Sunday, July 24, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Catching Harry Potter in Ketchikan

Date of Visit: July 17, 2011

Mik didn't plan on getting off in Ketchikan, but when Mom and I got off and discovered the movie theater was not too far I went back and made him get off the ship. He had been wanting to see the new Harry Potter movie and was glad to get a chance to see it in Ketchikan instead of having to wait a week to see it.

The movie theater in Ketchikan was right in the downtown area within walking distance of the dock. It is a small town theater, but they just got 3D that weekend, so we got to see the new Harry Potter in 3D. It was not a 3D necessary movie, but it was cool to see a 3D movie the first weekend it came to Ketchikan.

The theater is the older ramp aisle style. The only spot for a wheelchair, though was in the back off to the side. Thus you get an odd angled view of the screen, since the theater is also wider than typical modern ones. However, it was still good enough to enjoy the movie.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Captain's Gala at Parrot Cay

Date of Visit: July 17, 2011

For the appetizer Mik enjoyed the Garlic and Herb Suateed Shrimp. He enjoyed it, although three shrimp was a little too small of a serving in his opinion. I had the Wild Mushroom Sop, which was really good.

For dinner Mik had the Seafood Salad. He liked it, although mainly for the seafood and not the lettuce. I had the Blue Cheese and Asparagus Risotto, which was delicious, although too filling to for me to eat more than half.

Mik was excited for the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake dessert, which was delicious in his opinion. I thought about getting it, but was glad I went for the Captain's Sweet Temptations instead because they really are cake like and not brownie style like Dominos Pizza has. The Sweet Temptations included Amaretto Cheesecake, Banana Creme Brûlée, and Coconut Macaroon. I especially enjoyed the Banana Creme Brûlée.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Pirate's Life for Me in Studio Sea

Date of Visit: July 16, 2011

Mik and I enjoyed the Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer? game show, so thought the Pirate's Life for Me game show would also be a fun evening activity. Instead it was a much younger geared game show that was excessively noisy.

Different kids were chosen to participate in the game shown including extras chosen during the mini games. However, since the kids club only about half came from the family audience. The games are chosen by spinning a wheel, so maybe they vary from show to show.

The first game they did was called Swab the Decks. In this game kids from each team pushed a bucket around with a mop in it.

The second part was the best because everyone could easily participate. It was called Guess the Pirate. The tv screens would show a picture of a pirate and the team would run up to tell the First Mate and then the Captain would ring the bell to guess.

The final game involved throwing coins into the bucket being held by the First Mate. Everyone could participate in this, but trying to get in line and then back around with Mik in his wheelchair was too much of an effort with the close tables and everyone crowded around for the game.

Overall we were very disappointed with a Pirate's Life for Me. It is more interactive than the other ones, but it was extremely noisy with them continuously having everyone chant and yell. Also, it was active interactive and we had more fun with the quiz game shows we did not get picked in because at least we could whisper guesses to each other.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Juneau

Date of Visit: July 16, 2011

Our 2nd port of call on our Alaska Disney Cruise was Juneau. We didn't have any plans to do anything other than wander around town, so Mik opted to stay on the ship. We were going to scout out a place to later take him off and do a family photo in Juneau, but it ended up being a great choice for him to skip Juneau entirely.

Juneau is not horrible accessibility wise, but it certainly was the worst of the ports and it is partially because of Mik's hatred for buses. There is on dock right by the edge of downtown, but the other docks are at least a mile bus ride away and ours was the closest of them. They did offer a free shuttle including ones that had lifts, so not a real issue beyond Mik hating bus rides in his chair and not worth the fight with him to just go take a photo.

You can also walk into town on the sidewalk, but note that it is a very hilly area and you deal enough with inclines just going a few blocks around town. Hence, another reason why it wasn't worth trying to convince Mik to get off in Juneau.

Not saying Juneau is not worth it, as Mom and I really enjoyed riding the tram part way up the mountain (it is kind of pricey, though). The tram is accessible except the trails up on the mountain are pretty rugged. However, expect Juneau to be a more intense city to explore with there being not much of interest near the dock and tram other than shops and having to deal with hills and several blocks to get to even the closest attraction besides the tram. Certainly still was very doable for us to do with Mik other than his attitude towards buses and him not being interested in any of the things to do.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Show Dinner at Animator's Palette

Date of Visit: July 16, 2011

The Show Dinner at the Animator's Palatte is the best dinner on the cruise. You can enjoy the restaurant in black and white during other theme nights you end up in Animator's Palette, but it is the Show Dinner that is the ultimate.

