Wow, I am almost weeping as I write this. We just got off our first Disney cruise (2n to "nowhere", the first cruise out of LA). We just could NOT wait to get on this ship! We are big Disney fans (almost 1000 DVC points, lots of visits to the parks, etc) but had never gotten around to flying 3000 miles to go on a Disney cruise. Living in San Diego, we love the Port of LA and have sailed Princess and Royal Caribbean at least once a year (3x last year) for the last 10 years. So I guess we are young but seasoned cruisers. We have 6 and 11 year old girls. But enough about us...
We arrived at the port at 11:30. We stood in line for 1 1/2 hours just to check in. However, we attribute this to the very first cruise out of LA so we didn't make much of it. Once we boarded, we were struck by 2 things. 1) relatively small atrium that's pretty uninspired 2) TINY and very claustrophobic elevators that barely fit 5 or 6 people and have no ventillation. Wow. Anyway, we get to our cabin on the 7th floor (balcony room) and find it okay. No cute Disney touches. 2 little Disney prints on the walls. Otherwise an ok balcony room that could be on any ship. As the ship gets on it's way though, we find that everything is creaking in the room even though the seas are calm. Also, we can hear the people walking above us (deck 8 is still cabins, not the pool area, thank goodness). Every conversation in the hallways can be heard through paperthin walls as well as those in the rooms next to us. Sigh. I haven't experienced such bad sound insulation since our cruises in the mid 90s on ships that have long since been retired.
But we keep an open mind as we change and head up to the pool (yes, it's 78 degrees in port). I quickly realize that there are only 22 lounge chairs on the left of the pool and 20 on the right. Not quite enough for the 2400 passengers who are ALL up on the pool deck swimming. Hannah Montana music is BLARING out of the giant TV screen and children are wall to wall in the pools and spas. Sigh. But hey, it's the first day. Maybe people will mellow tomorrow? The pool deck is strange in that the sides are completely enclosed in glass and basically there is no air circulation unless you are standing in the center of the pool, by the water, where all the kids are trying to swim and race around. The heat in the unventillated areas under the glass is pretty unpleasant (think sitting under a giant magnifying glass) so most people are now concentrated by the crowded pool. Strangely claustrophobic feeling, like those elevators.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the buffet is practically nonexistent on this ship. It's on the 9th deck by the pool and is just TINY. The salad area has 6 ingredients (I counted) with only 2 dressings (ranch and vinagrette). There are about 10 other dishes (overcooked fish that looks a day old, some corn salsa, and a green bean dish dripping in butter, sliced roast beef, chili). Anyway, that would all be ok except the buffet closes at 3:30!!! And it never opens again that day. It just says "closed for cleaning" all afternoon and night. I took a picture of the sign.... The next day, the buffet is open for LITERALLY 2 HOURS!! What???? I have never been on a ship with such a tiny little buffet and certainly NEVER on one that had a 2 hour buffet only! Now I am not a huge foodie or even a huge eater, but I can tell you that buffets are KEY when you have young children and they do not want to sit down for a meal. Or teens who need to refuel every 2-3 hours. So basically with the pathetic buffet hours, the food choices for the kids after 2pm are 1) greasy fried food (DH and I called this "park food" since it's identical to what you buy when you are walking around at Disneyland or WDW). That is deep fried chicken strips and fish sandwitches, hot dogs, brots and cheeseburgers plus greasy, soggy FFs. The other food choice is the sit down meal during your assigned dining time (8:30 for us). So for us that was Parrot Cay. Unfortunately, Parrot's Cay has 0 atmosphere and it is the LOUDEST "restaurant" we've ever been in. The acoustics are amazingly bad in there. The whitewash 80s furniture adds nothing to the college cafeteria feel it has. Tables are too long and the chairs are too short. It's just so badly in need of a major makeover. The morning breakfast trays are still in the middle of the room (minus the food) so you are looking at nice big empty silver food trays as you sit and try to eat your meal with a bunch of cranky kids who would rather be elsewhere. I mean it, 0 atmosphere. Worst "restaurant" I have seen at sea. That said, the food was okay. Not fantastic but not bad. On the bright side, the service was excellent and the waiters work really hard to make the best of what they have. Late night food choice is room service with the same manu as at the pool bar: greasy deep fried stuff! BLECH. DH jokingly tells me today as we drive home from LA that he had to go all the way to the spa yesterday afternoon to find ANY fresh fruit! He brought me a banana and I was thrilled. All I can say is that I very sincerely hope Disney is reading these reviews and realizing that perhaps the CA crowd has a different desire for healthy, fresh, non-greasy fried food than those in the Caribbean? Or, that they realize that while people are willing to eat the "park food" for a short 3n cruise, you simply cannot stomach the horrible, calorie filled junk food that they are serving on a 7 night cruise to MX or Alaska. They better get that buffet opened up at least the majority of the afternoon and evening and start thinking about better choices for food for kids and adults alike.
Anyway, aside from the creaky and loud rooms and horrible food choices, we spent a LOT of time in large crowds. Maybe on a longer cruise people will dissipate but public spaces ALWAYS had people in line trying to get character autographs or trying to talk to guest services or trying to get into the buffet before it closes or trying to muscle their way into the pool or into the overfilled amphitheater. It just felt crowded. Remember the tiny elevators. Forget it. It was downright claustrophobic to be in them so we took the stairs. Easy for us young folks to do - harder for people who have mobility limitations or need to get a stroller from one floor to another. I really felt everyone who was on the ship, unlike the Sapphire Princess at Thanksgiving, where there were 2800 people on board with 800 children and yet we never had to wait in line for anything, ever.
On the bright side, the 2 shows we saw (Golden Mickey and Dreams) were both the best shows we have ever seen at sea. They were an hour each and I noticed both adults and children really getting into the shows. I loved them both. Also, the 2 little stores they had by the theater had a wonderful selection of Disney clothes, toys and those cute little Dooney and Burke bags. Shopping was fun for all! I also want to mention that the service on the ship was excellent and despite my gripes above, I found the staff willing to go out of their way to please. Our room stewart was friendly and efficient. The kids club was more elaborate than any other ship I have been on and the kids enjoyed the activities there. Also, we watched Toy Story 3 and Tron in 3D in their little movie theater, which was pretty cool.
Overall though, I found this little cruise a real disappointment and more importantly, I think the Wonder is just well past its prime. Even a 3 week drydock won't bring this ship up to modern day standards unless they strip it down to the hull and rebuild it. And get a grip about the 1000 calorie plates of greasy hot dogs and FF they are feeding the children from 2pm on every day of the cruise. I can't express how sad I am about this, as LA is wonderfully easy port for us to sail out of and with 2 children who love Disney, I was prepared to book Disney a LOT. Sadly, DH and I decided tonight to cancel our 8n Holiday cruise this December because we simply can't imagine being on this ship for 8 nights.... Sadly.