Los Angeles-Miami via the Panama Canal on the Disney Wonder: Disney Wonder Cruise Review by dvandkq

Disney Wonder 5
Member Since 2013

Overall Member Rating

Los Angeles-Miami via the Panama Canal on the Disney Wonder

Sail Date: December 2012
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Los Angeles
We have just recently returned from the 14-day Panama Canal repositioning cruise aboard the 'Disney Wonder', and all we can say is "WOW!!!".

Our first cruise experience was a 7-day Alaska/Glacier Bay/Inside Passage cruise aboard a much-smaller predecessor of Holland America's 'Westerdam', 13 years ago.

While we had high expectations for a 'Disney' cruise, we were simply blown-away at how far cruising -- and particularly cruising with children -- has advanced in the past decade.

The 'Disney Wonder' is simply a lovely ship inside and out. What brings this to our full attention is that it is the staff that makes the ship lovely -- and not just from the constant scrubbing, cleaning, polishing, and painting -- but from how the entire crew -- from the most senior officer down to the most junior deckhand -- stops whatever they're busy doing to smile and say "Good morning", "Good afternoon", or "Good Evening".

The minor complaints and observations offered here More are vastly outweighed by the superior/exceptional/always 'above and beyond' customer service and friendliness expressed by every crew and cast member at every opportunity.

We found our experience so superb that we booked a 7-day Alaska/Glacier Bay/Inside Passage cruise aboard the 'Disney Wonder', leaving August 19, 2013. We were simply unable and unwilling to get off the ship without a firm commitment to a return date!

The minor concerns:

- It appeared that the oval "coffee table" in our stateroom is supposed to raise and lower, theoretically making it easier for kids to use it as a dining table. The adjustment feature on our table was broken. This presented little inconvenience to us, but as the cruise went on, such a minor issue seemed out of character considering the otherwise excellent condition of the ship and her furnishings. We gained a little insight as to what the furnishings might suffer after watching a surprisingly large amount of broken furniture and fixtures being offloaded at the dock in Cartagena!

- Staterooms need more electrical outlets -- particularly in the desk area - for
recharging electronic equipment such as cameras, video cameras, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. The chargers for these units often take up an entire outlet, and the switch for the desk lights built in to the electrical outlet prevents plugging a charger into one of the outlets, further limiting recharging options. Next time, we're bringing an extension cord/power strip for recharging batteries.

- We're from the Pacific Northwest, which is to beer what France is to wine. The
micro-brew/craft brewing market thrives in our area. All of the draft beers located in the most popular and accessible bars (i.e. deck 9) were lagers.
It was only on the last day of the cruise that we discovered 'Diversions' on deck 3 had a Kona Brewing Company Pale Ale on tap. It is our hope that a
Northwest/Alaska cruise will feature at least one Northwest craft ale. There are
myriad excellent craft breweries in Vancouver, B.C., and in every port of call on the Alaska cruise itinerary. Surely the boat can procure fine beer in the same way it procures fine wine. With a selection of draft craft pale and amber ales available, we would have spent a lot more on adult beverages than we did.

- The 'Oceaneer's Lab' had far too many "Open House" periods, where the lab was
unsecured. This required unattended kids to go to the 'Oceaneer's Club', which is oriented towards younger children and was considered far-inferior to the "Lab" by our 7 year-old son. It seemed that whenever we had some down-time, or the adults wanted to do something our son found uninteresting, and it otherwise would have been a perfect opportunity for our son to go hang out in the "Lab", there was a conflicting "Open House" requiring rearranging schedules. This is our biggest complaint/observation/issue with the entire cruise, and obviously it isn't that big of a deal.

- "Goofy's Pool" is too small. We don't expect this to be an issue on an Alaska cruise, but on a warm-weather cruise, there simply isn't enough room for everyone to find a lounge chair and a space in the pool - particularly when "Mickey's Pool" is closed for cleaning (which happened at least every other day). We realize DCL can't remedy this situation overnight, but we also
understand that DCL keeps customer concerns in mind when considering changes
to vessels when vessels are periodically updated in dry-dock.

