Get Away With Fran

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.)


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.

October 30, 2009

Disney’s Dream cruise ship includes a roller coaster

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 5:31 am


“Awesome,” “Amazing,” “Yippee,” “Wow.” That’s me, hopefully, in 2011, after Disney debuts the first water roller coaster at sea on its Disney Dream, currently under construction in Germany.

The coaster, which will use basically the same technology as Master Blaster at Typhoon Lagoon,” is 2 1/2 football fields long and four decks high and will actually loop out over the ocean, so that the sea will be some 150 feet below. Talk about a rush. High-powered water jets will accelerate rides on the AquaDuck upward and forward at a surging speed of about 20 feet per second.

Cruise executives have joked for years that a roller coaster would some day appear on a cruise ship. But Disney is actually doing it on this 3,000-passenger ship. Because they’re Disney and they can.


And that’s just one of the innovations on a ship that will also feature innovative inside cabins with portholes showing a live video feed of the ocean – so you can see the waves even in the cheapest cabins on the ship.

Since the Disney Dream does not debut until January 26, 2011, there’s no pricing yet and you can’t book passage yet. But it has been disclosed the ship will offer cruises from Port Canaveral (near Orlando).

Stay tuned for more details.

October 29, 2009

Oasis arrives and Disney Dreams

Last night I dreamed about being on a cruise ship with the Pirates of the Caribbean (my favorite ride at Walt Disney World). No, I do not ordinarily dream about Disney (though I will confess to some dreaming about pirates, aye aye captain). But today I head to New York to hear what Disney Cruise Line has in store for its two new cruise ships, the first of which, the Disney Dream, is under construction at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, and due to debut in 2011.

Because we’re talking Disney, there are rumors of course – like that the ships will boast a huge amount of space both indoors and outdoors dedicated to kids. Whether that’s true and what will be in that space (grass? rides? pirates?) is top secret.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest by far cruise ship Oasis of the Seas was officially delivered to Royal Caribbean yesterday in Finland. That means the final payment of the $1.9 billion was made, and the ship is soon to head across the Atlantic for its official debut in Miami on Nov. 20. And yes, I plan to be in Miami too getting a first look.

The Oasis is bigger than a bread basket – in fact as big as an aircraft carrier – with 220,000 tons of space to explore along with the 5,400 other passengers.

I’m packing heels for New York and Disney. For Oasis, I think I’ll bring sneakers.

September 11, 2009

Disney does Alaska

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


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…)

August 31, 2009

Upgrade for Disney’s Castaway Cay

Filed under: Cruise,International — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 5:07 pm


Castaway Cay, the private Bahamas island that Disney Cruise Line ships visit, is so picture perfect, in my experience, that you expect to see a Mickey ear-shaped cloud in the clear blue sky (I’m sure if the Imagineers  could arrange for that they would). And what’s a good thing is soon to get better.

The 1,000-acre island’s white sand beach is being extended – meaning more room to play in the sand and build sand castles, and there will be the addition of cool new water play areas and big private cabanas.

The water areas include Pelican Plunge, a floating platform that will have two waterslides and water cannons. The 20 new private cabanas will be 325 square feet and come complete with front porch, dining table, loungers, refrigerator and even a shaded deck and shower area (so you don’t have to drag around any sand). Fluffy towels are included too. No word yet on (more…)

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