1. Disney Wonder to Alaska: Day One – Vancouver

    We had started our trip on the Friday afternoon when we left London and headed to Los Angeles. Our flight was great and sitting in Upper Class definitely made the journey a lot more comfortable. The only downside was we landed just after the Air China flight which meant despite being first off the aircraft, we queued at immigration for nearly an hour and a half. At least we didn’t have far to go that night as we stayed at the great Four Points by Sheraton at the airport which is not only a great little hotel but a great bargain as well.

    On the Saturday lunchtime, we headed back to the airport using the free shuttle to check in for our Air Canada flight to Vancouver. The flight was just over two hours and before we knew it, we were in Canada. We were through the airport quickly before taking the Canada Line Skytrain to Vancouver City Centre. From there, it was only a ten minute walk to the Blue Horizon hotel on Robson Street.

    We spent the Sunday in Vancouver enjoying the gorgeous weather and cycling around Stanley Park. I was happy that we had time in Vancouver before the cruise as it meant we did not have to worry about any flights being late. I could not imagine what the stress would be like if you were arriving on the same day – I would be worried about missing the ship!

    On the Monday morning in Vancouver, I was awake about 5:00am probably due to a combination of both the eight hour time difference from the UK plus a little excitement too so getting back to sleep was never going to happen. The weather forecast for the day was correct as it was a beautiful morning outside with barely a cloud in the sky. I knew that the Disney Wonder would be due to arrive in Vancouver shortly so after looking at a ship tracker page online, I saw that the ship was due to sail under the Lions Gate Bridge any minute. A few minutes later I caught a glimpse of the Wonder from our hotel balcony.

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    Our port arrival time was not until midday so we were able to have a lazy morning getting ready and getting packed as well as a quick run to BC Liquors on Bute Street to stock up on some alcohol for our stateroom on the ship. One advantage to cruising with Disney Cruise Line is that they allow you to take as much alcohol onboard the ship with you unlike other cruise lines – one of the only rules is that you must carry it on the ship with you in your hand baggage and not put it into the bags you are checking in. After labelling our luggage, we checked out of the hotel who called us a taxi to take us to Canada Place. The drive was only a few minutes though I will admit to getting a little lump in my throat when we turned off Burrard Street in front of Canada Place and I saw the Wonder for the first time close up. Our taxi driver dropped us off right inside the terminal where a porter was already waiting to take our luggage from us.

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    It was only about 11am at this point so we left the terminal and headed up to the Starbucks at Canada Place to get some well needed breakfast. This was also our chance to get our last bit of wifi for the week but due to it being one of only two free wifi hotspots at Canada Place and with two ships in port, it was slower than dial-up speed. Everyone sitting at a table was using it plus a lot of the crew from the ships were standing just outside!

    With breakfast finished, we went for a walk around Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre to look at the Disney Wonder. I was so happy that it was docked at Canada Place West as it is the best side to get photos as you can see the ship from nearly every angle.

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    We also walked along the Canada Place pier alongside the entire ship watching the bags and food being loaded, the stateroom hosts putting the finishing touches on the rooms as well as working out which balcony was ours – as it was a Navigator’s Verandah room it was easy to work out! All this time I still couldn’t believe what a beautiful day it was as the only thing that had worried me in the run up to the cruise was it raining on this day and the whole sailaway party being moved inside! I had been to Vancouver last year where it had rained for the entire trip and that was the only thing that I didn’t want to happen on this day.

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    After taking what seemed like hundreds of photos of the ship from Canada Place, we decided to head into the terminal to check in so we could finally board the Wonder. After passing Starbucks again where it seemed that the wifi had completely died as it was non-existant, we headed back downstairs and into the terminal. All seemed good until we turned a corner and was met with a huge line for security. Given how big the line was though, it actually moved very quickly though I dread to think what the crowds are like on the days when there are three ships in port.

