We just returned from our Disney Cruise Line Alaska sailing and had an incredible experience…for the most part. Not everything went quite according to plan or expectation, and we felt it might be worth touching upon some of the mistakes we made on our Alaska cruise.
This may seem like a ‘downer’ way to start coverage of our ultimate Disney Cruise Line bucket list itinerary, but we think it makes sense to begin here. Alaska cruise season just started, and we’ve already heard from several people via social media and the comments section here who are planning on doing the DCL Alaska itinerary this year. From a planning resource perspective, covering our gaffes first so others can learn from our missteps seems appropriate.
With that said, we had an incredible time on the cruise, and want to underscore that before boarding the complaint train. Also, for those who have asked, we do plan on doing a trip report for this cruise. However, our Norway Fjords Disney Cruise Line Report ended up being nearly 20,000 words with potentially useful information buried in odd spots, and I’m trying to avoid a repeat of that.
I’m well aware that not everyone is interested in reading our rambling anecdotes for those buried nuggets of useful info, so my goal is to write several stand-alone blog posts to supplement the DCL Alaska cruise report, which should also help keep it more concise and to the point. Hopefully.
Anyway, here are the 7 biggest blunders we made on our Alaska Disney Cruise Line adventure…
7. Too Small of a Budget
This might seem like an obvious one, as ostensibly, a larger budget is always a good thing. Many travelers think throwing more money at a trip is the easiest way to improve it, which is sometimes true. Generally speaking, we take the possibly contrarian stance that a tighter budget allows forces us to explore places, experience their true character, and see less-touristy things in the process.
That’s largely not the case in the ports on Disney Cruise Line’s Alaska itinerary. While these are charming and beautiful places with some incredible things to do, many of the highlights do not come cheaply. This was compounded by our experience that the walkable “downtown” areas of each port are incredibly touristy, and lacking in compelling cultural offerings. We did two pricey Port Adventures, but in hindsight, I wished we would’ve pulled the trigger on two more really expensive ones.
6. Not Getting a Verandah
In the past, I’ve been very adamant about verandahs being an unnecessary expense for us since we spend so much time outside the room. When it came to Alaska, I received plenty of pushback from commenters here and friends who had taken the cruise, many of whom highly recommended booking a verandah. We didn’t have a verandah on our Norwegian Fjords cruise and felt like we didn’t miss anything, so I ignored this advice.
We realized this was a mistake from pretty much the first night. With 2 days at sea plus 1 day going through an iceberg-filled fjord, we would’ve gotten plenty of use out of the verandah. Even on port days, it would’ve been great for whale watching. Instead, we ended up spending a lot of time up on the outdoor public decks. Much of that time it was windy, raining, or cold, and I would’ve rather been back in the room sitting down with a cup of coffee (this is the first of many remarks in this post that make me sound old). We stayed outside even in nasty weather because we felt a sense of obligation to be outside of the room since we spent so much money on the cruise.
5. Not Enough Nice Attire
We used to be stylish. We really did. Our fashion sensibilities have “evolved” from trim oxfords and slacks for me and colorful dresses for Sarah to a surplus of athleisure wear. The percentage of spandex in my clothing has increased by an alarming rate, and my level of excitement over “discovering” elastic-waist khaki shorts last year is probably cause for concern.
Along these lines, there were a few too many casual evenings aboard this cruise and innumerable occasions when we didn’t want any photos of us because of this. Now, I’m not suggesting that we should’ve donned runway couture or turned every evening into formal night, but some classier outfits would’ve been a good idea in hindsight. Plus, what better occasion to bust out my formidable collection of dope dad sweaters?! (I may not be stylish, but my Fair Isle game is pretty strong, if I do say so myself.)
4. Too Much Hiking
Over the course of our 3 days in port, we did 4 hikes. We love to hike so this was one of the reasons we wanted to go to Alaska in the first place, and we enjoyed each of these hikes. They were all unique from one another and very memorable hikes, but there were still a couple of big downsides.
First, these hikes came at the expense of other Port Adventures that we had to forgo (read: that we were too cheap to pay for) that I think would’ve been truly awesome–and better than hiking. Second, so much hiking left us exhausted. I think I stayed up past 10 p.m. only a few times over the course of the entire cruise. (In my defense, I was up by 6 a.m. every morning, but still.)
3. Not Renting a Wildlife Lens or Binoculars
I’ve gone hiking in the mountains of California, Montana, and Canada in wildlife-dense areas and have seen and photographed a ton of animals in the past. Because of that, it seemed like an unnecessary expense and extra weight to pack a wildlife lens. I figured I couldn’t do better than past bear and mountain goat photos I’ve captured and I figured the odds were stacked against good whale photos.
What I didn’t expect was so many seals on icebergs and bald eagles. Seriously, it’s like bald eagles are the pigeons of Alaska. They were everywhere. On the way to one Port Adventure, we saw two fields with–literally–hundreds of bald eagles just chilling on the ground. (It was a surreal sight and it almost looked like they were building an army to rise up against the humans.)
2. Insufficient Time in Vancouver
Far and away, Vancouver was the best port city of the cruise, but we only had 2 full days there. It’s rugged yet cosmopolitan, and has a surplus of excellent food, great culture, exceptional public spaces, and picturesque natural scenery. It’s also compact and walkable, with efficient public transportation to the extent that it isn’t walkable.
Even after our brief time in Vancouver, it jumps to the top of my list of the best Pacific Northwest cities, above Seattle, Portland, and Victoria. Two days was not nearly enough, and I’ve already made an Airfarewatchdog alert for cheap flights to do another long weekend in Vancouver.
1. Not Enough Ice Cream
Truly a perpetual mistake, as no matter how much ice cream you have, it is never enough. However, on this cruise, I did an especially pathetic job, only having three soft serve cones over the course of the entire cruise. How do I go on calling myself an ice cream aficionado after such a sad showing?!
It seemed like whenever I passed Eye Scream Treats, it was closed. Morning or night, it didn’t matter. I think it was just poor timing on my part, but perhaps, unbeknownst to me, there’s a soft serve shortage that is wreaking havoc upon the Pacific Northwest.
Okay, so that last one is a bit of a stretch, but I wanted to get this list to 7 and I couldn’t think of much else. We arguably went too early in the season, but no matter when you cruise to Alaska, there are compromises. On balance, I’m pretty happy with what we experienced versus what we missed (and also visiting during the relative ‘off-season’), so it’s tough to call that a mistake. In any case, I think for the next post, we’ll shift to highlights of our Alaska cruise, as that seems like the most natural counterpart to this, even if it does act as a “spoiler” to the trip report. Look for that post over the weekend!
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What’s your take on our mistakes? If you’ve cruised to or visited Alaska, what mistakes do you feel you made? Any questions for those taking or considering an Alaska cruise? Any future topics you’d like us to tackle? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!