Today, we embark on our first Alaskan Disney Cruise. We are just underway and I cannot believe we waited this long to cruise to America’s last frontier. This is partially/mainly my fault. I’m the one who wanted to dump a previous Alaskan reservation for our 2015 Norway & Iceland cruise. I guess this worked out in the long run as we would have sailed the Wonder’s regular 7-night itinerary and now we are sailing on a 9-night Alaskan cruise with the extra nights to sail further north to Hubbard Glacier and Icy Strait Point.
Before we get into embarkation day, let me go back a day to our travel day from Orlando to Vancouver. We had two options, book a more direct flight with one stop from MCO to YVR, or save a ton and book a series of three flights. NO JOKE: Emily found a flight from Orlando to Vancouver with a quick stop in Charlotte and a longer stop in Phoenix for a fraction of the cost of a more direct route. The difference was jaw dropping; I’m talking enough to cover another cruise for the family. Sure, we left the house at 6AM and didn’t arrive to our hotel in Vancouver until after 8PM local time, but in the end worked out just fine. Our first layover was short, just enough time to stretch our legs in the terminal and walk over to our next flight which was beginning to board. That was too bad; Charlotte airport seems like a great place for a layover with all there terminals past the security checkpoint and lots of places to sit down and eat. Our layover in Phoenix was over 4 hours. This was a nice break in a long travel day & the perfect time to have an actual sit-down meal as opposed to just snacks. A friend told us about a taco place she ate at when they were stuck in PHX & Blancos Tacos + Tequila just happened to be near our gate. Her recommendation was spot on.
Great food – the only thing missing were the outlets and USB ports were limited to the bar area. The wifi was great in the airport allowing us to download some more Netflix and Amazon Prime videos for the next flight. The ‘real food’ perked Isabelle right up 🙂
Our third and final American Airlines flight of the day had onboard entertainment with quite a selection of titles including a category just for Disney movies. I opted to watch ‘Fury.’
Isabelle started to watch a movie, but succumbed to nap time. With the time changes and awake time climbing, we all seemed to get a second wind by the time we arrived in Vancouver.
On our way in, we flew over Mount Baker.
I’ve read some not so promising reports of long customs waits at YVR, but we must have hit the sweet spot on a Sunday night. From our gate to our hotel shuttle, it took about 20 minutes. The airline gave us the custom forms to complete, but that was unnecessary as the airport utilizes the kiosks that scan passports. We must have been one of the only international flight arriving at this time as there were no lines.
We booked the Best Western Abercorn Inn in Richmond, closer to the airport. It checked all the boxes – reasonable price, had a complementary airport shuttle, continental breakfast and provided a place to sleep. We were getting in late so it wasn’t worth the close to $500 for the Pan Pacific for a few hours when out the door the Abercorn Inn was less than $160 USD. It is important to note that this is no longer a Best Western resort; we received an email late last week that our reservation was still valid, but Abercorn Inn is now independent.
Although the late arrival, we were all up around 4AM. The continental breakfast had hot & cold items including coffee, juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, waffles, cereal, fruit, assorted breads and pastries. One cool thing about the Abercorn Inn is there is a Costco directly across the street, perfect for pre-cruise impulse bulk purchases.
At around 9:20am, we asked the front desk to call for a taxi to Canada Place.
After about $30 and about 25 minutes later, we arrived at the Port of Vancouver to rope drop check-in. At first, check-in seems convoluted, but that’s just because everything is spread apart. The first part of check-in is dropping off the luggage with the porters, then upstairs to check in with DCL and get our KTTW cards.
Then, it was off to US Customs. Although we received a fastpass to use the kiosks, my receipt was hit with the big X which meant….well, I am not really sure. The two adults behind us also received the X. We ended up just having to wait for a specific line to have my passport looked over. May just be a scanning/computer issue or just a random check mechanism. Either way, it only added a minute or two the overall customs process. Next on the list was the security line which was typical. They did direct us over to the alcohol table after seeing the wine bottles in our bag. Not sure if this is happening at all ports now, or just here in Vancouver, but they are scrutinizing each and every bottle of wine – she spent about a minute reading the details of one – I suspect because one of the bottles said that it was aged in Bourbon barrels. The two champagne bottles didn’t receive very much scrutiny. Interestingly enough, they had a stack of DCL Guest communications business cards on the table.
