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Background My family's cruise aboard the Disney Wonder (February 5 - 8, 2009) was one of firsts. Although my husband and I have been working diligently on become seasoned cruisers (7 to my name, 5 to his), this cruise was our first short cruise, our first Disney cruise, our first time driving ourselves/parking at the port and perhaps most importantly, the first cruise we do with our daughters (ages: almost 3 and 4). We had a land vacation in Orlando booked for the first two weeks of February when hubby and I began to consider a three-night cruise to introduce the girls to cruising... we would already be there we reasoned, and we thought a short cruise would good as a try for our little ones. We could only imagine the hell a 7-night cruise would be if they didn't like it. We were looking exclusively at cruises out of Port Canaveral and landed upon the Carnival Sensation. Although we hadn't cruised with Carnival since 2001, the price was right, we had additional incentives as past guests and we thought this might be a good line for the girls. Imagine my surprise when one day I read on Cruise Critic that the ship was going to be in dry dock when I was supposed to be on it. Apparently Carnival had neglected some of its Canadian bookings when making the cancellation notices. At that point we dropped the idea entirely. But you know what the cruise bug is like.... Once it's got you it just keeps eating away. Imagine my delight when one day I saw an ad announcing Disney's "kids sail free" promotion. Although it was pricier than options out of Miami (despite the kids being free), it felt like it would be a good fit for our family. To my surprise, hubby didn't need any convincing and told me to "book it immediately." We began coaching the girls about how we were not only going to Cinderella's castle but were also going on Mickey's ship and tried to prepare them for what to expect from the experience. We're experienced cruisers... or so we thought. I'm pleased to say that Disney surprised us in ways that we didn't think possible. I'm truly in awe of their ability to really make the "magic" happen. It's real and my whole family felt it during our time aboard. Boarding/First Impressions The Disney terminal is quiet nice and easy to flow through. Arriving at 11 hubby unloaded our bag (yes, only one), the kids and I then went to park in the nearby surface lot. Within minutes he joined us and we were through security. We had no line up to check in and inside of 20 minutes of us pulling up, had our "key to the world" in our hot little hands. I then went to a short line to confirm my 4 year old for the Oceaneer's Club (having registered online ahead of time was a real time saver) and was assigned a pager. After a short wait spent coloring in the Princess magazines provided, our boarding number was called and we were on the gangway leading to the ship. The first nice touch was being announced as we boarded. Something I would have considered cheesy on another line felt special with Disney and we immediately sensed we were going to have an entirely different cruise experience right off the bat. We went to Parrot Cay immediately for lunch since the timing was right and the girls had begun asking for food. While dining a few characters, including Minnie, came through and stopped by the see the kids. Interestingly, the 4YO talks about Minnie ruffling her hair as one of the highlights of the trip. We were also blessed with a fantastic waiter (Kiatt, I believe) who humored our kids with balloon animals (and multiple repairs) and kept them happy for the time we were there. We couldn't believe how well he engaged our children and how kind he was. Leaving the dining room, we knew we were in for a good, very family-oriented experience - one where we didn't have to apologize for our kids acting their age and for bringing them on vacation (which is how I thought I might be made to feel on a cruise with our kids). The Ship/Stateroom The Wonder is a beautiful ship, with a gorgeous atrium area that really has a whimsical elegant feel to it. Lots of marble, beautiful textiles and a refined feel intermingling with Disney characters and themes. I was blown away by the completely different look and feel the designers created in the Route 66 area where even the washrooms and elevator doors looked like we had stepped off the ship. Despite being 10 years old, we found that for the most part, the ship was in excellent shape. Very well maintained and clean. There were few areas where she showed her age, although that's not to say there weren't areas of wear. Our stateroom for example, was one of the few areas where we did see some wear. There was significant scuffing on the walls from luggage and there was some water damage (rust/lifting) to the panel around the tub. That being said, we were completely blown away by our stateroom - category 10, deluxe inside. The cabin was larger than all the other cabins I've been in, including outside categories on other lines. There was ample space for us to live and I loved the bathroom set up. The split toilet/shower was very convenient but most important to me was the half bath so that I could bathe my girls (had enough space to do them both at the same time). I still don't know how I would get them clean if we were on a Princess ship for example with those