Tips and Recommendations for an Alaskan Disney Cruise
Why Disney and Why Alaska?
When you say the word "cruise," most people picture the Caribbean and everything amazing about summer and the ocean. So why would someone pick a cruise to Alaska? Well, after a trip to Mexico with my boyfriend in June, I decided we would not be going back towards the equator during summer! We were also long overdue to take our daughter on a big adventure somewhere. Remembering my own childhood dream of going to Disney World, I felt it was my mission to give this dream to my little girl. Unfortunately, my boyfriend detests amusement parks; this fact, coupled with a desire for a cooler summer destination, led me to seek a compromise. After some research, I determined that Disney Cruise Line's Alaskan cruise was the ideal trip for all of us. So we began our planning!
The Alaskan Inside Passage
The Alaskan Inside Passage
What Should I Pack for an Alaskan Cruise?
I spent so much time on Pinterest and various blogs researching Alaskan cruises and what to expect from our Disney cruise. My advice on packing would be to keep it minimal! You don't need clothes for EVERY season of the year just because you are going to Alaska in the summer. A decent jacket or hoodie will do the job on cold days, and fall or spring clothes worked just fine for me. I think we spent most days in jeans and t-shirts with a jacket or not, depending on the temperature.
A unique item to remember to pack is a pair of binoculars! You won't believe the beauty of watching the whales jump or the sight of Tracy Arm cave. I also recommend packing a pair of gloves and a beanie as I did need to use both items on our coldest day viewing the cave.
Every frequent traveler knows to bring additional extension cords and multi usb chargers along with international plugins. If I recall correctly, the Disney cruise did not approve extension cords, so having our international plugins helped us tremendously.
The Disney cruise provides everything top notch in my opinion, and we received amazing samples in the bathroom so no need for shampoo or conditioner. Towels are always provided and located in several places on the ship.
Last helpful hint: always have comfy shoes, emergency ponchos, and extra socks. And remember, you are on a cruise—don't forget the dramamine!! I never get seasick, and yet I had to take one the last day.
Boarding and Leaving the Ship
I was clueless on this process, but it was so easy that I don't know why I was worried. The crew takes care of you from the second you step out of the taxi at the Port of Vancouver. They unload your bags and provide you with special coded Disney tags. We were Daisy Duck, and I still have one of these tags on a suitcase. Yes, there are different lines you will go through, but it's not that painful. Then you sit and wait on your group to be called to board. I would say it took an hour, maybe two, at most. While you are waiting, Mickey is waiting to take pictures with those preparing to board. The excitement of walking up the ramp and walking onto the ship is definitely one to remember.
Getting off the boat was disappointing of course. After you read about our experience, you will understand why it is so hard to leave. We were on a seven-day cruise, and I still hadn't had enough! You will make new friends that you still send Christmas cards to years later. My little girl still has a friend she made from Atlanta that she Facetimes with and "snailmails" presents to. But back to leaving the ship. This really is an easy process, but it is complicated by the crowding of everyone on the lobby level with all of their luggage waiting to leave. You leave the ship the same way you entered with your character luggage tag. Thankfully, our group was called just as we were wrapping up breakfast and saying goodbye to our new friends. Once we made it to the checkpoint we were out of the Port of Vancouver in less than 30 minutes! The employees have all your luggage ready for you to pick up after you leave the ship. You do have to pack up your bags the night before leaving, but you can keep what you need with you and carry it around the next morning. Overall, this was my best experience being loaded or unloaded onto a vessel. Yes, this was my first cruise so I can't compare it to others, but it was a piece of cake to this mom!
Welcome to Our Disney Cruise!Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Disney Wonder
If you aren't impressed when you board a Disney cruise ship, then I don't know what will impress you. The lobby is beautiful with a large hanging glass centerpiece that you can view from each level. The dining rooms were all large and breathtaking. It gives you a sense of how you might have felt if you were Jack on the Titanic. The size and amount of locations on the ship are overwhelming, but you figure it out after a few days. Our daughter was so comfortable after a couple of days that she would grab her purse, room phone, and room key and take off! I felt 100% safe letting her roam on the ship by herself. The staff was always friendly, and several remembered our daughter because of her unusual nickname, "Puzwax."
Speaking of my daughter, they had a kid’s club and a kid’s lab that she could go to at any time with her wristband. She could go in herself, but had to be checked out by me or my boyfriend. Thankfully, the room gives you two cell phones that work around the boat so you can contact each other whenever. There were also three different pools on the ship that kids could swim in, but the protective mom in me kept her out of the water because it seemed too cold for swimming.
The ship also offers movie theaters with the newest Disney movies. We watched Inside Out one afternoon while my boyfriend dealt with seasickness. Each evening they put on performances that you can attend or watch on the television in your room. We attended two and loved both performances! My little girl dressed up as Snow White and enjoyed sitting in the huge performance hall.
Characters are always wandering around and scheduled visits are held daily. Some require tickets, so check before your trip to make sure you don't miss out on one of your child's favorite characters—we had to have tickets to see Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and the princesses. We also had to reserve tickets for a breakfast with the characters. This included four or five of the main Disney characters, such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. The breakfast consists of each of the characters coming around to each table and interacting with you and your kids. The Disney characters are not only to be found at breakfast, however. The cruise is pretty much like being at the park, so always have your camera with you because you never know when you will see someone walking around!
