Cruising through Alaska on the Disney Wonder

| June 22, 2011

Post by Tracey Heinrichs, Dreams Unlimited Travel agent

I recently returned from an amazing week on the Disney Wonder cruising Alaska.  I have done this itinerary before with Princess Cruise Lines…it was 10 times better with Disney Cruise Line!  Keep reading to hear why!

Image: Juneau

We decided to spend the night before the cruise at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.  This hotel is located right at the Canada Place terminal and was very convenient.  In the morning we called Bell Services and they took our bags right from our room to the ship.  We had an easy walk to the terminal area–definitely worth a little extra for the convenience.  At the terminal we had to clear Canada customs before embarking.  At first glance it appeared this would be a lengthy, unorganized process.  But we thought Disney did an amazing job considering the temporary port setup!  We arrived around 10:15 and were having lunch in Parrot Cay by noon.  I also noticed a company providing wheelchair and scooter rentals right at the terminal.  The prices were in line with what I had seen in Orlando and other tourist areas.  Very convenient for those who require one!

I have never seen such amazing scenery as I did during this cruise!  Most of the cruise there was land on both sides and always something amazing to see.  We saw whales and seals off the side of the ship.   A lot of this was because Disney is now sailing through the inside passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland.  The itinerary will show it going around and more into the Pacific, but after the first sailing and for the rest of the season, they will be sailing the “inside.”  This makes the trip so much more pleasant.  My husband gets sea sick, and he had absolutely no problems!

Image: Ketchikan

Image: Skagway

The other advantage over Princess was the day we spent in Tracy Arm.  This is a scenic cruising day, where we sail to a glacier.  On Princess in August we got sort of close, you could see it between the mountains and it was cool. On the day we were sailing on Disney, the captain came on and explained how other cruise lines schedule half a day to sail to the glacier and then have another port in the afternoon—this was true for Princess.  The captain explained this is why most ships will get sort of close and say they can’t get closer due to icebergs (which are plenty, especially in May compared to August).  They are on a time restraint.  The Wonder had nothing scheduled for the afternoon and the captain said he would take his time and get us as close as possible—we had all day!  WOW…we were within a mile and it felt like we could reach out and touch it.  There were several seals “hanging” on the glaciers.  It was a fantastic day!

Image: Tracy Arm – Sawyer Glacier

Image: Tracy Arm Harbor Seals

The ports in Alaska are beautiful and the people are friendly.  It is nice to step off the ship and not have someone trying to braid my hair!  We decided to book a whale-watching excursion in Juneau which was one of the highlights of our trip.  The company DCL is using here is top notch and very professional.  We booked the excursion with the smaller boats (about 36 people each) and saw a whale within 5 minutes of leaving the dock.  This set the tone and over the next 2 hours we saw several more.

Image: Juneau whale watching excursion – mother feeding calf

Image: Juneau whale watching excursion – fluke shot of mother and calf

The captain even made the last day at sea extra special.  He announced we were going to take a bit of a detour through an area called Bella Bella ( I believe).  It was like we were sailing on a small lake and could see a small town along the shore line.  We were literally driving by homes with people close enough to wave to us.  The small Canadian town we sailed by was so excited to see us come through and we could see many gather to give us  a wave.  This day was the highlight of the trip for us.

Image: Bella Bella

The only issue we had was on disembarking day.  The procedure here is quite different than we were used to at Cape Canaveral.  We were given luggage tags with Disney characters on them that determine the order in which you can disembark.  There is no getting your luggage until your character is called.  This is because customs is clearing the luggage by character, and until the luggage is cleared, you can’t get to it.  Also, the terminal is very small and there’s not enough room for all the luggage!  The problem was that there was nothing that really made this clear prior to that morning.  They have an idea of times that each character will clear, however it can be as late as 10:30 am if you are in the last group.  There were several people in the lobby complaining and waiting for their turn, as they were at risk of missing flights.  If you’re concerned about timing, my suggestion would be to ask for the yellow “Chip and Dale” tags, as these are first to get off.  Or, carry your own luggage off the boat, as these guests could leave any time.  Things work a little differently in Canada with customs and to get to the airport, you have to go through the city…traffic delays are very likely!

Image: Customs queue

Disembarking issues aside, we had an amazing cruise.  I love sailing the Classic ships and the Wonder crew did not disappoint.  I was happy to visit with our cruise director, Christian.  We have sailed with him several times and always enjoy seeing him again.  Our dining room team were our favourite in all of our sailings and saying goodbye was difficult!  I have sailed the Dream and will again this summer, but there is something about these classic ships that just feels like…home!


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Category: Disney Cruise Line

About the Author ()

Leah grew up in a little farming town in Illinois, right on the Mississippi River. Her Chicago-born husband, David, left the city for her, and they're now raising their three children (Jacob, Jonah and Lydia) just 12 miles from her hometown. As the Senior Editor of the DIS (wdwinfo.com), Leah spends a lot of time writing about, reading about, and discussing Disney. So, it should come as no surprise that one of her family's favorite ways to spend time is going to Walt Disney World and traveling on Disney Cruise Line. She also enjoys shopping, watching movies with her husband and doing crafts with and for her kids.
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