- While we're on the subject, a water slide adults can share with their kids would be a huge improvement. It doesn't have to be as elaborate as what is on the 'Dream' and 'Fantasy', but something that lets adults have some fun with their kids is needed.

The major compliments:

- The superb staff at the 'Guest Services' desk was always able to provide and answer and/or a resolution to any question or problem that arose (except to those aboard complaining how stressful it was to them that we would be docked on the Yucatan Peninsula on 12-21-12, the last day of the Mayan calendar. Umm - check the itinerary before booking the cruise if you don't want to climb Mayan temples on 12-21-12.)

- The crew members in `Mickey's Mates' were very helpful with getting fragile items purchased aboard safely packaged for transport home. None of the fragile
Christmas ornaments and other items suffered any damage from our long journey
home from Miami to Seattle!

- 'Cesar', a housekeeping crew member who was often seen keeping the restrooms
on deck 9 spotless in spite of the onslaught of dripping-wet/covered in sunscreen passengers parading through the facilities, had a particularly friendly and outgoing personality that deserves recognition. He took time to get to know us as people, not passengers, and we got an opportunity to learn about him and his background and culture. We observe that we learned just as much about the cultures represented by the staff with whom we interacted as we did the cultures of the countries we visited! It all adds up to create a fantastic experience for seven year-old boys and forty-something parents alike!

- Michele, our server in Palo, could not have been more charming, friendly, nor
possess a more encyclopedic knowledge of the food, wine, and culture of Northern
Italy -- precisely what you'd want in your server for an evening at Palo! We were so impressed with Michele -- and with Palo -- that we brought our mothers to brunch at Palo later on in the cruise. We specifically requested Michele as our brunch server, and he did not disappoint!

- Clare was a member of the photography crew who always went the extra mile to
make us feel comfortable and relaxed as she took stunning photos of us in the
chaotic environment that defines a 'Character Appearance'. We were ecstatic to
discover she was the photographer assigned to the family portrait area when we
arrived to have ours done, and the resulting photos are exquisite! Her personality endeared her to us, and thus our son was totally comfortable as she walked him though the poses -- and the results speak volumes!

- Faydella, our 'Stateroom Hostess', was simply amazing! Whatever we needed,
whenever we needed it -- sometimes even before we knew we needed it -- somehow magically appeared in our stateroom. Her bright smile and sunny disposition meant our entire passageway was filled with smiles and good cheer.

- Finally, our two dining room servers must have come from Disney's central casting. Dan (from Romania) and Anthony (from France) were a comical "Odd Couple" who had us laughing through every meal. We looked forward to finding them doing their other jobs aboard ship, and they went the extra mile to serve us whenever they were working another restaurant or helping out on deck. Much like our stateroom hostess, they provided us with whatever we needed, whenever we needed it -- often before we even knew we even needed it - or wanted it!

Their impeccable service, good humor, wit and camaraderie was an invaluable addition to our experience. Their extra-special treatment of our precocious seven year-old son will be remembered by him and by us forever. I was
especially impressed with the patience, service, respect, and love they provided to a young special-needs passenger and our table-mate.

They both worked incredibly hard, apparently effortlessly and graciously. One had to look hard to find the beads of sweat running down their faces as they strived to provide a personalized fine-dining experience to a demanding clientele in a chaotic environment.

We're hard-pressed to come up with anything we would have done differently on the December 9-23 Panama Canal cruise, or that we'll do differently on our August 19-26 Alaska cruise. We'll certainly do a better job of decorating our cabin door next time, and we'll bring that extension cord for charging camera batteries, but our Panama Canal cruise aboard the 'Disney Wonder' is an experience we'll treasure for the rest of our lives! Less

Published 01/05/13

Cabin review: 5C5124

Bring your own extension cord/power strip if you plan on recharging multiple electronic devices at the same time. Prior reviews mention a periodic mechanical noise in the cabin, which we also noticed, but found it didn't disrupt our experience in the slightest.

