Disney Wonder Entertainment
Disney offers a different type of entertainment mix than you'll find on other major lines. What bibliophiles and gamblers give up in public spaces (a ship library and casino) families gain in innovative offerings like Studio Sea -- the place for family friendly dance parties and hilarious game shows -- and the old-style Buena Vista Theatre which features current Disney new releases, (typically G-rated fare during the day and adult oriented movies in the evenings). "Disney Digital 3-D" is a cinema experience that uses lasers, fog, streamers and lighting effects.
Daytime offerings for families include 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, Disney-themed karaoke or an Art of the Theme Show Ship Tour. Adults can also attend wine or martini tastings, cooking demonstrations focusing on Alaskan seafood and an art auction.
Most of Disney's adult-oriented evening entertainment is tucked together in one specially designed area (Route 66 on Wonder), off the beaten path from all other entertainment venues, which is quite different from other cruise lines where you might find them located right off the main thoroughfares.
You'll know you've discovered Route 66 (Deck 3 forward) when you see clouds in the ceiling and highway barriers along the wall. Here you can "walk" from Chicago to California while passing plenty of old-fashioned billboards along the route, as well as places to sip and play. Wave Bands plays host to video dance parties with 70's and 80's themes, plus karaoke and a skit performed by the crew that can get pretty raunchy. While this is the ship's dance club, be warned that it is not like the clubs you might find on other ships - i.e. a crowded dance floor and the latest tunes being spun by a D.J. Here you'll find Disney's dancers taking over the dance floor performing skits to certain songs, and enlisting audience members to don a costume and join in for others.
Also along Route 66 is Cadillac Lounge, the resident piano bar, and Diversions, an upscale sports bar featuring plasma TV's, large comfortable chairs and beautiful sports themed paintings.
The premier entertainment facility is the 977 seat Walt Disney Theatre that spans three decks of the ship. This theater has comfortable seating, unobstructed views from almost anywhere, and is home to some of the best production shows we've seen at sea. Our family's favorite was "The Golden Mickeys" - an amalgam of song, dance, animated film, and special effects starring Disney's most famous and infamous characters. The pre-show was equally entertaining as guests approached the theater along a red carpet complete with paparazzi -- of the friendliest kind -- and a roving reporter conducted live "celebrity" interviews that were broadcast on giant video screens inside the theater. And then there was the moral of the musical: What parent wouldn't love a production that shows kids that heroes don't have to be big and strong, they can be anyone who tries to do the right thing.
Other productions include "Toy Story: The Musical," a live retelling of the beloved Disney tale.
While the theater is the premiere entertainment facility on the ship, the fairly new Pirates in the Caribbean dinner and deck party is the highlight event. This evening of adventure, music and dancing begins in the dining room with a pirate scroll menu and bandannas for all, then moves upstairs and outdoors to the pool-deck party near Goofy's pool. On deck you can dance near some of your favorite characters dressed in pirate garb, watch other people dance as they're caught on camera and featured on the jumbo LED screen, and see Mickey rappel from a top the ship's funnel to fight Captain Hook.(Editor's Note: There are no fireworks on the Alaska cruises due to environmental laws.)
Disney's 24-by-14 foot jumbo LED screen is affixed to the forward funnel on deck 9 near the Goofy Pool area and is the place to watch current and classic Disney films as well as popular TV shows and major sporting events.
For interactive family entertainment head to Studio Sea, where you can partake in scavenger hunts, family karaoke and game shows like "Walk the Plank," in which parent/child teams compete for prizes or just avoid "walking the plank." It's also the place for a Princess Tea, although it's not advertised in any daily schedules -- you have to be in the know to know about it (or ask at guest services)! The tea occurs once the entire cruise and tea party attendees get juice (it tastes better than tea and isn't hot when spilled, say the hosts), cookies and a chance to take a photograph with the Princess hostess, which was Ariel on our cruise.
Despite all of the elaborate entertainment, one of the biggest highlights of the cruise for young children is the character appearances. While I rarely saw them roaming about the decks -- as I'd envisioned from Disney's ads -- we could check the digital display board in the lobby for a listing of appearances. Many children arrived each evening decked out as Minnie Mouse, Belle, or Cinderella, others in their favorite Disney jammies, all anxiously awaiting a chance to get an autograph or picture with their favorite character.
Disney Wonder Public Rooms
Most of the entertainment-oriented public spaces and children's facilities are located on Decks 3, 4 and 5 off the hallways that lead to the ship's three-story atrium. The atrium itself is home to a grand double staircase and a combination glass and acrylic chandelier sculpture designed by Dale Chihuly, the designer of a large installation at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The pools (heated to 79 degrees) and most fitness and recreation options are located on Decks 9 and 10.
