Alaska Travel Guide
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10 Reasons Disney Offers the Best Alaska Cruise for Families

A Disney cruise is the best way for your family to see Alaska.

Combine the natural appeal of Alaska with the family-friendly attention of Disney and you get an Alaskan cruise that every family member, young and old, will treasure. The Disney Alaskan Cruise season runs from June through September, so now is the perfect time to start planning your trip for the 2020 season. In our opinion, it’s never too early (or too late) to make preparations for memories that will last a lifetime.

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PHOTO: Diana Zalucky/Disney Cruise Line
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Oh. My. God. The Scenery

It’s all about the views, and the scenery, on an Alaskan cruise. We’re talking whales, seals, dolphins, icebergs (lots of icebergs), seal-topped icebergs, big, huge glaciers, cloud-topped mountains, (occasional) bears, bald eagles, majestic pine forests, fast-flowing waterfalls… it’s all amazing and it’s all around you. And, it’s a priceless experience that you can share with your family. It’s all about the memories.

INSIDER TIPOn most cruises, you can get by without a verandah or balcony room, because you spend most of your time out and about on the ship and in port. But, since it’s all about views and scenery on an Alaskan cruise, splurge for the outside space. Sailings take place June through September when the weather can still be iffy (i.e. cold and rainy) in Alaska, and there’s nothing like sitting in the comfort of your room, ordering room service (warm cookies and milk, anyone?), and watching the pristine world of the Endicott Arm fjord float by.

 

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PHOTO: Alexis Kelly
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Do Every Excursion You Can

Sure you can walk around the towns of Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan by yourself, and maybe do a hike or two—Alaska is the perfect place to do this—but Disney offers some pretty incredible opportunities to experience the Alaskan outdoors like Glacier Dog Musher for a Day or the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour. Sure, they cost a pretty penny, but you’ll be thankful you booked them—this is a once in a lifetime trip after all. Our favorite (and one of the priciest) is the helicopter tour from Skagway to the Mead Glacier with Temsco Helicopter Tours. There is no way to thoroughly explain the euphoric feeling of flying over the mountains (if weather conditions are right) and landing on a glacier. Nor are there words to properly describe the feeling of walking on a glacier or watching your kids drinking glacier-cold glacier water from a rapidly flowing glacier stream. It’s as mind-blowing as it sounds.

INSIDER TIPIt’s best to plan your glacier adventure for your first port. This way, if the weather is bad and the helicopters are unable to fly, you have two other port stops to attempt to see a glacier. A backup plan is always a good thing in Alaska.

 

3 copy 2Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show with Goofy
PHOTO: Alexis Kelly
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Port Adventures With a Disney Twist

Speaking of excursions, if you or any member of your party are Disney fans, then the thrill of going on an excursion with a Disney character dressed in Alaskan gear will be the icing on the cake. Panning for gold with Donald at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail in Skagway? Seeing Goofy at the Disney-exclusive version of the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan? Both are experiences only on a Disney cruise. And, many of these excursions are suitable for any age or level of mobility.

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PHOTO: Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line
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Disney Characters in Alaska

One of the best parts of a Disney Cruise is the access to all things Disney, especially the Disney characters. Sure, you have to line up to get your picture with Mickey and Minnie, but with only about 2,000 people on board, the line is going to be significantly shorter (and you’re not standing in the hot California or Florida sun). There are numerous opportunities for meet-and-greets too, from pre-arranged times in the ship’s atrium to spontaneous encounters out and about the ship. And, the best part (if it can get even better) is that the characters are dressed in their Alaskan gear—Mickey decked out in fisherman’s gear, Minnie in a winter parka, and Goofy donning a plaid flannel to explore the wilderness.

INSIDER TIPSea Treasures on Deck 3 near Azure and the Crown & Fin Pub is the only shop on the ship that sells the Disney Alaska Cruise exclusive merchandise. You can get Alaska Cruise ornaments, blankets, clothing, and a stuffed Minnie and Mickey in their Alaska wear.

 

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PHOTO: Mahony/Shutterstock
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Food, Food, Food, Food

This is Disney after all, so you can expect food and lots of it. You can also expect exclusive food and beverage offerings that are location appropriate. Yes, that means Baked Alaska will be on the menu as well as Alaskan King Crab legs. Actually, you can expect a “Regional Inspiration” dish on the dinner menu every night, but the dishes aren’t often repeated so if you see something you like, order it. There are also cooking demonstrations that focus on preparing local dishes like roasted Alaskan King Salmon filet with crisp new potatoes or roasted venison loin with parsnip puree and morel mushrooms. But, one of the best treats is the hot drink carts strategically placed around the decks during prime viewing times and awaiting guests as they return after port days—a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate really takes the edge off…of the cold.

