Invited to cruise to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder, I was skeptical and a little frightened. I’ve long harbored a fear of ships and seaplanes, but, thanks to Alaska, I might end up on another cruise.
Disney Wonder is luxurious and offers plenty to do – for parents and kids alike. And the routine and comfort on the cruise made me feel safe to go out and have some new experiences. It makes a great “home base” for family adventure.
I signed up for four port adventures, one in every port on our seven-day cruise through southeastern Alaska. The first, and most terrifying for me, was the zip line/whale watching combo for ages 12 and up. I’m not inclined to venture out on the ocean in small boats, and I’ve never thought zip-lining was an advisable choice. But up we went, and once I was secure, all I could do was let go and enjoy the amazing view of Alaska from the air. Full of adrenaline, we set off on a two-hour whale-watching excursion. Despite being prone to seasickness, I enjoyed this far more than I could have imagined. The thing about Alaska is that you can’t help but be calm. The vastness of the space and the pure beauty renders one incapable of anxiety.
Each port offered another chance to experience Alaska. The seaplane ride in Juneau was majestic. I have only seen glaciers in nature documentaries or movies. The seaplane took us over four huge glaciers that seemed endless. I couldn’t even be worried about the plane or the turbulence because, once again, Alaska and adventurous excursions reminded me that I was just a small part of the universe. And what an amazing opportunity for kids to see firsthand this much-discussed part of the world’s ecosystem.
One of the most exciting experiences on this cruise is the bear-wildlife excursion in Ketchikan. The bears aren’t baited or fenced in. You get to see them in their natural habitat, walking and eating by the river. In our case, we got to see a baby bear climbing a tree! This particular excursion also offers a stop at the Raptor Center, which affords a close-up look at a bald eagle and amazing hawks.
This is by far the best part of the cruise to Alaska. Nature takes center stage, and the ship is secondary. I can’t think of a more practical way to see the state. Driving through Alaska might be fun for some, but with kids and limited time, it doesn’t seem practical. The cruise affords you luxury, the chance to see all that Alaska has to offer and the opportunity to teach your kids about the vastness and wonder of the Earth.
During your time on the ship, Disney cruises do an exceptional job keeping you busy. There are any number of activities, including first-run Disney movies, Bingo and Broadway-style productions to choose from. You can keep track of them all on the Disney Cruise Navigator app, which works on the ship’s Wi-Fi. Every day, you can plan your schedule and set reminders so you don’t miss anything.
The app also lets you see what other members in your party have signed up to do. The best news for families is that kids have a lot to do on the ship. The entire fifth deck is devoted to children. There is the It’s a Small World Nursery for children under 3, and another area for ages 3-12. One section for the younger set (ages 3-7) is called the Oceaneer’s Club. Connected via secret passageway is the Oceaneer’s Lab (ages 8-12), a huge space with a full-service science lab, video games, a craft area, an animation lab and, of course, a movie screen. There are activities and games scheduled throughout the day. Tweens (12-14) can hang out in Edge, while the teens-only section (ages 14-17) is called Vibe.
All the kids I spoke with aboard ship had zero inclination to find their parents. This is fortunate, as there are quite a few adults-only spaces. There is a large area on deck nine that includes a full-service salon and spa, a gym, pool, sauna, jacuzzi and coffee house. There is an adults-only portion of deck three called After-Hours, which includes the club Azure, the British pub Crown and Fin and a martini lounge. Other grownups and I played round after round of pub quizzes, bingo and karaoke and listened to music late into the night.
With exceptional activities on board and the chance to venture into the Alaskan wild, this cruise has something for everyone. It offers you and your family a chance to experience exciting new things within the safety and luxury of a trusted brand.