I just returned last week from an awesome experience on the Disney Cruise Line sailing to Alaska! I thought I’d share our experience here, to give you a better understanding of the Disney cruise experience and hopefully help those who are a little unsure if a cruise is right for them decide if they’d like to make the leap and try it. I promise, you’ll love it! As this was a business trip for myself (being a specialist in planning Disney vacations, it’s my jobs to stay up on all the best Disney has to offer to better help my clients), it was put together fairly last minute – just 3 weeks before sailing. For that reason, I didn’t have big shore excursions planned, but we did explore the Alaska ports and had a great time visiting Alaska! I’ll break this down by day, one post at a time, so please check back to see the whole trip.
We spent the night at the Westin Bayshore, near the port, which was comfortable and suited our needs just fine for a brief one night stay. The Starbucks downstairs made for an easy, economical breakfast choice, and then we decided to kill some time by walking right out of the lobby and onto a path by the marina to see some boats. As we rounded the corner, we saw the Wonder in the distance. The kids were so excited! I have to say, seeing it in person for the first time IS very exciting. As my kids yelled out about going on that boat, a couple standing near by told us they just got off the same ship that morning and that it was the best trip ever.
At noon, we checked out and grabbed a taxi to Canada Place. As we got out of the taxi, our luggage was taken from us to be checked, leaving us just our carry-ons to get into the boarding line with. Ok, so it turns out this line is huge. And long. I’d done a lot of homework about this Disney Cruise, but I was not prepared for how long the check-in process takes.
I’m not sure that it takes as long in Port Canaveral, or if it does, I haven’t really heard about it. But in this case, we stood in one huge, snaking line to have our luggage scanned. Then in another line to wait for chairs in the waiting area for the US Border Control. Then we got up when it was our row’s turn and stood in line for the Border Patrol to show our passports.
Then we moved to another room where we did the actual Disney Cruise Line check in. They checked our passports and took our photo, then handed us our Key to the World cards. And finally, after that, it was time to board!
As you enter the ship, crew members ask your last name. Then, they announce each family to the ship: “Please welcome to the Wonder: The Tinius family!” and then everyone claps and cheers. It’s a great way to celebrate boarding such a pretty ship.
At this point, it was a little later than I had planned on. I needed to stop by Guest Services to ask for tickets to the tea party and to drop off the pillowcases we wanted autographed. We were able to get those tea party tickets, which was great (they’re free!) and our pillowcases went off to get signed.
Our room was ready already, so we headed there to drop off our carry-ons and check it out. The room is nice, with plenty of space for our family, although smaller than what we are used to in a hotel. The verandah is fabulous, though. I can’t really imagine cruising in a lower category room after this! I loved having a full view of the outside the whole time, plus being able to step out for fresh air or relax in the chairs.
One thing I love about the Disney Cruise ships is that the rooms have split bathrooms like this. One bathroom has the shower and a sink. The other bathroom has a toilet and a sink. This makes SO much sense for families trying to get ready!
After we dropped off our stuff, we headed straight up to the Beach Blanket Buffet to grab some lunch. There were some salads and rolls, pasta and fried rice, fruits and vegetables and, of course, desserts. We sat outside because it happened to be a gorgeously sunny day in Vancouver. The kids rushed through the lunch because they desperately wanted to swim before we set sail. This being an Alaska cruise, I had already told them it may be too cold on other days to use the pool, so this swimming time was goal number 1 for today.
And yes…my daughter has lunch of olives, cheese and bread. Sometimes that’s how buffets go with a 5 year old!
The pool, it turns out, is nice and warm (it steams on cold days!) and they had a blast playing around in the Mickey Pool. The slide, of course, is a big favorite. On a tropical sailing, I imagine the line for the slide gets very long. It was already half way down the stairs today, and this was not even a hot day.
The kids finished swimming (or rather, I asked them to be finished) and I got them showered off and dressed. At 4pm, we did the required safety drill, and then we went straight up from there to deck 9 for the sail away party. Because we went straight there, the kids got to be front and center for the show, putting them right in front of the characters. They loved it! I definitely recommend heading straight to the party area after the safety drill if you want a great view. Or, if you can’t do that, head up one deck higher and grab a view overlooking the party. And then… we were off and sailing!
Right after that, the kids demanded we go check out the kids clubs. We wandered through during open house time, then I checked them in so they could play on their own for a bit. My daughter declared the Oceaneer’s Club to be her preferred destination, primarily for the play structure, while my son declared the Oceaneer’s Lab to be his home base, primarily for the computers and science tables. It turns out that over the course of the cruise, both kids generally liked the Club more than the Lab. My daughter liked that it had a dress up chest of princess dresses, and my son liked the nook for playing the Wii with other boys. However, both areas had some really great activity programming, so, for example, my son did love the Lab when making flubber or making pizzas, etc.
We had late dining, so around 8pm I went and grabbed them and we headed to Parrot Cay for our first dinner.
At this point, the ship had a bit of roll going on, side to side, but not too bad. I had taken Bonine ahead of time, just in case. So far, so good, although the motion made me a bit nervous to eat too big of a dinner. In any case, this was the tropical menu tonight. I chose the Jamaican Chicken Tenderloins as an appetizer, a garden salad, the Jamaican roasted chicken and the Sticky Date Pudding Cake. These were all fine, although I can’t say I was totally wowed by any of them. It seems this tropical menu doesn’t’ tend to be a favorite among Disney Cruisers, so I wasn’t surprised. The kids chose Mac and Cheese and a Mini Hamburger, and Mickey Bars for dessert.
When we booked this cruise, I chose to request to be seated with another family vs requesting our own private table. Traveling without my husband, I thought it might be nice to socialize with some other parents. 🙂 Disney does a good job of trying to match you with a family with children with ages near yours. In our case, we were sat a table with a nice family of 3 from Orlando, with a boy the same age as my son who happened to love all of the same video games. You can just imagine the liveliness at the table with these two boys bonding over everything! It was a great experience for my son.
Because it’s a late dinner seating, by the time we got back to the room, it was already 10pm. We got ready for bed, the kids watched a bit of TV and then they fell asleep very quickly. I, on the other hand, took a little while to get used to the creaking and rolling of the room. I did fall asleep after a little while and after that slept pretty well. It just takes a bit to get used to that feeling! My understanding is that this night and the following day have the most movement due to the ship being in unsheltered waters. Once it enters Tracy Arm, it’s generally a very smooth ride.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
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