teeny tiny "showers." Dining We were curious to see how we would enjoy the dining experience (different restaurants each night with same service staff) and I am pleased to report that it was fantastic. We had a great service crew consisting of Jan as our head waiter and Jackie as our assistant waiter - they were knowledgeable, efficient and friendly. They did a fantastic job of making recommendations and even more importantly, providing us with great tips of what to do later in the evening and the next day. Like all the other staff we encountered, they were great with the girls and very non-threatening. I believe they were part of the reason why we were able to enjoy a lengthy dinner each evening without any tears or trauma. We were also impressed that walking into the various restaurants on the appointed evening the table was set up for the kids: one booster seat, one high chair, child proof cups with water and a place mat for coloring with crayons. We enjoyed all three dining rooms (Triton's, Animator's Palate and Parrot Cay) and found the change of venue a really nice touch enhanced by the consistency of having the same wait staff each night. The menus offered a nice amount of variety in line with the theme of the particular restaurant and we enjoyed all of our meals which were on par or better than cruise fare I've experienced in the past. We had breakfast in a different place each morning (Triton's, the buffet, Parrot Cay) and found them all to be quite good. We were particularly impressed at the quality of the offerings at the buffet as these can range from good to poor. The buffet is well organized with a nice variety of breakfast goods. Everything tasted fresh and hot stuff was warm and cool stuff was cool. We had lunch on deck at the grill the day we were in Nassau and on Castaway Cay and again found the food to be good and the set up organized. We were particularly enamored with the beverage stations that had a variety of sodas, milk and coffee available (in the buffet, by the kid's pool and soda station at Castaway Cay). It was nice being able to get your own drink at your convenience and not to have to get out your card to pay for each cola. One area of disappointment was the coffee bar. I had hubby pop in to get us specialty coffees on our day in Nassau as it was quite cool. We had very much enjoyed the coffee bar on our Alaskan cruise with Princess and though the added cost was worth it. We were very disappointed in the quality of both coffees we purchased. Maybe it was an off day but they weren't good and certainly not worth purchasing. Oceaneer's Club We were sure to check out of Oceaneer's Club during their open house after eating lunch on embarkation day. Both girls loved the set up and enjoyed themselves as they explored and played. We knew that this would be a popular destination for the 4YO (unfortunately her little sister couldn't join as she is a few months shy of her 3rd birthday and in the process of potty training). Indeed, our eldest daughter spent a few hours in the club the next day when we were docked in Nassau and thoroughly enjoyed it. We pulled her out for lunch and a rest (as we wanted to keep them up late for the Pirate Party that night) but then dropped her off for more activities late afternoon. We do have a cautionary tale around dinner time though. We dropped her off just after 3:30 for a scheduled activity starting at 4 and went off to explore more of the ship with our youngest daughter. We planned on picking her up around 5:20, freshening up and then going to dinner. What we didn't do was pay attention to our Navigator which indicated that the children would be going to dinner in the buffet at 5:00. Needless to say we were pretty surprised to find out that she had gone to dinner when we went to pick her up to do same. Hubby was pretty crestfallen and missed his companion sorely over the course of dinner. We were in Animator's Palate that night and I know she would have enjoyed the venue. That being said, she was quite happy to tell us all about how she got to choose whatever she wanted from the buffet and that she ate with her friends so all was well. So if you want to dine with your kids every night, make sure you're aware of the kid's club dining times as they don't correspond to yours necessarily! Entertainment We choose not to participate in any adult-only entertainment. We had booked this trip to be with the kids and wanted to keep to the family activities. But all members of the family loved the shows, which simply put, were phenomenal. Not only were they the best we'd ever seen on the sea, they were better than a lot of I've seen on land. The kids particularly loved "The Golden Mickey's" and "Toy Story Musical" from the first two evenings. "Dreams" on our final night was also amazing although the little one slept all the way through it (too much fun at Castaway Cay I suppose). My eldest daughter still talks about the all that pixie dust and we noticed when we were back on land that she had her Cinderella and Prince Charming figures dancing like in the show. Too cute! All four of us have since remarked that the two deck parties (sail away, and particularly the Pirate Party) were the highlights of the cruise. My girls love to dance and these parties gave them the excuse they needed to really let loose. The youngest in particular was quite a feisty dancer, even at