Archive for April, 2011

Alaska or Bust – We’re Home

Not home, home.  We’re at our home away from home – The Disney Wonder!  I don’t know when some of these changes were done, because it’s been a while since I’ve been in a stateroom on the Wonder (we stayed in a suite the last time), but we noticed some changes.  The curtains seem newer.  The bedskirt and duvets definitely are new.  They are the same duvets and pillow shams as on the Disney Dream (that I absolutely loved!).  The blankets for the bed are the same as the Disney Dream as well.  The room is as I remembered though, with a more spacious feel than on the Dream.

It was great getting onboard and feeling we were in a familiar place.  We knew right where the public restrooms were, approximately where our table would be located, how to get to the lifeboat station, etc.  It felt like we were home!

We did notice some modifications that were being done.  There are more windbreaks on deck 10, plus the corners which usually are open to allow air to flow in were closed off.  There is an area in front of the sports deck that is being closed in.  It is chilly on deck today so that will be much nicer for Alaska.

We talked to an officer about arrivals into some of the ports.  There will not be a helicopter flying overhead when we arrive in San Francisco tomorrow (around 6:30 am under the Golden Gate Bridge and out around 4:30 pm), but there will be helicopters in Alaska to take aerial shots of us.

We also heard that there are some modifications being done to the Fantasy in light of guest feedback.  We can’t wait to hear about the changes there.

Today we will have an option of character breakfast, wine tasting seminars, DVC member party, Castaway Club Party and the Golden Mickey’s are tonight.

Menus for the cruise are Rotational, Golden Mickey’s, Rotational, Rotational, Captain’s Gala, and ‘Til We Meet Again.  The rotations are weird.  Ours is AAPTAP.  I’m not sure why we aren’t going to each restaurant twice.  It doesn’t really matter too much as we are going to have Palo tonight, eat in San Francisco tomorrow night and do a wine pairing dinner on the last night.  We have wine makers from Iron Horse, Chappellet Valley, St Francis and Grgich Hills.  We don’t know which vintner will be doing our meal, but it will be great I’m sure!

We talked about the wine pairing dinners and the variety of wine tastings with someone from Disney Cruise Line in Celebration.  We told him we would love to see more cruises like this with wine maker dinners and tastings.  Those coupled with some tours up to Napa, Sonoma and areas in the southern part of California would be a great way to promote the Pacific Coast cruises next year.  It is so outstanding to see the coastline as we are sailing up to San Francisco.

As a result of our wine tasting with Chappellet, we decided to add them to our touring plans for tomorrow!  We tried some great red wines and a couple whites that were very good as well.

Tonight we will be having Palo for dinner, checking out a bit of the NFL draft and likely going to bed before the Royal Wedding.  After all, we need to be up early to see us go under the Golden Gate Bridge!!

Alaska or Bust, Hurry Up and Wait

We got up early and got the rest of our stuff packed and ready to go.  At a few minutes after 8 am, Bell Services got our luggage to take it to the ship.  Now everything was packed but our carry ons and we still have four hours until we get on the bus.  Now what?

We watched a bit of TV, double checked the documents, double checked the carry ons and only 30 minutes went by.  The waiting is the hardest part!  We got a bite to eat and now we sit.

We were informed by the DCL representatives here that these were the most people they have taken to the port so far this year.  We will have three buses just from the Grand Californian!

Friends who already arrived at the port reported problems with the check in.  They software system DCL has was not working with the computers in the terminal.  We were at a different terminal because the Golden Princess was in port today too.  Once we arrived, check in was pretty quick for the Platinum and concierge guests.

Once onboard we were continually running into people we knew from previous sailings.  This will be a fun cruise.  It got very warm up on deck while we waited to sailaway.  We left port about an hour later than originally planned.

Because this sailing is going up the Pacific Coast, Disney arranged a number of special wine events onboard.  Tomorrow there will be two wine tastings offered by different wine makers.  On the next day at sea there will be two more.  There will also be some other special events, but more on that later.

