If you ever want to find yourself utterly unable to begin to know what to write, I highly, highly recommend taking a 7 night cruise to Alaska on a Disney ship with your family and 150+ of your closest friends.
I’ve been trying to figure out where even to begin to talk about this trip since a few days into it. There are discrete topics that I want to discuss in the weeks to come. What we packed. The individual excursions. Vancouver. Traveling with the kids. The. Food. But before I dig into those details I need to attempt to talk about the essence of the vacation itself – and I don’t even know where to start.
If you’ve ever ridden Flight of Passage you might have a sense of where I’m at. At least for me, the first time I rode FOP I got off to a group of friends looking excitedly and expectantly at me and saying, “Well…??!”
And I didn’t know what to say. Not for a lack of feelings – but for an overabundance of them.
That’s pretty much how I feel about Alaska on the Wonder – but multiply it by 7 nights and countless friends and incredible meals and the wildlife and scenery of Vancouver, Endicott Arm, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Time and again I’d be enjoying some aspect of the trip with my husband and he would say, “we could spend 8 days doing nothing but exactly what we’re doing in this moment and it would be an amazing trip” – and I agreed with him completely.
When we initially booked this trip – even before the move down to Florida – it felt a million miles away. When the day came to sail it felt almost surreal.
It’s been awhile since we’ve done a big trip other than to Florida, since before we lived here we were always running down every chance we got. I always (half) joke that one of the neatest things about living behind Disney is that we can now freely vacation elsewhere. I’ve cruised often but this was actually my first Disney cruise – and this was my husband’s first cruise ever (excepting only his time in the Navy).
I will take lots and lots of time in other posts to explore the ins and outs of the excursions and food and kids’ activities and and and…. But I wanted to take a minute first and just recognize how wonderful it was from beginning to end, from the friends that traveled with us (we were with our incredible WDW Radio extended family) to the entertainment to the stunning scenery to the endless food.
Days 1 & 2 – Setting Sail and At Sea
Landing in Vancouver.
With busy excursion days coming later in the week, it was great to have a couple of days at sea at first to really relax and enjoy the ship. We took advantage of breakfasts and lunches at Cabanas (and elsewhere) and dinners at Tiana’s and Animator’s Palate, relaxed in the Rainforest Room at Senses Spa, and even enjoyed the pools since it was in the mid 80s when we sailed out of Vancouver. The kids got to enjoy long days at the kids’ club (my older son never wanted to leave!) and we took in some of the amazing entertainment at night. These days at sea were a great way to kick off the trip and decompress after weeks of prep and packing followed by long days of travel to get to Vancouver with the littles.
The seafood spread at Cabanas…
Which was not to be outdone by the dessert spread at Cabanas…
Which was not to be outdone by 24-hour-a-day all you could eat ice cream on deck.
Day 3 – Endicott Arm
On the third day at sea, after a character breakfast at Animator’s Palate, we made our way through the awe inspiring Endicott Arm. (The ship makes a last minute decision based on conditions as to whether to go through Endicott Arm or Tracy Arm and we sailed through Endicott Arm. From what I’m told you are closer to the walls of the fjord on either side in Tracy Arm but they are larger in Endicott Arm. I cannot imagine going through either and thinking that what you were seeing was lacking – but I did enjoy when we were a bit further back going through Endicott Arm because it made it easier to take in the vastness of it all.)
Attempting to do what we saw that day justice in pictures is laughable. I can only try my best here and hope that each of you can see it for yourselves one day.
I’ll save more pictures for another post – as I probably have about 900 (seriously) from just what we saw on this one day.
Day 4 – Skagway
The next day, day four, we docked in Skagway and a group of us traveled to the White Pass Railroad for a ride through the mountains. I have a genetically acquired love of trains thanks to my father but this surpassed anything that I’d ever seen. The train itself is old and immaculate and the scenery and wildlife that we saw along the route into Canada was stunning.
On the way back we took small buses that allowed for lots of stops and closer looks…and photo ops.
Day 5 – Juneau
The next day was Juneau – whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier and a wonderful salmon bake featuring the best fish I’d eaten in my life. We did not get to see a breach but we did get to see lots of humpbacks, sea lions, eagles, and seals. The weather was extraordinary – as it was throughout the trip. We had clear skies and views clear to the mountain tops around us. The locals that took us out helped us to understand just how rare that was. And so began our constant comment that we would love to go back one day…but would likely never be as lucky across the board as to the circumstances of the trip – a perfect group of people and spectacular weather the entire time.
Day 6 – Ketchikan
Perhaps the biggest happy surprise of the trip was that my sons LOVED canoeing in Ketchikan!! We docked in this lovely little town and took a (sort of bumpy) bus ride to the lake where we climbed into canoes and paddled across for some delicious snacks (more salmon!) and a nature walk through the ancient forests. Both of my boys loved every second of this. My 7 year old said he never wanted it to end and still talks about it daily. As for my 5 year old, he actually saw wooden spoons at Publix yesterday and cheered for the “little oars”.
Day 7 – At Sea
Day 7 was our final full day at sea and we filled it with the Rainforest Room at Senses Spa (more to come on that!), Palo Brunch (lots more to come on that!), a champagne and chocolate tasting, a mardi gras themed dinner at Tiana’s, a mixology class, and lots more fun with friends. Stick a fork in us at that point – we were exhausted.
Day 8 – Disembark
So much sadness getting off our beautiful ship – but we did have the chance to explore Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver before catching the red eye back to MCO that night. If you find yourself with some time to pass in Vancouver, I cannot recommend this experience enough. And there are actually free shuttles that will take you there from the dock.
All in all it was one of the priciest things we’ve ever done together as a family and we said again and again throughout the week that it had been worth every penny. We cannot wait for our next Disney adventure at sea but will forever hold the memories of this vacation close to our hearts.