Icebergs, Glaciers and Sippy Cups: Our 10 day Vancouver and Alaska Trip
I love traveling with our kids. It's not always easy and I have to stay very organized to make it go smoothly, but it's a passion of mine. Seeing new places with them by our side is such a great way to spend our time together as a family.
We just got home from an incredible trip to Vancouver and Alaska and I'm sharing the highlights of our trip with you. We traveled on the Disney Wonder, and I swear, 2/3 of our cruise ship knew "baby Sheppie" by name. He'd toddle over to particularly smiley people with outstretched arms like, "Okayyy, you can hold me". And some of them did, eek! Just one big Disney Family.
From our three days in Vancouver trying Dim Sum and exploring the Kids' Market, to the endless fun we had exploring the ship, watching shows, playing cards, and dancing with the kids, it was everything we could have hoped for in a vacation. My favorite part about traveling with Disney is that it feels like a real vacation for the parents. Knowing your kids are happy and safe at the kids' club or nursery, you have the opportunity to balance the trip between family time and couple time. A win-win.
We have a passion for good food and since becoming parents seven years ago, we've encouraged our kids to dine along with us (even if they're dining on butter noodles). The restaurants listed may not all seem kid friendly, but we find most places to be open to families.
Here's how we spent our days and nights, our fave hotels and excursion recommendations.
Itinerary and tips
We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel which is centrally located in downtown Vancouver. It's also connected to an amazing grocery store called Urban Fare that reminded me of a mix between Whole Foods and Ralph's. It's so important to me to be near a market to get milk and snacks for the kids.
We ordered room service our first night and let the kids stretch out at relax.
Day 2: Dim Sum!
Vancouver is known for their Dim Sum so we wanted to give it a try! We went to a restaurant called Dinasty on Robson Street that was so popular there was a line out the door. They had a huge menu with tons of vegetarian options and everyone in our family was able to find something to eat. We then walked to the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley park, which is a must-see with kids. The aquarium is the perfect size for little ones -- large enough to spend an hour or two, but not overwhelming. We then walked back to our hotel to rest a bit and nap the baby and walked to dinner at the most adorable, delicious Italian restaurant. Cin Cin has a beautiful balcony and great food -- I highly recommend it.
Day 3: Granville Island!
We brunched at the restaurant Market by Jean-Georges. It is a place to see and be seen (the pic with the step and repeat banner below), but unfortunately, we didn't love the food. We had already had a little breakfast in the room and there were no lunch options. I'd check the menu before you commit!
After brunch, we took a car to Granville Island, which is the cutest menagerie of stores, restaurants and a children's market that I wish I could recreate in LA. The Children's Market has an arcade, a play place, a ton of toy and candy stores, and a little cafe, all encapsulated in one refurbished building with Jack and the Bean Stalk sprawling from floor-to-ceiling.
Dinner was at Edible Canada and we felt like we were dining with the locals. They had something for everyone and a beautiful outdoor patio.
Day 4: Our First Day on the Cruise!
We boarded the ship, unpacked and explored. Dinner our first night brought back memories of our first two cruises (Fantasy, Carribbean and Magic, Northern Europe). The menu is very similar, but there are so many options (for the vegetarians and carnivores alike!), that we enjoyed every bite.
We were in Animator's the first night and they play movies for the kids, which is amazing. The service was impeccable and the lead and assistant servers learn what you and your family like and are so accommodating.
We went to the show and then split up to take Baby Shep to bed.
Day 5: Day at Sea!
The kids went to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and became Knights and Mermaids! We had lunch, saw characters, relaxed and dined. All of our favorite things.
Day 6: Glaciers and Icebergs!
Our first excursion wasn't a port, which we were a little confused about. We had booked a boat ride to get up close and personal with a glacier and we loved it...for thirty minutes or so. The Captain chooses between Tracy Arm and Fjord's Terror -- whichever route is safest that day. Then you board a medium sized boat to get close to the glacier. It was beautiful. But the excursion was so, so long. After three hours, we couldn't wait to get back on the ship.
