My husband and I (30s) and our 2 children (1 and 4) just returned from a great vacation on the Disney Wonder. This was the 6th cruise for DH & I but only the second since kids, and the first on Disney.
As others have done, I will break down my review by category.
Embarkation at Miami: A breeze. After the horror stories I'd heard from folks who sailed on other lines, we were prepared for the worst. However, embarkation was nothing but pleasant. I wish we had not had to pay the money to park at the pier, but from my research, I was unable to arrive at an off-site location I felt was safe.
Stateroom: We had an oceanview cabin on Deck 5 forward, and this was a great location, as it was the same floor as the kids' clubs and also you could easily view the mid-ship lobby to see if anything as going on (such as character greets) We loved the cabin, and to our surprise, it had a bunk bed that pulled down out of the ceiling and a full curtain to separate the room! There was plenty of storage space; our largest suitcase easily fit under the bed.
Flounder's Reef Nursery: Our baby, who will be 2 in June, went in the nursery on two different occasions for two hours, and although he has a lot of separation anxiety, he did really well in the nursery. (we wished we'd used it more!) There are lots of toys, they have Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playing on TV, and they have snacks. The counselors are very involved in playing on the floor with the kids.
Oceaneer's Club/Lab: Our 4 year old enjoyed such things as Pluto's Pajama Party and Storytime with Belle in the kids' club, and she also went there for free play and several other activities. The band they require the kids to wear is bulky and annoying, but she got used to it after a day or so.
Pools: Our baby enjoyed the splash zone, and our 4 year old loved Mickey's pool, which is shallow enough to where it was never over her head. Disney staff had to constantly tell people to take their babies with swim diapers out of it, as babies are only allowed in the splash zone. This is true of any cruise line, not sure why many seemed to have trouble understanding this. The Mickey slide seemed fun and again our daughter enjoyed it. Every day at naptime while hubby and the kids slept, I went to the Quiet cove pool. I only found an empty lounge chair once in that area, but had no trouble finding one on Deck 10. We did not go in the Goofy pool.
Entertainment/Activities: Do not miss Disney Dreams. This is a wonderful show and it is no wonder it won a big award amongst cruise shows. Toy Story was good, but a bit long. It seemed like there were far less activities going on on this ship than on other cruises we have been on. If we had not had perfect weather, we would have had large pockets of time with nothing to do, although it's possible they add extras in the case of inclement weather. I appreciated the fact that everything was truly family-friendly. (and for the adults-only activities, they don't even allow children if they're asleep from what I understand)
Staff: Wonderful. All smiles, very courteous, just great!
Characters: There were plenty of character greeting times, but be prepared to stay in line, much like at the parks. We found lines shortest on the first 2 days, before people really got a feel for what was going on. Characters that had meet & greets include: Cinderella, Snow White, Tiana, Ariel, Belle, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, Pinocchio, Stitch and Chip & Dale. I'm sure I've left out some! Many of them could be seen at some point each day.
Dining: Disney has a unique setup where you rotate eating in the different dining rooms. This seems like it would be confusing, but it really wasn't. On the pool deck there is Pluto's Dog House, which has hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries, Pinocchio's Pizzeria, Goofy's Galley, which has a selection of deli sandwiches, wraps and fruit, and Beach Blanket Buffet, which is the breakfast/lunch buffet. We thought the food was very tasty, and the desserts were much better than those on the other cruise lines. We originally had late dining put requested to change to early seating, and on Day 2 we were surprised this had been done, even though there had been a waiting list the day before. The late buffet on Pirate Night was very good, with tacos, ice cream sundaes, turkey legs, ham and more. It was wonderful for us to have the soda included at no extra charge, and milk, coffee, hot chocolate and possibly more are available 24/7. However, despite these positives, I believe this is the area where Disney needs the most improvement.
The Dining Flaw: The various eating venues are open only certain hours, and it varies from day to day. Even the pizzeria is closed for several periods throughout the day and it's hard to keep up with. Breakfast at the buffet ends at 10:30, which is a problem for late risers such as us. The main problem, however, is that Disney offers very little in alternative dining in the evenings. On our other 5 cruises, we often ate in the dining room for only 1-2 of the meals, preferring the variety and come-and-go-as-you-wish aspect of the buffet. There is no such option on the Wonder. Some nights, the buffet venue acts as an a-la-carte restaurant, but there is very little variety. One night, both kids were in programs and after our dinner alone we picked them up and there was literally nothing open. If you like eating at set times in the dining room, this is a non-issue but this aspect really took away from our cruise.
General: The ship is lovely, and has a great open layout. It is very easy to learn, and although older, is in excellent condition. Some of the amenities on board that we took advantage of were the use of the Diaper Genie, 2 extension cords, and a nice stroller. All of these were free of charge, as long as you return them. The wave phones are wonderful, and extremely useful for peace of mind when the kids are in their areas, as well as just general communication when you're in 2 different places. One improvement that I feel is needed is to have automatic doors on Deck 9 forward and mid ship. With a stroller or wheelchair, it is difficult to be opening these frequently-used doors all the time.
The Disney magic permeated all aspects of the voyage. Disney music could be heard in nearly all public areas, a classical pianist played Disney tunes in the lobby, and from the moment you step on the ship, you know it's going to be a magical experience. They start by announcing each family by name and applauding upon your entrance, which is a neat touch. The ship's horn is the tune of "When You Wish Upon a Star," as is the alert tone that comes on before the captain or cruise director speaks throughout the ship. You really feel like a VIP, and everything feels special and magical. Only a few hours removed from our trip, I think with some, "faith, trust and pixie dust," perhaps I, too, can fly.