This was our 7th cruise on Disney (or any other CL) and our 1st as just a couple of old married folks. Our son (in college) had classes so he stayed home and my husband & I were celebrating our 30th anniversary! We were on the May 16th sailing of the Wonder. It was our best cruise yet! We arrived at port a little too early (9:00 - because I woke up at 5:30 and just was too excited to wait) and were requested to return around 10 as guests from the previous cruise were still disembarking. We went toward the beaches and passed the time at a McDonalds and returned to the terminal by around 10:05. Our luggage was collected by porters (tipped) and my husband parked in the temporary parking lot (the parking garage is nearing completion) at $60 ($15 per night). I went up to check-in and our check-in process went smoothly (we had prechecked-in online). Our boarding number was 3 - it definitely pays to arrive early!
We boarded the ship by 12:30 and were routed to Parrot Cay (deck 3 aft) for lunch. You had the option of going up to Beach Blanket (deck 9 aft) but we prefer the indoor comfort of PC. The buffet (same as Beach Blanket) consisted of various meats, salads, sides, desserts, and the always popular cold steamed shrimp. While at PC, we saw a server from our 5th cruise 7 years ago, Vit, who (much to our surprise) recognized us and even inquired as to how our son was doing - what a memory (or maybe we're too memorable...humm?)! Staterooms are not usually ready until after 1:30 so we passed the brief wait time by sitting on the port side promenade deck - facing the other 2 cruise ships in port (RCL-Oasis & Carnival-Sensation) and just being happy about once again being onboard this fabulous ship. One of the comments we've heard from friends and other cruisers is that there is much more drinking (inebriated people) and raucous behavior on the Carnival ships. They have also commented that their shows are much less 'kid/family' friendly - scantily clad dancers and more 'adult' humor. It's a shame that many of the balcony areas have had to be screened in to keep fools from falling overboard. But - I digress. Suffice it to say that we've never encountered drunken or inappropriate behavior or sleazy shows on Disney cruises. There are adult areas and shows that may not be appropriate for children (adult themes - but not foul), they are clearly stated as such and children are not permitted.
We arrived in our clean and ready stateroom by around 1:35 and were delighted to discover that because our room was so far forward and due to the curve of the bough, we had about 20 added square feet of floor space plus another 12 sq. ft. in front of the large porthole window. Compared to our cat. 4 stateroom last year - we felt like we had as much or more floor/storage/living space. The only thing we didn't have was a balcony - but we really didn't miss it as our window was large and being on deck 2 - we were close to the water. Another thing we like about this room as opposed the the others (balcony) in which we've stayed, is that its a/c is cooler and less humid. If you are traveling with children and staying in a cat. 9 on deck 2 - request rooms 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 or 2500, 2502, 2504, 2506, and 2508. All of these have extra floor/window space and a place the kids can sit and look out the window. Our wonderful steward (Sakol) said that many children like to put pillows in the window ledge and sleep there by the window. Our bed was pillow-top and very comfy. Sakol kept us well stocked with ice (2x per day-prearranged), clean towels, towel critters, and many other 'niceties.'
Since we are now classified as "Gold Castaway Club Members" (between 6-10 DCL cruises) and we're Disney Vacation Club members we had many perks left in our room each day - invitation to captain's reception, special tote bags, drink containers, door magnets, treats and more. Another advantage to being on deck 2, far forward is that our muster station is in the Walt Disney Theater on deck 4. We avoided having to be outside on the promenade deck in the hot sun like most other cruisers! Another perk!
