My husband and I and our two daughters, ages 13 and 14 arrived the day prior to our cruise and spent the night at the Walt Disney World Wilderness Lodge. We rented a car at the Orlando airport and turned it in at the port. This was less expensive than the shuttles available for four people. We spent a half a day at the Magic Kingdom prior to leaving, we had a great time but I would not recommend it because we cut the timing a little too close in getting to the port.
We completed all of the forms required online and at home prior to arrival so when we arrived at the port around three we went right thru the check in with no wait at all. After the security check and having our picture taken we were onboard, as you enter the ship you are announced by family name and welcomed aboard.
We were then directed to our cabin. Our cabin was on Deck 7, Cabin number 7822 with a verandah. Cabins are large for a cruise ship with a bath and a half one half is a sink and tub/shower and the other is the toilet and sinks, so two people can get ready at the same time. The ship has new pillows and sheets and will be getting new beds and accessories during dry dock in October. We had lunch at the Beach Blanket Buffet and returned to our cabin to get ready for the mandatory muster drill. The drill was very quick and well organized.
Just a note that because we arrived at the port later in the day, all of the reservations for the bridge tour and high tea were already taken so we did not have the opportunity to attend these events.
DAY TWO and THREE At Sea
Don Ducky Williams, Senior Character Artist for Walt Disney was on board and did a behind the scenes talk. What an amazing story he has to tell and what talent! He also held a session on how to draw Mickey Mouse. Don Wolber also gave a behind the scenes talk that was very informative on what's happening with the Disney Cruise Line. There was so much to do on the ship that we had two fun filled days!
DAY FOUR St. Thomas
We exited the ship around 8:30am to go to town and do some shopping. We made the mistake of asking the taxi drivers and port police about shopping. We were told that the shops around the port opened around 10:00am but the shops downtown were open at that time. Taxis run around $4.00 per person each way, a taxi driver said he would drop us downtown, on his way to taking other passengers to the beach, for free and then he would meet us later to go to the beach and we could pay him then. Taxi rates are $15.00 per person to go to the beach each way. The driver left us downtown with no shops open in an unsafe part of town. We had to find another taxi to take us back to the pier and our daughters did not want to venture into town or to the beach again after that.
With taxi fare $120.00 round trip for four people it was not cost effective to go to the beach on this island.
DAY FIVE St. Lucia
They had a steel drum band playing as we exited the ship. We went on a tour thru Cosol, who is not associated with the cruise line. He was very highly recommended and did a very good tour of the island. Our driver/tour guide was Yellow Bird, all of the taxi drivers go by nicknames, if you are looking for a taxi and he is available I would highly recommend him. The tour was approximately eight vans with eight or more people per van. Most of us on the tour were at the designated spot as soon as we were allowed to go ashore however, a group was not ready and delayed the tour start thirty minutes, so our tour did not cover what we wanted to see and was rushed due to the limited time on the island and the late start.
We sampled the local beer and rum punch, hot bread, Johnny cakes, banana ketchup, fish cakes all included in the tour. Drove thru the Banana Plantation and saw bananas harvested, stopped in a fishing village, saw the waterfall that you can swim in if time allowed, visited the drive in volcano (is really a drive by volcano). We did not have time to go to Margot Bay where Dr. Doolittle was filmed.
DAY SIX - Barbados
There was a full band playing their instruments as we exited the ship. We again checked the visitor's center at the port to check on going taxi rate. Rate should be $15.00 per van. A Taxi driver tried to charge $15.00 per person so we went to official to get another taxi. The people in charge placed us with the same driver but at going rate. Taxi driver was angry and we were uncomfortable should have demanded another driver. Went to Payne's Bay for some beach time, beach was okay. I think other beaches on the island would have been better. We were constantly harassed by locals for boat tours, to rent jet skis, asking if other clients from the cruise ship were still heading that way, and to purchase merchandise. This beach is good for snorkeling because there are turtles swimming here but if you want to swim or play in the sand I would pick another beach.
We did some shopping at Bridgetown. This island had the best shopping near the port.
DAY SEVEN Antigua
They had a school group waiting as we exited the ship handing out discount coins for shopping. There was also a steel drum band playing. As you exit the port the taxi drivers are waiting for you all vying for your attention and business. We went to the tourism center and asked fare and they set us up with a driver.
