At first we were a little nervous not ever having taken a cruise before but our friend/travel agent pushed us to try a DCL cruise and we are so glad she did.
EMBARKMENT: After getting through security and customs the process of getting on the boat was relatively easy. We were travelling with our granddaughter and it was fun too see her eyes light up when they announced her coming aboard as "Princess [name]". We truly felt welcomed. One little thing to add that I expect will help new cruisers - large suitcases - Security is not equipped to handle large bags. Smaller ones (small suitcases, totes and backpacks etc.), are OK and will make it through the scanners fine. Large bags need to be delivered to the longshoremen to handle for you. Talk to the staff when you get into the terminal and they will help you.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: As we walked on board the ship we were taken a back by the beautiful atrium. I believe this space is view-ably open to three floors (note: this is where many of the Character appearances/photo ops happen). Staff all around are happy to answer your questions and direct you as needed.
GETTING AROUND THE SHIP: This takes some doing at first. Your in an eleven story building that's packed with things to do. Learning the map does take some time. We were pretty well used to things by the third day. Elevators are located fore, amidships and aft. Most go to at least the 9th floor. You usually have a wait for the elevators, so walking becomes an option if needed. Note that the pool deck is on the ninth floor so if you are on the second floor (like we were), using the stairs will be a great way to burn off the incredible food you will be eating.
RESTAURANTS: The Disney Wonder has three main restaurants on decks 2 and 4. Formal and semi formal nights will be conducted in these restaurants. They are: Animator's Palate, Parrot Cay and Triton (you may have to share a table with other passengers but those same people will be with you at the same numbered table throughout your trip). Triton is open for breakfast and lunch (and dinner), the other two may be open but you will be informed by your navigator (newspaper), should the be available to you. The restaurant you go to for dinner will change each night. Of course you are not limited to these venues. On deck nine there are a few other options (open times vary, check your navigator). The options on deck 9 are Pinocchio's Pizzeria, Goofy's Galley and there is a buffet restaurant there as well. Additionally there are two venues to purchase beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). Note that there is a charge for these drinks and a 15%tip is pre-added to the price. Over by the children's swimming pool there s a small area that serves up fountain drinks, water and coffee. The Outlook CafÃ© (also on deck 9, serves up coffee drinks and (paid), Internet service. Lastly, but certainly not least, if you are into fine dining try the Palo on deck ten, aft. Eating at the Palo will cost you $20 per visit (plus any alcohol and tip) Each restaurant has its own theme. Make sure you pay attention to the dÃ©cor - way worth it. Room service is also an option but you'll be tipping for it.
FEEDING SCHEDULES: To accommodate all the people on board meals in the main restaurants are staggered. There is an early sitting for special breakfasts and dinner and a late sitting. Those eating early eat at 8:15 am (breakfast) and 5:45 PM Dinner. The late meals are 10:00 am and 8:00 pm. If you eat early you go to the late show. If you eat late you go to the early show. You'll be provided a ticket upon boarding which will provide you with your sitting times and where you will eat when required.
FOOD: The Wonder serves up some great food. Pretty well anything you can imagine is available. And, if it isn't on the menu - ask - they can probably get it for you. The restaurants on deck nine are pretty well grab and go places (except the buffet - you can take your food out but you can also stay there and eat). Speaking of the Buffet, watch for their bar-b-que night - WOW! Goofy's provides you wraps, sandwiches, salads and fruit. Regarding portion size, the portions they give you look small nut I have never walked away feeling anything less than bloated (gained 5 lbs. on this trip).Lunch and dinner at the three main restaurants (and at Palo). consist of at least 4 course meals (appetizer, soup or salad, Main course and desert). The simplest meal I had was chicken salad the most extravagant was Lobster tail at the Triton (and lobster ravioli at Palo). I absolutely fell in love with their strawberry soup - sooooo goooood!!!!!!!!
INTERNET AND PHONE: Only going to say this - too expensive on board. Internet: wait until you get to port if you can and use the free wireless a the public libraries. Phones: If you don't NEED to call wait until you get into port. Cell access once you get more up country is scant. I found a few places along the way where I could get cel connectivity but the areas you go by are mostly remote. This goes for US and Canada cellular providers (though there is more US availability than Canadian). The really cool thing is they offer you these wireless phones that can be used all over the ship. If parties separate a quick call on these phones can get you back together again. Be careful though. Lose one of those phones and you will be charged for them.
