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Disney Alaska Cruise PIF! “Texans in Alaska” Pre-Trip Report

My family of five is embarking on a Disney Alaska cruise this summer, and we are now PIF (paid in full)! My kids will be 6, 9 and 13 years old. I’ve been dreaming about taking this trip for over six years!

Disney Cruise to Alaska Pre-Trip Report

Welcome Disboards readers!

This will be our 6th Disney cruise, but our first cruise to Alaska. This cruise will also complete our “Grand Slam” with Disney Cruise Line, as the Disney Wonder is our final ship in the fleet to experience.

A Disney Alaska cruise is expensive. In fact, this is our most expensive vacation we have ever taken! Thankfully, miles and points helped us secure flights to Vancouver and reduce the price of our Vancouver hotel stay before the cruise. You can read more about our savings efforts here and here.

Disney Wonder in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Doug Jones.

The Final Payment

Our final payment was due earlier this month. Normally, the final payment for a Disney Cruise is due 75 days prior to sailing. However, for cruises leaving from an international port, the deadline is earlier.

I won’t lie to you—it was really hard to get all the money for this cruise. My family had a “no-spend” January (we only spent money on gas and groceries) to help save for the final push. We made it all the way through the month until the last day, when my son had a band concert and we decided to go out for ice cream to celebrate. Lucky for us, we went to Baskin Robbins and discovered the store had scoops for $1.31 since it was the 31st of January. Woohoo!

We found out we’d be getting a small tax refund, which helped us with our final payment. We also ended up charging almost $1000 on my Chase Disney Visa, which has a 6-month no interest benefit for Disney vacation packages. This allows us to spread out our final payment over the next 6 months instead of pulling money out of our savings account.

Vancouver Itinerary

To fly on miles, we had to split up our family on different flights. I’m flying to Vancouver five nights before the cruise with my two younger kids. My husband and oldest will arrive two nights later. Here is our tentative itinerary:

Day 1: We arrive around 11:00 a.m. We will take a taxi to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. My only plan is to explore the waterfront a little, see the Olympic torch, and swim in the hotel pool. We might live dangerously and purchase a few Kinder Surprise eggs, which are illegal in the USA.

Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Hyatt.

Day 2: My plan is to take the kids to Stanley Park. My kids are really into marine life right now, so we will go to Vancouver Aquarium first and then walk to the totem poles. Maybe I will splurge on the horse-drawn carriage ride around the park.

Day 3: I’m planning to sign us up for the Sea to Sky tour to see more of British Columbia outside of Vancouver. Highlights include Shannon Falls, Sea to Sky Gondola and the Britannia Copper Mine. My husband and oldest son will arrive that evening.

Day 4: Now that the whole family is in Vancouver, we are going to start the day at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The free shuttle stops right at our hotel. Next, we will take the public bus to Grouse Mountain. We’ll ride the SkyRide to the top of the mountain, hike, see the rescued Grizzly bears and catch the bird show and lumberjack show. I also want to ride to the top of the Eye of the Wind.

Grouse Mountain. Photo courtesy of Hyatt.

Day 5: Whale watching boat tour! The waters outside of Vancouver are home to a few Orca pods. We would love to see those in the wild! We haven’t made our tour reservation yet, but there are a few companies that do these tours, including Vancouver Whale Watch and Seabreeze Adventures.

Photo courtesy of Doug Jones

Day 6: We board the Disney Wonder!

Alaska Port Excursion Plans

Our cruise on board the Disney Wonder has three stops in Alaska: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Skagway: We are planning to go to a summer dog sled camp. I calculated we would save over $100 if we booked this tour independently vs. booking through Disney, so that’s what we will do. I’m so excited for this excursion!

Juneau: My first choice in Juneau would be to do a seaplane tour to Taku Glacier Lodge. It looks amazing, and all the reviews are outstanding. However, it is very costly for a family of five (almost $1600). Since we are going to California later in the summer, we could use that money to take our kids to Disneyland for two days. Based on the ages of our kids, I think Disneyland is a better use of our money.