When dinner starts the room is black and white, but as you dine different themed music plays and the related movie scenes around the room are illuminated in color. The scenes change on the ones that are screens.

Around dessert time, the servers all go in the back and turn there vests around to the color pattern. They then all come out with Sorcerer Mickey and parade around the dining room.

Mik enjoyed the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup. He especially liked the bacon bits in it. I enjoyed the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup.

For the main course Mik had the Lemon-Thyme Marinated Chicken Breast, which he liked. I had the Stir Fry Veggies, which were kind of bland. The fried noodles were particularly annoying because they were all stuck together. Would be better with regular noodles or rice.

Mik had the Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake, which he thought was really good, for dessert. I had the Animator's Sweet Temptations, which included Strawberry Sable, Cranberry and Orange Cheesecake, and Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake. They were all good, especially the cheesecake.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Taste of Alaska at Triton's

Date of Visit: July 15, 2011

The second time we ate in Triton's was the Taste of Alaska theme night, which has the same menu served in all dining rotation restaurants. To start the dinner Mik enjoyed the special non-alcoholic cocktail called Lemonaska. He slurped it down quite fast, but he let me have one sip. It was extremely good. It is basically lemonade and vanilla ice cream. Not free like soda with dinner, but a worthwhile treat for one night.

For the appetizer Mik enjoyed the Alaskan King Crab Legs, although they were hard for him to crack and get the meat out of. I enjoyed the cheese and carrot souffle.

For dinner Mik had the pork tenderloins. I thought I would end up having salmon on the Alaska them night, but I could not pass up the Tofu Pot Pie because I have always been wanting a vegetarian pot pie without having to make it myself. It was rather small, but great tasting.

For the dessert we shared the Taste of Alaska Sweet Temptations with a Chocolate Truffle Torte, Poached Pear Hazelnut Cake, and Vanilla Panna Cotta.

Also, that night Mom got a special birthday treat brought out. Her birthday was the night before, but she didn't want to tell them and have them bring it out. She let it slip it had been her birthday and one of our table mates let the server know. It is such a cool little chocolate mousse dessert with Mickey sprinkles and a chocolate piece with Happy Birthday printed on it.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Walking around Skagway

Date of Visit: July 15, 2011

Skagway was the main port we explored with Mik. Getting into town was a short walk, although there are several sets of train tracks you have to cross over on the way. Some of them are a kind of oddly lined up with the sidewalk, so that if you try to cross them straight on you aren't lined up right with the cutout onto the sidewalk on the other side of the tracks. The Free Wheel came in handy this day, although kind of annoying in the shops since we don't yet have the bracket to put in on back of chair when not using.

Once over the last train tracks you are in town and it is overall was easy to go around, except the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Visitor center not having a cutout way up on one of it's corners. Skagway was also a pretty flat town, especially compared to Juneau.

Getting off in Skagway the gangway was on Deck 4 and was rather steep, but they always had someone that would roll Mik down backwards for us at the ports. When we got back the Gangway had been moved to a lower deck due to the change in tide and it was only a tad steep. The only thing to watch for is that everyone is up into the ship, so you don't end up waiting on the steep gangway while they are checking IDs and going through security. I waited to push Mik up and did not let anyone pass us until I knew we could roll into the ship when we got to top.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Klondike Gold Rush National Park, Skagway

Date of Visit: July 15, 2011

The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway was the one and only thing Mik wanted to see in Alaska. It was not bad, but the museum part in Seattle is much better. However, the movie they show in the main visitor center building by the train station is pretty good.

The Visitor Center is up on a raised platform from the street. You have to go up to it on a ramp from the side by the train tracks or back around halfway down the block on the other side. Not a big deal and they have signs to point out that it is the accessible way to the visitor center. However, it does mean you should cross the street by train tracks to go further into town without having to awkwardly cross mid street where there tends to be regular tour vehicle traffic.

There is not really much to the Visitor Center. There is a room they show a 30 minute movie about the Klondike Gold Rush. The movie was totally worth seeing, but it is not well laid out for wheelchair access. You just end up with the wheelchair next to wherever you sit, which mostly blocks the aisle.

There is also a little museum next to the Visitor Center. This is well laid out with plenty of room to roll around, but there really isn't much in it, especially compared to the part in Seattle. It does have a cool look into a safe where gold was stored, though.

The most interesting part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park in Skagway in our opinion was the restored Mascot Saloon a couple blocks further into town. This building is set up to look like the original saloon that was on this site. It includes some artifacts found under the floorboards during restoration. This building also has plenty of open space for navigating through no problem and the entrance was propped open, so even easier to get into than the Visitor Center.