Our dining rotation order was Parrot Cay, 2 nights at Tritons (our favorite), and Animators' Palate (clue - when you receive your 'key card' - it will have initials on it like 'f-3 PTTA Table 57' - which translates as first seating, 3rd set, Parrot Cay, Tritons, Tritons, Animators' Palate). We were seated at table 57 (in all 3 restaurants throughout the cruise dinners with the same servers) which is a 4 top. Our table mates, Carl & Shannon, were a delightful couple - about our age from Utah. We enjoyed their company and were entertained by their creative costuming on pirate night (same day as Castaway Cay day). Our servers, Zoltan & Victor, as well as our head server, Carina, were very attentive and just wonderful. The menus since our cruise last year had changed somewhat, but found our favorites to still be there. The new changes were definitely an improvement (not that they were lacking before, but more to our liking). Our food always arrived at the appropriate temperature and was well seasoned, prepared, and displayed. I've never waddled off from a DCL meal hungry! As we learned on previous cruises, we prefer to dine in Tritons & Parrot Cay for breakfast & lunch each day as they are less crowded and cooler. (We're Floridians who don't care for the heat.) Beach Blanket Buffet (deck 9, aft) is usually full of families still in swimwear. We did order coffee & croissants one morning by using the 'night before door hanger' and it arrived on time.
One of the officers, Pierre from France, remembered us from our cruise last year and we enjoyed conversing with him several times throughout our cruise. The captain, Henri Andersson, and cruise director, Ray, were equally engaging.
We got off the ship at Nassau long enough to walk through the shopping district (which is filthy and full of peddlers being pushy about wanting to braid your hair or taxi you around the island) and purchase our Tortuga Rum Cakes. I've since learned I can buy these at Bass Pro Shops - so no more Nassau for me! Since the DCL ships are Bahamian registry, I think there is a contractual obligation for the ships to visit there.
The other stop was on Castaway Cay (Disney private island) where we disembarked long enough to snap some pics of the "Flying Dutchman" with hubby's new camera. CC is where most everyone disembarks and enjoys the fabulous beaches and activities on the island. The lunch provided on the island is included in your cruise - so no need for money here unless you wish to purchase things in the gift shop (no cash, just your key card is needed). However, we were only on the island briefly and quickly returned to the quiet ship to enjoy the Quiet Cove (adult) pool area where there were only about 6 other people in the area along with a few attentive crew members. As for shore excursions - if you want to enjoy parasailing, glass bottom boating, or other small craft recreation - sign-up early and do these things on CC. You can count on the vessels and excursions being clean and safe (not so sure about the ones by outside vendors at Nassau - although Disney does try to keep up with and check out quality on these, they don't control them). If you have not been to Castaway Cay - and enjoy the beach - this is a must - beautiful, clean and safe! Just be ready to walk a little, but there is a tram for a much of the way to the beaches.
Lunch on the ship on Castaway Cay day is Parrot Cay (only place open on CC days) is no longer buffet (for CC day), but menu order - which we found to be ample and tasty. I'm now spoiled to wanting my 4 course dinners - appetizer, soup, entre, & dessert! But it was all to quickly back to normal when I returned home.
The 'big' shows each evening were of usual Disney high quality and family fare. First night was "Golden Mickeys," second night was "Toy Story," third night was "Oceans," the movie, and final night was the always delightful "Disney Dreams." We decided not to see the movie this time around just because we wanted to do enjoy some of the other DCL activities. We also skipped Toy Story as we saw it last year and it really wasn't our favorite - spent too much time on the villan, Sid, than the 'cuter' aspects of the show. They are working on a new show featuring the Disney villans which will be on the new ship. They did offer a 1:30 matinee of "Disney Dreams" on day at sea, which we attended so the evening could be spent packing, shopping and other onboard activities. Another side note - the theater shows are also shown on your stateroom tv simultaneously with the stage shows. This could be useful if one of the family members was ill or too tired to attend. Nice touch.
We both were so glad we chose the Disney Cruise for celebrating our 30th anniversary - only wish it had been around for our honeymoon. Although there were many children on board, we never felt overwhelmed or annoyed by them. There were only a few times that there were crying children, which is to be expected when they are tired or just overwhelmed by the exciting events of the day. But being parents ourselves, we understand that. Most of the time the children were happy and glad to tell you what they've been doing with Mickey and his 'wonder'ful crew! Overall, the ship was incredibly clean (cleaner than last year I think), the crew members at all levels were interested in making our stay as fun and comfortable as possible. We'd never had so many of the upper level crew seem as interested in our opinions and input on making the cruise better. All of the folks with whom we discussed other cruiselines indicated that Disney is by far the best for wholesome, clean, guest pleasing cruising - also the most enjoyable. We can't imagine sailing with anyone but Disney...ever!