1st Alaska Cruise of 2022! Our Honeymoon Cruise 5/16/22 - 5/23/22 (Updated 7/14/22)

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Hello everyone!

Welcome to my very first trip report! I've done smaller recap posts on the boards before but never something of this scale. Just a bit of background on us. We are an early 30s husband and wife from Orlando, Florida and we got married this past October.

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We booked this trip in the summer of 2019 and it was supposed to occur in May 2020 but I think we all know why it didn't happen. We originally pushed our booking to May 2021 when the first round of cancellations hit, but we were without any real optimism that it would actually occur in 2021. It was always our intention to kick the can down the road until cruise operations resumed and we were hoping (and luckily correct in assuming) that cruises would resume prior to the Alaska cruising season opening in 2022. We pushed our booking again and (after our travel agent did a little pushing as Disney did not want to honor the placeholder with which the cruise was originally booked) officially a-go for May of 2022.

We got engaged in August of 2020, and after deciding on a wedding date of October 2021, we decided to make this trip our honeymoon. After all, the trip was already booked and seemed like something we would be able to remember for the rest of our lives, so why not? We did do a small road trip after the wedding, but we kept that purposefully low-key, just a quick getaway. After every change to the trip that was either forced on us by a global pandemic or that we decided to make ourselves, the trip grew larger and more elaborate/upscale. When we first pushed the cruise to 2021, we decided to take advantage of the 125% credit to upgrade our stateroom from an Oceanview to a Navigator's Verandah. After deciding the trip would be our honeymoon, we decided to add a visit to Disneyland after the cruise to our itinerary as my wife has not been and it's been 7 years since I was last there. After bringing the wedding in under budget, receiving some wedding gifts in the form of contributions to a honeymoon fund, and a gift from a familial estate, we decided to upgrade the Disneyland visit by doing VIP tours both days we were there and fulfilling an aviation bucket list item for me by flying JetBlue Mint home. After all was said and done, this had turned into a monster trip and we (but me mostly, lol) enjoyed every second of planning, frustrating or otherwise.

My goal for this trip report is to report honestly on the entire experience, which was a dream honeymoon. There were hiccups along the way, but in this day and age of travel it's impossible for everything to go entirely smoothly. I intend to give a thorough break down of the logistics of all parts of the trip including covid testing before and after the cruise, travel to and from Canada, and ArriveCAN details. I'm bad about taking pictures as I tend to not enjoy seeing myself in pictures or videos. Luckily for all of us, my wife is better about taking pictures than I am, so there should be plenty of pictures. There will also be a lot of details about all aspects of the travel as I'm an aviation enthusiast and got into the travel points game a few years back. I enjoy traveling immensely and can make any budget work, but I really like traveling well, and with a little bit of discipline, more luxurious travel is easily reachable.

If you've made it this far with me and intend to follow along, I truly appreciate having you here with me. I intended to actually start this process before the cruise, but my anxiety about if the trip was actually going to happen reached such a pitch in the week before the cruise that I actually made myself sick! It was not covid thankfully, but I was so sure it was that we tested everyday from Wednesday to Saturday before leaving for Vancouver on the Sunday. It was expensive, but the home tests brought some fleeting piece of mind. I welcome engagement, so let's hopefully have a great dialogue! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
 

TinkLoverSam

DIS Veteran
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
We were on this cruise too! I wanted to write a trip report but I didn't take that many pictures (yay wrangling 2 kids!) so I don't know if I will.
 

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Day 1 (5/14/22): Final Prep and Hyatt MCO

We had been doing the final shopping and packing for a solid week before we left. For both of us, our work and extracurricular activities had ramped up considerably in the weeks leading up to the trip, so we strategically did this in dribs and drabs so as not to get too overwhelmed (seriously, how do people do this with kids?). Packing was interesting as we had to be prepped for two wildly different climates in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. We decided the best course of action would be to pack mostly for the cruise and plan to do laundry (mostly inside the ship items that would be usable at Disneyland) once we got to our hotel at Disneyland. I think this was a good move because we still ended up packing a boatload of clothes over three checked bags. We also ended up bringing a 4th empty bag for souvenirs/overages in luggage weight. We made this choice because Disney will give you 2 luggage tags for each person and we were flying first class which included 2 checked bags each.

There was one final logistical snag which always ends up being an issue for us but we have a pretty decently tried and true system for: our cat Olive (pictured below in her respective states of judgement, relaxation, and indulging her owners on her gotcha day once a year).