Of course, one of the highlights of the visit was stamping our 25th Anniversary National Park Passports, which we are using only for 2011. The Klondike Gold Rush National Park not only had the standard cancellation stamp, but there was also a 25th Passport Anniversary stamp and a special logo design Klondike Gold Rush National Park stamp.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Skagway, AK

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Cruisin' for Trivia and Pirate Trivia

Date of Visit: July 16, 2011

I love the trivia sessions in the Promenade Lounge. I think I went to them all, but I couldn't get Mik to go to all of them. On July 16, he made a deal with me that he would go to them all and skip going into Juneau. One of the sessions was Cruisin' for Trivia. Since it was a port day, very few people showed up to play. The questions were some random stuff and some Disney stuff. It was multiple choice, which also helped. We ended up with 20 out of 25 right and won. Mik was happy to get the keychain for winning, as was I, although I kind of wish we won one of the sessions that gave away the Mickey medal necklaces. The Disney Cruise keychain is nice, but the Mickey medal is really cool.

We did come close to winning later with Pirate trivia, but Mik was listening to his iPod and didn't do a good job of getting my attention when he knew the answer and I guessed wrong on a few he knew. So close to a Mickey medal!!! Oh well, even if we had lost them all, trivia is still great free fun on the cruise.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer? In Studio Sea

Date of Visit: July 14, 2011

Mik and I both enjoyed Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer? on our first Disney cruise, so this was one activity we had really been looking forward to doing again. We didn't get in the hot seat, but that didn't matter as they still give our the same pins as we got before, although I guess if you actually win you get something better. Anyways, it was a lot of fun to quietly guess amongst ourselves in the audience. Of course, it was a lot of Disney trivia we knew and somehow the Disney trivia sessions that everyone plays on teams in we knew fewer answers for.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Island Dinner at Parrot Cay

Date of Visit: July 14, 2011

Mik didn't really like dining in Parrot Cay, although not because of the food. It was because the lights were very bright or at least for were he was sitting. He kept trying to steal my hat during dinner and he hates wearing hats.

Mik had the Baked Crab Dip Martinique for his appetizer. He had trouble dipping the chips in the dip, but he did really enjoy the plantain chips. The banana bread as the bread was also interesting.

For the main course Mik had the Island Spiced Grilled Rib Eye of Beef. He thought it was okay, but really liked the potato. I enjoyed the Grilled Portobello Mushrooms.

I forgot to photograph the dessert menu, so I cannot remember exactly what the desserts we had were called, but Mik had a S'More thing and I had a French Toast thing. Both were good, although the French Toast was quite sweet. I really liked the Coconut ice cream that was served with the French toast.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Tracy Arm/Endicott Arm

Date of Visit: July 14, 2011

Our second full day at sea was a scenic cruise day. We were supposed to go into Tracy Arm, but when we got there it was too foggy, so we turned around and went into another nearby fjord, which I think was called Endicott Arm.

The scenery of the fjord was great and at the end we got to see a pretty good glacier. Mik was too lazy to go out on the verandah much, but it was nice that we had one, as he wouldn't have seen any of it if we hadn't.

I enjoyed seeing the various icebergs and bergy bits. The really fun part, though, was eating ice cream while cruising through the fjord.

The best part of the day was seeing whales. We saw at least 10. We mainly saw the blowholes, but also saw a few of the tales.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Golden Mickeys in Walt Disney Theater

Date of Visit: July 13, 2011

The Golden Mickeys was the first show I got Mik to go to on the Disney Cruise. I remember going to it on our first cruise, but only Dad and I saw it. This time just Mik and I saw it. They have a small section for wheelchairs to sit off to the side in the back. There is a ramp up to the area before you get to the stairs. If you get there right when the doors open or soon after there is a cast member there to direct you to it and will set up a chair next to the wheelchair for a companion.

We sat in the section near the right/starboard side entrance. It is a good view, as you are far enough above the last row of seating that even a tall person doesn't block your view. You are far from the stage, but you still get a great view of it all.

The Golden Mickeys is basically a pretend award show. It features a variety of popular Disney characters and has an interesting part with Bob Iger on the movie screens as if he is participating live. Mik enjoyed it, but the show is late with us having first dinner and he almost fell asleep. He would have rather watched it in the cabin, but the television was acting up a lot during our cruise, especially the day of the Golden Mickeys and watching anything was pretty much impossible or at least frustrating with the audio and picture coming in and out.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Golden Mickeys at Animator's Palette

Date of Visit: July 13, 2011

Our first dinner in the Animator's Palette was the Golden Mickeys dinner, which is served in whatever restaurant you are dining in the night of the Golden Mickeys. Mik enjoyed the toasted cheese ravioli appetizer and Yachtsman Steakhouse Grilled NY Strip main course. I enjoyed the Sweet and Sour tofu, although it was kind of light on the sauce.

