My family just returned from a 7-night Alaskan cruise aboard the Disney Wonder with 5 nights in Vancouver tacked on to the beginning of our vacation. The only way to keep me from being sad about our trip being over is to write about it in detail to re-live the memories. In case you missed the first installments, see Texans in Alaska: Vancouver Part 1 (Arrival, Stanley Park, Sea to Sky Tour) and Texans in Alaska: Vancouver Part 2 (Capilano, Grouse Mountain and Vancouver Whale Watch).
Boarding the Disney Wonder to Alaska
It was finally here! The day we’ve been patiently anticipating for forever, it seems. It was our turn to board the Disney Wonder to Alaska!
I woke up shortly after 7:00 a.m. I decided to walk down to the port by myself to take some photos of the ship. The Disney Wonder had already docked and was waiting for us!
I took some photos and then picked up some breakfast for the entire family to take back to the room. My family spent some time re-packing our suitcases, putting all of our dirty clothes in one suitcase.
We left our room around 10:30 a.m., checked out of the hotel, and walked to the port. We got there about 10 minutes prior to our scheduled 11:00 a.m. port arrival time.
Navigating the Cruise Port
The cruise port in Vancouver is obviously set up very differently than the Disney Cruise Line port in Port Canaveral. However, we found it easy to navigate because there are big number signs that take you through each step.
First, we went to a room where we dropped off our luggage. Then, we went through some security checkpoints before checking in with DCL. The cast member took our photos and gave us our room cards and boarding group number. We got boarding group #8.
After that, we had to follow the signs to go through US customs and border patrol, since we would be entering Alaska from Canada. Lastly, we ended up in a big waiting room.
The waiting room was huge! I’ve mentioned this on previous trip reports, but there is no place more exciting than the waiting room before a Disney Cruise. You can just feel the excitement and happiness from everyone in the room! It’s electric!
Most people were filing over to the left to take a seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Minnie Mouse was taking photos with people on the far right side. So, we headed there first. The line was really short, much shorter than at Port Canaveral. I think many people must not have seen the character spot. When we got to the front of the line, Mickey traded places with Minnie.
While we were getting our photo with Mickey, the officials announced that boarding had begun. It was around 11:45 a.m. We waited for group #8 to be called, and we were on the ship by noon.
First Moments on the Disney Wonder
As is the custom, when we boarded the ship a crew member announced our arrival over a microphone, followed by applause by the surrounding crew members in the atrium. A crew member approached us and told us we could begin by having lunch at Triton’s restaurant, and our rooms would be ready by 1:30 p.m.
Before lunch, we took a photo by the statue of Ariel in the atrium. The Disney Wonder was the only ship in Disney’s fleet we had not yet experienced, so this was our “grand slam” cruise.
Instead of going to Triton’s for a sit-down lunch, we decided to head up to Cabanas, the buffet on Deck 9. My son was so excited about a week’s worth of buffet meals!
The restaurant was not crowded at all. The kids hit up the dessert part of the buffet pretty hard. So many good choices!
It still wasn’t 1:30 p.m. yet so we couldn’t get into our rooms. We headed to the kids’ clubs to check things out during the open house hours.
Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab on the Disney Wonder
The kids’ clubs on the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder are the best in the fleet, in my opinion. Yes, better than the ones on the Dream and Fantasy.
Why? Andy’s room (from toy story) is the best! It has a two-story slide, and kids can play on top of Andy’s bed. Almost every time we picked our daughter up from the club she was in Andy’s room. She said the kids’ club counselors would periodically yell, “Andy’s coming!” and they would all have to freeze.
The Oceaneer Club also has a Marvel section, which is a huge hit with kids.
The club also has a Frozen section that is used for crafts and other activities. My daughter did an activity with Anna (from Frozen) in there one night.
The Oceaneer Lab is connected to the Oceaneer Club. It is less themed, but it hosts more group activities, including Pluto’s PJ Party, cooking lessons and science experiments.
The club and lab were practically deserted during the open house that first afternoon! That evening, when our kids went to the club when it was secured programming, I noticed there were also not many kids. The counselor said there were a lot less kids on the Alaska cruises.
Edge (Tween Club) on the Disney Wonder
I left my husband and two younger kids in the clubs so that I could check out the Edge (tween club) with my 13-year-old.
First things first, though. My son had to stop along the way to get an ice cream cone from Eye Scream. He had about four of these per day on our cruise.
The Edge is for ages 11-14, and you can read more about my son’s experience at the Edge on the Disney Fantasy from last year.
When we walked in, we were both a little surprised at the Edge on the Wonder compared to the Fantasy. It was at least twice as small and was just one room. The Edge on the Fantasy was much larger and had several sections.
I will just jump ahead and tell you that my son had a harder time adjusting to this Edge. The biggest difference, according to him, was that all other activities shut down if there was a group activity. So you couldn’t play video games there while karaoke or something else was happening. This wasn’t the case at the larger Edge on the Fantasy, where multiple activities could take place at the same time.
For the first two days, my son didn’t spend as much time at the Edge. But, by the third day he seemed to find his groove, and then he couldn’t get enough of it. He actually started hanging out with both girls and guys from the club on the pool deck.
We checked out the tween space for a while before heading to our staterooms, which were now ready.
