By Christine Koubek, Cruise Critic Contributor; updated by Lissa Poirot, Cruise Critic Contributor
When Disney executives set out to enter the cruise business, they did so in typical Disney style: fashioning a ship that resembled the luxurious, and oft admired, ocean liners of the 1920's with a slate of spaces and activities that would be worthy of the Disney name. Disney Wonder is one sleek vessel, with its elongated black hull, two matching red funnels and the yellow insignias encircling the ship. The inside features an elegant art nouveau decor with plenty of subtle nods to the mouse that started it all, from the etched-in-pewter characters in the atrium railings to the hidden micro-mini Mickeys in Palo's china pattern. Perhaps what this ship does best though is prove that "elegance" and "family friendly" don't have to be mutually exclusive.
The family offerings are what set this ship apart from the pack. While many cruise lines offer excellent children's programs, Disney offers all that plus plenty of options suitable for a family to enjoy together, from kite-making workshops to game shows and evening stage revues.
At least that's what we thought the first time we sailed the Wonder, in 2005, with the family. In 2007, we sailed the ship again, with a pal, to explore the adults-only areas that I spent little time in before. While families are the primary focus of Disney Wonder, grownups have numerous places to call their own here, and since there are so many kids onboard (and adults watching them), the Quiet Cove Pool, Cove Cafe, Outlook Cafe, Vista Spa and Route 66 entertainment district are rarely crowded.
We've recently returned with the kids to explore Alaska onboard Wonder. The ship had traversed the Caribbean, but in 2011 it relocated to the West Coast, bringing Disney to Alaska for the first time. The ship cruises the Inside Passage from May to September, then heads down to Los Angeles for a season of Mexican Riviera voyages. In between seasons, Wonder sails a Hawaii cruise (spring) and a pair of Pacific Coastal voyages (spring, fall).
Disney Wonder Fellow Passengers
The vast majority of fellow passengers are families and multigenerational reunions due to the extensive children, teen and family programming. However, you'll also find a sprinkling of honeymooners and folks without children who appreciate the oversized staterooms, underutilized adult-only areas and Disney details.
Disney Wonder Dress Code
Resort casual is the dress of the day in all areas of the ship. Cruise casual is the code for most nights (i.e., no shorts, jeans or tank tops). Recently, though, the cruise line tweaked its definition of resort casual to include shorts, which means passengers may wear shorts in the main dining rooms in the evening. A formal night and semi-formal Captain's Reception give passengers a chance to glam it up, but it's not mandatory; we were surprised to see most passengers didn't participate in formal night. One night of each cruise is designated "pirate night," and you'll see many people dressed in pirate attire, even if it's just a hat. If you don't happen to have pirate attire -- and would like to -- stop by Mickey's mates for something to wear.
Disney Wonder Gratuity
On Disney Wonder, the recommended gratuities are $4 per day for the dining room server, $3 per day for the assistant server, $1 per day for the head server, and $4 per day for the room steward. Passengers can pre-pay gratuities or do so onboard. All bar drinks and deck service areas have a 15 percent gratuity added to the bill.
This was my first Disney cruise but i have cruised numerous other lines. My parents are avid cruisers and it took some persuading to get them to agree to try Disney, but it turned out very well. My two daughters (ages 5 and 6) had a great time ...continue
My 4-year-old son had a fantastic time. He loved meeting all the characters and after he warmed up to the Oceaneer Club and Lab, we had a hard time getting him to leave at the end of the night. With that said, I will still never go on a Disney ...continue
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My wife and I, along with our two daughters ages 4 and 22 months, just got back from our Disney Cruise and we loved it.
We had done a Disney World trip last year and I didn't want to go that route again, as I find cruising more relaxing ...continue