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 Trip Video and Hyatt Regency Vancouver Review, Vancouver Part 1 (Arrival, Stanley Park, Sea to Sky Tour), Vancouver Part 2 (Capilano, Grouse Mountain and Vancouver Whale Watch), Boarding the Disney Wonder to Alaska, Sea Day to Alaska , Tracy Arm and Dog Sledding in Skagway.
Friday, June 16, 2017
We woke up to this view outside our porthole windows:
Shortly after, we opened our doors to hear the most upbeat announcement I’ve ever heard from a cruise director on a rainy day. “Now you get to experience typical Alaska weather! This is what you’ve all prepared for!” My husband and I chuckled. This guy was really doing a great job at selling rainy weather! Unfortunately, most helicopter and seaplane excursions were canceled for the day.
We had ordered room service breakfast the night before to be delivered at 7:30 a.m. so that we could get an early start. We reserved a car rental through Juneau Car Rentals, and we could pick up the car as early as 8:00 a.m. I wanted to cover a lot of ground today!
The car rental kiosk was right outside our ship. The employee handed us the keys to an Oldsmobile with 144,000 miles on it. It wasn’t the typical rental car we were used to, but it worked.
This was our view as we drove out of the parking lot. Rain, rain, go away!
My kids were all grumpy due to lack of sleep and the rain. My oldest didn’t get back to the room until after 1 a.m. the night before. Ugh.
Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier. I wanted to get there early to beat the crowds. We parked and paid the visitor’s fee in the parking lot.
The first thing we did was walk Photo Point Trail to the lookout so that we could see the glacier and the waterfall. I bribed my family to smile for this photo.
Then we hurried into the visitor’s center. I really wanted to hike the Nugget Falls Trail (2 miles round-trip) to get a closer view of the glacier and the waterfall. After all, I had no idea when (or if) I would ever have the opportunity to visit this place again. We might not make it back until I’m much older, and then who knows if my body will be able to hike the 2-mile trail? I’ve read numerous Alaska trip reports from people who were not able to walk this trail due to age and physical limitations. I really wanted to make this happen while I had the chance.
My family responded with moans and groans. It’s too cold, they said. It’s too wet, they said. The trail will be muddy, they said.
They all said those things except for my teen, who agreed to walk the trail with me! I think he mostly agreed to get away from his siblings. They were quarreling, after all.
Nugget Falls Trail
So, with our umbrellas overhead, we started the walk. The rain came and went, but was mostly present. The trail was not muddy at all. It was mostly gravel, but it had some raised wooden platforms and bridges as well.
We only passed one other family on our walk to the falls. The peace and quiet gave me a great opportunity to talk with my son. He shared with me more information on the activities he had been doing in the Edge.
We made it! It was so cool to be so close to the roaring waterfall.
We could see the visitor’s center across the lake.
The round-trip hike only took us 45 minutes from start to finish. I’m so glad I did it!
Back at the visitor’s center, my kids were marveling at this piece of ice from the glacier.
Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
We had planned to see many things with our rental car that day, but most of the things involved driving to a viewing area and getting out of the car. My family was cold and wet, and nobody wanted to do anything. Boo.
I wasn’t done with Juneau yet, though. On our way back into town, we decided to stop at Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. It was fairly inexpensive to get in, and admission included a guided tour.
On the way to the hatchery, we saw many bald eagles on the right side of the highway.
Outside the hatchery, we saw the salmon ladder that salmon use when they are ready to come back to spawn. We toured the inside area and saw about a million salmon in tanks. Even my kids found it interesting.
Inside, there were a couple of touch tank with local marine wildlife. A patient guide explained each one to my kids.
We were there for a little more than an hour. It was a good way to learn something without getting soaked in the rain.
After the hatchery, we were all hungry for lunch. We decided to go to the downtown area for a bite to eat and some shopping.
We had a lot of trouble finding a parking spot! All the lots were full. We went to a parking garage near the front end of downtown, and all the public spots were full. We asked a security guard for recommendations, and he told us we could probably park in the library spots because they usually don’t enforce towing. So that’s what we did.
Our first stop was the House of Russia. Two of our kids were born in Russia, so we have a special connection to that country.
It was a fun store to visit. But be warned: most things are expensive and breakable. We did end up purchasing an Alaska matryoshka set.
We had lunch at the Twisted Fish restaurant. It was just ok, nothing spectacular.
We shopped in a few more stores before returning our rental car. Sweatshirts, tshirts and jackets are surprisingly inexpensive in Alaska.
Back on the Disney Wonder
It was mid-afternoon at this point. We changed into dry clothes. My boys wanted to go off to the kids’ clubs. My daughter wanted to attend the Pixar Pals Party with me in the atrium.
This is a party that DCL added on the Alaska cruises in place of the normal pirate night party with fireworks. Alaska has restrictions on noise and fireworks, so it’s not possible to do that party on this itinerary. Plus, it would be weird acting like a pirate in Alaska, right?
At the Pixar Pals party, we saw Sully, Joy, the Ratatouille rats, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, characters from Up and Jessie and Woody. The characters rotated around the atrium to dance with different folks. My 9-year-old saw my photos from this party and regretted not attending.
Dinner tonight was back at Tiana’s Place. Tonight was a mardi gras party! Our servers gave us beaded necklaces, and toward the end of the meal we had a mardi gras parade, complete with limbo stick.
The best thing about dinner was having beignets for dessert! Mmmmm….with chocolate dipping sauce.
Tonight, the main show was Frozen: A Musical Spectacular. My boys had no desire to see this show, so they had fun in the clubs. We arrived 30 minutes early to make sure we could get seats towards the front.
I was curious how this show would portray the girls growing up. Would they have different actors play younger versions? Would they show them on a movie screen? I won’t give it away, but it was very clever. And, Elsa was spectacular! The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of the show.
After the Frozen show, we dropped our youngest at the club so that we could catch an adults-only performance by Max Winfrey. He did a lot of juggling and knife-throwing with adult humor mixed in. It was nice that my husband and I could attend this together, even though we realized it would push our kids’ bedtime back a little.
This penguin (with light-up necklace) greeted us in our stateroom.
It had been a long day. We were looking forward to better weather in Ketchikan tomorrow!
Up next: Sunny skies in Ketchikan. Note: I’m heading out on another summer travel adventure, so the next installment will be delayed until July 31.
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.