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She has no problem adapting to new spaces. However, getting her in her carrier to go to those new spaces (e.g. the vet or my Parents' house for cat sitting) is a whole issue. The noises she makes in the carrier would make you believe every second is slow, agonizing torture, and I'm sure there are other cat owners who are familiar with this phenomenon. Per usual, within 2 minutes of arriving at my Parents' house which was to be her home for the next 2 weeks, she had found her favorite set of windows and was happily purring and watching the entertainments the backyard would afford her.

After successfully placing Olive, my Parents drove us to the airport. Due to an early flight the next morning, we opted to stay at the Hyatt MCO the night before to avoid a super early morning. It may not seem like much, but waking up at 6:15 AM at the start of your vacation is infinitely better than 4:30 AM and still having to drive. A few months before the trip, I was looking at available hotel rooms and saw that for $120 in addition to 12,000 Hyatt Points (Category 3 hotel booked before the Hyatt points devaluation for any award travel people out there), the Presidential Suite was available. The room was totally worth it. It was absolutely massive and well appointed. There was a huge entryway, massive living area, dining room, half-bath, kitchenette, a huge primary bedroom/bathroom, and 3 balconies. In case it wasn't clear, it was huge.

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We checked into the hotel right around 4:00 PM and waited about 10 minutes for the room to be ready. We ambled around the airport for a bit taking a look at the shops and people watching. Side note - I absolutely love the airport experience. It can be messy and chaotic, but I think that the idea that we can view a massive space where thousands of people congregate to get on machines that can take you around the world, in segments of time measured in hours instead of days or weeks no less, as an inconvenience is a testament to human achievement. The security lines were absolutely insane as it was airport afternoon rush hour on a Saturday so there was a wide range of emotions to see. When we were done walking around, we decided to grab some food court Chik-Fil-A to bring back to the room. We ate at the dining table and watched The Princess and the Frog (shoutout to whoever started integrating Chromecast directly into hotel room TVs, fantastic idea). The Princess and the Frog is probably my wife's favorite Disney movie so it was a good one to get us into the spirit of the cruise as one of the restaurants on the Wonder is Tiana's Place. We turned in early as there was a 6:00 AM wake up call scheduled to get us up for our 8:17 AM flight the next morning.
 
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TinkLoverSam

DIS Veteran
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
That sounds much more civilized than the 6am alarm before rushing 2 kids around the house and to the car (thankfully packed the night before) before picking up my sister and bil and getting to the airport 2 hours early for our 1.5 hour flight to Vancouver.
 

klep

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 1, 2022
Thanks for posting -- I've been checking daily to see if any Alaska reports were up in anticipation of our trip next month. Will follow along!
 

JulieODC

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 6, 2009
Following along!!

We’re finally doing the Alaska cruise we had booked for 2020 in August, and my brain is finally letting me get excited. Hoping to soak up lots of tips from your experiences!
 

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
That sounds much more civilized than the 6am alarm before rushing 2 kids around the house and to the car (thankfully packed the night before) before picking up my sister and bil and getting to the airport 2 hours early for our 1.5 hour flight to Vancouver.
Woof, kudos to your commitment!
 

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Following along!!

We’re finally doing the Alaska cruise we had booked for 2020 in August, and my brain is finally letting me get excited. Hoping to soak up lots of tips from your experiences!
Happy to help in any way I can!
 

NAB

<font color=green>That first page just got too hea
Joined
May 31, 2006
Wow that’s a hotel room. What a way to start a honeymoon trip.

We were suppose to go to Alaska in June but decided to wait a bit longer to travel. Hope to get some tips for a future trip. Plus I love reading trip reports.
 

Calantha

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 11, 2018
I've been checking daily to see if any Alaska reports were up in anticipation of our trip next month
Me too...although we're leaving in 4 days - so write faster!!! :rotfl2: Seriously though, I really appreciate anyone who puts together a full trip report.
 

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Wow that’s a hotel room. What a way to start a honeymoon trip.

We were suppose to go to Alaska in June but decided to wait a bit longer to travel. Hope to get some tips for a future trip. Plus I love reading trip reports.
It set the tone nicely! Happy to have you along.
 

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Me too...although we're leaving in 4 days - so write faster!!! :rotfl2: Seriously though, I really appreciate anyone who puts together a full trip report.
I'll crank this out just as quickly as I can! If you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask if I haven't addressed them yet.
 