Our Staterooms on the Disney Wonder
For this cruise, we booked two connecting Category 9 staterooms with porthole windows. Our rooms were on Deck 2 forward, Starboard side, Cabins 2518 and 2520. It was much less expensive for us to book these two rooms than it was to have us all in one room with a verandah.
We opened the inside adjoining doors, and my kids had an entire side to themselves. None of them had to share a bed. This is important when you have multiple kids!
We also had four bathrooms between the two rooms, which was so convenient.
I don’t regret not booking a verandah room at all for Alaska. We still had great views from our porthole windows, and we ended up spending a lot of time up on deck for viewing the sights anyway.
I had printed a bunch of magnets for our door, but alas, the paint on our doors was too thick and they didn’t stick. The magnets did stick to the inside of our doors. I hung up our Fish Extender outside of our door.
Soon, my husband and younger kids arrived in the rooms, and we just chilled out for a while. Our luggage arrived, and we worked on putting our stuff away in the closets and drawers while our kids watched Mickey cartoons on TV. Usually, we are in the pools on deck or meeting up with a group, so it was unusual for us to have this block of down time on our first day on board.
Sail Away Party
Before we knew it, it was time to go to the mandatory safety drill. Lucky for us, our muster station was inside the Walt Disney Theater, so we got to sit down during the drill.
Immediately after the drill, we headed upstairs to try to get a good spot to view the Sail Away Party. We decided to watch from Deck 10 and look down at the stage so that we could also turn around and see the ship depart from Vancouver.
We sang and danced along with the characters, but pretty soon we shifted our attention to the railing on the outside of the ship. The ship was sailing away!
This was the best view of Vancouver we had all week! We could see everything. Everyone was dancing on the top deck and just jumping for joy! I wish I could go back to that moment.
Cyclists and walkers were on top of Lion’s Gate Bridge and were waving at us as we passed under.
It was 5:00 p.m. and our Facebook group was having a meet-up in one of the lounges. Unfortunately, none of my family members wanted to leave the deck. We all wanted to keep watching the ship sail away from Vancouver. So, we missed the meet-up. Sorry, folks.
We had dinner at 5:45 p.m., but we had time to stop by and talk to Pluto on our way to Animator’s Palate.
Dinner at Animator’s Palate
Every cruise, I have had my travel agent request that we start in Animator’s Palate restaurant. I do this because Animator’s Palate is the most entertaining restaurant, and our kids are the freshest on day 1. So far, we are 6 for 6!
When we entered the dining room, a server escorted us to our table. We were surprised that DCL assigned us to a table for 8, so another family was going to join us.
On Disney Cruise Line, families keep the same servers and table numbers all week and rotate through the restaurants with the team. This was the first time in all of our cruises that we shared a table with another family. We had never requested that we sit by ourselves, but that’s just the way things worked out in the past. When my daughter was a baby, we sat at a table for four with a highchair pulled up. As she got older, we were assigned to a table for six with one spot left open.
So I’ll give you the honest scoop on what it was like to share a table. It wasn’t bad, but I think both my husband and I prefer to not share a table with another family. Why?
Well, the other family was very sweet, and we did have dinner conversation about what we did that day and our plans for the ports in Alaska. I think we just felt like we always had to make sure our dinner conversation included them and that our kids behaved since we weren’t alone. We just didn’t feel as relaxed as when we are at a table by ourselves and we can let it all hang out. Know what I mean?
Also, the other family usually arrived 5-10 minutes later than we did. Our kids are not good at lasting throughout a 90-minute dinner, so often they will eat quickly and go off to the kids’ clubs. Our server would ask us if we wanted to go ahead and order before the other family arrived, and I just wasn’t sure what the proper protocol on that was. He told me that people do it both ways. I just felt awkward. Our food sometimes arrived at different times due to our different arrival times, and I felt like I should wait for their food.
Our server, assistant server and head server were outstanding on this cruise! We usually ordered what our server recommended, since he has tasted all the food and knew which dishes were bigger hits.
Eating in Animator’s Palate is always entertaining. The walls go from black and white to color (along with the outfits of the dining room servers). At the end, Mickey makes a special appearance (on the Magic and Wonder only; the Dream/Fantasy have a different version with Crush from Finding Nemo).
After dinner, the boys went off to the clubs. Alyssa stopped by to chat with Minnie Mouse before heading to the club herself.
Our tradition for the first night of a Disney Cruise is to skip the theater show and hit the gift shops instead. On a 7-night cruise, the first night show is usually an introduction to the week’s entertainment and not a full Broadway musical.
We like to go to the gift shops early in the cruise, as some items sell out by the end of the cruise. We picked up a collectible statue of the Ariel atrium statue to complete our collection. In addition, we purchased a mug and a blanket.
When we arrived back in our rooms, we found a towel/blanket animal on each room’s bed. Sitting next to our new animals were the navigator for the next day along with chocolate and Anna’s Chocolate Chase scavenger hunt (more on that tomorrow).
My husband and I delivered our gifts to our Fish Extender group. We gave two blankets to each cabin. Our group had only 10 cabins, but we had a few extra blankets that we “pixie dusted” to other cabins.
We picked up the kids from the clubs around 9:15 p.m., and they went to bed around 9:30 p.m. Our oldest stayed at the Edge until midnight.
The first day on board always goes by so quickly!
Up next: Sea Day to Alaska!
For tips on how to use credit card rewards to pay for a cruise, see this post on How to Maximize Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Bonus on Cruises.
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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.