For dessert Mik had the Golden Chocolate Award, which is chocolate mousse and chiffon cafe with ganache. He really enjoyed it. I had the Golden Mickeys Sweet Temptations, which is a trio of desserts. It included a small version of the Golden Chocolate Award, Creme brûlée, and Raspberry Cheesecake. The creme brûlée wad nothing fancy, but the cheesecake was quite good.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Vancouver Airport to Port Transfer

Date of Visit: July 12, 2011

Mik is always freaked by bus rides. The bus had a lift to get up on the bus and I put him in a regular seat. He still freaked out and kept death gripping my arm, so next time I am going to at least enjoy the ride and he can just scream from his wheelchair, which does get tied down and didn't move even without the weight of him in it.

The platform to get on the bus, however, is another story. It was barely long enough for me to stand behind the chair and ride up with him and his chair doesn't even seem very long. I felt squished against the bus. He could technically ride by himself, but he cannot put himself on the platform, so rolling him on backwards to get him on would be awkward, although doable. The real problem, though, is he freaks out by himself.

One other thing about the transfer is that there aren't cutouts to get down to the bus where it pulls up at the airport. We just took the tippers off and went down the curb, but I think you can get way down to the end of the bus area and get down and then come to the bus. At least they said something like that, but we went the quicker and more obvious route of just going down the curb. At the port there is no problem, as there are cutouts at every bus spot.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: Disney Tunes Trivia in Promenade Lounge

Date of Visit: July 13, 2011

Mik and I went to the Disney Tunes Trivia on the first day at sea as a fun activity to do together. We both had fun even though we stunk at recognizing tunes. However, I am proud to say we were one of the very few that knew that Song of the South was set in Georgia. We certainly could have gotten most of the bonus questions if we could just recognize tunes in order to match them to the movies. Definitely, need to listen to more Disney music in case there is one on next year's cruise. For now, though, off to try regular Disney trivia as today's trivia session.

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise: French Dinner at Triton's

Date of Visit: July 12, 2011
To get into Triton's we had to go through the side entrance just for wheelchairs and strollers when entering. It took awhile to get the attention of someone to help us find our table, but not more than 5 minutes. It seems kind of odd that they weren't manning that entrance, especially for the first time you are eating at that place for the cruise and probably need help finding your table. At least the sign is obvious and we noticed it on our way to the main entrance and didn't have to end up coming back to the side to enter, but maybe doing that would be better as then they more expect someone entering there.
Mik enjoyed the Lobster macaroni and cheese. For desert we shared the Triton's Trio (it was called something like that and was basically three things). It is a little small to share, but it worked good for us because we were already mostly full. It included chocolate mousse, creme brûlée (Mik liked the hardened sugar because it reminded him of toasted marshmallows), and what is basically a mini eclair, but has a fancier name.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Abilities Expo Chicago 2011

Abilities Expo ChicagoDate of Visit: July 8, 2011

Mik had been looking forward to the Abilities Expo in Chicago for months.  He found some cool stuff, but overall was rather disappointed.  It was rather small and really did not have that much different things.  He was especially disappointed that they did not have the Wijits to try.  Several of the vendors commented that this was smaller than the others and of course the Wijit people had been at every other one.  They had something similar and to some extent better, but it was gears that you switch down in the hubs, which is useless to Mik because he cannot even do the bending down to get the range of motion needed to really propel himself.

Abilities Expo ChicagoMik did have one big find and splurge that he sure wish he had at the beginning of our summer vacation.  It is the Free Wheel.  It is a big wheel that attaches to the footplate and lifts the casters up.  It is pretty easy to take on and off.  Not sure if Mik will be able to learn to do it, but that's okay, as he could not twist due to his spinal fusion to put it on the bracket on the back of the chair anyways.  However, it is something he can easily tell a friend or someone to help him with, although currently he does not have the thing to carry it on his wheelchair because of course the Q7 disappoints again in that it has a special shape.  They are making us the right size thing to go on there and it should get to his house about the time we get home from vacation early August, so at least he will have it all set up for school.

The Free Wheel makes going over bumps and even down big curbs easy.   Mik is excited to try it out for going to school because the sidewalks in our neighborhood are old and ever since he has had his Q7 the front wheels have made it even harder for him to get there and back than with his old chair.  It also helps him go straighter, so he should not be calling me to come help him because he rolled off into the gravel and cannot get back on because even if he does the Free Wheel makes it so he can get back up on his own.  Not to mention it adds stability that should keep him from all his falls he ends up with from the transitions on the ramps at school.