The taxi driver took us to the Nelson's Dockyard. It is small but interesting. The view from Shirley Heights was well worth the drive. Our taxi driver was informative and fare was $92.00 for the four of us for the tour and the taxi fare.
We did some shopping at the port. They have the typical straw market and regular shops. We were constantly harassed here by taxi drivers for tours and locals to purchase merchandise.
DAY TEN - Castaway Cay
Disney's Private Island, Castaway Cay is beautiful! We could have easily spent two days on this island alone. The beach was not crowded and the sand was perfect for building sand castles. Disney offers excursions on this island and you can rent boats, bikes and snorkeling equipment. Beach Volleyball, Basketball, Ping-pong and Character greetings can also be found. The Flying Dutchman from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie is docked at this island and you can have pictures taken with Captain Jack Sparrow. Good BBQ at Cookies BBQ for lunch.
You are assigned a breakfast time of 6:30am or 7:30am by early or late dining assignments, in the same restaurant that you dined in the night before. After breakfast you may disembark. This flowed really well and was stress free until we reached the terminal.
We placed our luggage outside our cabin the night before and were told that we would find our luggage in the terminal the next day placed in cabin order. We assumed that this meant that you would find your luggage together in cabin number order. This is not the case. Luggage is in sections by cabin numbers (example) cabins 7000-8000, but they are not in any order or together. It was difficult to find our bags in the small area provided, at the same time as the other guests and the porters that are pushing you aside and running over you with their carts.
The shows on the ship were all amazing! The production shows, variety show, Susan Egan, Wild & Haines, Mike Super, Michael Harrison and the Muppets. The crew even did a talent show with some very good acts! Great shows and we had a wonderful time!
There are lots of opportunities for Character Greeting on the cruise, however if you want to make the most of these opportunities you need to have late dinning. The Atrium usually has several characters available for photos starting at 5:00pm when early dining clients are getting ready for/ and during early dinner.
Overall the food on the cruise was very good. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Beach Blanket Buffet and did dinner in the restaurants. We really enjoyed the rotation of the three different restaurants. Our Servers Tomas, Tayfun and Head Waiter Jean Yves were very attentive and the shows during dinner were fun and entertaining. Our daughter celebrated her actual birthday on the last night of the cruise and Jean Yves had the head chief come to our table for pictures. It was a big hit and a wonderful extra touch that Disney does so well.
We have been on other non-Disney cruises and have always enjoyed afternoon tea with our daughters. High tea is only available with reservations in Palos and teens are not allowed. By the time we arrived at the port on our first day all reservations were taken so even if our girls could attend we could not get a reservation. Disney does offer a cold tea and cookies with Wendy one day & Alice and the Mad Hatter on another, again with reservations only. We did attend however this is really for the younger children; it would be nice to have high tea for the older kids.
Cabin & Overall Ship Condition
Our Stateroom attendant Keyand always had our room clean and got us anything we needed. Two of us were cold and he brought extra blankets to us quickly.
We spent time in the afternoon while our girls were doing homework on the verandah just enjoying the ocean and in our cabin. The cabins are very comfortable and I cannot image cruising again without a verandah! The Disney Wonder is going into dry dock in October for new carpet, repairs and they will be adding a movie screen so you can watch movies while swimming or lounging on the deck. Yes, there was torn carpet and broken chairs in the Walt Disney Theatre but these will all be repaired in dry dock.
Deck Four is used for a running/walking track. On the entire ship the outside starboard side is used for smoking. So anyone who is trying to exercise has to walk/run thru all of the cigarette smoke.
ALOFT TEEN CLUB
We did tour the teen club with our daughters however there was so much to do as a family, they choose to not attend any of the events here. There are lots of activities for the teens to participate in and the actual club is very cool!
Personal Navigator Newsletter
Newsletter is very well done and informative plus Disney puts out additional flyers with information on shore excursions, island information and a movie schedule for movies playing when in the Buena Vista Theatre. They also do a flyer on the Aloft Teen Club. The newsletter breaks down information by age group, special events, even where characters are going to be at what time. Additional information on characters is available on the board in the main lobby atrium.