STAFF: At the time of our sailing the Disney Wonder employed people from over 50 different countries. I can honestly say I have not met a more friendly and courteous bunch of people in my life. Every single person I spoke to approached with a smile and seemed utterly concerned with my well being and happiness. Heck, if I met my stateroom host in the hall and I didn't already have my key out he's right there to open the door for me (this doesn't always work out - one time my wife was dressing when he opened the door). Bless him for trying. Additionally, around the ship you'll see the ship's sailing crew, maintenance and various others who seem o have answers to all my questions. They are just amazing people.
YOUR STAFF: For those of you who have never sailed before (and I have not sailed on anything other than this cruise so I cannot say of other ships are the same), you'll find that you have been assigned your own staff while you are aboard. You are assigned a service crew (a Head server, a server and an assistant server), and a stateroom host. They follow you throughout your cruise to fulfill your every whim (or resolve your every problem). The dinner crew will be with you for all dinner and special meals. The room host will be in your cabin twice a day. Once to make your bed in the morning and straighten up for you and once during diner to turn down your bed, clean up if necessary, leave you a chocolate for each person in your room and leave you a small bit of artwork to admire (can you say "towel-agami").
Day 1: The first day is short, starts out a 4:00. On board deck 9 there is the launch party. From there you go to your emergency information session to learn about what to do if something bad happens. Attendance is minatory. From there its off to dinner and the first show (Welcome Aboard), of the cruise.
Day 2: First day at sea. This day was cloudy for us. After breakfast we unpacked and spent the day getting used to the ship. Our granddaughter spent some time in the Oceaneers Club. After lunch a quick swim and back to the Club for more fun. My wife and I did some poking around and lounging on-deck. After diner there was another great live Disney show.
Day 3: Tracy Arm. We were sooo lucky From here the rest of the cruse was as sunny as could be. Most days there was a cool breeze to off-set the heat. It was nice. Anyway, it took until noon Wednesday to get to Tracy Arm. From there it is a slow go up so you have time to enjoy the majestic scenery and wildlife. We were not able to get right up to the glacier because of the seal pups and their mothers on the icebergs but we did get close enough to see it. In fact I got two great pictures. One of a seal pup birth and one of the glacier with the family pool at the bottom of the picture showing people swimming. Thought that was kind of neat. Anyway, I digress. At the top of Tracy are the ship turns around and starts heading for Skagway. After dinner another great show. This was a non-Disney-like show. They had a ventriloquist entertain us. Shows change from week to week.
Day 4: Skagway: The ship arrives early for the day spent in Skagway. Our first excursion took us to the Skagway Gold Fields tourist attraction. Here we learned how to pan for god, then we got to pan for gold, We saw sled dogs and got a demonstration of how they pull a sled, then they brought out the Alaskan Husky pups for the kids to play with. So cute... Lastly we get put into a 40 below freezer to feel what it must have been like for the miners back in the day. After that it was off to the gift shop.... Then back to the boat. Felt a little rushed to go though. Anyway, we spent a couple of hours in town looking around the shops then back on the boat for Dinner and an early evening. We skipped the show as our granddaughter was tired. The show would have been a juggling act. Nice little town, Skagway.
Day 5: Juneau: Juneau is the largest of the three towns we visited on our tour yet it is the place we stay the shortest amount of time. I was a bit disappointed as I would have loved to see more of it. What made up for it was our excursion. We took a TAKU tour plane ride over 5 glaciers. Because the weather was so nice we were treated to a high-fly. This means you can see further and better. The tour was stunning. Got some great photos. After the tour we stopped and had some fish and chips off the doc. Then we poked around for a while then caught a shuttle back to the boat. After dinner we saw Toy Story the Musical in the live theatre. Fun!
Day 6: Ketchikan: Another small town but still had more time here than Juneau. Here our excursion was the Ketchikan Duck tour. You ride around in an amphibious vehicle looking at the sites then they take you into the water to see the town from there. The tour was OK but there were probably more interesting things to do there. No show in the theatre this night. Just Iron Man 3 playing at the movies.
Day 7: Back at sea: Depression is kicking in as tis is the last day of our cruise. The day was spent taking last pictures aboard and packing. Dinner was special n the they have a staff appreciation night. Flaming baked Alaska served for desert. The show that night was Disney Dreams (don't miss this one, best of the lot). Bags have to be packed an outside your cabin (should you wish valet service for your luggage), by 10 PM.
