We have just recently returned from the 14-day Panama Canal repositioning cruise aboard the 'Disney Wonder', and all we can say is "WOW!!!".
Our first cruise experience was a 7-day Alaska/Glacier Bay/Inside Passage cruise aboard a much-smaller predecessor of Holland America's 'Westerdam', 13 years ago.
While we had high expectations for a 'Disney' cruise, we were simply blown-away at how far cruising -- and particularly cruising with children -- has advanced in the past decade.
The 'Disney Wonder' is simply a lovely ship inside and out. What brings this to our full attention is that it is the staff that makes the ship lovely -- and not just from the constant scrubbing, cleaning, polishing, and painting -- but from how the entire crew -- from the most senior officer down to the most junior deckhand -- stops whatever they're busy doing to smile and say "Good morning", "Good afternoon", or "Good Evening".
The minor complaints and observations offered here are vastly outweighed by the superior/exceptional/always 'above and beyond' customer service and friendliness expressed by every crew and cast member at every opportunity.
We found our experience so superb that we booked a 7-day Alaska/Glacier Bay/Inside Passage cruise aboard the 'Disney Wonder', leaving August 19, 2013. We were simply unable and unwilling to get off the ship without a firm commitment to a return date!
The minor concerns:
- It appeared that the oval "coffee table" in our stateroom is supposed to raise and lower, theoretically making it easier for kids to use it as a dining table. The adjustment feature on our table was broken. This presented little inconvenience to us, but as the cruise went on, such a minor issue seemed out of character considering the otherwise excellent condition of the ship and her furnishings. We gained a little insight as to what the furnishings might suffer after watching a surprisingly large amount of broken furniture and fixtures being offloaded at the dock in Cartagena!
- Staterooms need more electrical outlets -- particularly in the desk area - for
recharging electronic equipment such as cameras, video cameras, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. The chargers for these units often take up an entire outlet, and the switch for the desk lights built in to the electrical outlet prevents plugging a charger into one of the outlets, further limiting recharging options. Next time, we're bringing an extension cord/power strip for recharging batteries.
- We're from the Pacific Northwest, which is to beer what France is to wine. The
micro-brew/craft brewing market thrives in our area. All of the draft beers located in the most popular and accessible bars (i.e. deck 9) were lagers.
It was only on the last day of the cruise that we discovered 'Diversions' on deck 3 had a Kona Brewing Company Pale Ale on tap. It is our hope that a
Northwest/Alaska cruise will feature at least one Northwest craft ale. There are
myriad excellent craft breweries in Vancouver, B.C., and in every port of call on the Alaska cruise itinerary. Surely the boat can procure fine beer in the same way it procures fine wine. With a selection of draft craft pale and amber ales available, we would have spent a lot more on adult beverages than we did.
- The 'Oceaneer's Lab' had far too many "Open House" periods, where the lab was
unsecured. This required unattended kids to go to the 'Oceaneer's Club', which is oriented towards younger children and was considered far-inferior to the "Lab" by our 7 year-old son. It seemed that whenever we had some down-time, or the adults wanted to do something our son found uninteresting, and it otherwise would have been a perfect opportunity for our son to go hang out in the "Lab", there was a conflicting "Open House" requiring rearranging schedules. This is our biggest complaint/observation/issue with the entire cruise, and obviously it isn't that big of a deal.
- "Goofy's Pool" is too small. We don't expect this to be an issue on an Alaska cruise, but on a warm-weather cruise, there simply isn't enough room for everyone to find a lounge chair and a space in the pool - particularly when "Mickey's Pool" is closed for cleaning (which happened at least every other day). We realize DCL can't remedy this situation overnight, but we also
understand that DCL keeps customer concerns in mind when considering changes
to vessels when vessels are periodically updated in dry-dock.
- While we're on the subject, a water slide adults can share with their kids would be a huge improvement. It doesn't have to be as elaborate as what is on the 'Dream' and 'Fantasy', but something that lets adults have some fun with their kids is needed.
The major compliments:
- The superb staff at the 'Guest Services' desk was always able to provide and answer and/or a resolution to any question or problem that arose (except to those aboard complaining how stressful it was to them that we would be docked on the Yucatan Peninsula on 12-21-12, the last day of the Mayan calendar. Umm - check the itinerary before booking the cruise if you don't want to climb Mayan temples on 12-21-12.)
- The crew members in `Mickey's Mates' were very helpful with getting fragile items purchased aboard safely packaged for transport home. None of the fragile
Christmas ornaments and other items suffered any damage from our long journey
home from Miami to Seattle!
- 'Cesar', a housekeeping crew member who was often seen keeping the restrooms
on deck 9 spotless in spite of the onslaught of dripping-wet/covered in sunscreen passengers parading through the facilities, had a particularly friendly and outgoing personality that deserves recognition. He took time to get to know us as people, not passengers, and we got an opportunity to learn about him and his background and culture. We observe that we learned just as much about the cultures represented by the staff with whom we interacted as we did the cultures of the countries we visited! It all adds up to create a fantastic experience for seven year-old boys and forty-something parents alike!
- Michele, our server in Palo, could not have been more charming, friendly, nor
possess a more encyclopedic knowledge of the food, wine, and culture of Northern
Italy -- precisely what you'd want in your server for an evening at Palo! We were so impressed with Michele -- and with Palo -- that we brought our mothers to brunch at Palo later on in the cruise. We specifically requested Michele as our brunch server, and he did not disappoint!
- Clare was a member of the photography crew who always went the extra mile to
make us feel comfortable and relaxed as she took stunning photos of us in the
chaotic environment that defines a 'Character Appearance'. We were ecstatic to
discover she was the photographer assigned to the family portrait area when we
arrived to have ours done, and the resulting photos are exquisite! Her personality endeared her to us, and thus our son was totally comfortable as she walked him though the poses -- and the results speak volumes!
- Faydella, our 'Stateroom Hostess', was simply amazing! Whatever we needed,
whenever we needed it -- sometimes even before we knew we needed it -- somehow magically appeared in our stateroom. Her bright smile and sunny disposition meant our entire passageway was filled with smiles and good cheer.
- Finally, our two dining room servers must have come from Disney's central casting. Dan (from Romania) and Anthony (from France) were a comical "Odd Couple" who had us laughing through every meal. We looked forward to finding them doing their other jobs aboard ship, and they went the extra mile to serve us whenever they were working another restaurant or helping out on deck. Much like our stateroom hostess, they provided us with whatever we needed, whenever we needed it -- often before we even knew we even needed it - or wanted it!
Their impeccable service, good humor, wit and camaraderie was an invaluable addition to our experience. Their extra-special treatment of our precocious seven year-old son will be remembered by him and by us forever. I was
especially impressed with the patience, service, respect, and love they provided to a young special-needs passenger and our table-mate.
They both worked incredibly hard, apparently effortlessly and graciously. One had to look hard to find the beads of sweat running down their faces as they strived to provide a personalized fine-dining experience to a demanding clientele in a chaotic environment.
We're hard-pressed to come up with anything we would have done differently on the December 9-23 Panama Canal cruise, or that we'll do differently on our August 19-26 Alaska cruise. We'll certainly do a better job of decorating our cabin door next time, and we'll bring that extension cord for charging camera batteries, but our Panama Canal cruise aboard the 'Disney Wonder' is an experience we'll treasure for the rest of our lives!