Thinking about a Disney Cruise to Alaska? We just got back from an 8-day trip with the Disney Cruise team and I’m so excited to share secret insider tips for the best cruise ever with you!
There are currently 4 ships in the Disney Cruise fleet. Two are based in the Caribbean full-time (the Dream and the Fantasy) and have a capacity for up to 4,000 guests with around 1,500 crew members.
Disney Magic is based in Europe full-time, and was the first ship in the fleet. And the Disney Wonder travels from Alaska to Hawaii, California, Western Mexico, the Panama Canal and finally through the Caribbean to Florida on it’s path to dry-dock (where the ship is maintained and updated). The Magic and Wonder both have a capacity for up to 2,500 guests with about 1,000 crew members.
While the Dream and Fantasy are larger boats, with about 40% extra capacity, they also hold a lot more people, which changes the guest experience.
We have sailed on both the Dream and the Wonder, and we truly loved both ships. However, it is important to know what to expect and the differences between the ship before you sail. The difference to me in capacity is like Disneyland on a more empty day, and Disneyland on a more crowded day. Both are great, just different experiences. I also felt a more “rushed” feeling board the shorter 3-day voyage, as guests try to cram as many experiences as possible into their short trip in comparison to a more leisurely and relaxing 8-day sail on the Wonder.
Also, coming in a few years are three new boats, details will be announced soon!
Arrival and Boarding Tips
I highly recommend flying into Vancouver at least a day before your cruise. So many things can happen when we travel, and I could not imagine missing a cruise due to an unfortunate flight delay. If you flight is delayed, call Disney Cruiseline immediately and let them know. They will try to work with you. However, it is not guaranteed.
Vancouver is a gorgeous waterfront city with beautiful outdoor areas, great food, shopping and of course, a new country. This was actually my first time in Canada, and we absolutely loved Vancouver. We took advantage of the great weather and spent a lot of time outdoors, swimming, playing, walking by the waterfront and eating outside.
A few suggestions: visit the hanging bridges and Stanley Park, a huge park close to the city center.
Some of the hotels next to the dock area will transport your bags directly onboard the cruise for you. This is a HUGE ADVANTAGE and I highly recommend staying in a hotel that offers this feature.
We stayed at the Fairmont Vancouver Waterfront Hotel, right across from the dock. The hotel is absolutely lovely, and our room opened directly onto a terrance with a garden and close to the pool area.
The state rooms on the ships are all similar. They feature a bathroom broken into two separate rooms, a shower with a vanity and sink, and a toilet with a sink and vanity.
The rooms feature a large bed, a tv, couch and desk area. Some rooms feature an outdoor veranda where we spent a lot of time. If you can spring for an outdoor space, I highly recommend it. It’s such a nice private space to have onboard the ship.
The couch turns into a bunkbed for the kids, and there is a curtain that separate the “bedroom” area from the “kid’s room” area. I really appreciated the curtain as my kids wake up early, and love to play on their ipads and have a snack while my mom and I are still catching some zzz’s.
In the late afternoons, your stateroom attendant will turn the coach into the bunkbed, and after you leave for the morning, they turn it back into a couch for you. A little stateroom pixie dust!
The large bed is elevated so there is plenty of room underneath for your luggage. I highly suggest unpacking right away since the space in the room is limited, and will feel cramped with suitcases and people trying to move about. There is plenty of storage in the chests of drawers, in the desk area and closet. However, you may want to leave a few larger items like rain boots and rain jackets in your suitcase in the interest of space.
I prefer a stateroom on a higher floor for the views, and located in the middle of the ship, to minimize the amount of walking you will be doing. I like a room close to stairs and elevators, but not too close to them for obvious reasons.
How Not to Get Lost Onboard
After a few days, you will soon learn the easiest way to get to everything on the ship. But when you first arrive, it can be a bit confusing. So I learned an incredible secret that will really help you!
You can always tell where you are on the boat by looking at…the carpet! Yes, you heard that right, the carpet!
In the “aft” or read portion of the ship, there are shell designs.
In the middle of the boat there are flower designs.
And in the “forward” or front of the boat there are leaf designs.
Each elevator and stair area features a map to guide you to where you are going, and you can also use the Disney Cruiseline app.