Port and Shore Excursions

This was my first time in Cabo since the late 1970s, and boy have things changed! While Los Arcos is spectacular, quickly spotting a Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, and Home Depot from the ship quickly erases any notion that we're in a foreign country. Our excursion was a harbor cruise followed by a bus tour of the area. We tendered to shore and then boarded a large catamaran tour boat and headed back out into the Sea of Cortez. We motored along the peninsula and got great views of the bay, our ship, and Los Arcos, the arch at the end of the Baja peninsula. Shortly after rounding the corner, we came upon a pod of three California Gray Whales. We followed the whales for about a mile, and they greeted us with spouts and by displaying their flukes as they dove. After encountering the whales, we slowly returned to the dock in the harbor in Cabo. Be sure to watch for the sea lions that attempt to swim up the backs of boats returning to the harbor, hoping for a free snack from those aboard! We left the tour boat and boarded tour buses for a drive through town and then out to the "Mona Lisa Sunset Bar & Grill" for refreshments and photos of Los Arcos, the bay, our ship, and Cabo from a spectacular vantage point. After approximately 30 minutes, we re-boarded the buses for the trip back to the harbor, where we boarded a tender and returned to the 'Disney Wonder'.

Mangrove Eco Canoe Journey

Excursion began with a bus ride through the old city to the "Las Americas" hotel and resort complex adjacent to the airport. Behind the loading dock for the hotel's convention and banquet facility is a giant mangrove swamp. From here, we left the buses and boarded dugout canoes, each seating four or five passengers. The "boatman" uses a pole to push the canoe through channels between the mangrove trees that are barely wider than the canoe itself. The environment is spectacularly weird and enchanting. At one point, returning canoes encountered our out-bound canoes, and it took a little while to squeeze the boats past each other. Upon returning to the put-in location, we were provided ice cold coconuts where the top had just been cut off, allowing us to drink the slightly sweet water inside. It was at this point that my family asked to use a restroom. One of the tour operators and a Columbian National Police officer escorted us to the conference center's facilities. Upon returning to the parking lot, we discovered our bus had left without us. There were a few anxious minutes while our escorts called the bus to find out where they'd gone. It turns out they'd simply pulled around to the entrance to the conference facility so everyone else could use the restroom, but for five minutes, we were stranded in a foreign country! I'm glad I insisted that we never leave the ship without our passports, as they would have come in handy had we indeed needed to find our own way back to the ship.

Chacchoben Mayan Ruins

Got up early to leave the boat at 7:30 AM for our exploration of the Chacchoben Mayan ruins on December 21, 2012 - the supposed last day of the Mayan calendar! We walked down the long pier at Costa Maya, through the cruise ship tourist strip mall, and boarded our bus for the one hour drive to Chacchoben. 'Lisbeth', our tour guide, provided lots of useful information on the history, culture, geography and climate of the area. We were well-informed before we arrived at the ruins. Lisbeth's expert descriptions and volumes of information regarding what we were seeing on the tour was invaluable. The ruins are fascinating, and it was extra-special to be climbing the temples on 12-21-12. After an uneventful bus ride back to Costa Maya, we walked around the tourist strip mall for a few minutes before re-boarding the ship.

Dolphin Swim

Our swim with dolphins with Vallarta Adventures was one of the highlights of our trip! The only negative aspect was the painfully long drive from the ship to Nuevo Vallarta, the location of the dolphin swim. There is a military checkpoint between Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta at the Nayarit/Jalisco state border, and it took us an hour to go what should have taken 15 minutes. Luckily, our time with the dolphins wasn't cut short. I had my concerns that I'd be displeased with the health of the dolphins, or with the way they were treated by their handlers. I could not have been more impressed with the apparent quality of the facility, and with the level of love shared between the dolphins and their handlers. The dolphins seem truly happy to play with and perform for people! We had our seven year old son and two 70-something grandmas in our party, and they all had an amazing time! Highly recommended for anyone of any age.

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