Travel

Disney Wonder Cruise to Alaska

When I was pregnant with my son I was seized with an intense desire to travel, but I had developed very low blood pressure and was passing out on a regular basis. ūüôĀ No traveling for me! Traveling with two kids (under 2) was also a big unknown, so I satisfied my wanderlust by booking a trip with the most family friendly company I knew, Disney!

So when my daughter was 23 months¬†and my son was 7 months, we flew to Vancouver and spent the weekend exploring and acclimating to the time zone before boarding the Disney Wonder! (If you enjoy this, check out my post on the Disney Magic which we took to the Western Caribbean for New Year’s 2017.)

Cruising Alaska on the Disney Wonder

Check in and Embarkation

We arrived early to the cruise terminal and dropped off our luggage with the porters. Disney had mailed us luggage tags with our stateroom number and we dropped these off with the expectation that they would find their way to our room.

Next we followed the signs to check in where a line had not even formed yet. They gave us our Key to the World cards and we joined a small but growing group in a large waiting room. During the wait the kids rambled around a bit while Chris and I people watched. The big takeaway was that almost every single person had a Castaway Club lanyard, indicating this was not their first cruise. Realizing that Disney had so much repeat business helped get us even more excited for getting on board.

Our wait lasted about an hour and before it was over¬†Mickey showed up for pictures! A line formed almost immediately but my daughter had no concept of lines and sprinted straight to the front. Once we explained to her what the line was for she was content to wait in line (it didn’t take long) and was so thrilled when her turn finally came to hug Mickey. She gave him the biggest hug in the world, stepped back, and asked “Where’s Minnie?” It was the sweetest thing and really set the stage for an amazing vacation. Prior to this we weren’t sure how she’d react to the characters, some children are afraid of them after all!

When our group was called we were invited on board and our name was announced as we walked into the atrium. (This was a detail that I loved on the Wonder and wasn’t as good on the Magic. On the Wonder we walked into the atrium where cast members were lined up to clap and smile as we entered. On the Magic we entered on a balcony level overlooking the atrium and the the cast members were spread out at various points surrounding the atrium.)

After a couple seconds of googly eyes about the beautiful atrium, Chris took the kids exploring and I jumped in line for event registration. I signed us up for a character breakfast and joined my family.

By the time we decided to check if our room was ready our luggage had already been delivered. The room itself was perfect for our small family! We had gone with the cheapest room with a window, so we were on the 2nd floor with a great low view of the water. We had requested a playpen and Disney had also provided a Diaper Genie. It’s the details like this that really set Disney apart.

Disney also provided a heavy curtain to separate the bed from the living area where the children slept. HJ had a couch that converted to a bed and K had the play pen next to her.¬†The window also had a heavy curtain with snaps to completely block light from the window. Then the bathroom had Disney’s famous family friendly style with two separate wash rooms. One with a shower and sink and the other with a toilet and sink. This really did make getting ready smoother throughout the cruise.

Exploring Activities on the Wonder

Every night a Navigator was left in our room, along with a towel animal and the chocolates for our pillows, and we had a blast circling the family friendly activities we were most interested in. Our top 3 favorite activities were:

#1 Wake up with Disney Junior!

On most days at sea there was a dance party hosted for the littlest cruisers. HJ was not familiar with any of the Disney Junior shows, but she got into it pretty quickly all the same! The 3 mornings we went each started out with music and dancing led by cast members and then finished off with a special dance appearance by a character. We got to dance with Jake the Pirate and Mickey Mouse!

HJ clapping with Jake the Pirate HJ at the dance party

#2 Character Breakfast

After our first character breakfast was such a hit, we asked for a second reservation. So we were able to do this twice! (Unfortunately they only offer these on sailings of 7 nights or longer, so we missed out on our 6 night cruise on the Disney Magic.)

We showed up to Animator’s Palate at our designated time and were seated right away. We ordered off the menu but they bring the bread selection around to your table, so the littlest ones can start munching right away. Then the characters (the fab 5: Micky, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald) rotated through the restaurant. The time was just perfect that you had a little time to eat between characters and the kids always had a character to watch at a nearby table as we waited for our turn.

The servers also made us napkin hats while we waited for the characters!

#3 Dance Parties

Weather permitting, the dance parties are generally scheduled to take place on the deck. On this Alaskan cruise though, everything happened in the Atrium. Since we were traveling with such shorties, we made sure to arrive early and get front row seats. The music and dancing was fun and the kids were enthralled by the characters they brought in. Just be aware that I still get “Sailing Away” stuck in my head sometimes!

HJ watching the dance party HJ watching the dance party

#4 Jack Jack’s Diaper Dash

Throughout the week cast members kept telling us about Jack Jack’s Diaper Dash and we made it a point to go. Most of the activities were geared towards my daughter and we wanted to make sure my son had something all about him. I wasn’t really expecting it to be much fun, but it was hilarious!

All the parents were trying to coax their kids across the finish line using little toys and the babies were just not interested. Finally one parent pulled out an iphone and started sliding it along the track and all the babies took off for it!

Oh and when I say all the babies took off? I mean all the babies except mine. K wouldn’t move an inch off the starting line!

Jack Jack's Diaper Dash

 

Dining

Dining was a huge highlight of our cruise! We had previously cruised with Carnival and really felt that the quick service food on Carnival was crap, so on this trip we made a point to always eat in the dining hall. Yes, breakfast, lunch, and dinner we always sat down for full service!

This was a little (a lot) crazy, because we found out later that Disney’s quick service food is great! All those hours in the dining rooms¬†were¬†not highlights for the kids!

