Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise (2011)

Amy from Virginia on her family’s Disney Wonder Alaska cruise in July 2011:

We had a great cruise.  The weather was fantastic—“hot” for Alaska (71 degrees) and no rain.

We spent four days in Vancouver before the cruise.  Very relaxing.  We stayed at the Pan Pacific, right at the cruise dock at Canada Place.  It made for a very convenient starting point for exploring the city.  While the room was not cheap, I thought it was well worth it—lovely hotel with good service, good location, awesome views (I could have stayed there all day just looking out the window at the harbor and mountains), reasonably spacious, near mass transit and a reasonably priced underground food court, an elevator ride to the pier, and a very well thought out use of space in our room.  We enjoyed Stanley Park (for two days) and generally exploring the city.

The cruise was great, as expected.  The Wonder is beginning to show its age, but is being kept up well.  Our server from last year, Branislav, is still on the Magic, but Leonardo from Peru was a very capable replacement.  The scenery was spectacular.  Pictures don’t do it justice, much like the Grand Canyon.  We saw whales, bald eagles, a bear, and dolphins.  It was mandatory to have a plan for the ports; I wouldn’t want to wander in and negotiate a deal with a shady vendor—no risky flying or other hazardous activites for me without a bit of research!

In Skagway we did a Disney Port Adventure and took the White Pass Railroad to Fraser, BC, with a bus ride back to a gold dredging museum in Skagway.  There we panned for gold.  Everyone enjoyed it.

Juneau was the highlight.  I booked a tour directly with Alaska Helimush (ERA Helicopters), which is the same vendor as Disney uses, and saved almost $1000 by booking directly.  They were great.  We got picked up at the Mt. Roberts tramway and taken to their heliport, where we were outfitted with overshoes and lifevests, and then took a helicopter ride up over the Wonder and onto the Juneau icefield to a dogsled camp.  The dogsled camp had 170 dogs and their mushers living there for the summer.  We spent about an hour at the glacier riding on the sled with our musher, Jeff, who was in his early twenties and had already competed in two Iditerods, and then we met his dog team.  Then we took the helicopter back to the base in Juneau.  An awesome experience!  Afterwards Paul and I visited the Red Dog Saloon—what a hoot!  And the food there was (surprisingly) pretty good!

In Ketchikan we walked around town and saw a salmon hatchery and some totem poles.

The sail up to the glacier was phenomenal.  We spent most of the afternoon and early evening on our veranda with cameras and binoculars, and occasionally fortifying ourselves with warm coffee and food.  Stunning, amazing scenery.  That day we saw quite a number of whales at the entrance to the fjord.

Differences between this cruise and previous cruises?  We definitely like the longer cruises.  I never thought we’d be a cruising family, but it really works for us.  Everyone can have their own space and time for themselves, which helps to keep everyone happy.  I would do the Alaska cruise again, but not right away (just like I would go back to the Grand Canyon, but not two years in a row).  The water in the inside passage was as smooth as silk and the scenery incredibly picturesque.  You can see things on a cruise in Alaska that you would never see any other way.

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