    I had to laugh to myself when the man manning the x-ray machine quickly jumped up like there was no tomorrow after my carry-on bag had been scanned. He’d obviously noticed the several bottles of alcohol in my bag and assumed that as we had no children with us, that we were on the Norwegian Sun which was the other ship docked in Vancouver that day. When I informed him that we were sailing on Disney, he reluctantly passed my bag back to me though he never asked for any proof that we were on the Disney Wonder so there’s a possible way to get alcohol onto other ships if there’s also a Disney ship in port!

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    After passing through security at Canada Place, you then have to clear US immigration. It did look a short line however you are sent past the desks to another area of the terminal with rows of chairs! They then call one row up at time so you are not having to stand in line for a long time. I think we waited for about fifteen minutes which is nothing when you compare that to immigration at Miami or Los Angeles! We were still mixed in with the Norwegian Sun passengers at this point and as we were sitting there waiting one of the ladies opposite us saw my Disney Cruise Line documents on my lap and then started talking to her friends reasonably loudly about how awful a Disney Cruise must be – I just smiled sweetly at her!

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    After clearing immigration, we could then check in for our cruise. The terminal area splits into two with each ship having their own check-in area. From this point, there was lots of Disney signs everywhere and we were handed our first Personal Navigator of the cruise! As they had already started boarding the ship, there were no lines to check in. We had to wait for a few minutes whilst they went to get a supervisor as they were having trouble checking us in – it turns out we had to sign a different “Terms and Conditions” as we’re from the UK. We were also given a health declaration to fill in at this time. A few minutes later, we both had our Keys to the World and were able to board the Disney Wonder!

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    After having our Keys to the World swiped, we were heading down the gangway towards the ship. After a few stops for photos we were welcomed aboard as we entered the lobby atrium of the Disney Wonder – I remember thinking it looked smaller that what I imagined. A crew member introduced themselves and told us that our stateroom was ready and that we were still able to get something to eat before the muster drill. We headed to our stateroom on Deck 7 where we were welcomed by Yerrilee who would be our host for the week. Another bonus was that as we had dropped our bags at the port early, they were already waiting outside our stateroom for us when we boarded. After unpacking and putting our suitcases underneath the bed to keep them out of the way for the week, we headed up to Deck 9 to grab a snack from Goofy’s Galley and a drink from the drinks station nearby. Not long afterwards, everything was being closed down ready for the muster drill so we headed back to our stateroom with our drinks.

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    Our muster drill took place in Animator’s Palate which at least meant we could sit down for the duration of it. After it had finished I ran ahead and up six flights of stairs to Deck 10 to grab a spot for the sailaway party. If I could give anyone any advice about getting a good spot for the party it would be to use the stairs. I couldn’t believe the lines for the elevators – they were insane! I got the place I wanted and as you can see from the photo, if you head there straight after the muster drill, you will have your pick of the spots. I chose to watch Adventures Away from Deck 10 as I prefer to be able to look down and see the party rather than have my view blocked by a child on the shoulders of an adult in front of me if you were on Deck 9.

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    Decks 9 and 10 soon filled up and not long afterwards the sailaway party started. This was it, I was finally seeing the outdoor Adventures Away show that I had wanted for the last year and had watched so many YouTube videos of. After a couple of songs our Cruise Director Ray appeared to welcome us all onboard and to tell us that some VIP guests would be arriving shortly. I had my camera ready, Mickey and the Gang appeared and the music cut out! Yup, the backing tape for the start of Adventures Away messed up. After a little bit of improvisation, the countdown started and then the “When You Wish Upon a Star” horn that I’d waited so long to hear never sounded! Oh well, shit happens! Thankfully the rest of Adventures Away went without a hitch.

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    It was only about five minutes after Adventures Away finished that we started moving away from the dock. We headed to the aft of the ship to wave to a colleague of mine who was in Vancouver and who had come down to Canada Place to wave us off! I am so grateful to them as they sent me some awesome photos of us on deck as we sailed away.

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    We headed towards the front of the ship to get some photos of Stanley Park as we sailed past. Captain Fabian also spoke to the ship for the first time of the cruise.

