Disney Wonder Cruise Review by cyclenut: Disney Wonder to Alaska
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Disney Wonder to Alaska
When selecting our vacation we decided on a Disney Cruise. Our only question was, what destination. We are big Disney fans. We booked this cruise in March for an August sailing. Being that we booked so late, we also paid more than those who book early. We actually booked three staterooms. Two on deck 1 and one on deck 6 for our group of 7. While we had some problems, our overall experience was great. We'll have some of the best memories ever and most in our family are already trying to figure out how they can go on their next Disney cruise. My wife and I have reservations. Embarkation was absolutely amazing. Super smooth and organized, we were on the ship relatively quickly after arriving at the port. We booked airfare and transfers all through Disney. We also booked all of our port adventures through Disney. This was our first Disney cruise and the first cruise of any kind for our "kids".
From the moment we boarded the ship we could tell we were on a Disney ship, not just More because of the statue of Ariel just outside Triton's restaurant or the Mickey symbols all over. It was the service. We were pulled aside after being announced as having arrived and were given a quick lay of the land, a brief itinerary for the next few hours and an opportunity to ask questions. Disney service is very hard to beat. When we reached Deck 9 and the buffet, we had trouble finding a table for our group of 7 but a cast member (Disney crew for those unfamiliar) helped us out right off. We had our meal and it was announced that our staterooms were ready. Our cruise had begun!
Throughout the cruise there was always plenty to do. We had one under-18 on the ship and the club for them is called "Vibe". The counselors there were not as strong as I would have expected and it took until the last day of sailing before we finally got our kid comfortable with joining in and that took a phone call to Guest Services and a discussion with the youth activities coordinator. This shouldn't be necessary and won't be if your child is outgoing and quick to make new friends. Those who may be a little more shy might find it difficult to break through. Parents should use the open house time to visit the Vibe with their teen to help get them acclimated.
The only real disappointment on this cruise was the dining experience. Disney does a rotational dining through three dining rooms on the ship. We had late seating, which is what we usually do when cruising. That was fine. It was our dining service that didn't meet expectations. The food was "too fancy" for us generally, but we did find something to eat for every course. It took nearly two hours to get through the meal, every night. Our servers were late with bringing condiments and dressings for the dishes that required them and even forgot who ordered which dish at times. At least twice they brought the wrong food entirely and had a hard time explaining some of the ingredients that were "new" to us. The wait staff was very friendly, but they really missed the mark in those areas. The character breakfast was horrible. Cold food, bland, poor service and the handlers for each of the characters were short with us. On a positive note, the dining rooms on Disney had different size tables that accommodate an entire sailing party, and there weren't many occasions where multiple sailing parties were combined. This worked well for us as we used dinner time to catch up with everyone's experiences from the previous day.
We also dined in Palo once and another pair in our group did as well. Both were OUTSTANDING experiences. Everything from the servers to the food was exceptional. Truly exceptional. The view from Deck 10 aft was amazing. Unbelievable. I can't say enough good things about Palo. It is a MUST DO.
We saw three of the main shows. The send-away show on sail date in the theater, the Golden Mickey's show and Toy Story the Musical. The first two shows were excellent. We were even surprised at how good the Golden Mickey's show was. Toy Story the Musical was a big disappointment. Great costumes but the music was uninspired and they did nothing with the storyline but mimic the original movie, but with less time to develop a plot of any kind, it was very disjointed. It wasn't worth the time and pretty much everyone agreed. Remember, we are big Disney fans.
The views and vistas of Alaska are amazing and the overall service aboard the ship was great. We will have some of the best memories from this vacation, no question. It is really my wife and I who noticed things that we felt were just "on par" with our previous experiences where we expected Disney to be "a cut above". It was really great, but it wasn't better, even though it cost more. Less
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Cabin review: Disney Wonder
Our cabin was excellent. This was a "special" Navigator's Veranda that was converted from a Veranda room due to a partially obstructed view, and I mean PARTIALLY. It is on the starboard side, aft. There is room to sleep three as this room has no pull down bunk. It does have the split bath, which was outstanding. There was a sofa that converts to a bed, a small table in front of the sofa and a desk. Next to the desk was the TV which was on an arm that allowed it to be adjusted to be seen from virtually anywhere in the room. The veranda had a small table and two chairs with plenty of space to move about. The "obstruction" was actually helpful in shielding us from the wind at times. Being on Deck 6 aft meant we were just 3 decks right below the Beach Blanket Buffet and very near the Animator's Palate restaurant, which was also the location for our muster station. To the aft on deck 7 and 8 were small public balcony areas that were also excellent for viewing the wonderful Alaska scenery. All very near the the stateroom. The laundry facility was midship on starboard side, which made it readily accessible but not so near that we had to deal with the foot traffic. I don't think there is a better value for a stateroom anywhere on the ship.
