D23 Expo Trip Report July 2017

D23 Expo Trip Report

The D23 Expo this year was amazing! There was a lot of new stuff announced for the Disney theme parks which can be found in our D23 Expo post.

While some of us attended the D23 Expo, other Park Savers were at the parks. It may have been one of the slowest days we've seen at the parks in a long time. Because the D23 Expo only happens every other year, a lot of people book in advance for hotel rooms. All of Anaheim was booked up for the Expo well in advance. What we're getting at is that all the Anaheim hotel rooms were booked up for people attending the Expo; and they all went during the day. This left he parks empty until the evening time. It was amazing!

Most ride lines were 10 minutes or less. Space Mountain was 15 minutes! During the day time! This is unheard of! While Expo attendees were waiting in hours long lines people at the parks were enjoying the shortest lines of the year! It was a great time to visit the parks!

During out visit the Disneyland Railroad was being ran and tested. It's going to be amazing when it opens! Because they took down the wall by Critter Country's Hungry Bear Restaurant, you can see far enough back to see the new trestle bridge. Hurray! 

The Mark Twain and Sailing Ship Columbia were open and running at this time. Same with Tom Sawyer Island. They'll all open for your enjoyment.

They've also reopened the pass between Frontierland and Fantasyland so you don't have to walk all the way around the castle to connect. We were very excited about this! It also shows where one of the entrances to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will be. Woot!

Fantasmic! also debut secretly on Rivers of America with soft showings for several nights. Only one night was crazy and that was because they announced at the D23 Expo that Fantasmic! was playing that night. It's got ridiculously crowded that night and it was a fantastic show! Fantasmic! is now playing each week. Be sure to check your times guide for days and times.

Overall this was a great trip. A little hot but with the crowds gone at the Expo during the day it was really nice! We'll definitely be back in 2 years to enjoy it once more!

June 2017 Alaskan Cruise

This is our first trip report! Woot! We've found that sharing our stories and experiences from trips past can be very helpful for those planning a similar trip. Learn do's and don't's, money saving tips, tricks, etc.

Anywho, Park Savers just went on an Alaskan Cruise on the Disney Wonder ship and had a fantastic time! Out of all the Disney itineraries to cruise this one is by far the most scenic in North America. Alaska truly is the final frontier! From bears and whales to fjords and glaciers. You can see it all!

Our first day was in Vancouver BC where the Disney Wonder was docked. The terminal is called Canada Place or Canada 150. It's home to several ships for porting and refueling etc between trips. Summer is a busy time for cruise ships in Vancouver as it's the only time they can get up to through the fjords without running into ice trouble and very cold weather.

We flew into Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and took a taxi from their straight to Canada Place. It was about $36 CAN which is roughly $27 USD. Uber and LYFT don't operate here and the taxi price was much cheaper than the bus transfer that Disney offered through the cruise booking.

You can pay with a credit card and be sure the driver hands you the payment terminal to process everything (saying okay to the amount and leaving a tip). Sometimes the driver does everything on their own to purposely skip the tip option for you so that you pay cash...and if you're tipping in USD you may tip much more than you were thinking. A $5 bill equals $6.60 CAN. You can pay in cash as well. We didn't exchange any monies because most places accept cards. We had no problems.

Once we got to Canada Place Cruise Terminal we got out of the cab who drops you off right where the terminal staff are picking up your luggage. We received luggage tags with our cruise documents but never used them because we carried on all our luggage onto the ship. We did this because we arrived during the open boarding period of the ship meaning, we arrived later and so we didn't have to wait in line or wait for our boarding number to be called. 

We would suggest if you arrive early enough, before you can board, to use the luggage tags and have them take your luggage for you. This will save you from having to carry it around with you. Keep in mind though that once you give your luggage to the cruise terminal staff you won't have access to it until they deliver it to your room. This is typically a few hours after you've boarded the boat.

The whole process of boarding the boat here was interesting just because of customs. We went through customs at the airport to enter Canada but then we went through US customs at the cruise terminal because the ship was going to a US state...whatever. It all worked out. The Disney Cruise Line Staff is very helpful and someone is there every step of the way to guide you to where you need to go next. The whole process maybe took 30 or so minutes.