Peanato1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Day 2 (5/15/22): Travel to Vancouver

Before we went to bed the night before, I scheduled a time for Bell Services to come by the room and assist us with our luggage, and they arrived promptly at 6:15 AM. I'll tell you (and I don't think it has anything to do with our suite, it's just how the hotel operates), it was super helpful to have the luggage assistance with how much luggage we had. Not only had our checkout already been handled, they actually carted our luggage for us all the way to the check-in desk for United. This was amazing as the airport was super crowded and travel lanes for people were very slim due the how far out from the end of the line stanchions the lines were actually reaching and snaking around, both at security and the check in areas. Our check-in was a breeze as were able to use the priority check-in desk which had no line. We had already provided all our travel documentation to United in their app in the days previous which included passport info, images of vaccination cards, and an image of our ArriveCAN receipt which had to show the word ArriveCAN, our QR code, and all the names of the people included on the ArriveCAN receipt. Please note that if you are traveling to Canada for the cruise, you will actually need to do ArriveCAN twice, once for your arrival into the country and once for the cruise itself. Also, ArriveCAN is simple enough to do if slightly tedious. You'll only need to do one entry for your entire party as you can enter different people as profiles in ArriveCAN with all passport and vaccine info and then just select each person as a traveler when creating the individual trip. You can create your profile 72 hours before your arrival time and they mean 72 hours. Our flight into Vancouver was scheduled to land at 2:58 PST and I couldn't create our trip until 2:58 PST 3 days before. There are several very helpful videos on YouTube that can thoroughly talk you through the process.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:17 AM, and I had learned through my frequent checking of Flightaware in the week leading up to the trip that our flight was very rarely delayed and often left early. Because of this and the insane security lines that I saw both the day before and that morning, I wanted to have plenty of time in the morning. We have Global Entry and TSA Precheck, but even the Precheck line had looked insane the day before. When walking from the hotel to the check-in counters, I had seen that the line for security for gates 1-59 actually stretched down the hallways with the stores out to the entrance of the other security area that serves gates 70-129. If anybody is familiar with MCO, you'll know that that is a crazy line, so I felt justified in our early morning. To our surprise however, there was absolutely no one in the Precheck line, so security took approximately 45 seconds while normal security had a posted wait time of 60-70 minutes. Between the help from the hotel staff, the priority check-in desk, and TSA Precheck, it took 15 minutes to get from our hotel room door through clearing security. I did not complain, as it allowed us some time to go to a lounge for a little bit before the flight to get something small to eat and drink. We arrived at the gate about 5 minutes before boarding began and found this beauty waiting for us.

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When I booked the flight, I transferred Chase UR points to United and paid 50,000 points plus $5.60 for each first class one-way ticket. The flight was supposed to be a United flight from Orlando to Denver on a 737 Max 8 with normal domestic first class recliner seats and an Air Canada Jazz flight from Denver to Vancouver on a CRJ-900. Not the best redemption value, but I had points to burn and wanted to make it nice. In the weeks leading up to the trip, there were a few equipment changes and I was thrilled to see our Orlando to Denver flight had been changed to a 757-200 with Polaris lie-flat seats. Big win! We've flown in that cabin once before and it was worth it just for how quiet it was. The flight was excellent. The seat was great and seemed to have been refurbished recently. The crew were great and the service has more or less returned to pre-pandemic standards. We were actually given a full hot breakfast on real dishware with metal cutlery, a far cry better than the kind of gross microwaved breakfast sandwich we had gotten the last time we flew with this service. The 4 hour flight flew by after being able to fully recline and watch a couple of movies.

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We arrived in Denver where we had a layover of a little more than 2 hours. It was great to fly into an airport so close to the Rocky Mountains as it felt like a little teaser of what the trip had to offer landscape-wise. We made our way over from Terminal B where we arrived using the airport train to go to Terminal C where we spent the layover in the Centurion lounge. It was nice but way overcrowded and laid out in an odd fashion. It was still nicer than hanging out in the terminal however. After finishing in the lounge, we made our way back to the train to go to Terminal A to catch our flight to Vancouver. I wanted to get to this gate a little early just in case anything came up. I'm glad we did because we needed to show our passports and vaccination info again to the Air Canada gate agents before they would give us our proper boarding passes. This flight was fine, but not anywhere near as nice as the first one. It was an old and small plane that did not offer much in terms of amenities, even in Business Class. The overhead bins were actually so low that I cracked my head really badly on one after raising my head to put my wife's backpack in it. They did offer an ok chicken dish to eat, but no personal entertainment devices, seatback or otherwise. That was ok for us though as my wife had her kindle and I had some music (had to listen to Rush as we were going to Canada) and a crossword game that kept me entertained.