It certainly is not that great indoors, but it will definitely come in handy for Mik, especially since now he could much more easily do the trails that we have borderline considered at the National Parks.  Of course, it still would not have saved him from flipping over sideways on the Circle Trail.  You probably need a high end special sports chair for that!

Abilities Expo ChicagoMik also got some really nice gloves.  He has tried a lot of different ones over the years and has never stuck with a pair for more than a day, but he has now worn these new ones twice and still loves them, so that is really saying something.  They are fingerless.  What he really likes is they have grip that reminds me of the material those rubber circle jar opener things are made out of.  They do not so much help him roll any better, but he does love that he can now open soda and especially Gatorade bottles much easier.  Plus, he cannot wait to try them for weight lifting and pull ups.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
Abilities Expo
Shaumburg Convention Center
Shaumburg, IL

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy Mounds National ParkDate of Visit: July 2, 2011

We ended up slightly disappointed at Effigy Mounds because I had heard they had an accessible trail, but failed to really research it to know what the trail took you to see.  The trail is a nice accessible trail, but it just takes you down to the Yellow River and does not involve seeing the Effigy Mounds.  The trail from the Visitor Center that goes to the mounds starts out with a little section of boardwalk that is accessible, but it only goes to a group of three mounds.

In order to see any of the real Effigy style mounds you have to go on a trail that is dirt and bark.  It looks potentially doable, but it is at least 2 miles to see any of the Effigy mounds and it started with uphill.  Mik certainly was not feeling adventurous enough to try it despite Dad being willing after the Circle Trail incident at Pipestone National Monument a few days earlier.

Accessible Trail at Effigy Mounds National ParkThe Visitor Center is nice and they do show a good movie that lets you be able to get an idea of what the Effigy Mounds look like.  It also has a little museum about the Native American cultures of the region and mound building.  We were also happy they had the 25th Anniversary National Park Passport stamp, which not all the places that have the stampers have.

I still enjoyed the Effigy Mounds National Monument, but Mik was kind of disappointed by the promise of an accessible trail and it ending up not featuring the main thing the National Monument protects.  However, he did like the trail and getting to go on a hike without it being so bumpy or ever having to flip his front wheels up.  Of course, about a week later he got a Free Wheel at the Abilities Expo and now wants to go back to the trail he could not do.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
Effigy Mounds National Monument
151 Hwy 76
Harpers Ferry, IA 52146

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Misadventure on Circle Trail at Pipestone National Monument

Date of Visit: June 30, 2011

Circle Trail at Pipestone National MonumentThe Circle Trail at the Pipestone National Monument was not exactly a circle, as the Ranger informed us that the bridge by the waterfall was currently closed.  We still decided to do the trail, as it was paved, so thus you would think a totally wheelchair accessible trail and the Ranger gave us the impression it was.  Well, it is not and it is not really a safe Circle Trail for wheelchair users.  The park's website sort of tells you this, but not specifically enough to explain what happened to Mik and gives enough hope that we certainly still would have done the trail and it still would have happened.

Circle Trail at Pipestone National MonumentNear where you get to the waterfall there is a path that splits off and has steps.  Obviously, we did not even try this path, but Dad went off on it and Mik and I decided to keep going towards the waterfall.  Well, we did not get too far.  A little past the bench near where the path splits there is an extremely tilted part of the path.  It did not look like a problem, but as soon as I was on it Mik's left big wheel left the ground and there was no way I could keep it from flipping over.  At least Mik knew to bail his iPad (case did its job and protected iPad) and put his hands down in front of him and his only injury was a bunch of mosquito bites because there were swarms of them by the waterfall and he would have gotten those anyways probably.

Circle Trail at Pipestone National MonumentMik feels there should be a warning sign on the trail right there (not to mention the website's warning should be posted near the trail or at least the ranger should have said something) and he would never go past the bench on the trail in a wheelchair.  Very slight possibility if you stick to half on the sane and go around on the far right you would not tilt too much, but the river is right below you and that sand patch is all that kept Mik from going down, so he does not recommend any sort of testing going through that part of the path with a wheelchair.

The trail is still worth doing before you get to that point, as you can even see the waterfall from a distance right before the dangerous part of the path.  Just be prepared for swarms of mosquitos!!!  It is mainly a nature hike, but there were a few Pipestone quarries along the path.  During our visit, though, they were mostly flooded in all the way.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
Pipestone National Monument
36 North Reservation Avenue
Pipestone, MN