Disclaimer: We work in hospitality and know great/good/mediocre/poor service and food quality. We expect mediocre service when We choose a mediocre restaurant or hotel. You get what you pay for. We have been to Disney parks in Orlando, Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris. We have also sailed on RCCL, Princess, and Celebrity. I am comparing what I experienced at other Disney theme parks and on other cruise lines and also considering the price paid for this cruise. We did have high expectations. At least our children enjoyed it.
I did not want to look like a snob and cause any scenes around family so I sucked it up. I just assumed that this was what a Disney cruise experience was like and tried to enjoy it as much as possible.
I took a week to cool off and reflect. I find my self seething with more anger and disappointment as I recount these events. My kids didn't notice how bad things were, but I did. They didn't notice the expected "magical Disney moments" that didn't come, but I did. This time, the brand did not deliver on their promise.
My family had very high expectations for this cruise. We read many great reviews and had friends and colleagues rave about the service. I also have friends that have worked for Disney who said it was a 5-star cruise. It was 3.5 stars at best.
You expect to pay $12 for a mediocre burger at Disney. You do not expect to pay over $12,000 and get a mediocre cruise.
I have to say that this was the worst branded service experience that I have every had. I have never been so let down by a company that I had a lot of respect for. I expected a "magical" experience. I got the opposite. My opinion of Disney as a hospitality company will never be the same again. At least the kids had fun.
12 family members in total
6 adults, 6 kids (ages 1.5 to 13)
Cruise-only cost for 2 adults, 2 kids, and one infant: US$12,500 (Total with airfare from LA and shipboard charges: $21,000 - we don't drink alcohol)
Terrible 1st impression - The Disney Wonder is a very old ship. Everything is dated. Decor, dining concepts, lounges, and food.
Terrible 1st service & food impression
Buffet before sailing:
- Supervisors were berating staff in front of customers "don't you listen?" "what is wrong with you?" "I can't believe that I have to keep repeating myself" (Russian supervisor to mostly Filipino staff)
- Constantly heard staff bickering and complaining (You never see Snow White smoking a cigarette or Mickey without his gloves on. How is this any different?)
- Food was Sizzler and Ponderosa quality buffet. Shocking.
- Note: The buffet at Disneyland Hong Kong Hotel is amazing. That's what I expected.
Terrible 1st sit down restaurant food and service impression at Parrot Cay (and we were stuck with the same server for the whole cruise!!!)
- Parrot Cay is like an old 80's Flamingo Las Vegas (or Laughlin) cafe.
- Main server was poorly trained. No polish. Constantly talked back to us. "You didn't order that," "I didn't hear you" and could only take orders in a certain sequence by seat number. He did not know how to serve children. We were visibly annoyed from day one and made comments to the server, but it was shrugged off.
- Assistant server was Very sweet and nice, but she was only allowed to take drink orders?!???
Food - Banquet food. I don't buy the excuse that it is hard to serve 850 people at a time on a cruise ship. I have been in the back of house kitchens of the cruise ships. They are enormous. Las Vegas resorts do it with ease.
> Parrot Cay - Disgusting food, dingy atmosphere, faded napkins, worn out uniforms.
> Triton's - Was mediocre at best. Breakfast was good, but same food as the buffet, just served a la carte.
> 9th floor Buffet - So disgusting I can't remember the name. $8.99 Las Vegas buffets have better food. The quality was equivalent to Sizzler, Ponderosa, and a small state university dining hall.
> Animator's Palate - Dated, low-tech, same bad food, bad entertainment, Mickey showed up for 3 minutes.
> Palo - Excellent food and service. We expected this level of service and food quality throughout the ship.
> Goofy's - Soft serve machine dispensed "ice milk" disgusting. Sandwiches were decent, but the wraps were tiny. Panini's were good. Salads were better than those served at dinner
> Pluto's Grill - Good greasy fast food. Fries & veggie burger was good.
> Pinocchio's Pizza - Edible. Better than dinner.
Salads - Salad greens were 90% iceberg lettuce. Seriously? Only the Caesar was Romaine with a few sprigs of radicchio and spinach leaves used as garnish on other salads. Chicken/turkey on salads was a SLICE of deli meat!! BEYOND SHOCKING.
Fish dishes were OK, a lot of sauce to cover up.
Anything that was grilled was dry
Tenderloin/Filet steaks - Tough, stringy, dry, and over cooked
"Jumbo shrimp" was 40-count shrimp (not 20 per lb like it should be)
Colored linen napkins in every outlet were faded.
Kids meals were better than the adult meals!!! Great chicken fingers! Pizza was better than the pizza at Pinocchio's (surprised that it was not the same pizza). I ordered kids meals for myself twice. Mickey ice cream bar was nice!