Disney's artwork is entertaining in and of itself, from the portrait of Walt Disney that hangs in one of the stairways (with a hidden Mickey in the shadow), to the whimsical series of 26 illustrations hanging on Deck 5 (portside) -- one for each letter of the nautical alphabet. It is here that you'll learn that "S" - Scuttlebutt is a sailor's slang term for a rumor. And, our kid's favorite, "P" - Poop Deck, is the deck of a ship that is the farthest aft and the highest.
As of Febraury 2014, Disney Wonder offers a new Connect@Sea program in which you pay for the data you use intstead of per minute. Sample rates start at 25 cents per megabite and increase depending on what you do online. Examples include the small package at $19 for 100 megabites, the medium package at $39 for 300 megabites and the large package at $89 for 1,000 megabites.
Internet access is available in three locations. For teens, it's in their own hangout, called Vibe, on Deck 11; for tweens, it's in their own space, Edge, located on Deck 2. All ages can use The Promenade Lounge (Deck 3), which is quite peaceful during the day with ocean views, board games and several computer stations (open 24 hours and with the ability to print; 75 cents per minute, or $39.99 for unlimited access, per e-mail address).
Lastly, the adults-only Cove Cafe is where you'll find chairs with swing out tables for people to use either with their own laptops or those you borrow from the cafe. There is also sofa-style seating in front of a large-screen TV, oversized headphones for listening to music, and a few shelves worth of current magazines and books to read. Since Disney's ships do not have libraries, this is the place to come for extra reading material. The only caveat: The material must remain at the cafe, which is inconvenient if you begin a good book and can't spend the day with it on Castaway Cay.
New to the Disney Wonder is its Overlook Cafe, just upstairs from Cove Café and an extension of its offerings, except with fantastic views from floor-to-ceiling windows. During an Alaska cruise, it's a great place to take in the snow-capped mountains and iceberg-filled waters in a quiet setting. (The ship also added Plexiglas wind barriers on the forward deck to keep the chill away while taking in the views.)
Disney Wonder Spa & Fitness
The pool area (Deck 9) consists of three age-specific swimming pools and a 200-foot-long Mickey-themed water slide. The frequently crowded Mickey's Pool (aft) is for the younger set, offering a large shallow pool with Mickey's silhouette in the bottom and two huge rubber inner tubes (the ears) serving as warm shallow tubs (one with sprinklers). An extension to the Mickey Pool was recently added for children not yet toilet trained and in swim diapers. This new 385-square-ft. toddler water-play pool features star and moon shaped interactive fountains and shallow water to splash about.
Family friendly Goofy's pool (in between the funnels) is four feet deep, with two whirlpools adjacent, and located alongside the main outdoor stage and new LED screen. The Quiet Cove Pool (forward) is adults-only, and is definitely quiet compared to the rest of the pool deck. The area includes two large hot tubs, an outdoor bar, and the adults-only Cafe Cove where you can get frozen coffee drinks to sip by the pool. Deck 10 has additional lounge seating overlooking the various pools as well as a basketball court and volleyball area.
For your own private hideaway, Deck 7's Aft Overlook is frequently overlooked. Here you can enjoy water views and silence -- unless the captain is officiating a wedding. Deck 4 promenade is the place for running (three laps for a mile), or relaxing on cushioned lounge chairs. The area is far from the crowds, and other than shuffleboard on the starboard side, and an occasional jogger, is peaceful enough to listen to the waves.
The newly expanded Vista Spa & Salon offers an assortment of relaxing massages, facials, and self-improvement treatments ranging in price from $15 to well over $400. For $15 you can buy a day's pass to the spa's "Tropical Rain Forest," a circular Tuscan-themed (co-ed) area with a fountain in the center and steam rooms.
The three new spa villas are home to the priciest services. Each villa (two are large enough to accommodate a couple) includes an indoor spa treatment suite connected to its own private verandah with a hot tub, open-air shower, and a very comfortable chaise lounge the size of a full-size bed, and plenty of pillows. Treatment options include deep tissue massages, marine facials and a body-purifying wrap. All villa packages include a tea ceremony, foot cleansing, and some much appreciated relaxation time on the chaise lounge.
The Spa is also home to a recently expanded fitness center (1,700 square ft. added) that is well equipped with new Life Fitness equipment, numerous treadmills, bikes, elliptical machines (with TV's perched atop them), plus free weights and exercise balls. The front desk provides headsets (gratis) for you to use while listening to the TV's. There is also a small, private exercise room where you can have a personal training session.
The women's locker room here offers a nice alternative to getting ready in the somewhat cramped cabin bathrooms. There is a large vanity area, plump lounge chairs, and two spacious semi-circle shaped showers, one with a "rain" type shower head.