the Pirate Party which began well past her usual bedtime (9:45). I won't spoil what transpires at that party for those who haven't been but suffice it to say it was yet another completely magical evening thanks to the creative minds at Disney. The Ports Not too much to report here as we didn't even get off the ship in Nassau. It was a cold, overcast/rainy day and we didn't feel comfortable leaving 4YO in the kid's club while we were off the ship. In any case, there was more than enough to do onboard to justify staying put. We did disembark at Castaway Cay as the weather had improved enough to enjoy the beach (though the water was quite cool). We really enjoyed the beach here and found that the structures on the island were better than we've seen at other cruise lines' private islands. Seems silly to say, but the washrooms for instance were clean and well supplied. Also the way the BBQ was set up was quite user friendly. We thoroughly enjoyed our day here. Disembarkation Things sure have progressed since my first cruise in 1992. Back then, we had to be out of our stateroom at the crack of dawn and wait in a public space until our color code was called. It was a bad way to end a good vacation. Most cruise lines now let you either stay in your cabin and get off during an assigned period - a marked improvement. We personally found the Disney way to be the best. We were assigned a time to come for breakfast in the restaurant we had dined in the night before. Although ours was very early as we had early dining (6:45 am), the benefits were obvious after we were done eating when we went back to the cabin to grab our carry on bags and umbrella strollers and walked right off the ship. No line up, no waiting around- we just walked right off the ship. We were directed to the row where we would find our bag and went through customs within a few minutes. We were in our car and on the road by 8 am. I don't think this could have been any smoother or easier. Final Thoughts This was an exceptional cruise experience and a fantastic family vacation. We could not have been more pleased with this cruise and are happy to have discovered that we indeed have two little sailors in our family. I would not hesitate to recommend DCL to families who want to enjoy a cruise where kids aren't an afterthought and are treated as an equal. Your child will never be able to say "I'm bored" while on-board. We so enjoyed the experience that we were sure to book a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise while on board and look forward to experiencing a little magic at sea again next December!

Disney Wonder delivers on magic

Disney Wonder Cruise Review by JillK

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2009
  • Destination: Bahamas
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Inside Stateroom
Background
My family's cruise aboard the Disney Wonder (February 5 - 8, 2009) was one of firsts.
Although my husband and I have been working diligently on become seasoned cruisers (7 to my name, 5 to his), this cruise was our first short cruise, our first Disney cruise, our first time driving ourselves/parking at the port and perhaps most importantly, the first cruise we do with our daughters (ages: almost 3 and 4).
We had a land vacation in Orlando booked for the first two weeks of February when hubby and I began to consider a three-night cruise to introduce the girls to cruising... we would already be there we reasoned, and we thought a short cruise would good as a try for our little ones. We could only imagine the hell a 7-night cruise would be if they didn't like it.
We were looking exclusively at cruises out of Port Canaveral and landed upon the Carnival Sensation. Although we hadn't cruised with Carnival since 2001, the price was right, we had additional incentives as past guests and we thought this might be a good line for the girls.
Imagine my surprise when one day I read on Cruise Critic that the ship was going to be in dry dock when I was supposed to be on it. Apparently Carnival had neglected some of its Canadian bookings when making the cancellation notices. At that point we dropped the idea entirely.
But you know what the cruise bug is like.... Once it's got you it just keeps eating away. Imagine my delight when one day I saw an ad announcing Disney's "kids sail free" promotion. Although it was pricier than options out of Miami (despite the kids being free), it felt like it would be a good fit for our family. To my surprise, hubby didn't need any convincing and told me to "book it immediately."
We began coaching the girls about how we were not only going to Cinderella's castle but were also going on Mickey's ship and tried to prepare them for what to expect from the experience. We're experienced cruisers... or so we thought.
I'm pleased to say that Disney surprised us in ways that we didn't think possible. I'm truly in awe of their ability to really make the "magic" happen. It's real and my whole family felt it during our time aboard.
Boarding/First Impressions
The Disney terminal is quiet nice and easy to flow through. Arriving at 11 hubby unloaded our bag (yes, only one), the kids and I then went to park in the nearby surface lot. Within minutes he joined us and we were through security. We had no line up to check in and inside of 20 minutes of us pulling up, had our "key to the world" in our hot little hands.