Instead, we are renting a car to drive to Mendenhall Glacier. The cost is only $67 through Juneau Car Rentals. Juneau Car Rentals is located at Dock A, where the Disney Wonder is scheduled to Dock. I actually tried to rent a car through Avis, but Avis no longer has its downtown Juneau rental space. Juneau Car Rentals already sent us a map and a list of sites to see.

At Mendenhall, I’d like to hike to the waterfall and look around the visitor center. Next, we will head to the Macauley Salmon Hatchery and go up Mount Roberts Tramway if the weather is clear. We will definitely have to stop by the House of Russia for my Russian-American kids.

Mendenhall Glacier. Photo courtesy of Doug Jones.

Ketchikan: We are signing up to go on the duck boat tour. I’ve always wanted to go on one of these! We will also explore the town on our own, walking down Creek Street and riding the funicular to see totem poles.

On-board Plans

Our cruise includes two sea days plus a day sailing through Tracy Arm. We have so many things to do, and I’m a bit worried about how we will fit it all in!

I’ve looked over last year’s navigators posted on Disney Cruise Line Blog to get an idea of the shows and themes for each night. The Alaska itinerary offers several things we haven’t experienced on our other Disney Cruises, like a Frozen-themed dinner, outside barbecue lunch on Tracy Arm day and a Pixar character party.

The Disney Wonder was also just recently reimagined, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new Frozen stage show and having dinner at Tiana’s Place. Check out this review of Tiana’s Place. I can’t wait!

Since this is our first cruise as Gold Castaway Club members, we plan to attend the special reception with the ship’s officers and Mickey on the first sea day morning. I also want to attend a few naturalist sessions to learn about the wildlife we will be seeing.

In addition, it’s almost time for us to pre-book a character breakfast, Princess Gathering and Frozen characters meet and greet. I will also reserve a session for my daughter at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

My kids will want to spend time in the newly renovated kids clubs and the Marvel Super Hero Academy. Also, we look forward to seeing several new-release movies that will be playing on our cruise, including Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and Cars 3 (which will premiere on our cruise!)

So much fun stuff!

Other Preparations

Clothing: I need to make sure everyone in my family has gloves, a fleece jacket and a waterproof jacket that fits. I also need to get new formal clothes for my boys to wear to formal dinner. They love dressing up for that! My daughter also needs a new princess dress, as she is growing like a weed and has outgrown her dresses from last year. Maybe I will sneak in an order for matching family shirt for embarkation day. I’m a sucker for matching shirts, but my husband is not a fan.

Fish Extender and Door Magnets: We signed up to participate in a Fish Extender Exchange group through a group on social media that is specific to our cruise. What is a Fish Extender Exchange? It’s basically a Secret Santa type group, where you exchange small gifts with other families. The gifts can be Disney-related, or something representing your hometown/home state, or just about anything! I won’t say yet what our gift is, but I’m bringing an entire suitcase for just my FE gifts! The gift involves embroidery, which my mother-in-law has volunteered to do.

For our last cruise, we purchased a few magnets from etsy, although I usually make my own magnets. I’m not very crafty, but I do love creating Disney Cruise door magnets!

Fish Extender and door magnets on our last cruise

Travel Consent Letter: Since we are entering Canada on different days with different kids, my husband and I still need to notarize a travel consent letter. Canada is very strict about this! We don’t want to have any issues with Canadian customs.

 

What am I missing for our Disney Alaska cruise? What do you think of our plans in Vancouver and at the three Alaska ports? Would you do something differently?

Thank you to Doug Jones for letting me showcase some of his beautiful Alaska photos. You can see more of his photos here. I found out that Mr. Jones will be the on-board naturalist for the last sea day of our cruise!

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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35 thoughts on “Disney Alaska Cruise PIF! “Texans in Alaska” Pre-Trip Report

  1. Oh my gosh, I would love for you to plan the vacation for me! I have always said an Alaskan cruise is in my bucket list and this itinerary sounds like so much fun!!!

  2. Wow – you have a lot planned for Vancouver. It’s such an interesting place. We also stayed at the Hyatt Regency – there’s a McDonalds right next door and a Starbucks in the lobby. We also did the duck tour in ketichikan – kids loved it. If it rains when you dock at a port, Disney will be handing out their ponchos to everyone. There’s also a bus they provide to take you into town at Juneau. Take me with you!!!! Alaska was my favorite cruise and the wonder is my favorite ship. Enjoy!!!

