A few weeks ago, I received an email from a reader who sailed on the Disney Wonder’s second 7-Night Alaskan cruise of 2014. In the email, he told me that he did a considerable amount of online research leading up to the cruise, but was disappointed that most of the information was either outdated, or nonexistent. As a result, Bill was kind enough to share the following tidbits that he thought would be helpful for others cruising to Alaska on the Disney Wonder from Vancouver,
Please keep in mind that the views expressed below were submitted by a reader, and are not our first hand opinions.
Arrival / Check-in at Canada Place
Do not arrive at Canada Place early. The terminal is small with only one entrance/exit. If you arrive early you will not be allowed to start any of the check-in process, and more importantly you will be in the way of ALL of the passengers from ALL of the cruise ships that are trying to get their transportation home. The check-in process begins around 10:30 and will take about one hour. The first step is luggage drop off, which takes about 2-5 minutes. Next you get in a long line to go through security & carry on bag check; this took us about 40 minutes. Third is US Customs & Immigration which takes US citizens, the line moves quickly and took about 15 minutes. Fourth step is cruise line check-in. You can check-in but they will give you a number and you will have to wait in a large waiting room until your boarding number is called. The numbers are assigned based on your pre-registration paperwork that has your check-in time.
Tracy Arm Fjord
Disney Wonder goes to Tracy Arm Fjord on the second full day with conditions permitting. The first day at sea has very little sightseeing from the decks. The Wonder arrived at the entrance to Tracy Arm around 11 am. It is highly recommended that you attend the morning presentation in the main theatre to hear about the ice fields, glaciers, calving, animal life, where to look for animals, etc. When entering Tracy Arm you want to be on the Port side of the ship for the best viewing. Find a table and chairs and just sit back and enjoy, taking plenty of pics along the way. Around 2:30 you arrive at the glacier. The Wonder stops about 1 mile from the glacier, and will turn slightly to port, shifting the best view of the glacier from the port to the starboard side. The Wonder will come to a full stop at a 45 degree angle from the glacier. The ship sits idle for about 1 hour, so you will have plenty of time to take pics and to watch for calving. Then the ship will resume the turn to port and sail out of the fjord. During our sailing, very few people knew about the BBQ in the outdoor area of Beach Blanket buffet at lunch. Grab a plate of food and take it back to your viewing area.
I recommend signing up for the combo city tour. This way you travel on a much smaller bus, have several more stops along the way to take pics (including the famous Welcome to Alaska sign), and your smaller group will get an entire train car to themselves, so you can spread out more and likely secure a window seat. We took the bus up the mountain, and then the train down. If you are taking the train down from the summit, be sure to sit on the right side of the train for best viewing (and on the left if going up from Skagway to the summit). Cute shops to see, easy to walk the 5 block span of downtown.
The best tour is the float plane tour to the ice fields and glaciers. I was not impressed with Juneau shopping, local artist items, shopping areas. Remember this is a working city, not a tourist city so the shops are interspersed with local bars and stores.
The shopping and site seeing are set up for the cruise ships in a 3 by 5 block area. Suggestions – for art and photos for sale, go to Scanlon Galleries on Mission. Great locally owned store with stuff you won’t see in the big gift shops near the dock. Also walk 5 blocks up Mission or Mill to Creek Street. Great local shopping and great photo op of the creek and colorful shops. You can also take a tram up the hill to a local hotel, take some photos, grab lunch, and then take the easy walk down the hill (which ends at the north end of Creek Street). Fun port if you get away from the big shops along the dock. Ship arrived in port at 10:30 am, departed at 7:45 pm.
Day at sea
On the last day back to Vancouver – around 9:30 am you enter the inside passage where it becomes very narrow. Great opportunity to spend a couple of hours on deck looking for bald eagles, bears, whales, and porpoises. Again in the afternoon there is another narrow stretch of 2-3 hours where you can repeat the viewing. The captain will make announcements throughout the day as to when is best for viewing and when they see whales.
If you want fresh fish, grab a meal in one of the ports.
Flight Home – Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
If you are flying out of Vancouver back to the United States, you will go through US Customs & Immigration at Vancouver airport. It was an easy 20-30 minute process. However, you cannot check-in, and then go through customs until you are within 3 hours of your flight’s departure. To pass the time, the new terminal has a few places to hang out, including a very nice and quite large food court, a couple of sit down restaurants, stores, and a viewing deck area. Once you go through customs, you can’t leave. Once you go through customs there is a sit down restaurant, and four fast food options. The best news is that there is free Wi-Fi in the airport.
Do you have any tips to add? Let us know in the comments below.