I then went to a short line to confirm my 4 year old for the Oceaneer's Club (having registered online ahead of time was a real time saver) and was assigned a pager. After a short wait spent coloring in the Princess magazines provided, our boarding number was called and we were on the gangway leading to the ship.
The first nice touch was being announced as we boarded. Something I would have considered cheesy on another line felt special with Disney and we immediately sensed we were going to have an entirely different cruise experience right off the bat.
We went to Parrot Cay immediately for lunch since the timing was right and the girls had begun asking for food. While dining a few characters, including Minnie, came through and stopped by the see the kids. Interestingly, the 4YO talks about Minnie ruffling her hair as one of the highlights of the trip.
We were also blessed with a fantastic waiter (Kiatt, I believe) who humored our kids with balloon animals (and multiple repairs) and kept them happy for the time we were there. We couldn't believe how well he engaged our children and how kind he was.
Leaving the dining room, we knew we were in for a good, very family-oriented experience - one where we didn't have to apologize for our kids acting their age and for bringing them on vacation (which is how I thought I might be made to feel on a cruise with our kids).
The Ship/Stateroom
The Wonder is a beautiful ship, with a gorgeous atrium area that really has a whimsical elegant feel to it. Lots of marble, beautiful textiles and a refined feel intermingling with Disney characters and themes. I was blown away by the completely different look and feel the designers created in the Route 66 area where even the washrooms and elevator doors looked like we had stepped off the ship.
Despite being 10 years old, we found that for the most part, the ship was in excellent shape. Very well maintained and clean. There were few areas where she showed her age, although that's not to say there weren't areas of wear.
Our stateroom for example, was one of the few areas where we did see some wear. There was significant scuffing on the walls from luggage and there was some water damage (rust/lifting) to the panel around the tub.
That being said, we were completely blown away by our stateroom - category 10, deluxe inside. The cabin was larger than all the other cabins I've been in, including outside categories on other lines. There was ample space for us to live and I loved the bathroom set up. The split toilet/shower was very convenient but most important to me was the half bath so that I could bathe my girls (had enough space to do them both at the same time). I still don't know how I would get them clean if we were on a Princess ship for example with those teeny tiny "showers."
Dining
We were curious to see how we would enjoy the dining experience (different restaurants each night with same service staff) and I am pleased to report that it was fantastic. We had a great service crew consisting of Jan as our head waiter and Jackie as our assistant waiter - they were knowledgeable, efficient and friendly. They did a fantastic job of making recommendations and even more importantly, providing us with great tips of what to do later in the evening and the next day.
Like all the other staff we encountered, they were great with the girls and very non-threatening. I believe they were part of the reason why we were able to enjoy a lengthy dinner each evening without any tears or trauma. We were also impressed that walking into the various restaurants on the appointed evening the table was set up for the kids: one booster seat, one high chair, child proof cups with water and a place mat for coloring with crayons.
We enjoyed all three dining rooms (Triton's, Animator's Palate and Parrot Cay) and found the change of venue a really nice touch enhanced by the consistency of having the same wait staff each night. The menus offered a nice amount of variety in line with the theme of the particular restaurant and we enjoyed all of our meals which were on par or better than cruise fare I've experienced in the past.
We had breakfast in a different place each morning (Triton's, the buffet, Parrot Cay) and found them all to be quite good. We were particularly impressed at the quality of the offerings at the buffet as these can range from good to poor. The buffet is well organized with a nice variety of breakfast goods. Everything tasted fresh and hot stuff was warm and cool stuff was cool.
We had lunch on deck at the grill the day we were in Nassau and on Castaway Cay and again found the food to be good and the set up organized.
We were particularly enamored with the beverage stations that had a variety of sodas, milk and coffee available (in the buffet, by the kid's pool and soda station at Castaway Cay). It was nice being able to get your own drink at your convenience and not to have to get out your card to pay for each cola.
One area of disappointment was the coffee bar. I had hubby pop in to get us specialty coffees on our day in Nassau as it was quite cool. We had very much enjoyed the coffee bar on our Alaskan cruise with Princess and though the added cost was worth it. We were very disappointed in the quality of both coffees we purchased. Maybe it was an off day but they weren't good and certainly not worth purchasing.
