Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Alaskan Cruise Adventure

If you click on the collages, you'll be able to see them bigger and better.


Our Alaskan Disney Cruise began with a 15-hour drive to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada which we broke into two days. Gracie did extremely well other than giving Andrew a hard time and only had one major meltdown the entire trip.

After driving 12 hours the first day, we arrived in Redmond, Washington where my great-aunt Angela and her husband Dick live. Their beautiful house is shown far right center below. We spent that next day touring Seattle.

A three hour drive the next day took us to Vancouver and to our cruise ship, the
Disney Wonder. We enjoyed an incredible and unforgettable vacation on ship and in every port it landed, all thanks to

Gracie was a little stunned when we set her on Belle's lap within the first hour of boarding the ship. Throughout the week she warmed up to the idea and by the end was dragging us after characters saying, "Picture." Her favorite by far was Minnie Mouse.

My Dad was pulled up by the Disney entertainers at the opening celebration to do the YMCA with three other dads. He made us so proud! Our family took part in the Disney car derby and I achieved my lifelong goal of assisting a magician on stage.

We were wowed every night by incredible performances like Toy Story the Musical.
was one of the most awe-inspiring moments I've ever had in nature. It's a location in Alaska where you can't land, but everyone comes out on the decks and verandahs of the ship to be amazed. I knew we were headed towards a glacier and that that would mean icebergs. I really tried to remember that the cruise industry has been going to Alaska for decades and hasn't sunk a ship. But several other people that day mentioned how the ice made them a little uneasy. It started out with an iceberg or two scattered here or there and I really thought that the captain was dodging them. Until I saw an entire sea of icebergs ahead of us and realized we were going to plow through them. I was really thankful to see the Carnival cruise ship coming back our direction (top left) having already been where we were headed. We saw sea otters sitting on the icebergs and eagles nesting in the trees as we slowly cruised through the area and ended up at Stanley Glacier.


Did I say that Tracy Arm was where I had the most awe-inspiring experience I had ever had with nature? Now I'm stuck between that and our whale watching adventure, and I'm not going to choose between the two. After leaving the cruise ship at the port in Juneau, we boarded a motor boat with 10 or 12 other people and headed off into the massive ocean. I was going to consider my experience worthwhile if I saw a whale tail or two, but an hour and a half or so later, we had probably seen whales and orca (I learned there's a difference) surface 30 or 40 times. It was amazing. We also saw and heard them shoot water out of their spouts.

Our captain and crew member said we had come out on one of the best days either one of them could remember.

The other ports we stopped in were in Skagway and Ketchikan. We learned about their histories and shopped in their shops like I try to do in most places I visit. But the landscape again was like nothing I had ever seen.


Do you ever meet people that you know you're going to have a hard time saying goodbye to? I knew within a couple of encounters that that was going to be the case with our dinner servers, Jorge (from Portugal) and Nandos (from Indonesia). Cruises are known for their hospitality and charismatic dinner servers from all over the world, so I was pretty sure I was going to like them. But these two men had found a place in our hearts way before it was time to go home. They made us feel like taking care of us was their genuine pleasure. They went the extra mile in everything they did, from bringing us both desserts when we couldn't decide between two (which didn't cost us any extra :), pouring Gracie's ketchup into a Mickey Mouse shape, cutting her food, and when she would fall asleep when we were still eating at 9:30 at night, they would make a bed out of chairs and tuck her in with a table cloth. They entertained us with magic tricks and shared pictures and stories of their families with us. Yes they were paid for their work, but they did it with an intensity and a goodness that inspired me and made me want to do any job I'm given in the future with much more energy and enthusiasm. This went on for six nights. When the seventh and last night came and it was time to say goodbye, our family had made a decision that made it a little easier for me. Along with some souvenirs from Alaska, we presented our two servers each with a Book of Mormon. We wrote to them in a letter how as a family we felt they had given us so much that we wanted to leave something precious to us behind. And if either one of them are able to benefit from reading it, the lasting happiness and peace the Book of Mormon has brought to me would be the greatest gift I could share with them.

Take a look at the bottom center picture where Nandos is laughing... hard. He was in charge of our drinks and got used to bringing us water and juice and soda. On one of the last evenings, he came to take my mom's order and she said, "I think I'm gonna be a little crazy tonight."
"Okay. I make you a Shirley Temple?" Nandos asked, thinking finally someone at our table might drink.
"No, a chocolate milk."
He laughed so hard, long enough that we were able to get out the camera. It was hysterical.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gracie's Favorite Movie

Scroll down and hit pause on our blog soundtrack to the right for a more pleasant listening experience.

This movie plays at our house at least once a day. I don't mind because I love it, too. She will sit still and watch until the singing begins, and then she gets up to dance. I am convinced it's her Latino blood. It's not just that she wants to dance, she must dance.

Aunt Chelsea bought Gracie a Rapunzel doll
she calls anything related to Tangled "Papize"

Gracie's full sentences now include, "I love you," "I'm coming," and "They just can't get my nose right." :)