Alaska With Disney Cruise Line – Part 2: Ports

In July 2017 I cruised with Disney Cruise Line to Alaska. This will be part two of a two part series about this trip. In this blog I will cover everything we did in the ports we visited. Check out part one to find out everything we did onboard. 

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Itinerary:

We flew from Maryland to Vancouver where we stayed for three nights before boarding the Disney Wonder to embark on our 7-night cruise to Alaska. This was my first time visiting both Vancouver and Alaska. 

The cruise itinerary was:

Day 1 – Embark From Vancouver

Day 2 – At Sea

Day 3 – At Sea – Endicott Arm 

Day 4 – Skagway 

Day 5 – Juneau

Day 6 – Ketchikan 

Day 7 – At Sea

Day 8 – Disembark In Vancouver

Ports & Excursions / Port Adventures

On any cruise the ports along your itinerary are a major part of decided to take the cruise. For Alaska this is even more the case. I am going to describe each port one by one but first some over all cruise port info. 

The ship will have a scheduled time for when you can start disembarking the ship to head off to the port and a scheduled form time all aboard when you need to be back on the ship by. The amount of time in each port varies. 

Getting back to the ship on time is crucial. They are not likely to wait for you if you are running late on your own. Make sure to pay attention to the all aboard time before you disembark and allow yourself plenty to time to get back onboard from whatever you are doing. You do NOT want to be left behind and have to catch up with your ship which can be easier said than done.

Of course you can explore the destinations on your own, make your way to a museum or attraction you want to visit, or simply walk around the city and explore. 

Excursions / Port Adventures – You can also book an excursion for your time in port. These are typically guided tours, or experiences at your destination. This can be done through the cruise line or on your own.Many of the same experiences are available to book either way, sometimes with the same exact touring company. If you book on your own you typically will get a better deal as the cruise line is not getting a cut. However, if you book through the cruise line and something goes wrong that makes your tour late to get back onboard the ship the cruise ship will wait for you or make sure you are taken care of. If that happens on a tour you booked yourself you are out of luck. You also have the extra comfort of knowing that the cruise line has vetted this company and tour and deemed it legitimate and safe for its passengers. 

Excursion options typically include all of the highlights of that given port. You will find ones geared to families, adults, those who want to take it slow, or those who want to do something really physical, animal experiences or historical experiences, and so much more. 

Disney Exclusive Excursions – On some itineraries there are even excursions exclusive to DCL passengers and these sometimes include Disney characters joining you during your excursion. For example you can pan for gold in with Donald Duck.

There are so many excursions and possible things to do at each of these port so I am just going to cover what I did during my time there. 

Vancouver

The cruise started and ended in Vancouver. There were options to book port adventures on embarkation and debarkation day. We didn’t do that instead we arrived a few days early and had some time to explore Vancouver on our own. Here are some of the highlights.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – This is a very popular attraction and here you will find a large suspension bridge and a whole course of tree top walkways and bridges. The suspension bridge was a little nerve wracking but thrilling to walk across. The tree tops course was a lot of fun. The tress are so big and it feels a little magical to be up high in them walking around. I would recommend this for anyone who is not afraid of heights. They offered a shuttle from around downtown Vancouver so we were able to use that to get to the park which was about 30 minutes away. 

Gastown – A historic district of the city where you will find lots of shopping and dining with Victorian atmosphere. This is home to the famous Steam Clock a grandfather clock that stands on a street corner and is powered by steam. 

Granville Island – We hopped a water taxi over to Granville Island. This shopping and dining district had a more commercial feel than Gastown but was quite endearing. The large Public Market has lots of food offerings, and there were tons of stores to explore. Plus there were lots of restaurants to choose from with mean featuring sea food. 

Stanley Park – A fantastic place for a drive and even better for a bike ride which is what we did. The park is on a peninsula and you can bike the perimeter and get great views of the bay. Along the way you can stop and head into the forest full of huge trees or stop and see some totem polls. We did just that and it was a lot of fun. There were several options for bike rental in the area and our hotel actual offered the free use of bikes to it’s guests so we were able to bike right on over to the park as it was not too far away. The park also offers tours, horse drawn carriage rides, beaches, a small train, dining, and an aquarium. 

