Disney Cruise Line puts its own twist on popular Alaska shore excursion
…The 49th state offers plentiful opportunities to implement a Disney twist into traditional shore excursions, a process that began when Stauffer first met with tour operators last summer.
“We took a strong look at the tours being offered in Alaska,” explained Stauffer. “We always try to add a Disney differentiator to any experience, and we challenged the operators to create something unique for our guests.”
For instance, on my visit, we boarded a floatplane for a 30-minute flightseeing tour from Juneau that took us past jagged peaks and across yawning ice crevasses to Taku Glacier Lodge, one of the state’s first hunting and fishing lodges. Once there, I learned about the history of the 88-year-old lodge and of pioneer Mary Joyce, its former owner who embarked from Taku in 1935 on a 1,000-mile journey by dogsled. I also dined on some of the freshest salmon I’ve ever had — grilled with the lodge’s time-tested recipe. Finally, with an Alaskan Amber in hand, I took a moment to take in the setting from a rocking chair on the porch. Inaccessible by road, the rustic lodge sits along the Taku Inlet, one of Alaska’s richest salmon-spawning areas, surrounded by a forest and facing the foot of the spectacular Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier. While totally relaxed, I still managed to keep an eye out for wandering black bears who are often lured to Taku by the aroma of the salmon.
One might think it would be hard to improve on such an experience and, in fact, not everyone initially jumped at the opportunity to adapt such established products. But Stauffer asked the Taku Glacier Lodge owners, as well as Holly Johnson, president of Wings Airways, to find a way to give their already popular excursion the Disney treatment.
“We’ve always been one of Juneau’s highest-rated tours, and we prided ourselves on the fact that we had perfected it,” said Johnson. “But Larry asked us to think outside the box. And, we knew it needed to be more than a free T-shirt, so we started brainstorming.”
Johnson proposed integrating the Mary Joyce character into the tour as a living host, dressed in an antique fur parka, who would meet Disney Cruise Line guests at the lodge. The Alaskan pioneer passed away in 1976, but her story and adventures will live on in the new excursion through stories told next to a fireplace after the meal. The encounter is an exclusive that won’t be sold to passengers of other cruise lines.
“Working with Disney was an exercise in creativity — a really fun process,” said Johnson.
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