Our cruise was from January 15th – January 19th out of Miami. I have cruised twice before, both Carnival. The first was the Legend and the second was the Ecstasy so I will make some comparisons between Carnival and Disney during the review.
My wife is a Disney fanatic and had on her bucket list to go on a Disney cruise. She averages trips to the park 1-2 times a year. We found the Disney cruise out of Miami to be cheaper than Disney cruises normally are so we jumped at the chance. The question I had when I started this trip was, are Disney cruises that much better? Is the additional cost worth it or are we just paying for the Disney name?
We flew in to Miami on Wednesday morning and took a taxi to the cruise terminal. The cost is $24.00 per taxi, not per individual. This is a fixed rate so don’t pay more. We arrived at the cruise terminal about 10:00. We had to wait about 30 minutes before they would let us in. A small crowd of 100 or so gathered before we were admitted to the terminal. Once in, we received our room/charge card (they call it the key to the world card), had our pictures taken for security, etc. Then we were given a group number and instructed to wait until that group number was called before we could board the ship. We waited about 2 hours before our number was called. By that time the terminal building was pretty well packed with people. On the Carnival boats we never had to wait. We entered the terminal, checked in and went straight on the boat. I am not sure if this delay is a Disney or a Miami cruise terminal thing. I suspect it is a Miami cruise terminal problem. I might cruise out of Miami again but if we have the long wait, it will be the last time. Our pervious cruises went out of Port Canaveral.
We boarded the ship and because it was so cold in the terminal building and we were in there for two hours, we decided to go up on the top deck to warm up. The weather in Miami was unusually cool. Probably 60s, overcast and very windy so it was not much warmer. After that we went to the buffet to get something to eat and then went to our room which was ready by 1:30. Our luggage was not there but it did arrive a little later.
The boat was nice and pretty easy to get around. I would rate it on the same level as the two Carnival boats we have been on. Nothing really stood out as good or bad. The food was average. It was good but nothing outstanding. Once again I would rate it as the same level as Carnival. We ate in the main dining room twice. One was Animator’s Pallet. I read about this before the cruise. I expected to enter a room that was all black and white and as we ate I expected the room to change. We did enter a black and white room with all kinds of sketches of characters on the wall and some large pictures of characters around the room. The large pictures changed to a kind of digital type color picture and the smaller sketches changed from black and white to a reddish and white color but it was not what I expected. I think it was more hype than substance. We went to the Toy Story show and it was really good. A must do for kids. We also attended the pirate party. It was outside and it was quite chilly. Characters danced around on stage to music and Mickey Mouse came swinging in on a high wire. It was cute and the kids seemed to have fun but again it was quite chilly. We took advantage of the ping pong tables and basketball courts some. My 8 year old boy was with us and we signed him up for the kids club but he never attended any activities. He didn’t seem impressed with what they had to offer but I suspect he would have had fun if he went.
Our three stops were Disney’s private island, Nassau and Key West. The private island stop was fun but the weather did not cooperate. It was overcast, windy and cool. The Nassau stop was better. We went on the Blue Lagoon beach day and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a beach day. The weather was nice. They have lots of activities for kids and adults as well as food and drinks. Key West was nice once we got off the boat. We didn’t dock until later in the morning. We were told we had to clear immigration before we could leave the boat in Key West. At 10:00 everyone was to line up outside one of the restaurants. The Wonder holds something like 2400 passengers. I am sure some people stayed on the boat but it seemed like everyone was leaving and we all had to filter through this “process”. By 12:00 (two hours later) we entered the room. They had 4-5 stations set up with an immigration officer standing at each. You had to walk up to him and present your passport. They had the ceiling lights, some type of spot light, turned to shine in your face. It was very bright. It reminded me of the torture scenes you see in movies where they shine the bright light in the face of the suspect as they question him. He looked at my passport and asked where I was born. I answered and I received a little sticker on my key to the world card so I could leave the ship. Two hours for 2 minutes of that silliness! I guess they have to justify their jobs somehow. I won’t get started on government that is too big and out of control. I will just say I was not happy with that process. It was useless and wasted a lot of time. Disney and/or the immigration service needs to do some serious work on that process.
Once off the boat we just roamed around Key West. We purchased the train tickets but only rode it once. If you are not against walking, save your money and don’t purchase the tickets. They are pretty expensive for what you get. I think it was $29.00 per adult or something like that. Key West was nice. I would go back there again as long as I didn’t have to go through that ridiculous Immigration inspection/inquisition/questioning session or whatever you want to call a waste of time and money.
We arrived back in Miami to some chilly weather. We kept our luggage and carried it off the boat ourselves. This was probably the quickest we ever left a boat. We took a taxi back to the airport. So was the Disney cruise worth it? It was a fun cruise. The boat was nice and clean, as was our stateroom. The food was average. The entertainment was typical Disney which means it was good. The staff on the boat was excellent, always happy and quick to say “good morning” or “good afternoon”. The weather was not very good for our trip but that is out of Disney’s hands so they can’t be faulted for that.
Overall it was a good cruise but I don’t think it was any better than the two Carnival cruises we have been on. If you are totally in to Disney, then that aspect of the cruise would probably make it better than the others. Is it worth the extra money? I really don’t think so. We may take another Disney cruise on one of the other newer and larger boats just to compare but I think my next cruise will be with Norwegian or Royal Caribbean. Just remember, most cruises are what you make of them and any cruise is a good cruise!