Disney Wonder Cruise Review by yokelridesagain
- Sail Date: August 2011
- Destination: Alaska
Embarkation/debarkation-At least for Vancouver, the "port arrival times" assigned on the website didn't mean anything. We got an arrival time at 2:30 but showed up at noon, waited maybe twenty minutes and then walked on the boat. You have the chance to get the first of many pictures with The Mouse while waiting. Debarkation was easy for us; we just kept our luggage and walked right off the ship when they opened the doors. The lines to collect luggage looked a bit misearable, so I would highly recommend the "do it yourself" option.
Condition of ship/staterooms-I haven't traveled on a brand new ship (yet) so I can't provide a truly fair comparison, but we had absolutely no concerns about the working order of anything in the staterooms or on board. The public areas were spotless. Having the verandah was definitely a highlight; I didn't leave the kids out there alone, of course, but no concerns about their safety. There was only the faintest odor of cigarette smoke from other staterooms on a few occasions.
Journey/scenery-We were on port side, so I sort of assumed we would be looking at open ocean on the way up. Not the case! Almost all of the daylight hours were spent in the inside passage, so we had wilderness views from the verandah for almost the entire trip. The ship only went in open ocean a couple of times at night; I actually rather enjoyed the motion when I woke up at 2 am one morning but most of the time it was way smoother than your average ferry boat. Tracy Arm was spectactular-if I did it again I would just go up on deck when we got to the glacier and then stay up for the ride back down the fjord; it was almost deserted on deck on the way back as compared to the crowds on the way in.
Entertainment (except Toy Story)-The ventriloquist and comedy-singer guy (John Charles) were both good and the final show (Dreams) was a pleasant ending to the cruise. My kids were entertained enough to sit through all of the Disney-themed productions.
Children's clubs-We did not utilize the nursery but my wife went with the kids to the area for 3-6 year olds and they were just fine with that as long as she was there. Although my three year old technically didn't qualify to be left in the club as he was a few days short of three when we boarded, they would have allowed us to leave him there if we had liked.
Service/characters-The kids absolutely loved having their pictures taken with the characters and getting autographs. Virtually everyone we encountered was extremely nice to the kids and several really went out of their way to have personal interactions-it's neat to have someone you've never met remember your kid's name after meeting them once.
Ports-IF you spend money to have a good time, you can have amazing experiences in these ports. I would just stay away from the Disney backed excursions; they're wildly overpriced. We did a floatplane tour to Misty Fjords in Ketchikan and a combined whale watching/glacier tour through a private company in Juneau (humpbacks and orcas-YES!). In Skagway we did a train ride/gold panning thing through Disney-it was fine but not worth the almost $300 we paid. My favorite thing in Skagway was hoofing it up to the old cemetery...an evocative and melancholy place, particularly in the mists...sad to see so many children but a realistic reminder of the difficulty of living in this place a hundred years ago. The towns themselves are absolutely nothing special or even very enjoyable.
Dining-We had breakfast at the Beach Blanket buffet every morning. It was chain diner quality, fine but a bit repetitive. Lunch buffets were probably the best food, particularly Parrot Cay. Dinner...sigh...look, I make no claims of being anything other than a food snob so if you're easily satisfied you may like it OK. And, it wasn't as bad as I feared it could be--but it WAS pretty bad. I don't really know who Disney is trying to please. I talked to several "meat and potatoes" types and they were disappointed with portions and "unfamiliar" foods. Most guests are probably more like us, having some familiarity with what fine dining actually is, and recognize the provisions for what they are: pretentious descriptions attached to bad food. Our last night's experience was typical: a lobster "bisque" that was more properly a (poor) gumbo, "sashimi" tuna that had been seared, and a "baked Alaska" that was actually an ice cream cake, for all love. Many of the more "ambitious" dishes (escargot, oysters Rockefeller, crab legs) were obviously not fresh, were terrible, and simply should not have been served. The servers were really great--it was a pity they were forced to serve this stuff.
Toy Story-My wife and kids are big fans of the movies. This was a big disappointment; just a rehash of the first film. The music was totally uninspiring and the male leads were just not particularly talented. The girl who played the villain (Sid) was the only redeeming feature.
A few minor nitpicks-The photography crew in the checkout area were a bit pushy-definitely put on the hard sell to buy a photo package from the first interaction with them. The princess gathering (now dubbed "The Princess Fiasco" in our household) would try anyone's patience-there's no way to avoid standing on line for 45 minutes or so (either before it starts or during it). Try not to let your little princess find out it exists; you can easily get pictures with all the princesses individually at other times anyway.
Summary: We went from thinking this would be our first and only cruise to booking another one on board the ship. I highly recommend this as an extremely relaxing and pleasant family vacation.