Day 8: Going home: After last breakfast, you pick an area to sit in and wait for them to call your luggage tag character (and colour). Then you leave the ship, get your bags and go through customs.
ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN: There's loads
Nursery: Our granddaughter is 4 years old so we never put her in the nursery. While I am sure the facility is nice we thought the environment would be too void of stimulus for a growing mind.
Oceaneers Club/Lab: This is where the pre-tweens go to have a good time. There is so much for them to do. You can drop them off in the morning and pick them up before bed if you wanted too. The staff play with them and will even feed the kids for you. When you register your child for the club/lab they are given a security band to wear which lets leave the area. Kids have to be 8 before they can check themselves out though. Security isn't too bad. You have to register your child with a password and you will need to know it before you can check your child out. That said, I saw one person trying to check out their child that didn't know their password. The staff member then asked them for the child's birthday. It took two guesses from the parent before they got it correct - and the child was allowed to leave. Hmmm. Anyway, like the on-board phones, don't lose the wrist band or it will cost you to replace it. Another quick note. The club/lab frequently have "open house" times where parents are allowed to come in and play with their children. If your child is in one of these places when the open house starts they will be escorted to the other location while the open house is on. Don't be surprised if your child isn't where you left them. Don't worry though, the staff will be able to tell you where they are.
Character Meets/Greets: There are plenty of opportunities for you children to meet up and get their pictures taken with Disney characters. The most opportunistic is the character breakfast. The characters come around to your table for pictures and to say hi. Every day your Navigator will tell you where to go to see them. The characters we daw were Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale and the Disney Princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel...). Our granddaughter really enjoyed them.
Pools: There are three pools on-board: One for adults, one for families and one for children. THERE ARE NO LIFEGUARDS so you have to watch your children in these pools. The children's pool is made to look like Mickey Mouse and includes a couple of rubber tire-like mini pools (making up Mickey Mouse's ears), The maximum depth is a foot so there isn't too much to worry about, but you do need to watch.
Vibe and the Tween Club: Vibe is a little hangout is on deck eleven. A little place for your teens to hang out in. On deck 2 amid ship there is a Tween club for you 9-13 year olds to hang out in. Alas I have little information regarding these venues as we only went by them.
Movie theatre: Another place for your children to hang out is the movie theatre. Oddly enough they only seem to play Disney titles but at least many of them are first run productions. Iron Man 3 and Oz the Great And Powerful were two of the shows playing when we were on-board.
Arcade: Didn't get a chance to go in here but wanted to. Kids looked like they were having fun.
Studio Sea: I haven't made up my mind if this is for children, families or adults. Seems to be a multi-purpose room.
Palo: Already talked about Palo. Nice restaurant. Some people won't eat anywhere else. One bit I would like to ad was our server really knew his wines. He was from Italy. he picked a most delicious wine for us. Really was an enjoyable evening spent celebrating our Anniversary. No children allowed in Palo.
Bingo: Every day there's bingo. If you are into that sort of thing you won't be disappointed.
Pool: In addition to the adult pool there is a whirlpool. Neither seems to get used very much. Almost the quietest part of the ship.
Outlook Cafe: Never went in here but I believe this is a Coffee bar and Internet Cafe.
Wavebands/Route 66: Bars/dance clubs for adults. Did a little dancing but didn't hang around too much
Spa/Fitness Centre: Didn't use the facilities. Just walked around deck four (joggers path). You can also play shuffleboard on deck four. We did have a look inside though. The spa and fitness areas was clean and popular.
DISEMBARKMENT: Getting off the ship takes time. The night before you are given new luggage tags to put on your suitcases. Pay attention to both the character and the colour on the tags. This will determine the order by which you disembark. Also may sure you completely fill in the tag information so that you get your bags once off the ship (or they can be sent to you if misplaced)..it typically took about 20 minutes between character calls so be prepared to wait a little while.
And that's about it. I think I have covered most of it. Hopefully this helps. Last words... The Disney Wonder is an eleven deck ship weighing in at around 85,000 tons. The maintenance crew work all the time cleaning, painting and keeping the ship well, ship shape. The staff are great. The amenities are above expectation. Food is to die for. As long as you can handle being around a bunch of people you'll have the experience of a lifetime.