Choosing to celebrate a 70th birthday on a Disney ship was a Slam Dunk - based on all our previous experiences, Disney is absolutely TOPS in producing wonderful celebrations and glorious memories. Well, friends, Disney Cruise Line is NOT Disneyland or Disney World. The details of what went wrong here are not important to others who are thinking of sailing aboard the Disney Wonder. It is a greater service to pass along the caution against expecting Disney Cruise Line to come through for you on a pre-planned celebration with the same flawless professionalism, preparation, and attention to detail that people usually experience at the Disney parks.
Moving on, this was a West Coast repositioning cruise and, as sometimes happens on repositions, there was a certain lackluster quality to a number of things. For passengers on repositions, crew members can seem tired, slightly slack, even a bit let down or detached. The quality of the food, of service, and of entertainment is frequently somewhat below par. It is as if "Prime Time" on any cruise ship is specific to a given region where itineraries are repeated for several months, so that moving the ship between, let's say, winter and summer cruise regions upsets and diminishes crew performance, engagement, and morale. All of these "sags" were noticeable on this particular cruise.
The ship itself seemed clean, well-maintained and, other than equipment failures in the theater which disrupted the schedule of live shows, in excellent condition. My inside stateroom was large and comfortable, while the bathroom was really small (compared to other ships and cruise lines) and musty. As other reviewers have mentioned, the three main dining rooms feel cramped and crowded, with too much noise and distraction caused by too many waiter stations. Up on Deck 9, the casual Beach Blanket Buffet has far too few tables to accommodate the number of passengers on this ship and, as the ship moves North into colder regions, the fact that all swimming pools and surrounding seating areas are outdoors (no sliding roof) means swimmers, sunbathers, and people at tables (and their food) get unpleasantly cold, fast. The Wonder was just not designed to sail beyond warm waters!
On the bright side, the Wonder's 2-day-1-overnight stay in San Francisco is a huge plus! People who already know San Francisco had ample time to do things they love to do there, while those interested in excursions were treated to an unusually long and varied list of options - some of them involving quite a bit of distance. Pier 35 is perfectly located right on the F (Heritage) trolley line, close to the Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf tourist areas, as well as to downtown, BART, and the cable car lines.
Another plus was the thoughtful appearance of fleece throw blankets on most of the deck chairs, making it possible to brave the cold winds and spend some time out on deck, even to watch one of the poolside "funnel vision" movies. Also, the pizza on Deck 9 was consistently yummy, as were the panini. On the other hand, the hamburgers were pretty awful ... and you'd think that any enterprise called Disney would at least get the great American hamburger right.
One last and serious minus. At every activity, indoors and out, the amplified sound was deafeningly, painfully loud. Children (Disney's bread and butter, after all) complained, covered their ears, even cried. Why does DCL believe that LOUD equals fun and FRENETIC equals exciting??? By the middle of the cruise, the physical and behavioral impact of these never-ending, ear-splitting, hyperactive assaults on passengers - of ALL ages - was easily visible. Children in particular showed signs of increasing neural overload. Good Godfrey, DCL: Please tone it down and calm it down a tad; everyone will truly function better and have much more fun!
This was honestly not one of the more enjoyable cruise experiences I've ever had. I won't cruise with DCL again and, even though several members of the Wonder's staff made extraordinary, personal, and deeply-appreciated efforts to salvage my ruined celebration for me, I cannot recommend DCL either to those who want something a tiny bit out of the ordinary or to those who are not taking a cruise centered on the children in their family.