Oceaneer's Club
We were sure to check out of Oceaneer's Club during their open house after eating lunch on embarkation day. Both girls loved the set up and enjoyed themselves as they explored and played. We knew that this would be a popular destination for the 4YO (unfortunately her little sister couldn't join as she is a few months shy of her 3rd birthday and in the process of potty training).
Indeed, our eldest daughter spent a few hours in the club the next day when we were docked in Nassau and thoroughly enjoyed it. We pulled her out for lunch and a rest (as we wanted to keep them up late for the Pirate Party that night) but then dropped her off for more activities late afternoon. We do have a cautionary tale around dinner time though.
We dropped her off just after 3:30 for a scheduled activity starting at 4 and went off to explore more of the ship with our youngest daughter. We planned on picking her up around 5:20, freshening up and then going to dinner. What we didn't do was pay attention to our Navigator which indicated that the children would be going to dinner in the buffet at 5:00. Needless to say we were pretty surprised to find out that she had gone to dinner when we went to pick her up to do same.
Hubby was pretty crestfallen and missed his companion sorely over the course of dinner. We were in Animator's Palate that night and I know she would have enjoyed the venue. That being said, she was quite happy to tell us all about how she got to choose whatever she wanted from the buffet and that she ate with her friends so all was well. So if you want to dine with your kids every night, make sure you're aware of the kid's club dining times as they don't correspond to yours necessarily!
Entertainment
We choose not to participate in any adult-only entertainment. We had booked this trip to be with the kids and wanted to keep to the family activities. But all members of the family loved the shows, which simply put, were phenomenal.
Not only were they the best we'd ever seen on the sea, they were better than a lot of I've seen on land. The kids particularly loved "The Golden Mickey's" and "Toy Story Musical" from the first two evenings. "Dreams" on our final night was also amazing although the little one slept all the way through it (too much fun at Castaway Cay I suppose). My eldest daughter still talks about the all that pixie dust and we noticed when we were back on land that she had her Cinderella and Prince Charming figures dancing like in the show. Too cute!
All four of us have since remarked that the two deck parties (sail away, and particularly the Pirate Party) were the highlights of the cruise. My girls love to dance and these parties gave them the excuse they needed to really let loose. The youngest in particular was quite a feisty dancer, even at the Pirate Party which began well past her usual bedtime (9:45). I won't spoil what transpires at that party for those who haven't been but suffice it to say it was yet another completely magical evening thanks to the creative minds at Disney.
The Ports
Not too much to report here as we didn't even get off the ship in Nassau. It was a cold, overcast/rainy day and we didn't feel comfortable leaving 4YO in the kid's club while we were off the ship. In any case, there was more than enough to do onboard to justify staying put.
We did disembark at Castaway Cay as the weather had improved enough to enjoy the beach (though the water was quite cool). We really enjoyed the beach here and found that the structures on the island were better than we've seen at other cruise lines' private islands. Seems silly to say, but the washrooms for instance were clean and well supplied. Also the way the BBQ was set up was quite user friendly. We thoroughly enjoyed our day here.
Disembarkation
Things sure have progressed since my first cruise in 1992. Back then, we had to be out of our stateroom at the crack of dawn and wait in a public space until our color code was called. It was a bad way to end a good vacation. Most cruise lines now let you either stay in your cabin and get off during an assigned period - a marked improvement. We personally found the Disney way to be the best.
We were assigned a time to come for breakfast in the restaurant we had dined in the night before. Although ours was very early as we had early dining (6:45 am), the benefits were obvious after we were done eating when we went back to the cabin to grab our carry on bags and umbrella strollers and walked right off the ship. No line up, no waiting around- we just walked right off the ship. We were directed to the row where we would find our bag and went through customs within a few minutes. We were in our car and on the road by 8 am. I don't think this could have been any smoother or easier.
Final Thoughts
This was an exceptional cruise experience and a fantastic family vacation. We could not have been more pleased with this cruise and are happy to have discovered that we indeed have two little sailors in our family.
I would not hesitate to recommend DCL to families who want to enjoy a cruise where kids aren't an afterthought and are treated as an equal. Your child will never be able to say "I'm bored" while on-board.
We so enjoyed the experience that we were sure to book a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise while on board and look forward to experiencing a little magic at sea again next December!
JillK’s Full Rating Summary
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
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Ages 3 to 6
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