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We arrived in Vancouver and began the long experience that was the airport on arrival. It was a decent walk from the gate to customs/immigration. There were automated kiosks where we scanned our passports, declared anything we had declare, had our pictures taken, and got a printed summary of the process. After this, we waited in line until we reached an actual customs agent who verified all of the info on the printout and told me that I was randomly selected for an arrival covid test. This didn't surprise me as my informal surveys of people who had recently entered Canada seemed to suggest that about half the people arriving are selected. We never actually showed anyone our ArriveCAN info or code, but I suspect that was because it was linked to our passports which we had already scanned. We proceeded to the baggage claim where all of our luggage appeared quickly without issue. We proceeded to the baggage claim exit and at this point had to split up as I had to get tested but my wife didn't. She took her luggage to wait for me at the arrivals hall and I proceeded to the testing spot. Knowing we were likely to have at least one of us selected to be tested, I prearranged arrival testing for both of us as the ArriveCAN website recommended. This was tedious but helpful as those who had not already set it up had to do so with the check-in people at the testing area. It took the person 5 minutes to verify my info after I provided him my passport and reservation number (this is in the email receipt you are given when setting the appointment up). The three people who had gone to desks before me all were still at desks when I proceeded to the actual testing and were still there after I finished testing. The test itself was no issue. I went into a small booth with a technician who administered a PCR test by swabbing the inside of both my cheeks and both my nostrils. She was very excited to hear that we were there for a Disney cruise and told me I was free to leave and expect an email within 24-72 hours with the results. I panicked slightly when she said this as we were getting on the cruise the next morning but she said there would be no issue getting on the cruise as the test didn't determine entry eligibility and there was no need to quarantine.

After meeting back up with my wife, we found our driver that I had hired. For anyone needing transportation help, I highly recommend KJ Limousine (https://kjlimousine.com/). We had booked an SUV due to the amount of luggage we had and were whisked away to the Pan Pacific where we were staying. The ride was very enjoyable and our driver was great. On arrival, luggage services collected our bags and gave us a claim ticket. I'll mention here that the Pan Pacific is the hotel that is in the same facility as the cruise port and it is a huge facility with shops, restaurants, and convention/meeting areas on several floors. We went up a couple of escalators and found the check-in area. We received our room keys and went up to our room. Note that there are 2 sets of elevators for the hotel: 1 that serves all the non guest room levels (e.g. lobby, parking garage, and cruise ship level) and another set that serves the guest rooms which will only take you up to the guest rooms after scanning your key inside the elevator. The person at the check-in desk also took our luggage claim ticket and had the luggage sent up to us.

Another small splurge (thank you chase booking portal) was our room at the Pan Pacific. Knowing we were likely going to be jetlagged and up super early the next day, I wanted to give us the best shot at a great view of the Wonder arriving in port to finish the Hawaii cruise. We ended up booking a panoramic harbor view room and the view did not disappoint. The day was very gray, but we had a fantastic view of the three ships that were in port that day. The Wonder would port the next morning using the same berth as Noordam shown below. The room also had tons of space, but was not quite a sleek/modern as the Hyatt MCO. Let's be honest though, we were paying for the view. Our luggage arrived about 10 minutes after we entered the room.

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It was about 5:00 PM PST at this point and our east coast bodies were starting to get hungry. There was a food court located directly across the street that the Pan Pacific had very convenient access to via an underground tunnel located on the ground floor near the front entrance to the building. The food court was decent enough with a pharmacy, Tim Horton's, Fatburger, McDonald's, Subway, and various smaller mall food court typical Asian places. I'm glad we went when we did because everything started to shut down at about 6:00. I got Fatburger and my wife had Tim Hortons. We had been fed decently well all day between flights and lounges so neither of us were overly hungry and we both had small things. After eating, we retired back to our room and began to fight off jetlag. Unfortunately we both failed and fell asleep at 8:15 after trying to start watching a movie.
 
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