The shops were packed this evening and we didn’t see the special t-shirts, but can get a special pin tomorrow.  We also have character breakfast tomorrow morning.

Coming back to the Disney Wonder after having sailed on the Disney Dream only two months ago was different than I expected.  Maybe it’s seeing so many friends onboard, but I feel at home!

While the Dream is an incredibly beautiful ship, I feel happy here and glad we’ll be here for two weeks.  We noticed some changes to the stateroom, which I don’t remember from last time.

Once we passed the breakwater around the Port of Los Angeles, the wind was quite cool.  Going up on deck after dinner again was very cool.  While I was very warm just before sailing away, I was glad I brought quite a few warmer clothes with me.

Alaska or Bust, Happy Birthday Bill!

Success at last!  Woke up briefly at 4:00 am this morning but forced myself to go back to sleep.  Woke up at 6:40 am for good!  Great, except it’s early hours today!  Oh well, we’re on vacation, no reason to worry about it.

I started this morning by wishing Bill a happy birthday and said we can celebrate with a cruise tomorrow!  Today will be a great day!  The temperature is supposed to get even better today so sunscreen is a must.  A few red noses this morning.  We’re hoping to see Deb Wills of AllEars this morning when we go to get our tickets again.

Meeting up with the AllEars group, we saw some folks that we haven’t seen in many years, since the first Panama Canal cruise for Disney Cruise Lines.  We met some new folks too that were going to be sailing with us in the next week.

We finally got in to Disneyland and rode a few rides and had lunch.  I just love Big Thunder Ranch for their family style meal with BBQ chicken and ribs.  That was as good as I remembered it from last year.  After lunch we made our way back to the resort, stopping in California Adventure for a tortilla.  Shoot!  It’s corn today!  Oh well, all the more reason to come back again soon.  We did some laundry and took a break in the pool again.  Got a little color for my usual pale skin.

We now need to get mostly packed up for tomorrow.  Our luggage will be picked up around 8:00 am but we won’t be picked up until noon.  Since it’s Bill’s birthday, we will be meeting with friends to go out to dinner tonight.  Going over to GardenWalk for Fire + Ice.  It sounds great!

We made one last stop over to California Adventure for a ride on California Screamin’ and Toy Story Mania!  After that we stopped in the Blue Sky area to see what the building in Sunshine Plaza will be.  It is a trolley station.  We then left the park and went over to Fire + Ice.  This was a fun restaurant with an American take on a Mongolian Grill.  The food was great and we had a wonderful time.  The chef and server came to our table near the end of the meal and made Bill get up so that the whole restaurant could sing “Happy Birthday” to him.  He took it in stride, but didn’t bother to share his birthday treat!

We made it back to the room before 10 pm, and finished up most of the packing for the morning.   Next stop … The Disney Wonder!!!

Alaska Or Bust, Damn You Jet Lag!

It’s 3:30 am and I wake up.  Not for a quick bathroom break and back to sleep.  Though I tried, I just laid there awake.  30 minutes go by, again just tossing and turning, wide awake.  My mind starts to wonder.  Did a new discount for WDW come out today?  The sensation I had when sitting at the desk last night, was that an earthquake, even if it was small? What will the weather be like today?  What are we going to do today?  Ok, forget it, I’m up.  Luckily Bill doesn’t care if I start up my computer and catch up on emails, etc.   It’s gonna be a long day!

I know people will think I’m crazy, but one ride I just must go on today or tomorrow is the Storybook Canal boat ride.  I just love that!  I also love all the rides that Walt Disney World does not have like Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, Indiana Jones, California Screamin’.  The Matterhorn is ok, but the first three trips to Disneyland it was down for refurb so it hasn’t earned a place in my heart.

We started out the day getting our tickets and then getting our Fastpasses for World of Color.  We were in California Adventure for the rope drop and made our way to Toy Story Mania! first.  Very short wait first thing in the morning.  Then we went over to California Screamin’.  We all love that roller coaster, but I can usually only do it once or twice.  We then went over to get a tortilla at the Mission exhibit.  Unfortunately, the machines were not working.  Bummer!  That’s one of my highlights usually!  I love the flour tortillas.  We’ll check back later.