That night we had the most brilliant idea. Our older kids love to dine with us. We sit and talk forever; the grown ups have wine and we are usually the last ones to the leave the dining room. But Baby Shep can't quite hang the way our other two always could. We walk him, we feed him, we walk him some more. So we walked him on up to the nursery to play. At first, he thought it was amazing. Lotsa nannies, lotsa toys. He was all about it. As the nights went on, he realized quickly that walking into the nursery meant mommy and daddy were going to leave and so he cried. But a few minutes after we left, he was happy and we got to go enjoy our dinner!
Day 7: Skagway!
After joking that our "three-hour tour" was going to end up all Gilligan's Island, we decided not to go on the five-hour train ride we had booked through Disney excursions. We were limited in what we could do excursion wise with our kids being on the young side, and at the time, a train ride seemed like a great idea. But five hours, having to bring a lunch and sit on wooden benches didn't sound like how we wanted to spend our day, so we forfeited our tickets and ventured out on our own. And are we ever glad we did! We took the kids to a former brothel and had the time of our lives. It was part entertainment, part relic and part amazing food. If you make it to Skagway, have the giant nacho plate at The Red Onion and just walk around the adorable little cowboy downtown.
Day 8: Juneau. Alaskan Sled Dog Puppies!
This was for sure a highlight: we got to hold puppies! Alaskan sled dogs are their own breed entirely. They're wiry and wiley and STRONG. We were shocked that the musher needed a brake on the cart just to slow the dogs down. Not only that, but these skinny dogs eat 1,500 calories per day and can withstand temperatures up to -60 F before needing outerwear. It was amazing to experience and a trip that the baby was old enough to enjoy and participate in along with our older kids.
We had lunch at The Red Dog Saloon -- they took great care of us and the number of stuffed bears climbing the walls of that place is a sight to see.
Day 9: Ketchikan
Ketchican is a beautiful port -- I thought it was more interesting than Juneau and less commercial. We looked on Yelp for a well-reviewed restaurant and landed on The Waterfront Restaurant. It's American-Asian food and a bit of a shlep from the port. The food was delicious, and the warmth we felt from the owner was beautiful and so worth-the-walk.
Day 10: Our last day at sea!
Ooh, we had so much fun on our last day. I told the kids they could go down the Aquaduck Waterslide as many times as they wanted. So they did. And I froze watching them (see the lifeguards in snow suits below), but it was perfect. We watched a bit of the movie "Frozen" from the hot tub, had lunch at Cabanas, the buffet (which is great for breakfast and just okay for lunch) and had an emotional good bye with the waiter and assistant waiter. You really become close after a week and they made a profound impression on us with their kindness and worldliness.
Day 11: Travel day!
A trip with three children under the age of six can't go off without at least a little hitch. The morning we disembarked the boat to head home, we had to have all of the kids and ourselves fed, dressed, packed, and off the ship by 8:30 am. We left the boat, made it to customs, and realized we were short a passport. Once you disembark, you're not permitted to return to the boat, so they sent someone to search our room. They didn't find it.
So we opened up our suitcases and tore through the clothes, searching pockets to no avail. They later sent someone else back onto the boat to look for us because time was ticking and we were close to missing our flight. They found it. Apparently, Baby Sheppie had been playing with them the night before and he threw one under the bed. We made it to the airport with six minutes before the closed the flight. We hadn't had time to get the baby a nap in the stroller like we'd planned and I had no snacks for the kids since we'd just left the boat and had no time at the airport. For the first time in seven years of parenting, we had two kids crying on the plane. It was stressful. But with a little luck and a nice lady with gummy bears behind us, we got the baby to nap, the four-year-old to watch a movie, and we make it home safe and sound.
I'd do it all again in a heartbeat (even the part where we almost ended up on the Canadian Consulates doorstep) to experience this once in a lifetime trip with my little family.
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