      • Hi Nancy, just reading your blog, this is our 4th cruise first to Alaska also, we have 2 kids, 12 and 13 and staying in Vancouver since Friday, I have a Hyatt reservation and One on the Auberge too ?, hope we meet somehow

      • Hi Sarah! Thanks for reading! Are you in the cruise Facebook group or disboards? I’m hoping someone will organize a group meet-up. We’ve gone to the group meet-ups on every cruise, and love doing it!

  3. I think I speak for everyone when I answer your 2nd to last question: you have forgot nothing for your cruise.

    Sounds like you have quite the family trip planned! I’ve been struck by how resource intensive a Disney Alaskan cruise is. You’ve put a ton of thought into this. Nice work.

    Hailing from the upper Midwest, its hard for me to wrap my mind around trips to cold climates! And my aversion to cruising is well documented in these discussions (in sum, they aren’t easy to travel hack, the pools are tiny, endless food is not a form of entertainment for me,I don’t drink, and I don’t like the idea of feeling rushed on shore excursions when I’d rather just stay in that place for several days vs hours), but I’d say you’ve got a very compelling itinerary. You should be a Disney cruise travel agent and use this post as an example of what you are capable of.

    I’m not a big user of the Disney value adds. We’ve done the annual pass and character dinners but we’ve sworn those off in favor of saving money on our annual Disney trips. You mentioned a few Disney value adds I am curious about, but I’ll ask about one for now: what is the Gold Castaway club you mentioned?

    Also, the Vancouver bit sounds like something we’d love to do! What was the thinking in fitting in what could have been a stand alone trip prior to the cruise itself? Wee you able to cover that portion with points too?

    Also, having a family of four can be challenging enough in travel hacking. But doing it with 5 sounds like a lot of compromises are made!

    • Vancouver has so much to do and see, I figured why not kill two birds with one stone? Originally we were going to fly in 2-3 days ahead of time, but when the award flights worked out for 5 days ahead of time I figured we’d go ahead and fill up our Vancouver itinerary. I had always planned on seeing if award flights opened up closer to the cruise so that I could change our AA flights for free, but nothing has opened up. And now that I have fun stuff planned, I’m not sure I’d want to move our flights anyway! None of our activities in Vancouver are covered with points, unfortunately. Just the hotel and flights.

      The Gold Castaway Club is the cruise line’s loyalty program. After your first cruise, you become Silver, after 5 cruises Gold, and after 10 cruise Platinum. Each level has some extra perks that first-time cruisers don’t have. Gold and Platinum levels have their own special reception on board with the captain and some officers as well as a character. Gold and Platinum also get to book new cruises one day before the general public (which allows you to pick the exact cabin you want and sometimes get a cheaper price, since the price goes up the more the cruise gets filled). Each level also gets a cabin gift. On our last cruise, we got a beach tote bag and a dry erase board. Castaway Club levels also get to book excursions and on-board stuff before first-time cruisers. I think it’s 120 days prior to sailing for Platinum, 105 days for Gold, 90 days for Silver and 75 days for first-time cruisers. So the earlier you can book those things, the better choice you have of embarkation time, choice of excursions, etc.

  4. Wow, you have an amazing trip planned. I’ll be looking for a detailed trip report. I’ll be looking for award space for 4 people on united for Phl to Calgary. I’m wondering if it’ll be difficult since you weren’t able to find space for 5?

    • I plan on writing a detailed trip report! That’s my favorite type of post to write. For your flight to Calgary, you may have better luck on United than I had on American. Would you consider splitting up 2 and 2?

  5. We took the bus to mendenhall glacier and I remember it being a really affordable option. Also, you’re not allowed ANY food at the welcome center or while hiking the glacier. We didn’t plan our meals well around this and ended up so hungry, I didn’t hike to the glacier. Something I wish I knew before we went out there.

  6. Wow! I’m impressed. I sure need to sharpen my trip-planning skills. We have a 5-day St. Thomas trip coming up in 2 months and I don’t have any idea what we will be doing yet other than beaches and snorkeling, and I don’t even have those particulars narrowed down yet. Sounds like your trip will be amazing. I can’t wait to see the trip report.

