Although I’ve written about what an Alaskan cruise is really like (which you can access by clicking here), this is going to focus more on the specific cruise line (Disney) and the ship (the Wonder) which I sailed on to Alaska last month. So without further ado, here is my Disney Alaskan cruise review.
Just as with my cruise to Norway I booked an oceanview stateroom and I’m truly glad I did. There’s a rather steep price difference between oceanview and balcony staterooms and even though many cruise boards recommended booking the latter, I still don’t regret it for a couple of reasons. On the day we visited Endicott Arm, sure, the upper decks got crowded when we finally made it into the true iceberg/glacier area (a reason why people recommend booking a cabin with a balcony, you’ll have your own private viewing area). However, later that same day I had booked a port adventure that allowed me to get a lot more up close and personal than I ever would have from the high up cruise ship decks. Second, Alaska was cold, even in early June, and I would not have willingly sat out there for extended periods of time. One day I did bundle myself with blankets (well, the ones they give out are more like towels) and sat in the Quiet Cove, the adults only section of the ship, looking out.
And third, now that I have three seven-night cruises under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that when you only have two days at sea (as was the case on this cruise), you’re much too busy otherwise to simply “sit out on the balcony”; you’re either in port exploring or you’re doing an activity on the ship. I think if I were ever to do the Transatlantic sailing or a cruise through the Panama Canal, ones where you have more than five days at sea, a balcony would be a must. But on a cruise like Alaska where there’s so much to do both on and off the ship, an oceanview stateroom is just right. Spend your money elsewhere because as I’ve said before, Alaskan cruises can get quite pricey, especially port adventures.
Our stateroom was 6508 and it proved to be the perfect locale. It was at the front of the ship but noise was never an issue, which for me is the biggest thing.
Ports of call:
For brief summaries of each of the four ports we visited, Endicott Arm, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan, you can click here . These ports seemed standard with other Alaskan Inside Passage sailings save for Sitka. (That was one port I would have loved to visit. Many traces of its Russian past remain including beautiful Orthodox churches.) I would have preferred more time in Skagway; I thought the amount of time in the other ports was more than adequate. Now granted, in Skagway the reason why I had so little time was that I went on an almost seven hour day trip into Canada’s Yukon (which you can read about here). However, I still would have loved to explore more of this Last Frontier historic town. But with cruises, you can’t have it all, one of their biggest negatives.
Days at sea:
Now that I’ve done more of the longer cruises, I will say that two days at sea is not nearly enough to truly relax and do nothing. However, on the Alaskan cruise you do technically end up having more “days at sea” time since on the day you visit Endicott Arm, the ship doesn’t dock; you only disembark if you signed up for the Glacier Port Adventure. And on the day you visit Ketchikan, the ship doesn’t dock until 11:15AM.
My biggest critique is that they didn’t have more character greetings on the days at sea, when everyone is on the ship and could actually partake. I’ll say more on this in the disappointment section below.
On the day we were in Juneau (day 5 of the cruise) they had a Pixar Pals Party in addition to character appearances. If you’ve been on Disney cruises before (save for the Wonder) you know that Pixar character greetings are extremely rare. Well, we docked in Juneau at 6:45 AM and left at 4:45PM and the bulk of said character appearances were all before 11AM, when most people were off the ship on their port adventure. While they did do them again at night, it just made no sense to have them in the morning when people were busy.
On every cruise I’ve gone on since my winter getaway in 2014, I’ve always bought a print to hang in my Disney room (yes, it’s just what it sounds like). These are just canvas prints; they’re not super expensive or super heavy to cart home. On my Norway cruise I bought a map showing the route of the cruise and it’s probably one of my favorite prints. While they didn’t sell one of these on my Caribbean cruise, I figured fine, it’s the Caribbean, not necessarily AS special as the cruises to Alaska. Well, imagine my utter shock and disappointment to find they had nothing Alaska themed art-wise. When I asked the clerk in charge of the art gallery if they would be getting any more in (hoping that they just hadn’t put them out yet), he said no, he hadn’t gotten any in Vancouver (where their shipments come in). And keep in mind, I was on the SECOND sailing of the Alaska cruise season, not the second to last. Needless to say I wrote Disney Cruise Line a very disappointed email upon my return.
This was our worst experience (by far) with our dining crew which you can read about here.
The special Alaska touches and differences
Although I didn’t partake (too much stuff is always going on at the same time!), on three of the days, they had an Alaskan naturalist giving various talks in one of the theaters on topics ranging from whales to an introduction to the Alaskan wilderness to one of its most famous and easy to spot residents, bears. These will also play on your stateroom TV on one of the channels, just an FYI in case you miss one or all.
While many people love the Funnel Vision (the large monstrous screen that shows Disney movies all hours of the day) and the music that plays out on the top decks, once we hit Day 3 of the cruise, the audio on the Funnel Vision and music on the open decks was suspended in order to preserve the peacefulness and serenity of the wilderness. You’re in remote Alaska, obviously you should not be hearing “Hakuna Matata.” It’s definitely a different experience from other Disney cruises when you go up to the top deck and there is relative silence (especially since being much colder, the pool deck also isn’t teeming with people).
When you return to the ship after a hot and sweaty day in the Caribbean ports you’re given ice cold water. In Alaska, it’s hot chocolate and on some of the days, cookies. And if you’re an adult and want to shell out the extra money, some mulled wine (this smelled delicious). My favorite, though, was on day 3 when we sailed through Endicott Arm and they were passing out bread bowls with pea soup.
As mentioned, on the Alaskan cruises there is a Pixar Pals Party (although wtf Disney, no Merida??). While normally I skip these parties (way too many kids underfoot), we did go early to nab a decent spot so I got some really good photos too.
Although the navigators (the informational handouts you get each night letting you know what’s taking place the next day) won’t say it’s Alaskan Mickey or Minnie, just know that after the first day of the cruise and on the formal night (when the characters don their formal attire), they will be making appearances in the cutest of Alaskan garb. I didn’t get pictures of everyone but did pretty well.
The pools as a whole will truly be deserted.
This is more related to the Disney Wonder ship but even though Alaska is thousands of miles from Norway, Frozen is the theme onboard the Disney cruises. The Frozen musical is featured one of the nights (I really enjoyed the production) and then there’s the Frozen deck party which I skipped after seeing it once on the Norway cruise.
Well, hopefully this will provide you with a good background as to what to expect on a Disney cruise to Alaska!