INSIDER TIPSpring for the commemorative Alaskan Mug (think Tervis Tumbler) that is offered at the hot beverage carts; it’s about $12 if you get the Mulled Wine. Not only can you refill it with tasty warm beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) at the carts for about half the price, but you can fill it at the free fountain soda machines for theater drinks. And, it makes a great souvenir.

 

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PHOTO: Kent Phillips/Disney Cruise Line
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Disney-Caliber Entertainment

Almost every cruise has evening entertainment, and a cruise to Alaska is no different. But how many people can say they saw an actual Disney Broadway show at sea? And, what could be more perfect than seeing Disney’s Frozen while floating among icebergs and glaciers? In fact, the  Disney Wonder has an entire day of “Frozen” fun for its guests. There’s a meet-and-greet with Anna, Elsa, and Olaf, and “Anna’s Chocolate Chase,” a ship-wide scavenger hunt with a special surprise at the end, and much more. The day ends with a fantastical deck show with Anna, Elsa, and friends. Spoiler alert: There’s snow.

INSIDER TIPIf you happen to be on board when a Disney or Marvel movie is premiering, there’s a good chance you’ll get a premiere on the ship as well. And, you also get to see many of the movies that have just come out. Not only did we get to see the premiere of Toy Story 4, but we also got to see Dumbo and Aladdin (the live-action movies), and Avenger’s Endgame.

 

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line
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Party With Pixar Pals

Speaking of Disney friends, the Disney Wonder is the only ship in the fleet that features the Pixar Pals Party. If your kid is (or you are) a big Pixar fan this is a HUGE deal as you don’t get to interact with Mike Wazowski (Monsters Inc), Remy (Ratatouille), Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (The Incredibles), OR Russell and Dug (Up) on any other boat. Let us repeat that…you don’t get to interact with Pixar characters on any other boat.

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PHOTO: Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line
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The Kids Club Is Kid-Tastic

Disney knows how to entertain kids—there’s just no way of getting around it—and, they entertain kids well. On the Disney Wonder, more than 15,000 square feet—almost an entire deck—is devoted to the entertainment and enjoyment of children. The main attractions are Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, which cater to children 3-12 years old; it seems odd to group such a wide range of ages together, but there’s plenty of space and age-specific activities to make everyone happy. The Oceaneer Club has the MARVEL Super Hero Academy, a Disney Junior space, and exclusive to the Wonder, the Frozen Adventures room—it looks like Oaken’s shop. The Oceaneer Lab is more focused on maker space type activities like cooking classes, science experiments, a craft studio, and The Wheelhouse, which has navigation simulators that help kids steer their very own Disney ship. Characters pop in throughout the day for dance parties and activities. There’s also a tween-focused space called Edge, and a space for teens called Vibe that’s open until 2 am. A nursery for kids under 3 is an extra fee.

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PHOTO: Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line
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Adult Time Is a Must

Disney knows how to entertain kids, but it also knows that adults need entertainment too, especially that that involves time away from those aforementioned kids. Luckily, there are ample opportunities for kid-free entertainment. Adults can start their day in the Cove Cafe for specialty coffee drinks (the space turns into a bar at night) and then lounge in the Quiet Cove area that has comfy chairs, a pool, two hot tubs, and the Senses Spa & Salon. In the evening, adults can retreat to the Crown & Fin Pub, the Cadillac Lounge, or Azure nightclub; the spaces are exclusive to the Wonder. Another adult-only treat is having dinner (or brunch) at PALO. The attention to detail and personalized service is a notch above the amazing service you get on the rest of the ship. And the silence will be most welcome—even though there’s an additional cost, make a reservation. You will thank us.

INSIDER TIPIf the adults in your party need a little extra pampering, consider getting a day pass (or a pass for the whole cruise) for the Rainforest Room at the Senses Spa & Salon; a day pass is $34.22 (18% gratuity included). The pass provides guests with endless aromatherapy showers, saunas, steam room, and heated stone loungers. It’s one of the best-kept secrets and well worth it for a day of zen.

 

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PHOTO: Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line
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The Disney Wonder Is Small

At just under 1,000 feet long, the Disney Wonder is one of Disney’s smaller ships, and one of the smaller ships from the big-name cruise lines. This means it can travel to places the bigger ships can’t like the beautiful Endicott Arm. Believe us when we say, Wow. The ship’s small size means it holds fewer people, about 1,300 guests less than on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, so there will be fewer people to contend with, meaning shorter lines to see characters, fewer people to wrestle seats for the evening shows, fewer people on the viewing decks, fewer people in the pool and on the water slide…you get the picture.