about the debark process...subbing in!
     
  10. michellekcm

    michellekcm Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    206
    I've only just found this - great trip report. We were on your cruise, with the same dining rotation. We were also on your cancelled helicopter dog sledding tour. We ended up going to the summer camp dog sledding excursion, as our daughter really wanted to go dog sledding.

    Oh, and unlike your daughter, ours shed lots of tears handing back in her RFID bracelet.
     
  11. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Day 10 - August 26, 2013 – Disembarkation & Returning Home!

    Sadly, the day finally arrived. It was time to leave the Wonder, our practically perfect home for that past week, and head back to boring old San Diego (I know…poor us!). The general process for disembarkation is this…get out! No, no…it is not that bad, but it is rather regimented and honestly a bit muddled from what I expect from Disney; I will explain…

    If you want a sit down breakfast, then you are to report to the main dining location from the night before at a designated time. Those who were assigned the earlier dinner seating during the cruise were given the earlier breakfast slot this morning. We reported to Triton’s as ordered (carry-ons in hand) and enjoyed a decent meal; not great, but not bad at all. It was basic American style breakfast fare. One nice thing was that it provided us the chance to say Goodbye and Thank You one last time to our excellent servers and restaurant host.

    Meal completed, we grabbed our stuff and headed over to the nearby Promenade Lounge, where we luckily managed to find an available table and chairs for the four of us. I should add that we chose to go to the Promenade; it was not an assigned meeting place. I cannot speak to the fact if any other locations on the ship offered different experiences. That said, the lounge was packed…and not just with people (adults and kids alike), but with bags, purses, backpacks, toys, boxes, and smallish unchecked bits of luggage! It was like traversing a mine field getting in and out of that area. Along the windows, a steady stream of fellow guests ran in both directions. Ever been to Comic Con? It was not quite that bad, but close; it was our first experience with what I like to call ‘organized chaos’ this morning.

    At this point, the process was to sit, try to relax with all of the craziness surrounding us, and watch an overhead monitor for an indication that it was our turn to disembark. How did they do this? Well, the night before, we were provided by our room steward with character baggage tags to put on our checked luggage. Each character was apparently assigned a disembarkation time/slot and as each characters time arrived, they added its image to the queue on the monitor. When you saw your character come up, then it was time for you to go. Now, I used the term ‘apparently’ purposely because I really wish that Disney would have shared with us the order and time slots allocated to each character. It really would have made for a more comfortable, less stressful, waiting experience. Maybe they did have that information available to guests, but if they did we never saw it.

    Finally, it was our turn to go! Groaning a bit as we rose from our seats, we secured our belongings on our shoulders and started the long march. As we processed off the ship and into the cruise ship terminal we passed a long stretch of tables, each covered with an amazing variety of lost and found items. Cast members stood diligently behind the tables, eagerly hoping to reunite individuals with their lost things…and they ran the gamut from personal products to books to toys! It was crazy how many things were apparently lost by people. Since none of this was ours, we quickly bypassed it and entered the large room where we originally checked in for the cruise eight days earlier. Instead of cast member workstations, temporary character greets, and folding chairs, the floor was now covered with checked luggage. Begin ‘organized chaos’ experience #2!

    You would think, being professional and rational people that it would make sense, given all of the people streaming off of the ship, needing to claim their luggage, get through Customs, and board their awaiting shuttle buses, that Disney would make this part of the process quick and easy. Bring us in, get us our things, and get us on our way so that the next batch of guests can come in and do the same. Well, it was nothing like this. As we entered the space, we initially scanned the luggage and immediately realized that we would have to hunt for our bags. Asking mom to watch our daughter off to the side, my wife and I dove in! Now, again, them being professional and rational people, you would think that since they claimed our luggage together that they would deliver it all together in one place here, but they didn’t. At least, we didn’t think so because while they were all in the same general area, they were certainly not all next to one another. And to make things worse, we found the empty bag that last night housed our daughter’s car seat, torn and mangled on the floor. Luckily, a nearby woman happened to move a piece of luggage and lying on the floor behind it was our car seat.

    Loading up two luggage trolleys (which were thankfully free of charge, but I wish were stored a bit closer to the baggage claim area and not hidden around the corner), we then jumped into the Customs queue and then eventually out to the awaiting airport transports. Showing a nice cast member our airport transfer documentation, she escorted us to our bus, where the ever so polite driver loaded our luggage into the underneath space, allowing us to board. Pretty soon, we were off, out of the cruise ship terminal and into beautiful downtown Vancouver, wishing that we could pull over just for a minute at the Japadog cart! The drive to the airport was about 40 minutes, but strangely we didn’t go directly to it. Instead, we initially stopped in a lot near the airport and sat there for a few minutes until a woman (an airport employee we thought) briefly boarded the bus, welcoming us to the airport, and instructing us on the bus disembarkation process (thankfully it would not be as discombobulated as that on the ship). To our recollection, there was no announcement about this stop, we just did it. Looking back on it now, we think that it might be an effort for traffic control at the airport drop-offs, but we don’t really know.