The food was incredible, but what really stole the show was the service. The kid’s drink of choice was always waiting for them at dinner, the servers would entertain the kids, and one lunch K fell asleep right at the table and the staff sprung into action! They used napkins to tie chairs together and create bumpers. This was truly the moment that Disney Cruise Line made me a fan for life!

We also ate at Palo, but HJ was throwing a fit in the nursery and we ended up having to cut it short. Palo is definitely worth the upcharge though!

K sleeping at the table K sleeping in a makeshift bed in the dining room

Childcare

Now babies¬†must be 6 months old to cruise with Disney Cruise Lines and all children must be 3 before they can attend kid’s club. For my children this meant that the only option available for childcare was the “It’s a Small World” Nursery for $17/ hour ($9/hr for the first child, $8/hr for the second).

I think the nursery is great. A lot of times the princesses will stop by and play with the kids and the cast members who work in the nursery are top notch.

However, the nursery did not work for us at all this time! We tried on a bunch of occasions and always had to come pick up early because my daughter was going through some severe separation anxiety. This stage of her life only lasted about a month, but it happened to correspond with this vacation. Oh well. We still had a great time, but we didn’t get the adult time we were hoping for.

When the nursery was working for the kids (it happened a few times, just never for the whole time we had reserved), they had no problem stopping by to nurse K. They had a rocking chair for me in the back and I would try to duck in without HJ seeing me and then sneak back out.

The moment the nursery won me over for life though, didn’t happen until we were cruising again on the Disney Magic. HJ had aged out of the nursery but I was checking K in and I recognized the cast member from the Disney Wonder! Before I could mention this to her, she repeated K’s name and said “You’ve been with me before!” Now maybe Disney has some secret reminder system and the computer was telling her this, but it really¬†seemed like she remembered him (he does have a fairly unique name) and it made me feel so special!

That’s really what sets Disney apart and makes the Disney experience so magical! They are always looking for ways to make their guests feel special. Another example is the cast members called all little girls “Princess” and all little boys “Prince” through the entire cruise! If the child happens to be in costume, they also call them by the character’s name. So fun!

They did have some open programming events in the kid’s club, so we frequented “Toddler Time”, “Storytime with Belle”, and the “Princess and Pirates Dance Party.” HJ loved these events and there were always places for K to crawl around and enjoy the music.

Toddler time

Character Experiences

HJ surprised us with her¬†willingness to stand in line on a regular basis for the opportunity to hug several characters every day. The lines we chose to stand in were always reasonable, and you could request reservations to the most popular events, like¬†the Princess Gathering. On several occasions we just happened to walk into the atrium as a character was starting or we would run into a princess in the hall. When Chris and I weren’t interested in standing in line, HJ was happy to just observe the characters from the balcony.

Alaskan Ports

Our 7 night cruise made stops in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway and had 1 scenic sailing day in Tracy Arm. Because the children were so young, most excursions were not an option for us, and the ones that could accommodate baby K were just not interesting to us. So we explored each location on our own.

Juneau

I can summarize this one real quick! We got off the ship, realized we had forgotten our wallets, got back on and spent the day on the ship! We actually had a very nice day on the ship, but we didn’t see much of Juneau!

Skagway

We started off our day in Skagway with a short hike to Yakutania Point. The trail was well defined and pretty easy hiking with both kids in their Tula carriers. The views were fantastic and the weather was really nice for this little hike.

Seaplane coming in over Skagway
Seaplane coming in over Skagway.

Skagway View of the Skagway River View of the Skagway River and Trees Selfie at Yakutania Point HJ crossing the bridge in Skagway

After the hike we took a little walk around town and discovered the Mollie Walsh Park playground! The kids played there for an hour and had a blast!

Skagway
The town of Skagway

Mollie Walsh Park Playground K on the playground

Ketchikan

We wanted to do some more hiking so we walked to the Rainbird trail. Just getting to the trail was a feat since we had to cover some serious elevation just walking through neighborhoods to the trail! Once we reached the trail it was a beautiful walk through the woods with stunning views along the way. When we reached Raven’s Roost we cut back through town to the cruise ship and we were exhausted by the time we got back!

It did rain on us a little during this trek, but not enough to dampen our spirits! We loved breathing the fresh Alaskan air and getting away from the crowds. We also especially loved the fact that we didn’t spend any money on excursions or activities, but still had a great time and experienced something unique to the town.

View of Ketchikan Rainbird Trail

Tracy Arm

This was a day-at-sea but with scenic sailing. We tried to get up on deck as much as possible, but it was cold and windy so we probably only spent about half an hour on deck. It was beautiful though! and we could still see the views from our room’s window.

Tracy Arm Tracy Arm Grownups on deck Pirates on deck Jess and K on deck Chris and HJ ondeck

 

And that was our Disney Cruise to Alaska! We went the first week in September when many kids were in school, and we never felt overwhelmed by the crowds or number of kids on board. Disney Cruise Line is expensive compared to a lot of cruising options, but we absolutely felt like we got our moneys worth.

On several occasions we complained about the behavior of our children, their inability to sleep through the night, HJ’s separation anxiety in the nursery, etc. But we always felt that Disney Cruise Line made these things better and never worse! It wasn’t the vacation we had imagined in advance, where we would have a couple hours to ourselves everyday, but it was really a wonderfully memorable trip with our babies.

So did this come across as a love letter to Disney Cruise Lines? It pretty much is!

HJ in the window Kids in the porthole HJ on deck All bundled up

We have now done 2 cruises with Disney Cruise Line¬†and can’t wait for our next one! It’s not the only travel we want to do though, so it’s looking like we’ll be taking our next one summer of 2019. I have my eye on the 10 night Norwegian Fiords and Iceland cruise!

Should I take a Disney Cruise before my kids are old enough for kid's club?

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