After this is when I started becoming disenchanted with California Adventure.  I love this park, but there is so much construction going on, it is difficult to see much.  Half of Paradise Pier is closed.  The entrance to where Cars Land will be is blocked off (so most of where the Bugs area with the gardens and shops).  More than half of Sunshine Plaza is closed and areas on the back side of Grizzly River Run.  A section where the trolley is in Hollywood is still blocked off (this was blocked last year when we were there) and the entire entrance to the park is blocked.

We ended up in a shop in Hollywood the spotted a menu item at Award Weiners to have an early lunch.  Funny, two of us ordered the Portobello Cheese Steak sandwich which clearly was vegetarian on the menu but the two cast members pointed out that it was a totally vegetarian dish.  Must have been a few complains about that!

We then left California Adventure and went over to Disneyland.  Too long of a wait at Indiana Jones so we went to Haunted Mansion.  Too long of a wait at Pirates and Big Thunder Mountain so we went on the Storybook Canal boats!!  Then off to Toontown where the wait for Roger Rabbit’s was also too long.  The early awake time now was getting to me so we took the train to Tomorrowland then the monorail to Downtown Disney.  Back at the resort, we ran into friends checking in then hit the hot tub!  It was great to be outside in swimwear when just last week this time it was snowing, sleeting, raining and hailing!

We didn’t make it back to the parks anymore.  Ran into some friends and joined them at the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney.  We then moved over to Napa Rose for a bottle of wine.  Finally, we ended the night in their room watching World of Color from the side.  I’m sure the show is even more spectacular from the park, but this was amazing.  We went to bed by 10 pm.  Early entry tomorrow, but who knows if we’ll make it!

Alaska or Bust, Part One

Once I got over the stress of “what do I pack”, everything got easy.  I thought I woudl start packing our things into suitcases mid-week and was amazed how quickly it went.  In no time we were ready to go.  We’d have to wait until Sunday however.

By Friday, nearly everything was set.  The house was clean, mail held, talked to the neighbors about handling a few things for us while we were gone.  All work was organized for me to be out for this lengthy vacation.  Saturday came and we decided to go shop for a new coat for me.  I would have been fine, but Bill insisted that I needed something different.  This proved to be a challenge at the end of April, but after four hours, we had a new jacket, oil change for the car and all my fish extender gifts.  I was able to mow the lawn in the afternoon too.  We loaded the car with all the checked luggage and went to bed.

The alarm was set for 4:15 am, but we were up before that and too excited to sleep any longer.  The drive to the airport was quiet as it was still early on Easter Sunday.  In no time we were at the airport ready to go.  We half-way expected the airport and flights to be less crowded because it was Easter, but our flight was full.  Our friends picked us up at the airport, but then we planned to just take it easy the rest of the day as we knew Disneyland would be busy.

We were sharing a two bedroom villa at the Grand Californian with some friends.  We relaxed a bit and then went over to the Hearthstone Lounge to meet two other old friends and two new friends.  We shared a bottle of Magicale.  For those who like Rosa Regale, this is made with the same grape in the same style.  We then went Downtown and found out where all the people were.  We had dinner at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.  Just loved the crab and corn chowder!  On the way back to the resort we saw security and a police dog.  One officer was searching a backpack while the other officer was direction traffic away from the location.  My first official “suspicious package” siting!

Our goal today is to stay up until at least 9:00 pm.  After all, we got up at 2:00 am Pacific time and we’re exhausted!  Time to hit the hay and get ready for a fun filled day at Disneyland tomorrow!

Summer Disney Passholder Discounts Out

From June 3 to August 13, 2011, Disney annual passholders can now enjoy discounts up to 35%!

  • Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resort Hotels save 35%
  • Select Disney Deluxe Resort Hotels save 30%*
  • Select Disney Moderate Resort Hotels save 20%
  • Select Disney Value Resort Hotels save 20%

The Animal Kingdom Resort and Polynesian are excluded and the Wilderness Lodge is excluded from June 3 to June 14, 2011.  Rooms available are limited.  Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.  Suites and three bedroom units are excluded.  Book through August 13, 2011 with code QT9.

Stressing About Packing

I’ve mentioned before that this trip we are about to take is going to be much different than any other, especially in terms of packing.  I’ve reverted to my old habit of checking the weather where we are going multiple times a day.  I don’t understand how the forecast can be so different from morning to night and then go back to what it was in the morning the next day.  I guess I can’t really rely on the weatherman, right?

The latest predictions are for sunny skies and a high of 68 when we arrive in Anaheim for the precruise stay.  The next three days though are supposed to be in the mid to upper 70s.  Ok, I better pack at least one pair of shorts and a pair of capris.  The lows will be in the mid to upper 50s so I’ll need a windbreaker, at least.  I won’t need a parka though like I do at home this morning.  It is a balmy 27 degrees outside.  Yes, that is Fahrenheit and it is the end of April.  This is so wrong.  It’s not likely my tulips and daffodils will be blooming before we leave since they are covered in snow at the moment.  We’ll be lucky if we see them at all this year.

Back to the weather…  We arrive in San Francisco on April 29 to temperatures of 63 for a high and 53 for a low (subject to change this afternoon if weather.com has their way).  We are going to Napa Valley for the day with highs expected in the low 70s.  I guess I’ll need a light jacket or sweater to go between the two areas.  It will probably be cooler in the morning anyway.  We will stay overnight in San Francisco on the ship.  I can’t wait to see the city light up at night.  We’ve never been to San Francisco so I know it will be a treat.  On Saturday, we have most of the day to explore the city (with help from a friend!) and it will be in the low 60s.  At home when we have daytime highs in the Spring like this, I would be wearing pants or shorts and a short-sleeved shirt so I imagine it will be like that out there.  Or will it?  I should have been monitoring the wind conditions too!  If it’s 60 and windy, skip the shorts!

We leave San Francisco in the afternoon and sail up towards Victoria, British Columbia.  I am looking forward to seeing the Pacific Coast go by.  I’ve only seen parts of the coast when traveling, or riding Soarin’ so this will be a highlight for me.  We arrive in Victoria on May 2.  Here’s where the problems start.  Weather.com only has the forecast through April 30!  Now what do I do?  I start looking at the trends the week leading up to April 30.  It should be pretty consistent, right?  The “trend” I’m seeing are low 50s in both Victoria and Vancouver at the end of April.

Here’s where I hope the trends will change.  When we first booked the cruise to Alaska, people said it was very rainy up there.  Then they said that May is not a very rainy month.  What do the trends show?  Rain, showers, more rain, every day.  Maybe that’s because of the April showers?  Maybe May will be drier.  Ok, I packed my Mickey ponchos, just in case.  What’s just as disturbing as the rain are the high temperatures.  High 40s and low 50s!  The lows are to be in the upper 30s and lower 40s!  What was I thinking!  I hate the cold!  (I know, why do I live in Wisconsin then?).

It’s just simply too far out to worry about Seattle now, where we’ll be for a couple nights after the cruise.  I’m hoping for a heatwave when we get there!  Oh wait, I won’t have enough shorts!

I’m happy to say, I have charged all the camera batteries, downloaded any “forgotten” photos and packed my camera bag.  That’s about all that is ready to go.  My spare bedroom is littered with stacks of clothes, formals, shoes, fish extenders and gifts, luggage, you name it.  Anything we may need to pack.  What is disturbing is the lack of items that are actually in the luggage.  And there’s still a few things that haven’t been washed yet.  Why?  Because it’s too cold to pack them since we are still wearing them!  The weatherman is forecasting a little warmer today with thunderstorms tomorrow.  It’ll be nice on Saturday and Sunday, when I have no choice but to get packing and leave.

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