Get Away With Fran

June 27, 2011

Sea and Glaciers

Filed under: Cruise,Travel Advice,U.S. — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:30 pm

After departing Vancouver, the Disney Wonder spent a day at sea. We were pretty lazy. We played a lot of shuffleboard, and we all won at least once (great thing about shuffleboard; little athletic skill required).

Sasha went swimming in the heated family pool. She says it wasn’t cold, even though outdoor temps were low 60s.

We got dressed up for dinner – formal night, though most people went with cocktail attire and some did not even go that far.

Disney Cruise Line has a unique rotation dining system where you eat in a different restaurant each night but with the same waiters. It’s especially clever. Kids don’t get bored by similar menus and ambience and get to know the waiters. We ate in the lively Parrot Cay the first night and the fancier Tritons the second. Sasha did not want to sit through a full multicourse meal the first night, but by the second our Serbian waiter, who performed magic and made Origami from the children’s, was not only a familiar face but a pal.

After dinner we went as a family to see the Golden Mickeys show in the main theater. It features clips from Disney animated movies and dancers and singers performing some numbers too. We all enjoyed it.

My brother and I dropped Sasha off after at The Edge, the ‘tween hangout, so we could check out some of the entertainment for adults-only. Seems other passengers had the same idea. The comedy show, featuring three whacky brothers, was so crowded in the disco they had overflow to the Diversions bar where you could watch on video screens. The physical comedy got lost in translation on the screens, so we headed instead to the ship’s movie theater to see the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. It was sold out too, no seats available. We wandered the ship a bit – passing a folk guitarist and singer, but then picked up Sasha and headed back to the cabin.

Next day, appeared to be another day at sea, but appearances can be deceiving. We spent about five hours in and around Tracy Arm Fjord, where we saw humpback whales close enough to spot even without binoculars, bald eagles, seals, a bear (through binoculars), snow-capped mountains reflected in clear water, blue icebergs (and white ones too) and then the amazing sight of Sawyer Glacier, a massive lake of moving ice heading ever so slowly towards the sea. And yes, we saw calving and even from a distance the sight of ice falling off a glacier into the sea is magnificent.

The temperature fell below 50, but the heated pools still called Sasha, who spent time swimming with a pal.

Dinner in Animator’s Palette, where animation appears throughout the meal, had Sasha smiling throughout the meal. Her smiles continued at the show where a really fun magician sure knew how to appeal to the family crowd, and the three brothers performed their unusual brand of song, dance and sound effects to many giggles.

June 22, 2011

Disney Cruise and Biking Vancouver

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:01 pm

(This week Getaway will be written with the help of 11-year-old Sasha, Fran’s niece. We’re heading off on a Disney cruise to Alaska.)

Before getting on the Disney Wonder in Vancouver, we headed along the Vancouver waterfront when we came across a bike rental place and decided why not? So off we went past Coal Harbour with its houseboats and views of snow-capped mountains to Stanley Park, a huge park right outside of downtown Vancouver.

We didn’t realize we were in for a 5 ½-mile ride around the island when we started on the park’s bike trail, but it was relatively flat and really worth doing. Sasha says it wasn’t that hard. We passed beaches packed with people enjoying a nice, sunny day with temps around 70. We passed steep cliffs. We saw birds including cranes and seagulls and, Sasha says, a different variety of nature. Loved the mountain views, especially.

It was after noon when we got to the ship. I’ve been on the Wonder before and was curious what Sasha would think. First thing she seemed to enjoy was the number of kids, including a friendly 4-year-old she chatted with while we were checking in. We headed up to the buffet for lunch, and we both found plenty of choices we liked – funny, our common pick was salmon, which we both found yummy.

Sasha was excited to see the pool. The Edge, the ‘tween club was less exciting at first, with not many kids around, but she later hung out there a bit. The club has all sorts of computer games, Wii, X-box, PlayStations and other attractions.

Sailaway was pure Disney, with a big crowd whooping up on deck especially when characters made appearances.

The waiters were really nice at dinner in Parrot Cay, though Sasha says they came on strong (though she later warmed up so much to one waiter she was giving him hugs). She was thrilled to sleep on a bed that comes down from the ceiling as a third berth in our cabin. The cabin has a balcony and the Disney Cruise feature of 1 ½ baths. With Sasha’s father joining us too, we were surprised that there was enough storage space for all our stuff (we all three brought big suitcases to Alaska).

