Prologue, Part I
The Last Frontier
“At work today, the office manager was asking us to fill out our New Year’s resolutions for a project she’s putting together, and I decided I wanted to travel someplace we’d never been before. I think we should go to Alaska.”
Tracy was filling me in on the latest happenings at CoolTech in early January when she pitched the idea. Alaska had always seemed like such a far off destination, and a trip seemed so difficult and expensive to plan. Tracy’s mom had gotten to go on a trip with her sisters several years ago, and they had returned with amazing pictures and stories. As we started thinking about making a trip real, though, we didn’t know where to start.
At first, we considered a land-based vacation, which we thought might be relatively inexpensive. I had enough miles saved up to get a round-trip ticket to Anchorage, so we’d only need to pay for one of us. We even started researching places to stay and found an Airbnb rental that seemed perfect. Still, we weren’t really sure what we wanted to do, and we didn’t want to pull the trigger so far in advance.
Months passed, and we didn’t get any closer to making the Alaska trip a reality. Tracy brought it up again, however, sometime in February or March, but this time she wondered if maybe we should take a cruise.
I sprang into action again—this time trying to learn as much as possible about the options for us to see Alaska by ship. I had never been on a cruise before, so it all was new to me. Tracy had gone on a Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas almost a decade ago, so she didn’t exactly have a vast store of knowledge to draw from either.
Of course, our first thought was a Disney Cruise. We’re Disney people through and through—after all, we’d moved to Orange County, CA, just so we could be within easy driving distance to Disneyland. The only problem was that Disney charges a major premium for its cruise line. Obviously, we knew we would get what we paid for, but we weren’t sure that an Alaskan cruise with Disney was in our budget.
We began pulling up information about other cruise companies, just so we’d know our options, but the more we saw video tours of the ships and read reviews, the more we realized that almost everything about those cruise lines felt so stale in comparison to everything we’d read, heard, and seen about DCL.
Suddenly, several weeks after we’d first started trolling the Disney Cruise website to see what sorts of fares were available, a new category started showing up for the 9-night sailing at the end of May. This cruise would be the first time the Disney Wonder would be adding Sitka to its list of ports, and the timing of the longer cruise must have made it a little more difficult to sell (it was still well before most schools would be out).
These “guaranteed” fares were more than a thousand dollars cheaper than the first regularly priced fare in each category, and the restrictions on them weren’t all that bad. You had to pay the entire balance in full right when you booked, and there were no cancellations or changes allowed at all.
At first, we looked at Oceanview staterooms, but the more we researched the Alaska sailings, the more it became clear that if we were ever going to shell out the extra money for a Verandah stateroom, THIS was the time we should do it. The day that we would spend sailing through Tracy Arm Fjord was supposed to be one of the highlights of the cruise, and it seemed like a private verandah was the perfect place to enjoy it.
The difference in price between Oceanview and Verandah was significant, but we figured out a way to offset the price. If we flew into Seattle instead of Vancouver and then took a bus up to Canada, we could still use my miles and get a roundtrip ticket for free. We weren’t exactly excited to spend five hours on a bus each way, but the savings on transportation were about $500, so I think we made the right call.
We worked with Jan, a travel agent at MouseFan Travel, to finalize all our choices, and at the beginning of March, we officially booked our cruise. We would be setting sail from May 24th thru June 2nd on a 9-night cruise, and our stateroom category was VGT (Verandah Guarantee). Now, it seemed, all we had to do was wait and start planning. What we didn’t realize, though, was that everything in our lives was about to change.
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