HEAR YE! HEAR YE! COURT IS NOW IN SESSION!
Judge: This court is called to order to address the following charge: The accused are charged with being Disney fans first, and cruisers second. How do you plead?
90% of the Dis Wonder Cruisers: We'll take the Fifth.
Judge: I'm just asking for a plea right now....
90%: But we want another fifth of Bourbon....
Judge: Do you understand?? You are charged with caring more about Mickey Mouse than about cruise ships. What is your plea?
90%: DEFINITELY GUILTY!
Judge: Just as I thought! I hereby sentence you to time served on the Disney Wonder. As conditions of your probation you are not allowed to dress up as pirates for dinner, and you are restricted from inhaling any more pixie dust. We will now proceed with our review. This court is hereby adjourned.
This review might anger some "Mouse" fans, but please accept it in the tongue-in-cheek spirit its intended to be.
This is not Disney's fault, but I was somewhat surprised at the lack of postings on CC for this cruise. There are several websites that had boards for the cruise; mainly about Fish Extenders (google FE's if you don't know what they are - a nice idea we participated in). I really tried to promote CC on the other sites, as, IMO, there is no Cruise Website that offers anywhere near the amount of info CC does.
First, the Port: Disney is leaving Galveston. Galveston is a nice place, but if you have to fly to the cruise, its rather inconvenient. Disney only offered transfers from Bush International (75 miles away) rather than Hobby (40 miles), and, for a family of 3 in our case (DW & I, 4 yr old DGD), the cheapest way to reach the port was Disney transfers. We also booked our hotel stay through Disney (Hotel Galvez, the only hotel Dis offered, but a very nice place to stay).
Embarkation: fairly smooth process once it began; I don't think anyone boarded before almost 12PM, cabins ready at 1:30.
Before I get into our dining experiences, allow me to mention our non-dining experiences. We boarded Saturday, had a nice dinner, spent the next day (Sea Day) in the kids pool area. In our Dis cruise experiences (this was our 2nd Dis cruise), the kids pools get closed at times for "unscheduled" maintenance - even though the signs say no children who aren't potty-trained, many adults seem to be illiterate. Cultural differences: that day we saw 3 families asked to take their toddlers in swim diapers out of the water. One Japanese family obliged and left. The two American families took their kids out, went off to the side and removed their diapers, then put them back in the pool, which helps to explain the oft need for unscheduled maintenance. Our DGD woke up around 4AM Monday morning, vomiting. What's the incubation period for Noro? I'm thinking it could've been the ship. or it could've been the flights. Affected her for two days, so we missed our Monday dinner. It hit me Tuesday after breakfast (Hello, pancakes, didn't think I'd see you again!), so I missed dinner on Tuesday. It hit DW Wednesday, so we all missed dinner that night. I did courteously go to the DR to inform our server we wouldn't be dining both missed nights.
Disney Food: I'm not a Seafood lover, but most menus had two out of five choices being seafood (of course steak or chicken any night you wanted), and I had fish dishes 3 of the 5 nights I ate in the DR. Dis food is a little fancy for my tastes, but I'm a very plain eater, so don't go by my opinion. None of us at our table ever had a bad meal, I just didn't care for some of the choices. Example: the last night was Lobster night. I don't care for Lobster, and 3 of the other 4 entries were mushroom based, and I don't like mushrooms. Again, that's my personal preference. I think I like Royal and Princess menus better than Dis, but many people would probably disagree.
Disappointing: I think there were fewer places on this ship to get snacks than any ship I've been on. The buffet was only open at certain times (and served as a DR at night). Fast Food was plentiful, and soda, tea, coffee always available, but if you had a sweet tooth at night your only choice was room service. By the way, due to our illnesses, most of our breakfasts were room service; Continental only, so we had muffins, pastries, cereals. I did have chicken wings and pizza from room service the one night we all missed dinner. The burgers, hot dogs, Cajun chicken, etc. were all very good. Little sandwiches and fresh fruit also available for most of the day. All of those things were up at the pool decks. The buffet area is very small compared to most ships, so Dis compensates by always having at least one of the DR's open for breakfast and lunch. Speaking of the DR's: there are 3, you rotate among them for your meals, keeping the same servers. I like that idea.
Pirate Night Buffet: Nice show, then a buffet in the buffet place. We left early - it was already 9:30PM and our DGD was falling asleep. Our tablemates said they had a good variety including turkey legs, but the buffet area is so small and the lines so long, by time they got to the buffet is was pretty much picked over. Our first morning we had a Character breakfast (7 day cruises or longer only) which was nice (Mick, Min, Pluto, Goofy). They spread the CB's out throughout the week; you have to check your DR tickets to see when yours is scheduled; our tablemates missed theirs because they missed dinner the first night and never noticed it.