    Finally, we arrived at the airport! As the driver exited the bus and began unloading everyone’s luggage, the DCL cast member who had accompanied us shared a little more information about the facility and its secondary offerings (i.e. shopping and restaurants). Once enough of the luggage was out, she let us off of the bus. Grabbing a couple nearby courtesy trolleys (again, U.S. airports really should offer this), we collected our luggage and headed inside to the Alaskan/Horizon Air service point. Paying our luggage fees at a self-service kiosk, we then queued up to check in for our flights. Beyond the check in stations (and please forgive me if I have any of this out of order), we dropped off our luggage and then went through security. Past security, we then arrived at some sort of Customs area, which if I recall correctly was divided into two sections. We went to the one that included U.S. Customs. Again using self-service kiosks, we scanned our passports and completed some online verification forms. Now, this part was kind of strange. At an earlier service point, we were given Customs paperwork to complete and told to turn it in here. However, after completing the validation on this kiosk, I asked a posted employee who we should give the original paperwork to and she said to throw it away. I told her what we had been instructed to do at the previous desk, but she simply said, “We tried to tell them, but they keep giving wrong information.” “OK,” I replied, discarding the paperwork in a nearby bin and we queued up for the Customs desk for final processing.

    Quickly through the Customs point, we finally entered the secured side of the airport. Having recalled the extensive walking distance to our gate from when we originally arrived in Vancouver, we had asked at the Alaskan/Horizon Airlines check in desk if a ride was possible for mom. They assured us that it was no problem at all, that she simply needed to wait in the seats in front of the shops just beyond Customs and someone would claim her. Unfortunately, when we arrived at those seats, there was no one waiting for us with a vehicle. Mom, figuring that one would be there shortly, told us to go ahead. I agreed to leave her very hesitantly and as it turned out my gut feelings were right on! I hoped that as we trekked out to our gate, she would buzz by us on her airport taxi, but I was way wrong. Arriving at the gate, which was a good 15 to 20 minute walk, we immediately realized that mom was not there. While my wife recommended patience, I sat there for about 5 minutes before asking at the gate counter. Immediately, the airline staff got on the phone, attempting to find out what was going on. Apparently, something got screwed up and either the person who was supposed to claim mom picked up someone else or never showed up at all. In any event, a person was sent over to get her. Ten minutes later, her chariot arrived with mom a bit upset and teary eyed, thinking that she had been forgotten.

    So how do you make yourself, your family, and your distraught mom feel a little better?! Well, we all emptied our pockets of remaining Canadian currency, divided it up into fourths, and hit the snack bar; the one rule being that you could only buy things that we have never seen in the States. We all had a good time looking through our options and came away with some very tasty and different things. Once back in our lobby seats, we unveiled each of our selections to the group and amazingly nothing was duplicated! Chow time!

    Eventually, boarding time arrived and mom and I were escorted by airline staff down an elevator to a pre-boarding area for guests needing assistance. At the appropriate time, we were escorted out of the building, onto the tarmac, and then onto the plane. My wife and daughter boarded not long afterwards and before we knew it we lifted off from Canadian soil en route to Seattle, Washington, USA!

    The tale from this point on is nothing special. After a short flight to Seattle, we killed a bit of time in that airport before boarding our return flight home to San Diego. Sitting next to a nice couple from Poway, a community in the east central part of San Diego County, we chatted about our recent respective adventures. They too were returning from an Alaskan cruise, though on another line. Unlike our Disney cruise, which essentially went off without a hitch, their ship apparently lost propulsion while departing Ketchikan. Luckily, they were close enough to return to port and the ship sat moored in that quaint little town for several days while the engine issues were addressed. In addition, the problem was localized to the propulsion system, so it did not impact other ships services at all. In the end, even though did not experience the full cruise they signed up for, they said that the cruise line took care of them all very well and they thoroughly enjoyed the extra time they spent on the ship and in Ketchikan.

    Landing in San Diego is always a special moment for me; not just because I am coming back home from my travels, but because I think it offers one of the most beautiful views (downtown, Petco Park, San Diego Bay, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance) of any airport I have had the pleasure of landing in. Off of the plane, we collected our luggage and called my sister, who was waiting at the nearby cell phone lot to come pick up mom. Once my sister pulled up to the pickup area, mom hugged and thanked my wife and daughter while I delivered her luggage to the car. Mom walked over, gave me a giant hug and thank you, and then I helped her into the passenger seat. Returning to my family, we grabbed a transport to our park and ride, claimed our car, and headed straight to our favorite sandwich shop in Mission Valley for a welcome home dinner…Capriotti’s! For my money, the best cheesesteak in the world and their Bobbie is awesome too!