Port and Shore Excursions
1) Sled dog discovery and musher's camp. Myself and my son did this one. He is a huge fan of Alaska sled dogs, Huskies to be specific. We took a bus to a place near the ski lodge and then boarded vans where we were taken into the camp. We were greeted by many very excited barking sled dogs all strapped up and ready to go. We were seated in a wheeled cart for six and taken around the camp for a few minutes. Then we were let out to pet the dogs and we learned a little bit about these dogs, the lead dogs and other things. Then we transitioned to another area where we were greeted by an Alaskan Husky. We walked out on a small suspension bridge that was apparently new and took in some great forest area over a creek. Impressive views. We then sat down for what amounted to quite a bit of "show and tell". This is a working mushers camp for the sled dogs. Here you learn all about the dogs and their gear. What steps are taken to keep them healthy and happy on the trail and some of the "tricks of the trade". We then transitioned to another area where we learned all about the Iditarod, the route, the mushers gear and equipment, the sleds, etc. Finally it was puppy time. The puppies were taken out of the pens and we got to hold them and pet them. Cute and adorable as most all puppies are. Very special. In all, too much lecture time for us. Would have preferred more time with the dogs and on the sled. But it was very informative and we did enjoy it. Basically, it was as advertised. It is a working musher's camp and we learned about sled dogs, mushers and the races they run.
2) Mendenhall Glacier Explorer and Mount Roberts Tramway: Two in our party did this one and they thought it was excellent. No walking on the glacier itself but plenty of opportunity to explore around it. They took a hike back to a wonderful waterfall. Apparently there were several options to choose from depending on the ability of your party and how far they wanted to walk. Most people seemed to shy away from the waterfall hike but my wife and daughter loved it. The tramway was amazing. You can't miss it and this is definitely one you don't need to book through the ship. There was plenty of time in Juneau to pick this up either before or after an excursion. It is a 6 minute ride to the top where there spectacular views of the entire area. This was a great combination.
3) Alaska Whales and Rainforest Trails: I heard conflicting information on this one. Some really liked the whale watching and one said it was boring and kept falling asleep (could have been the Dramamine ... she insisted that the non-drowsy formula didn't work for her). Definitely saw some humpbacks. The rainforest was excellent. There were people doing a zipline overhead which was a little distracting. Interestingly those people were told to be quiet during their zipline so as not to disturb those who were viewing the rainforest from below. This was a contrast to the zipline experience in Skagway. The rainforest tour was basically a nature walk through private land that is basically a natural rainforest due to the several feet of rain (yes feet) that they get each year. In all a good experience but it was not considered one of the favorites.
A word about Juneau. We had spectacular weather. The Wonder was docked a little further away from the town so they had a shuttle. You could walk it, but it was about 20 minutes or more and it wasn't even nice scenery. They had several tour brokers out on the street. Tours were available through them at half the price of what DCL charges and they claimed there was room on virtually every kind of tour you might want. I am a little leery of choosing that option personally, but it is available. There were four ships in port at the same time and the town was bustling with cruisers. We noticed VERY long lines for those re-boarding the Carnival Spirit. We never experienced much of a line re-boarding the Wonder.
2) Bear Country and Wildlife Expedition: If you like to see bears, this is the one for you. Wife and daughter went on this one and watched bears catch and eat salmon. Perfect timing. They both commented on how much they were able to see. Apparently there are more black bears on the island than there are people. They also saw a few other animals but all they really talked about was how amazing it was to watch the bears.
3) Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure: The wetsuits worked as advertised. Nobody was cold and they had an excellent time. Unfortunately the current was particularly strong so they had to stay closer in than they wanted but the guides brought large starfish and other animals and plants closer to the surface for better viewing when need be. Both who went talked about how awesome it was but really couldn't point out much in the way of details.
2) Yukon Suspension Bridge, City and Whitepass Railway: Three in our party did this excursion and they talked about it all trip. It wasn't the favorite but it was close. The rail provided some spectacular views and the guide was helpful and provided some humor. This excursion took you to Frasier where you boarded a bus to the Yukon Suspension Bridge. This was spectacular. It was a very solid bridge that provided some awesome views. There were bugs here but it was cool so most people didn't have too much exposed skin for it to be a problem. The bus took everyone back. So you get a train one way and the bus back, plus the suspension bridge. The length was about right leaving plenty of time to shop in Skagway.
3) Mammoth Waterfalls and Ultra Zipline Adventure: Three in our party did this zipline adventure and they all thought this was the best of all the excursions they took. Incredible. A total of 9 different ziplines during the time there. Great countryside. You could be as loud as you wanted. A couple of the ziplines were shorter and one was pretty long. The operators were very nice and very helpful. This is apparently their first year in operation, although this particular tour operator (Alaska Excursions) has been doing these types of things for some time. You had to take a bus to the base of area and then a special vehicle made for hill climbing took everyone to the zipline area. There is a weight limit for this excursion and guests were reminded of this often.
The town was nice but small and was covered in jewelry stores. Our dock location was very good and we had no trouble with getting on and off the ship. We loved this little town, but we were ready to move onto our next port.
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