Waterfalls, whales, and wilderness

About a month ago, I was sailing aboard the Disney Wonder through Alaska’s Inside Passage. It was an amazing adventure, filled with so many unexpected sights and sounds. From the moment the kid and I landed in Vancouver to begin our journey, until we boarded our flight back home, both of us were filled with excitement and wonder. I’ll hit the highlights on our trip and maybe that will inspire you to want to visit the “Last Frontier” too.

The trip began with a 1am arrival into Vancouver, British Columbia. Night flights, yuck. The kid got the benefit of a first class flight though, so that always helps make the late night easier to deal with. We overnighted in Richmond BC, near the airport and then made our way to the Port of Vancouver the next morning. Vancouver is such an interesting city. Big city but with a friendly feel and focus on the environment and outdoor activity. We spent almost two days there after the cruise so I’ll come back to Vancouver later on.

Aboard the Wonder, our stateroom was in the best spot. We were deck 5, aft, on the starboard side in a deluxe oceanview stateroom with Navigator’s verandah. That is a fancy way of saying that the verandah was partially enclosed. On an Alaskan cruise, that was spectacular! It helped keep the chill out somewhat and I loved the cozy cushioned bench.

Our navigator's verandah view

The view from our Navigator’s verandah room

Deck 5 aft is pretty convenient, not far from the Buena Vista Theatre, the kids clubs, and right near the aft elevators to go up/down to food. Anyway, we settled in and set sail for Alaska! Our cruise was a unique, 5-night itinerary with a stop in Ketchikan, Alaska, cruising through the Inside Passage, and a day (aboard the ship) viewing the Dawes Glacier, plus two days at sea. Normally, Alaskan sailings are at least 7-nights, which I’d definitely love to try next time. Alaskan sailings with Disney are so different from the Bahamian and Caribbean sailings I’m used to. No ‘Pirates in the Caribbean’ nights with fireworks, instead there are ‘Freezing the Night Away’ themed parties with Frozen characters and a Pixar Pals dance party inside the Lobby Atrium. Mickey, Minnie, and the gang are dressed up in their cold weather gear, and pool towels are replaced with blankets on the pool deck. Hot cocoa flows freely and gloves, scarves, and hats are available for purchase onboard.

One thing I really loved was the naturalist presentations we were able to attend. These are free sessions onboard during the cruise where you learn more about things related to Alaska and its wildlife. Doug Jones was our cruise’s naturalist and I gather that he’s been with the Wonder since it began the Alaska sailings some years back. He has lived in Alaska for almost his entire life and worked most recently at the Mendenhall Glacier. Super knowledgeable and friendly, he was such a great addition to the cruise. We learned about bears, whales, glaciers, and Alaska in general. He even posted his stateroom number so guests could drop by to talk if they had questions for him!

Dawes Glacier was definitely a sight. It took a long time to sail down the fjord to the glacier itself. Once we were in the right position, the captain stopped the ship, slowly rotating from Port to Starboard from time to time, so everyone would have a great view.  It was so cold once we got back to the glacier, as expected, so coats plus hats and gloves were definitely needed. We spent some time up on the top deck, some down on deck 4 (which is an outer deck area on the Disney ships), and then the rest of the time watching from our balcony. Being down closer to the water on deck 4 and from our stateroom on deck 5 was the best! You could see the icebergs floating so slowly through the water, bobbing and cracking as they drifted along. The sound of the ice and the stillness of the area was breathtaking. It was so quiet, even being on a cruise ship with a couple of thousand other people, that I was astounded. So quiet that you can hear ice cracking… amazing.  The blueness of the ice, the fog, the little trickling waterfalls down the mountains… such memories.

Dawes Glacier

The Dawes Glacier

Glacier day was followed by our day in Ketchikan and what a long port day that was! We had time to enjoy the port until close to 8pm, which was perfect for being able to go out on an excursion and still be able to enjoy the town before returning to the Wonder. Our excursion took us on an enclosed catamaran to the Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness, a several hour roundtrip adventure. We saw New Eddystock Rock, a volcanic plug that still stands upright and exposed, apparently a rare thing to see standing. Seals, salmon, bald eagles, waterfalls, and rock walls carved by glaciers filled our day. A delightful way to spend a chunk of our port time.

Misty Fjords

Glacier carved rock, the photo doesn’t do this justice. So magnificent!

After the excursion, we explored Ketchikan’s shops at the port (very touristy) and then made our way to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. This was a highlight of the trip too. Those guys had skills! It was remarkable how fast they performed their skill tests and they kept the audience entertained throughout. It was a crazy hot and sunny day in Ketchikan, a city that gets over 160 inches of rain per year and is normally much cooler. Everyone was remarking how hot it was and how we lucked out with the weather. I think Mickey might have had a hand in that — or maybe Pudge? Did someone feed Pudge a peanut butter sandwich that day? LOL.

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Chop that wood!

So the cruise was incredible but came to an end so quickly. Back on dry land in Vancouver, we checked into our hotel and headed out to explore. Stanley Park was high on my list of to-dos because of the variety of things to enjoy there. It’s no wonder there’s so much to do, with about a thousand acres in the park! We enjoyed the Vancouver Aquarium (sea otters!), dinner at Stanley’s Bar & Grill, and a showing of Disney’s Newsies at the Malkin Bowl during the Theatre Under the Stars series (front row seats, baby!)

Sea Otter

One of the cute sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium

The next day had more city exploration, a full route ride on the Hop On, Hop Off bus, a ride on Flyover Canada! (so much fun, like Soarin’ in Epcot but I liked it better!), and a tour with Fans of Vancouver of Hollywood North (so much fun, a must do for TV and movie fans!) So many films and TV shows are filmed in and around Vancouver that surely one of your faves had some Vancouver footage. The Marine Building in particular was visually stunning. I’d love to go back and look closer at the intricate detail inside and outside of the building.

The Marine building

The inside of the Marine Building in Vancouver. Many tv shows and movies have filmed inside here but the architectural features are stunning in person.

Alas, our time in Vancouver drew to a close as well. We grabbed our luggage from storage at the hotel and hopped on the Skytrain back to the airport to fly home. Another yucky night flight, but we made it back home, filled with so many memories of our time in Alaska and Canada.

Until next time!

-Amber

 

 

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