    • I love St. Thomas! Sometimes the trips where you don’t have to plan anything in advance are the best. We are going to Florida in a few weeks, and haven’t pre-planned anything except the beach! (and hopefully meeting up with Leana!)

    • There is so much to do on St. Thomas but the best thing to do is to take a ferry over to St. John where you will see the MOST beautiful beach in the WORLD! – Trunk Bay. The highlight of my trip BY FAR!!

  7. Gosh, what an amazing report and you haven’t even left yet! I dream of one day doing a Disney Cruise but haven’t had the opportunity yet. This sounds like a complete dream come true!

  8. Nancy,
    You inspired me to book another DCL cruise. It’s a short 3 day to Bahamas, but it’s DCL. We went for the first time last year on a 3 day to Bahamas. Summer 2018 itineraries come out on Thursday!

  9. I’m getting a quote for Disney Alaska tomorrow since we’re Gold. I know it’s going to be sticker shock, but I love their cruises. I’ll have to research all your Disney gift card tricks. I can get airfare and hotel for free.

    • Keep us posted, Stefanie! I want to get a quote for a cruise so badly…a 5-night on the Dream or one of the European ones. But I’m just dreaming! We probably won’t be able to go on DCL until 2019.

  10. @Nancy just for an inside stateroom for 2 adults 2 children was $7,425 for the 7 night Alaskan Cruise (with no OBB discount and nothing additional). I think our days of cruising may be over at those prices. Oh well — off to planning something else for next summer.

    • Yikes! DCL prices just keep going up and up. I’m afraid that our upcoming cruise to Alaska may be our last one for awhile…which is too bad, because DCL is such a good fit for my family.

  11. That sounds so fun! My husband and I took our only cruise, our honeymoon, to Alaska. We could barely afford the price at the time, though it was very reasonable, so we opted to skip all shore excursions. We had a wonderful time just exploring Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria on foot. There was an amazing park in Juneau, just beautiful.

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  13. Hello. I am sitting in a cruise ship off cost of Juneau *right now*. We went to Disneyland in LA on our way, had a few nights in Vancouver and are now on ship. I “cheated” though. No miles and points. This one was on the in-laws! (And we got a suite!!!)

    Vancouver was wonderful. A good tip a local gave us was to take the water taxi as much as possible. The kids love it. We took it to Granville Island Market. 3 kids (4, 8, and 8) had a great time running around market space while we drank lattes. Walking around the island was great fun – checking out the floating houses and the park and Kids Market.

    We took city bus to Aquarium and that was great. They have dolphin training, fun 4-D movie, but all the dolphins are rescued animals that might not have survived on their own (in case Black Water scarred you). But again, to be honest, by the time we got to aquarium, I wish we had just didn’t the time in park (aquarium in park). I’d leave aquarium as back up plan in case bad weather.

    Ketchikan – we did a tour that our in-laws arranged and covered. It was a walk through a rain forest. We saw a black bear and lots of eagles. While I enjoyed myself, if it were my money, I probably just would have walked through town.

    Icy Point Straight – second stop. It was AMAZING. We saw whales every where. All day long. From shore. From boat. Everywhere. No need for a whale watching tour. It was beautiful here. We went on an ATV thing, arranged by the in laws. It was fun, but, again, if it were me, I’d have just hung out in Icy Straight Point itself. It was beautiful and amazing. Let me know if you are interested in photos and I can share. 🙂

    Juneau – Today. We went and spent $100 for a family of 5 to go up gondola. I’d recommend it if you can go early and have time to hike. Lots of great trails up top. The view is nice, but not worth $100 IMHO, not just for the view. However, if you have the time to take some walks (or do the walk down to town) then maybe worth it.

    Tomorrow is Skagway, I think?

    Hope that helps if anyone planning their Alaskan Vaca. 🙂

    • Amanda–it sounds like you’re having a wonderful time! So cool that you saw whales and bears and eagles. Sounds like I need to take a water taxi ride next week. Enjoy the rest of your cruise!

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