Vancouver Harbor –  Located right next to the Cruise Terminal, Canada Place the harbor is a great place for a nice walk with waterfront views. Don’t miss the Olympic Cauldron left from the 2010 Winter Games. The views here are great of both the city and the harbor. 

Skagway

Our first stop was in the tiny town of Skagway where the ship pulled right up to the dock and we could walk from the ship into the main part of the town in about 5 minutes which was great. Before our planned excursion we explore the main street of the town filled with shops with facades and the look of the old mining town it once was. This area was obviously designed for the cruise ship tourists and had coffee shops, some other food locations, jewelry stores, and lots of stores selling t-shirts, collectables, and souvenirs. We saw everything that interested us in about an hour and a half. 

Next up was our excursion, we received a paper with instructions in our room the night before telling us where to meet for our excursion which we booked through Disney.  We went back onboard and we met in the designated location on the ship for our excursion group. We were then walked off the ship to a very cute street car which was part one of our tour.

We did the White Pass Railroad & Skagway Street Car City Highlights (SW50) the street car drove us around the town and told us the history of Skagway as a gold rush town and what it is like to live there today as a community based around summer tourism. This took about a half hour after which we were deposited at the train station. At the train station we boarded a vintage rail car and set off on a 95-minute trip up the White Pass & Yukon Route an engineering wonder first built in the 1890’s this trip offers amazing views of the mountains and surrounding landscape. You can get a great view from your seat inside the cabin but we spent most of the visit on the exterior platform between cars. It does get colder the higher up you go so be sure to wear layers and bring some gloves and a warm hat. This train ride was a big highlight of the whole trip and I must have taken a thousand photos. It was a real view into the Alaskan wilderness. 

When the train arrived in Fraser, British Columbia, Canada we hopped off and got onto a minibus which drove us back to the station in town. On the way we got some more info about the area and made a few stops for photos. One of the stops was at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign which was a great photo-op. Back at the station we visited the gift shop and then walked back to the ship which took about 5 minutes. 

I would recommend this excursion highly, really any of the excursions that include the train ride as there were a few different ways you could ride the train. But if you have issues with heights this might not be for you. The train is basically on the side of the mountain. If you are doing a one way train ride make sure to ask when you board which side of the trail will have the views if you plan to sit for the majority of the ride. 

Juneau

In Juneau we were able to walk off the ship onto the doc but then had to grab a shuttle bus for a 10 minute drive into a transportation hub for the city. Juneau was by far the largest of the three and most resembled a small city to me. We did not have a port adventure booked for Juneau but had planned to visit the Mendenhall Glacier on our own. The shuttle had deposited us at a transportation hub and visitor center area where we are able to get a ticket for a shuttle bus to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Once we arrived after about a 20 minute ride we were right in the parking lot of the visitors center. From there we walked over to the short path that would take us to the glacier. The pathways here were paved and easy to navigate. You were able to get right up to the water to view the glacier. It was very cool to see a glacier so close. You could feel the cold radiating from it. There were park rangers around who could answer your questions. There was also a waterfall near the glacier. When we were done we turned around and went to the visitors center and explored some of the modest exhibits they had and a small gift shop. 

We then hopped back on the bus and went back into the center of Juneau we walked around and saw some shops and grabbed a very basic lunch and a tourist restaurant themed to the Alaskan wilderness, the Red Dog Saloon. Then we made our way back to the ship. 

I enjoyed seeing the glacier a lot and getting there on our own saved some money and was not difficult. If an excursion is not in the budget I would recommend visiting the glacier on your own. If I were to do it again I would look into one of the glacier excursions that got closer or more in depth with the glacier. 