Once we got on the ship we headed right for our room and dropped off all of our luggage. We were greeted by our room host who introduced himself and told us to let him know if we needed anything. During our trip we became good friends with our stateroom host who gave us a lot of cool tips for ports and the ship.

After dropping off the stuff we headed to Cabanas, the only food place open. It was a buffet (Cabanas always is) and had lots to offer! They have inside and outside seating.

After eating we just explored the ship and got our bearing of where everything was. There are two things we always do during this time between boarding and dinner:

1. Head to Sense Spa on the ship and enter the raffle. They give aways some great stuff including $50-$100 spa credit. They typically give about 4-5 prizes away in total. We're glad we went because we won a $50 credit!! It was awesome.

2. Shutters also does a raffle for free photos taken on the ship. Put in your raffle ticket early and then show up to the raffle later that night.

We had first dining at 5:45pm and headed to Tiana's Place then. We had a shared table with another family who we got to know really well over the course of the next 7 days. Great people! 

Our serving staff was amazing as they usually are. On Disney Cruise Line your serving staff follows you to every restaurant every night. This means you have the same staff every night. It's awesome! They get to know your likes and dislikes. 

After eating dinner we headed to the welcome party at the Walt Disney Theater to get introduced to our cruise director and get a taste of things to come. We would highly recommend attending these.

Our 2nd day was at sea so we just browsed the decks enjoying the lovely scenery including islands of trees and some sea life. 

Day 3 was when we made it to Endicott Glacier. Our itinerary said we were going to Tracy Arm but there was too much ice up there to navigate through so we went to Endicott instead. The experience is one-of-a-kind and the scenery breathtaking. An ice wall several miles long glistening blue to the sound of cracking ice. Seals and their pups laying out on broken ice pieces floating on the ocean. Pictures will never do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself.

Deck 10 and 9 are the best places to see the glacier although once you arrive the captain will do a slow 360 with the boat so you can see it from anywhere. Deck 10 Forward will get really crowded the closer you get. We enjoyed it from mid ship deck 10 and our balcony in private.

Day 4 we ported in Skagway Alaska for our first port adventures. We didn't book any beforehand via Disney Cruise Line. This was completely preference and we'll tell you why. In Skagway one of the most popular things to do outside of shopping is taking the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad from there to Fraser BC in Canada. It's incredible! The fare through Disney and another company was $335 (2 adults and 1 2-year old). When we got off the ship that morning we went to a tour booth on the dock called M & M Tours, they charged us $250 for the same port adventure. Pretty good savings. 

We will say this. Some port adventures sell-out so it is a good idea to book them in advance. Mostly we would suggest booking directly with the source or another 3rd party. Disney typically charges more than anyone else does. Just our 2 cents.

In Skagway there is one shop that is a must-visit: Sugar Mama's. Easily the best cupcake in the world. Bakes fresh and made fresh upon order (topping it with their delicious cream cheese frosting and sprinkles). They offer many different flavors including fresh grown rhubarb.

Our 5th day we ported in Juneau Alaska and did a port adventure to Mendenhall Glacier. If you can, hike to nugget falls. It's as close as you can get to the glacier on land and the falls are incredible! Be sure to stop by visitors center too. They have telescopes looking at the glacier as well as fresh chunks of ice from the glacier for you to touch (some lucky forest service employee gets to fish them out of the lake everyday...).

After the glacier we did the Mount Roberts Tramway which is right off the docks by the cruise ship and up the mountain. Amazing view of Juneau from up there. Plus they have lots of cool things to look at and a nice warm visitors center. You can also eat at a restaurant there and see a Bald Eagle! Tons to do!

In Juneau, just down from the tram, it a little booth called Crepe Escape. Just pick anything on the board and you'll be in heaven. They serve both sweet and savory crepes. So good!

Our 6th day we ported in Ketchikan Alaska. This was our favorite port of them all. It's just a nice quaint fishing town, not too small, not too big. We had really great weather here too which I think helped. We didn't do any port adventures here. We just walked the town and enjoyed the weather. 