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    After Captain Fabian had finished his welcome, we were getting close to the Lions Gate Bridge. As I had watched a few YouTube videos before the cruise, I knew that this was another chance for us to get to hear the famous horn. I thought this would be my last chance to hear it as I had read that they don’t sound the horn at all in Alaska – in reality, I heard it many times during the cruise! As we approached the bridge, we finally got the announcement that the horn was coming and I finally got to hear the “When You Wish Upon a Star” horn for the first time!

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    After hearing the horn, we headed to the Aft Overlook on Deck 7 which was very close to our stateroom – the advantage of the Aft Overlook was that there was only two other people there so peace and quiet. I still couldn’t believe how beautiful it was that day. The scenery around Vancouver is just stunning – it really is one of my favourite places in the world.

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    As Vancouver got further away into the distance we headed back to our stateroom to enjoy a drink whilst getting ready for dinner. The advantage of our stateroom at the aft the ship was that it was only two flights of stairs away from the drink station on Deck 9. We had late dining so we headed to the Walt Disney Theatre to watch All Aboard – Let the Magic Begin. It was a great little show apart from the juggler who thought he was a comedian but in reality was one of the unfunniest people I’ve ever seen. After the show I visited the Treasure Ketch shop which is located close to the theatre to buy the Chamilia Minnie Mouse charm for my bracelet – I had bought the Mickey Mouse one in Epcot the previous year. After a little more exploring of the ship, we headed to dinner in Parrot Cay.

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    Before our cruise we had contacted Disney Cruise Line and the only thing we requested was a table for ourselves as I have no interest in sitting with complete strangers for dinner – not my thing. I had heard of people requesting specific dining room rotations but did not do that as all that we wanted was a table to ourselves. Not only were we given our own table but after looking at our dining room tickets that were in our stateroom when we boarded, I saw that we were given what I would call the perfect dining room rotation for us.

    Our dining room and menu rotation was:
    Monday – Parrot Cay – Island Dinner
    Tuesday – Triton’s – Golden Mickey’s (Formal Night)
    Wednesday – Triton’s – French Dinner
    Thursday – Animator’s Palate – Show Dinner
    Friday – Parrot Cay – Toy Story Dinner (We were booked into Palo this night instead)
    Saturday – Triton’s – Taste of Alaska
    Sunday – Animator’s Palate – ‘Til We Meet Again

    We also had our Character Breakfast scheduled for the Wednesday which was perfect for us as we had Palo brunch booked on the Tuesday.

    On arriving in Parrot Cay we were introduced to our serving team for the week. Geffrey was our Head Server, Sunil was our Server and Tino was our Assistant Server. What can I say apart from the fact that these guys were the Dream Team! We couldn’t have hoped for anything more. I love the fact that every night when you move restaurants that your serving team moves with you – they already know your likes and dislikes. I have to say that even though the Parrot Cay Island Dinner was my least favourite menu of the week, I really enjoyed my meal. I started with the Baked Crab Martinique before having the Glazed Portobello Mushrooms for my main course. Even though I was full and said I didn’t want dessert, Sunil insisted I have something and next minute appeared with a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar for me. I managed half of it!

    After dinner, we decided to explore the ship more and even though it was late at night, it was still light outside. I really enjoyed strolling the open decks in the evening and was surprised more people were not out as it wasn’t cold and the scenery was beautiful.

    When we got round to the other side of Deck 4, we were greeted with what will be one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen in my life. I seriously could not believe how beautiful the view was. The sea was so calm, the sky was so clear and the sunset was just perfect. This remains as one of my favourite pictures from the cruise.

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    It was now past 11pm so we headed back to our stateroom as the tiredness from such a long day was catching up with us. Waiting for us on our bed was our Personal Navigator for the next day and our first towel animal of the cruise. I think it was a dog but I’m not sure – it looked great wearing my sunglasses though!

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    So after a year of planning we were finally on our way to Alaska and so far the Disney Wonder had been everything I could have wished for. I was looking forward to the next day as not only did we have a whole day at sea, we also had brunch at Palo, the Golden Mickeys and formal night to look forward to.

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