As the week came to a close on our first Disney Cruise in 2018, our daughter told her grandparents she wanted to go on another one. The agreement was that we would sail together again in 2 years. We set our sights on a Disney Cruise to Alaska and began planning. Little did we know that a worldwide pandemic would interrupt our plans and push them off another 2 years. This past May we (finally!) got our wish and sailed aboard the Disney Wonder to Alaska. Here’s a look at a bit of what we experienced.
Our 7-night cruise started and ended in Vancouver, B.C. During the week, we had port stops in Alaska at Dawes Glacier, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. We sailed at the end of May and had amazing weather. Plenty of sunshine and warm days. Our only true rain day was a pretty constant drizzle in Ketchikan, but not enough to dampen our fun.
The stop in Dawes Glacier is unlike any other. For starters, the ship doesn’t actually go to a port. Instead it stops long enough for a couple of smaller boats to tender up and allow on guests who have opted for the excursion offered that day. It’s a unique experience to get a little closer to the natural scenery and, if you are lucky, the wildlife.
There are 2 times for the Dawes Glacier port adventure. From our experience, if you take the earlier option, you will miss all of the character deck photo opportunities which is popular with many guests on a Disney Cruise in Alaska. I had mixed feelings. Thankfully our son did get his photo taken with Mickey on deck by the professional photographers so we still captured a bit of that even though Trent and I personally missed it all. On the plus side, we were back on the ship well in time to enjoy main dining with our kids and the special Frozen menu that evening.
After dinner, our son headed off to the tween club Edge while we took our daughter to the deck party – Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa, and Friends. Due to the proximity to land and wildlife, fireworks do not take place on Disney Cruises in Alaska. The Frozen themed show featuring Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff replaces Pirate Night on these cruises. There was a big singalong (you knew they couldn’t Let It Go without that, right?) and ended with fake snow plus streamers.
We split up in Skagway for different port adventures. My mother and stepfather enjoyed the street car tour – learning about the history of the area while riding in a 1927 sightseeing bus.
Trent and I took the kids on the Gold Fever and Alaskan Sled Dogs excursion. We knew they would enjoy getting to meet the dogs and who doesn’t like finding gold? Located just a few miles from the port, it was a short bus ride to Alaska 360 for our tour.
Our group met the sled dogs first. All of the dogs had run the Iditarod in the past. It was interesting learning about the length of the race, how the dogs are cared for, and all the gear that is required. After meeting them and seeing a quick demonstration, we had the opportunity to hold the puppies. At 15 weeks old, they were much larger than I expected and super wiggly! We had lots of laughs as one tried to eat my son’s face mask and then his cruise lanyard. We got both safely away.
Following our visit with the sled dogs, we learned how to pan for gold and spent a few minutes giving it a try. We all managed to find a few flakes that, combined, added up to about $60.
After our excursion, we returned to the ship for lunch before heading back into Skagway to explore a bit on our own. It was a short, albeit blustery walk away from the port and back into the town. Once in town, the wind was gone, sun shining, and we were plenty warm without our coats.
We did a bit of souvenir shopping, got pressed pennies, and stopped by the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center. Here we looked at the maps, read a bit more about the gold rush, and, of course, added stamps to our NPS Passport Books.
Whale watching was a big must when we started planning our Alaska cruise. I debated booking options and selected an excursion through Disney. The company guaranteed we would see whales and they were right. We definitely saw one (maybe more) multiple times as well as seals and bald eagles.
The boat was identical to the one Trent and I had been on for Dawes Glacier and run by the same company. Both levels featured indoor seating options with the top also having open deck space. Our kids went back and forth from upper deck to interior below for snacks and drinks. They did see the wildlife and enjoyed it, but it also took away any second thoughts I had about “should we have taken them on the Dawes Glacier excursion.” No. We absolutely made the right decision earlier in the week and leaving them on the cruise ship. They had more fun enjoying the youth options on the Wonder and time with grandparents.
When we arrived back at the Disney Wonder, we were surprised how warm the day had gotten. The temperature read 61°F, but with the sun angle and little to no breeze, it felt much warmer. I suggested we head to the pool. We ended up having the waterslide to ourselves and we all rode it multiple times. Then, along with my mom, we joined a couple of other families in Goofy’s Pool at midship. Needless to say, we were glad we had packed our swimsuits. How often can you say you went for a swim in Alaska?
For our final port stop, we began our day with a private tour I had originally booked in 2020! I had read recommendations online about a Bigfoot Tour offered by Ketchikan Taxi Cab Tours. Given my stepfather and son are big Sasquatch fans, this sounded like a fun and unique opportunity. The owner, Timothy White, took us on a personalized tour around Ketchikan filling us in on the area’s details and history.
One of our stops was at park with his family’s totem poles. Earlier in the day he explained that only a family has the right to share their stories. It was an honor to hear theirs, see the beautiful pieces of art, and even have the opportunity to view one still in progress up close.
After our tour, we returned to the port and stopped into a local shop for a quick snack before walking a block to The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. I had booked us for the Disney Cruise option which I expected to see some of the characters at. No luck there. My guess is the weather kept them away. I saw photos from the week following and Goofy was in attendance that day.
Regardless, we had fun and enjoyed the show.
Days at Sea
Our week started and ended with Sea Days. These were days of continuous sailing as we’ve experienced on past cruises except the nearly constant scenery! Traveling the Inside Passage means there is almost always land on both sides of the ship. When we’ve sailed in the Caribbean, Sea Days meant literally ocean as far as the eye could see. This difference caught our attention and kept us outdoors on our verandah or on one of the upper decks quite a bit. My parents even spotted a whale from their room one afternoon. Truly, you never knew what you might see.
We did spend some time indoors as well. I always squeeze in an animation class or two. We also enjoyed crafts, the shows, attended the Royal Tea, and a did bit of shopping – had to scoop up a few exclusive Alaska Cruise souvenirs.
The long wait for our Disney Cruise to Alaska was well worth it. One perk was having the kids a little older so they could participate and enjoy more. Hopefully they will remember a bit more too. All in all, if you have the opportunity to do so or just visit Alaska in general – go for it! Our visit was very memorable from the beautiful views, amazing wildlife, and welcoming people at every port.