We did find a nice little place to eat called Burger Queen. It's a local favorite and away from the cruise crowds. Freshly made burgers and fries. You can't beat it. We saw several of our cruise staff there so we knew it was a good place. They always know the ports super well..best places to eat etc. Service is awesome and food was even better. 

That night was our last night at Animator's Palate for dinner. They do a really cool show where you a figure on some paper and then they animate them for a show later on. Check out our video from the cruise.

Our 7th day was at sea and we were pretty lazy...ate. Watched some movies (the cruise ships always have the latest movies on-board, even if they are still in theater) including Cars 3, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. In fact, Cars 3 premiered on our boat before it hit theaters. Disney always does cool stuff like that!

Day 8 was our depart day. We said our goodbyes to the cruise staff and friends. Getting off the boat sucks because it's really early (7:30am for express). We did stay at a hotel called the Pan Pacific which is right next to the cruise terminal. In fact, they have an elevator in the cruise terminal to the lobby of the hotel. It was SUPER convenient and a great hotel in downtown Vancouver. Be sure to check out Gringo's (a taco shop in an alley a few blocks from the cruise terminal) and Bella Gelateria, an award winning gelato shop. When we say award winning we don't just mean a local favorite. We mean, Best Gelato in North America award. Several times over. Try the Toasted Pecan with maple syrup.......heaven!

This trip was so much fun and is highly recommended by us! Below we put together a packing list of things we would suggest bringing. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or even your own trip report please let us know. We would love to share it!

Packing List:

  • Layers of clothes from plain shirts to warm winter coats and everything in between. Alaska is completely unpredictable when it comes to weather. It rains quite a bit up there!
  • Binoculars. DON'T FORGET THESE! They are a must have!
  • Bring a camera. Cell phone cameras are okay but a lot of the time you'll be taking photos of things that are far away. A camera with really good zoom is perfect.
  • Bring cash, whether it's USD or CAN or both. Just have cash on hand for tips and other small things.
  • Bring anything Frozen that you can because you'll have a Freezing the Night Away party on desk one of the evenings.
  • Twice you'll have formal nights where you're supposed to dress up nice and have your dinner and pictures.

Tips:

  • Before booking your room on the ship, be sure to look at a map. Never book a room that is directly next to or above a theater or similar venue. IT WILL BE LOUD. Always give yourself a one floor buffer if you can.
  • The shops on the ship close when you're at port so if you need something from them get it before you dock otherwise you'll have to wait.
  • The adults only section on the ship is almost always empty. Go enjoy the spa's in peace!
  • Depending on which chefs you have in the kitchen in the evenings, they can cook you an authentic meal from their county. They do this outside of the menu by special request. We had a chef cook us chicken tikka masala as he was from India. They brought rice and naan bread too! It was really cool! Ask your server the day before you want them to cook your something like that.
  • The ship does offer a Character Dining Breakfast...and it's free. We know. this blows your mind but you heard right. The Character Breakfast is free. All you have to do is sign-up for it at guest service once you're on-board. They offer one everyday with different times available in the morning.
  • On the formal nights you're supposed to dress up nice for dinner and pictures. Honestly, pack as nice as you want. If you don't want to dress up at all that fine too! We saw people in suits, dinner jackets, and dresses to tank tops and shorts. Dress how you want!
  • The pictures that they take of you on-board can be purchased. They are very expensive. About $50 per day or $350 for their most basic package.
  • You can choose to pay your gratuities beforehand. On your second to last day they will deliver envelopes and tear-out sheets with your tips amounts on them. You'll be able to hand them to your servers and stateroom host on your last day or in the morning.
  • Soda is free on-board. No package purchase required.
  • At the Promenade Lounge as your server to make you a lava smoothie. You'll thank us later.
  • Any kids that still wears diapers cannot swim in the pools, even with a swim diaper. This may be the most ridiculous thing ever...especially since every day some kid who is "potty trained" has an accident in the pool. So what do they do? Kick everyone out and drain the entire thing and then fill it back up again. Yes we're complaining.