Desserts - Pretty bad, pulled right off of a buffet line.
Crab legs - Small!
Bread & Rolls - Baked air. All white flour, nothing fortified, hard on the outside and all air on the inside. And I got a cold toasted bagel! Not even Lender's frozen bagel quality. Generic cream cheese too. Philadelphia Cream cheese at a minimum. Needless to say, no low fat cream cheese.
Best meals of the cruise:
- The outdoor BBQ! Now that was good! Because the food was cooked on the spot and it was outdoors.
- Palo Dinners...
- Kid's favorite: The small boxes of cereal. Really. I was surprised they didn't have Hampton Inn-style cereal dispensers.
1.) Book the early seating with your kids, but DON'T eat (nibble on some things).
2.) Book EVERY dinner at Palo at around 7:30/8pm.
3.) "Have family dinner" with your kids, drop them off at the show or kids club and then eat a good meal. Well worth the $20 per person food charge.
> The staff do not anticipate needs. Dinner service is the equivalent of what you would expect from a hometown hotel banquet servers.
> If you want something, you have to aske several times for it.
> At the breakfast buffet, I asked for an egg white omelet with specific ingredients that were all in front of the person preparing the omelettes. She said "go over there" to me. I went to the other side and they sent me back. She scowled and barked at the other side and angrily skimped on every ingredient that I asked for. I asked for more, she pretended to add more. What the???
> On formal night at Triton's, I was wearing a dark suit. I asked for a black napkin instead of a white one. I got a puzzled look. Triton's is supposed to be fine dining. That's fine dining 101.
Good communication, poor execution. I told the restaurant manager at Palo that I could not eat another meal downstairs and he must've told our head server. He tried to recover, but it was too late. There was nothing he could do to fix the service or food.
Character appearances - My 2nd biggest gripe...
I expected characters everywhere and at every meal. Only pre-scheduled 15-minute appearances with really long lines. If you didn't make a certain point in the line, you were told by the handlers to look at the schedule and come back at a later time. We woke our infant daughter at 10pm to take pictures with Mickey. Got there at 10:10 and was turned away by an uncaring and unsympathetic teenage handler. The line on the other side for Goofy was the same length and that handler lets us meet Goofy. Chuck E. Cheese does a better job walking around the arcade.
Character breakfast - There was only one during the entire cruise. Unfortunately, it was at Parrot Cay. Characters and handlers were good, but we only got Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Daisy. No Donald, Chip & Dale, or Pluto who were scheduled to be there. Kids were so disappointed. I boil just thinking about it.
Pixar Party - That was fun and cool. Kids enjoyed it. No one-on-one photo-op.
Pirate Party - Was canceled. We brought pirate costumes. Disappointing. Poor communication and no info on the online itinerary.
Entertainment - 3rd rate and a joke, but you expect that from a cruise ship. Bad singers and magicians. I have seen better street performers in Santa Monica. Even for kids.
1st run Disney movies - Very cool.
The Lone Ranger: Showed it at midnight the same day it came out in theaters. Unfortunately, it was a bad movie.
Monsters University: A hit with the kids.
Iron Man 3: Nice! More MARVEL & STAR WARS (see next section).
Cabin - Didn't have high expectations. It was an old ship and the suites were sold out. Clean, but outdated decor, small, and cramped. VERY small TV. Maybe 19"? A 42 would have made the experience a lot better. Poor signal with delays and pixelation even on in house movie channels. Kids like bunk beds. Played the same movies all day/week long. Sliding closet doors had velcro tape to keep them from sliding open and closed in wavy waters. It looked homemade and it didn't work. The mini-fridge had 3 doors on the front!!! No joke. We sent the crib back because it took up too much space.
Balcony was small, poor views due to the old steamer-style railings (not full glass like Princess), 9th floor restaurant overhang ruined pictures. Furniture was very old.
Oceaneers Lab - Many PC game stations did not work. To keep kids out of certain areas, they haphazardly tied yellow caution from the columns and tables. It looked terrible. Retractable stanchions would have been much nicer.
Also, I expected more kid-friendly excursions. Most were age 10 and up. I also expected Disney organized group excursions for kids.
Where are all the Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar things???? 2 items hidden on a bottom shelf facing the back of the gift shop. This is a huge revenue opportunity for them. I bought a great Star Wars set for my kids and would have bought even more.
Poor signal in the cabins. Better in the lounges.
That covers most of it. Will try one of the new ships next with star chefs, Broadway shows, rock climbing walls, mini-golf, and the stuff that you expect from a cruise in this day and age.