One More Note: Dis holds a "Tea Party", (apple juice and cookies) with usually 2 princesses present (we had Ariel and Tijana); they speak individually with each young lady, and you can do pics and autos afterwards. You have to register at Guest Services when you board; seating is limited. Nice extra touch by Dis.
Entertainment: You can't beat the quality of Disney shows. I met a CFO of a company that produces and designs shows for cruise ships, and he admitted Dis has advantages over everyone else, in particular their history, their production studios, their "farm system" of the Theme Parks. Add in the pyrotechnics which, for some reason only Dis can do at sea, and you get outstanding shows.
There were three comedians on board (missed 2), at least 2 of which came from the tv show America's Got Talent. The one we saw was a comedian/ventriloquist who did a hilarious act using a kid as a dummy (Barb offered my services, figuring I have a lot of experience being a dummy, but they were looking for someone younger).
Now, add to the above all the various Disney characters appearing and walking around the ship, visiting with kids in the kids clubs (I saw a Snow White, who looked and sounded exactly like the movie version, telling a story to kids), and no other cruise line can compare, at least for kids and, as stated above in my trial, obviously for many adults too.
There was a woman playing guitar and singing at the Adult Pool most days, at least one other singer appearing around the ship, DJ of course. With a 4 yr old in tow we did not visit any of the adult nighttime areas, except for catching some of the World Series games for a brief while. Then, add in the Pirate show, Halloween celebrations, family games, adult games, and you have a lot of activities to choose from.
Dress Codes: Dis recently relaxed their dress codes to allow for shorts in the DR; from our previous cruise, that was a common practice anyways. That being said, I don't recall seeing many shorts in the Dr, but neither did we see many adults dressing up. Kids, yes, adults, no.
Formal Night: I saw one tuxedo. One fellow Facebooker wrote about ironing her husband's Wranglers for formal night. And, while I only saw one tux, and probably less than 25% dressed somewhat formally (suit or sportscoat), on Pirate Night I'd say about 75% dressed up as pirates! Be aware: Dis cruisers really get into this stuff - pirates, dressing the little girls in princess gowns. Dis does require a special dress code for their private restaurant, Palo's; maybe that's where all the tuxes were on formal night.
Cabins: We had 6632, a balcony cabin aft of midship. Very pleased with the location and excellent condition of the cabin (we had booked a guarantee category and received a slight upgrade). Nice Dis touch is the split bathroom with sink & toilet in one, sink & shower in other - especially handy consider our health misadventures. If you cruise, make sure you latch the sliding closet doors, or they'll bang back and forth all night with the wave motion. And bring some type of magnet weights to attach to the shower curtain unless you're the clingy type. Oh, I like Dis toiletries. I always bring a full size bar of soap to use; the bars Dis provided were big enough, bigger than your usual hotel/cruise ship fare.
Excursions: The sickness hit us the worst in Jamaica, so we didn't do an excursion. They have a gated area in Falmouth that only cruisers and vendors can enter. Go beyond the gates, and things get interesting (lots of police presence, armed guards outside bodegas). Did the Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman, nice for any age, but especially for a 4 yr old. Cozumel: Playa Mia Beach Break. I've been to other AI's in Cozumel; Playa Mia was the best I've seen. Nice water park for kids, decent beach, lots of activities.
Um, what else? Service Level? Outstanding, but its been so on every ship we've sailed. Dis waiters aren't quite as formal as other lines (example: reaching in front of a guest to place something on the table, a faux pas you wouldn't see on most ships. And, get this: once, they put my fork on the right side of my plate!! I couldn't believe it!! Hey - this is a true story: I read a review on CC a while back where a guy complained because on formal night they gave him a white napkin instead of a black one to match his tux. Boy! Was he ever on the wrong cruise line!!
Fellow passengers: Texas people are nice, nicest group we've cruised with since the Norfolk cruise. Due to the time of year (most kids in school), it was a young crowd with very young, pre-school kids for the most part. Our DGD met an 8 yr old whose family we kind of met through the chat sites, and they had a great time playing with each other all week. And, I think Dis does a great job of matching up families for dinner (we were with a young couple with a 4 yr old boy; they were great dinner companions and our DGD and Jack certainly enjoyed each other's company).
Disembarkation: kind of a mess, but most ships have the same problems. Our last Royal cruise, where we chose our time to get off (an option here we didn't use here because of flight times), was much smoother. Galveston customs was a breeze.
Did I possibly forget anything? Getting back to my opening: I would venture to say that most cruisers on the ship were Disney fans first, cruisers second. That's not meant as a knock against anyone (criticizing the Mouse can be dangerous!), but it was a different atmosphere from every other cruise line we've been on. We chose this cruise knowing our 4 yr old DGD would enjoy it, and because we got a great price. However, while I would certainly recommend Disney to anyone with kids (and even Mickey-loving adults), DW and I agree that we personally prefer other cruise lines.