    So, you are home in Southern California with four more days off and you just came back from a Disney Cruise to Alaska! What would you do?! Why go up to Disneyland for two days of course…but that is another story!

    A few final thoughts…we will never cruise for less than seven nights ever again…Alaskan cruises blow Bahamian cruises out of the water…bring binoculars…invest in a digital luggage scale…splurge on a verandah cabin in Alaska…the classic Animator’s Palate show on the Wonder is still the best…have backup excursions planned just in case…Palo is soooooo worth the upcharge…there is always room for lobster…and finally, if your mom starts to fall, catch her!

    And that is it! That’s all he wrote! C’est fini! I thank you for coming along on our little adventure to Vancouver and Alaska! I hope that you enjoyed reading our narrative, enjoyed the photographs, and found some of the information useful for your future trip planning! My thanks to the DIS for providing this forum and once again my thanks to all of you. If you have any questions about any part of our trip report, I am more than happy to answer them! Until next time…Walt Disney World…December 2015! Cheers! :cool1:
     
  12. jedijill

    jedijill <font color=red>Chiefs fan living in Bronco countr

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Messages:
    5,887
    Fantastic report! I can't believe your Mom got left...glad you checked on her and got her to the gate!

    I am most certainly putting Alaska on my short list of future trips.

    Jill in CO
     
  13. twindaddy

    twindaddy DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Did you fly Alaska Airlines all the way to San Diego? I am trying to book some flights for a repo next summer, wow they are expensive!
     
  14. Grumpy's Wife

    Grumpy's Wife Dollar Tree gal here

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    Messages:
    26,141
    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful vacation with us.
     
  15. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Hi -

    The flights between San Diego and Seattle were on Alaska Airlines, but those between Seattle and Vancouver were on Horizon Air, which is either an affiliated or subsidiary airline of Alaska Airlines.

    Yeah, we wish that it was cheaper, but what are you going to do. We decided to book the flights through DCL so that the cost qualified for the Disney Visa 0% finance option.

    Happy planning!
     
  16. mrp4352

    mrp4352 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2002
    Messages:
    2,276
    Thank you!!!
     
  17. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Me again --

    I wanted to take a moment to add some information that future travelers might find reassuring or helpful.

    As my Trip Report readers may recall, my mom took quite a spill the morning of embarkation. During the cruise, she decided to see the ship's doctor, whereby she had x-rays taken and her injuries further evaluated. That visit resulted in a fairly expensive charge to her room account, something in the $200s if I am not mistaken. Anyway, once home she contacted the number on her travel insurance (purchased as part of her package) documentation to see if that money could be recouped. Sure enough, with some paperwork, it was! It took a few weeks, but eventually she received a check! So, for those of you who may gamble and not buy trip insurance, take a lesson from our experience.

    Oh...and a quick retraction of information I shared earlier. Regarding my mom's visit to the ship's doctor, I stated in an earlier post that following her x-ray, the doctor stated that she had not broken her nose. However, when she returned home and saw her personal physician, she was told that in fact she had, possibly requiring surgery to correct it, which I also noted on a Trip Report update. A month or so after she saw her personal physician, she had another appointment and the opinion at that visit was that she did not break it after all, rather the issue was really cartilage that was out of place, requiring simple warm pressure to resolve. So, props to the DCL ship's doctor on getting it right the first time!

    Happy Holidays everyone!
     
  18. noahdove

    noahdove DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2007
    Messages:
    6,846
    Joining in as well....
     
  19. plutoqueen

    plutoqueen Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Messages:
    7
    Couples villa: did they start you face down or on your back with stones underneath you for the hot stone massage? Did they put stones between your toes? You mentioned separate receipts.. Is the couples villas per person or total for two? What add ons did they have? Any suggestions?
     
  20. gregf71

    gregf71 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    They started us on our stomachs for the hot stone massage. We recall turning over at one point, but we never laid upon the stones. They did not put stones between our toes; they did rest them against the bottom of our feet as we lay on our stomachs. My wife has experienced hot stone massages several times on the cruises and each time they varied slightly.

    They did bill us separately. We think that they did this because we each had an attendant and this allowed us to individually give a gratuity as we saw fit.

    Since it was a comprehensive package, they did not offer us any add-ons; excluding the products that they recommended after the fact.

    Suggestions? We really enjoyed this experience and would definitely do it again.
     

Share This Page