Random Moments Aboard The WonderClick thumbnail to view full-size
And for the Parents…
While this is a Disney cruise, don’t be fooled. There is plenty to do for parents. Each day’s activity sheet provides the list of each activity and their locations. There were times we had to vote on which to do—both on family events and couple events. One of my favorites was all the small bars located around the ship; my boyfriend and I attended a music trivia game in one of them. We didn't win, but it was fun to have a morning mimosa and play trivia. This was the only time we hung out and participated in the daily scheduled events. They plan so much for you each day that you can't complete everything you want plus see all the sights. The days at sea were excellent days for wandering the boat and enjoying the many amenities offered on the ship. The upper levels consisted of all types of sports spots, and you could always find some classic shuffleboard somewhere along the boat. If you aren’t into sports and are more like me, the relaxing reader, there are numerous beach style lounge chairs and indoor/outdoor locations that you can snuggle up with a complimentary blanket and your favorite book or magazine.
The Disney Cruise Line provides several additional items that you can book on your cruise before you board. We chose to book a couple’s massage because I had never had a massage and I felt a cruise felt like the right place to get my first official massage. The spa had modern decor and provided excellent service with one small exception: they confused me and another lady and left my boyfriend in the dressing area for around 20 minutes while I enjoyed a relaxing leg and arm scrub and then a special hot tub treatment. Now am I complaining about this mistake? Absolutely not! Sitting in that whirlpool while sipping on cucumber water was the one of the most peaceful moments of my life. The room was a glass window, and you are cruising along the Alaskan Inside Passage, staring at spectacular scenery. Picture being on the ocean but able to see the mountains and small glaciers floating by. Did I know this was a mistake? Not exactly, but I began to think, “I don’t remember this being in the description.” But this was a once in a lifetime experience, and I wasn’t going to bring it to their attention until they realized what had happened. It turned out when they brought out my boyfriend he said, “that’s not my girlfriend” to which the woman replied, “that’s not my husband.” Then the search was on for the missing woman. Needless to say, they eventually found me and my peaceful moment was over, but I still got my couple's massage and the woman still got all her services. A story I will tell throughout my life.
Time for TwoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Let’s Talk Food!
There were three main dining locations for our nightly meals which also served lunch and breakfast. There are also many snack shops and additional restaurants, not to mention the room service! You can expect the Disney pancakes and several other favorite park treats. Did I mention the 24/7 soda fountain machines and ice cream machines? These machines, along with all the kid-type food and fruits you can think of, can be found at snack stands on the upper levels by the pools.
If a city stop is on the day's itinerary, I recommend eating on the boat to prevent spending money on food in town. Pizza, chicken nuggets, and the hamburgers were our favorites to grab before going out to explore a city. Whatever you do though, don’t miss out on some of the Alaskan classics at the ports visited.
Last word on food: each night a different shaped animal towel was left on our beds when we returned from dinner. These were accompanied by Sleepy designed chocolates—yes, Sleepy, the dwarf from The Seven Dwarfs. This was the perfect ending treat to a day of indulgences.
Ring the Dinner Bell!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ports of Call
We stopped at Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan on our trip, with a special trip to Tracy Arm Glacier. I highly recommend visiting this natural wonder—there is nothing as amazing as watching nature in motion, and we were all amazed by its beauty. The sun shone perfectly on it, the caves were amazing, and there were seals hanging around and playing—it was absolutely incredible.
Skagway was our first port of call, and this was the one place we preplanned an excursion trip. This is the location of the White Pass and Yukon Route, and we took the railroad ride. Ironically, our table mates were on the same trip so the girls sat together and played the entire time. I don’t know if they ever even paid attention to the surroundings outside of them. I on the other hand was taking pictures of the view constantly! Crossing into Canada at the end of the route was an interesting experience. It reminded me of going to the Four Corners when I was a little girl. I’m glad we chose this excursion, because we finished touring the town when we got back and still arrived back to the boat on time.
Juneau was much smaller than I expected it to be as the capital of Alaska. We walked the city and rode the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain. The view was amazing, and we were able to see a bald eagle on our trip back down. Other than mostly small tourist shops, and of course the Red Saloon, there was not much else that kept us there for long, so we returned back to the ship to enjoy a late lunch.
Ketchikan was my favorite of the three stops. We walked to the Totem Heritage Center and enjoyed a beautiful stream full of salmon. The Totem Heritage Center is a must-see destination for anyone interested in history. The natural totem poles are still intact and preserved so carefully, and they really were breathtaking. Creek Street is also a must do in Ketchikan. The history and beauty of the area takes you to a different time, and you can almost imagine what it must have been like during the golden days. The unique shops are fun to wander through, and I made my two favorite “treasure” purchases in Ketchikan: a Beatles Russian nesting doll set and a literal Pink Floyd fish magnet. Did I mention I am a sucker for magnets and my fridge is covered? Overall, Ketchikan was my absolute favorite spot, and I love that Disney saved the best for last.
Tracy ArmClick thumbnail to view full-size
Skagway and the White Pass and Yukon RouteClick thumbnail to view full-size
JuneauClick thumbnail to view full-size
KetchikanClick thumbnail to view full-size
Time to Go
The amenities offered on this Disney cruise seemed endless, which made it so hard to leave after being so spoiled for seven days. Those seven days FLEW by, and I was not ready to leave, although my boyfriend was so ready after two days of being seasick. It almost felt like you were leaving a family that you had made—you don’t realize how close you can get to people in seven days. Our waiters that we had each night were amazing and will always be appreciated and remembered. The friends we made will remain on our Christmas card list for years to come. As for the crew, overall top notch service across the board, and I'm sure we will always remember our waiters and housekeeper because they were so personable, friendly, and helpful! I highly recommend this for any parent who wants to avoid the long lines at the park!