Ketchikan

This was another port were we could just walk right off the ship and into the center of town. In size and scope Ketchikan was between Skagway and Juneau. Instead of mostly being an entire tourist town like Skagway, Ketchikan had a section that was themed to its historic roots, Creek Street, and featured a lot of shopping aimed at the cruise ship passengers. This area was fun to explore and provided us about an hours worth of fun after our excursion.

For our excursion in Ketchikan we did the Rainforest Sanctuary and Totem Park (KE11). We took a tour bus about a half hour to the Hoth Rainforest where our guide met us. We then took a slow and not very long walk through the rainforest with frequent stops for the guide to tell us about what we were seeing. The end of the walk is on a raised walkway in a large open space where you can see lots of bald eagles in their natural habitat. 

Then you enter the Rapture Center where you can see bald eagles and other birds of prey who are being rehabilitated. You were able to get pretty close to them here and that was really great. We also were able to walk through an old saw mill that is now used for totem carving where we saw two artists creating a totem poll. 

I enjoyed seeing all of the components of this tour but the walk through the rainforest I had hoped was going to be more of a hike not a stroll on a path with lots of stops. If you want a slowed paced peek at the rainforest then I think this would be a good pick for you. But I would not pick this tour again for me. I would go with one of the port adventures that went further into the rainforest or an alternative adventure. 

I enjoyed seeing all of the components of this tour but the walk through the rainforest I had hoped was going to be more of a hike not a stroll on a path with lots of stops. If you want a slowed paced peek at the rainforest then I think this would be a good pick for you. But I would not pick this tour again for me. I would go with one of the port adventures that went further into the rainforest or an alternative adventure. 

Weather & Packing For It

Weather in the summer in southern Alaska is really hit or miss. We had a relatively dry week with only one day where it rained a for much of the day. But you could just as easily get a week with a lot of rain. The temperatures were in the low 70’s during the sunniest days into the low 40s at night. But the only time I was outside at night was on the top deck and that means extra wind chill. Layers were key when packing and dressing. Bringing gloves and a warm hat around with you was a must. As was waterproof shoes and a rain jacket with a hood. If possible a higher end waterproof jacket is a great investment for this trip and life. I ended up with one from North Face. For shoes I recommend waterproof hiking boots and waterproof socks even if you don’t plan on really hiking.

Overall

My favorite of the three Alaskan ports was Skagway, the train experience was fantastic and the whole look of the town is what I imagined a small Alaskan town to be. 

Vancouver was a great port to have started at with a lot of options for things to do, you could take a trip to just Vancouver alone and have a great time. 

I liked booking Port Adventures through the cruise line because it did give me peace of mind that we would not miss the ship and that we were in good hands. However I did not find it challenging to be on our own in Jueanu. If I cruised Alaska again I would be comfortable going either way. 

Overall as a destination I really enjoyed Alaska. As a location it was something different the scenery is one of a kind and so different from other U.S. travel destinations. Cruising to Alaska was certainly the easiest way to see different parts of it. It also makes traveling with kids or a larger group much simpler.

The one downside was that we didn’t get a ton of time to explore further into Alaska. If I were to visit again as a second trip I would think about doing a land stay, likely with a tour company and possibly coupled with a one way cruise. Several cruise lines offer that type of itinerary as a land and sea package. 

My top suggestion is to really dive deep into what you want to do at each port and have a plan before your cruise. Make the most of the time you have in port and when booking an excursion make sure it is the one that will best fit what you want to do. 

Now that you know all about a cruise on the Disney Wonder to Alaska  it’s time to start planning your very own. Or any other adventure.

I am a travel agent and I would love to help you plan your cruise! 

All of my travel services are complimentary. 

If you would like to discuss your next adventure contact me at: katiev@themagicsyours.com 

Published by katiethemagicsyours

I am in independent travel agent with The Magic's Yours Travel. Here to plan all your Disney adventures, at no cost to you! I am a wife, cat mom, Aunt, Marylander, traveler, runner, and Disney fanatic. I have personal experience with Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Disney's Aulani, and I am here to share it with you. Contact me today for a FREE quote at katiev@themagicsyourstravel.com www.themagicsyours.com

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