Sasha had a late night swim in one of the heated pools before bedtime.

June 21, 2011

Cruising Alaska with Disney

Filed under: Cruise,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 8:54 am

(This week Getaway will be written with the help of 11-year-old Sasha, Fran’s niece. We’re heading off on a Disney cruise to Alaska.)

photo-3

Yesterday we (me, niece Sasha and my brother Ben) got up before 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Chicago and on to Vancouver. The cool thing is, given the time difference (Vancouver is three hours behind the East Coast), we still got here before 11 a.m.

We spent a little more time at the airport than we had had intended, since our luggage had stayed in Chicago. It was later delivered to our hotel, so no worries. But this is one reason why flying in a day ahead of a cruise is a good thing — a safeguard against delays, lost luggage, etc.

With our free time in Vancouver, we grabbed good dim sum from a food truck conveniently parked outside the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, which itself is conveniently right at the pier where we will embark on the Disney Wonder today.

Also nearly is Gastown, where we headed next. This historic area is today full of shops, restaurants and the like (it’s a tourist haven), but there are also reminders of the past when loggers and trappers hung out here including cobblestones, gaslights and a steam-powered clock. And some of the shops are wonderful. Hill’s is a must for its Native American art including totem polls. Those into design should walk into the John Fluevog shoe store (65 Water St.), not only to admire the handcrafted shoes but the “building,” which is a glass-enclosed former parking. The display tables are made of reclaimed tree trunks with Alaska pipeline as the base.

Next stop Chinatown, but those walking with kids should be forewarned that the tourist signs direct you on a route past an area that seems to be a hangout for drug users — a passing needle exchange van gave us a good clue.

Still, make a bee-line for the Dr.Sun Yat-Sen Gardens (578 Carrall St.), the first Chinese garden outside China when it opened 25 years ago, and a wonderful spot with a lily pond, koi fish, hand-carved Chinese architecture taking into account Yin and Yang, bamboo and an overall peaceful ambience. Sasha particularly liked the resident box turtles, though a docent said the park has no idea where they came from, just that they arrived one day.

Dinner was Southern-style BBQ at Peckinpah (2 Water St.) in Gastown, only because that looked good to us all when we passed by. Ribs and mac and cheese hit the spot.

Back near the hotel, we walked over to the Olympic Flame from the 2010 Winter Olympics. A local family passing by happened to have a torch from the games their Special Olympian son had carried, and they let us hold it. Sasha says that was amazing.

Given the time difference, we were surprised we all managed to stay awake until 9 p.m., when it was still light outside since we’re pretty far north.

February 26, 2010

Dog gone fun in Anchorage

Filed under: U.S. — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 7:42 pm

Blog1

“Bark, bark. Bark bark bark.” You could hear the dogs from blocks away, an odd sound in a city of nearly 300,000. But then again this is Anchorage, and it’s nearly March, and that means time for the dogs to come out to play – especially if they are sled dogs.

For the 75th year, Anchorage is putting on Fur Rendezvous, also known affectionately as Fur Rondy, a nine-day festival, including races with dogs and mushers, which kicked off today.

Blog2

Fur Rondy was originally envisioned back in 1935 as a way to add a little spice in a city of about 3,000 people, in a place where winters are long. Dog races were part of the entertainment.

To imagine the races today you have to imagine that despite a couple of 20-story skyscrapers and offerings like a Nordstrom’s and Starbucks, Anchorage still manages to feel a lot like a small, one-horse town – it’s just that there many “horses” on several downtown streets.

Some of those streets were purposely left unplowed in a snowfall yesterday (though not as much snow as in New York) and are being given (more…)

September 11, 2009

Disney does Alaska

Filed under: Travel Advice,U.S. — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 10:49 am

Mickey

It’s official, Disney Cruise Line will be heading to Alaska for the first time in 2011, cruising in the 49th state for four months with the Disney Wonder. The weeklong itinerary from Vancouver will hit the hot spots (well, hot in Southeast Alaska) of  Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway.

No word yet on whether or not Disney has snagged a coveted permit to visit Glacier Bay – but I bet they’re sure trying. Most of said permits are in the possession of market leaders Princess and Holland America.

No word either what shore excursion experiences Disney has up its sleeve, but I can’t wait to hear about them. Maybe a little gold panning? Goofy in a miner outfit? Chip and Dale doing a little salmon fishing?

The ship will also be stopping by LA for a series of Mexican Riviera cruises before and after (more…)

Powered by WordPress