That was the end of the check-in process. Overall, not as smooth as Port Canaveral, but then again at PC you do not have the customs issues to deal with on embarkation day.
The nice part was that the spaces are large and can easily accommodate the crowds much better than other regional ports. Minnie started her meet and greet in the terminal waiting area.
We took advantage of this time to look over the Personal Navigator and log into the DCL Navigator app as the ship was right outside so DCL-Guest wifi network was available.
The boarding process began around 11:45. The terminal is in line with deck 4 but unlike some other regional ports, there is a ramp to take you from the terminal down to deck 3 for the atrium welcome. Now, it is starting to feel like a vacation and why not start with an embarkation day lunch. Tritons was offering a sit down lunch, but we opted for the lunch buffet up in Cabanas.
On the way in, we passed the beverage table with a nice selection of Alaskan beers.
We still had a good hour before the staterooms would be ready. We used this time to walk around the upper decks to take in the sights of Vancouver. This is really a photogenic port. During our walk, we spotted something special near Pinocchio’s Pizzeria and it was not pizza… There was Corneil from St. Lucia with a Moët & Chandon rolling bar complete with it’s own ice chest and mix-ins! For $14.50 (+ gratuity), you get a glass of champagne with your choice of mix-ins and you get to keep the plastic Moët glass!
We were told this was en embarkation only offering. The cart was relocated to Signals during the Sail Away party, and we later spotted it in the Promenade Lounge.
It was still open house time in the Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club. Isabelle was itching to get into the Super Hero Academy.
So far, there does not seem to be nearly as many kids on this sailing as we are accustomed to encountering based solely on the empty open house. After the Club, Isabelle and I walked around the Lab taking pictures of all things Mary Oceaneer.
Before leaving, Isabelle successfully maneuvered the Disney Wonder out her her berth at Castaway Cay on Captain level of the simulator.
By this time, the staterooms were ready and our luggage was waiting for us outside our stateroom. We unpacked and then chilled watching Captain America Civil War while I tried to sneak in a nap before heading to the muster drill. The Castaway Club stateroom gift bag was delivered while we were unpacking. From what I’ve heard, this bag is not CC level specific unlike previous years where there were variations on the bag color.
Today’s muster drill was probably one of the quickest ones we’ve ever experienced. I am not sure if this was a result of everyone getting to and checking into their muster stations in a timely manner, a truncated version of the speech, or a combination of bother. Either way, it didn’t seem to last nearly as long as past muster drills.
We all headed up to deck 10 to find a spot to watch the Sail-Away Party. If you are a regular reader of our trip logs, you may be wondering if something is wrong with us as we normally forego the upper decks for deck 4 or in some cases, our verandah. However, Vancouver is one of those embarkation ports where there is some beautiful scenery to enjoy as you leave port. It would have been a shame to miss out on the experience. The party kicked off with the cruise staff as a lead in to Mickey and the gang. There will be video… eventually…. just not until I get home.
As you will eventually see when you re-read this in 2023 when the video gets added, the timing was off starting with the horn offset by maybe a minute after the sail away countdown. Departure was a little after 5 o’clock, which we missed as we needed to head back to the stateroom to get changed for dinner.
Since this is a 9-night cruise, we will be getting a number of extra menus and our rotation is Tiana’s – Triton’s – Animators Palate x3. Tonight’s menu was Let the Magic Begin with regional inspirations. Em tried the Key Lime Margarita which is sometimes a drink of the day, but tonight it was full price. It was alright, but I’d pass next time.
We have some great table mates, but the jury is still out on our serving team. I hope this was just a first night sorta thing and I’ll leave it at that for now.
To cap off our first day on the ship, we did a walk around of the gift shops. There is a lot of the same from our February merchandise post, as well as some Alaska specific items (including some from last year that didn’t make with the rest to the outlets). I did spot a DCL cruise ship salt and pepper set that would make a great collectible item.
And that is a wrap on day 1, as we headed back to the stateroom and went to bed after watching the end of The Winter Soldier.