Disney Cruise Navigator App
Before you leave, download the Disney Cruise Navigator App. Once onboard, you will be welcomed aboard and will find a list of your adventures, meals and activities. You can sign up for activities on the app, and get reminders before they begin.
You can message any guest on the boat, and your kids can message you that they want to be picked up from the kid’s club. All of these services are free, and do not require you to purchase a wifi package.
Usually, there is a special offer for some complimentary wifi. Just please know that this wifi goes VERY FAST! You will likely plow through it in a few hours.
So follow these settings to preserve your wifi: close all apps. Pause automatic backups like icloud, dropbox, and any other automatic backups.
Stop all automatic app update downloads and any app that “pushes” data like messages and emails. In your settings, change your text message setting so photos send as a small file.
Download anything you may need in advance, including an extra book! I read three books on our Alaskan Cruise, and had to download a new one n port one day. You may be surprised at how much time you have to read!
We did not leave the ship at Dawes Glacier, and we were treated to a gorgeous view of the fjord and ice. However, I spoke to many people who went on the early morning Glacier Explorer excursion and they all raved about it.
You leave the ship in a small boat, and are able to get up close to the glacier! Fro the ship, we could spot waterfalls and some wildlife, but this excursion gets to see them up close. I so wish we had done this excursion!
Book an early morning Glacier Discovery by Helicopter. Our trip left at 8:30 am, which means we returned in time to enjoy lunch on the boat and then walk through the cute town.
There is also a fun White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad trip that leaves in the early afternoon, so you can do two excursions in one day. This historic railroad brought goldminers to Skagway to get on boats before winter arrived in Alaska.
We lucked into a warm, sunny day in Skagway, so we were able to land on a higher part of the glacier. We hiked around for 30 minutes, saw water rushing down the glacier, gorgeous blue pools of water, and of course we had to taste the cold glacier water!
The views in the helicopter are to-die-for stunning. This was a highlight that everyone in my family enjoyed, even Grayson who was initially reluctant to go on a helicopter. Bring along a jacket, gloves and rain boots. They give you clamp-ons to wear on the glacier, and boots for my kids to wear.
The capital of Alaska is a gorgeous waterfront village in the middle of a green forest. It’s picturesque, but very quaint for a state capital.
We did the Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest and saw whales, bald eagles, seals, porpoises and more. It’s a beautiful way to spend the day, and again we lucked into really warm weather and sunshine.
Featuring colorful totem poles, Ketchikan is a tiny but adorable town. There we saw the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, and they have special shows just for Disney Cruiseline. The entire family loved this show!
I was chosen to throw axes in the show, and I landed one! It’s fun and funny, and very entertaining. The show features a covered area in case it rains, but I was told they mostly get light drizzle a lot of the time.
After the show, walk around and check out the totem poles. There is also a beautiful area built on a river that was formerly where ladies of the night worked. Fascinating right? I didn’t share that tidbit with my kids.
When your kids are entertained in the kid’s club, go and enjoy the spa. It’s truly incredible! For couples, or a relaxing girl’s day there is a luxurious treatment called the Couple’s Choice. This takes place in a private villa, with an outdoor veranda area.
You start with a foot scrub and massage. Next you have time to soak in a private outdoor jacuzzi. Then you are treated to a 75-minute treatment (get that Bamboo Massage!). After the treatment you go back to the veranda and enjoy tea and fruit skewers. If you time it correctly you can catch the sun setting over the water, it’s a true delight for all of your senses.
There’s usually a bonus if you book more than a few treatments on board, you get a discount or if you book your services on the first day of the cruise. I’m a planner, so I booked mine in advance.
The Wonder features a kid’s club with a two-story Toy Story play area, a frozen room, a Disney Junior room, a superhero / Avengers room and a large play area. This kid’s club is connected by a long tunnel to another kid’s club space that has a drawing room, a maker’s hall where you can build volcanos and more, an area where kid’s can steer the ship, play video games and play games on ipads.
Each kid club has different hours, and tons of daily activities like scavenger hunts, hula hoop contests, Princess and Superhero Meet and Greets and more.
Our family had the best trip ever aboard the Disney Wonder. For the cruise of a lifetime, book an Alaskan Cruise and you can join the Disney Cruise obsessed fan club like me. Just kidding, that’s not a real thing. But it should be!