We are definitely “cruise people.” My husband and I went on our first cruise together shortly before we adopted our son, Zack. Six years later, we’re about to embark upon our fourth cruise together, our third cruise with kids and our second Disney Cruise.
This post has been sponsored by Instant Impressions. All opinions are mine.
The Disney Wonder was our first Disney Cruise and I look forward to coming back in a few months and telling you how it compares to the Disney Dream, which we’ll get to do in about a month. I think the Disney Wonder will always have a special place in our cruise memories and I’ll even put it out there that it’s been one of my favorite vacations, if not my very favorite.
I’m sharing some of my favorite things about the Disney Wonder today. If you’ve been on the Disney Wonder, I’d love to hear what you loved about this awesome ship.
Review of the Disney Wonder
The Disney Wonder has been in service since 1999 and was re-imaged (AKA updated) in 2016. Our voyage was in early 2017 and everything was absolutely beautiful, sparkling, and magical…just as you’d expect from Disney.
I will share with you that we set sail on the Disney Wonder about two months after our voyage on the Carnival Breeze. The difference in sailing on a ship that can accommodate 2,400 passengers (the Wonder) and a ship that can accommodate over 3,600 passengers (the Breeze) was huge. I liked the feeling of less congestion and the lines and to get into shows and into the restaurants were much more manageable on the Wonder.
I was also afraid a Disney Cruise would be “too Disney” but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney and I think everyone knows that. My kids are the perfect age to be in love and in awe of all the Disney magic and characters, but I think I kind of envisioned Mickey Mouse everything and characters popping up around every corner.
That was so not the case.
While the décor was very Disney, it was also very subtle and elegant. You can tell some real work and creativity went into the theming.
Also, while there was plenty of opportunity to interact with the characters, it was typically at scheduled character meets. I think I’d had images in my head of trying to enjoy an umbrella drink from my spot next to the adults-only pool (oh yes, they have one of those) and having Goofy plop down next to me. Other than a random encounter with Captain Hook in the hallway (which was kind of cool) the only time I saw characters was at scheduled meets (both on board and on Castaway Cay) and during shows.
It was the perfect blend of Disney magic and an elegant cruise on an elegant ship.
If you sailed on the Disney Wonder before it was re-imagined, it’s absolutely worth another look. The re-imagined Disney Wonder is more than just updated paint…there is a spectacular new show, Frozen, the Musical, a wonderful themed restaurant (Tiana’s Place), a very authentic English pub in the adult’s only area and more.
There is so much I can tell you about the Disney Wonder but for brevity’s sake, I’ll keep my review of the Disney Wonder to five sections: the food, the entertainment, the staterooms, and the on-board activities (there are lots.) Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the route. We were on a three-night cruise from Port Canaveral Florida to Castaway Cay. The Disney Wonder goes all over the world so contact your travel agent or Disney Cruise Line directly with your booking questions.
Before we get started, I’ll warn you that this is a much longer post than I usually write. If you’re going to be in cruise-planning mode anytime soon, I recommend you pin this post to your favorite Pinterest board and save it for later. You can also subscribe to my travel email list – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you to my monthly update list.
I strongly recommend booking any cruise through a travel agent and when booking a Disney Cruise, book through a certified Disney Vacation Planner. Their services are not going to cost you any more, in fact, just the opposite. A Disney Vacation Planner has all the insider information and will share that with you in advance of your trip. Would you rather book a cruise with someone who has been on multiple Disney cruises or would you rather just wing it?
I’ll tell you a secret – we booked directly with the cruise line for our first cruise and there were a few little snags as we were boarding, simply because we were cruise newbies. If there’s a great deal on the Disney Cruise Line’s website, your Disney Vacation Planner will be able to get you that deal. They'll also continue to watch for better deals even after you book.
The Food on the Disney Wonder:
The Disney Wonder has three restaurants: Triton’s, the Animator’s Palate, and Tiana’s Place, which I mentioned above. There is also Cabana’s, which is a quick-service food option. Room service is included in the price of your cruise (yes, really!) and for cruises that stop at Castaway Cay, the food on the island is included.
Not included is concessions at the shows and Palo, which is an upscale restaurant on the Wonder that I’ve heard only awesome things about. We didn’t dine at Palo, although I did have the opportunity to sample some of their dishes and I would love to partake in this fine dining (see also adult’s only) experience.
When you sail on a Disney Cruise, you will rotate among the restaurants on board. Your dining assignments will be on your Key to the World card (AKA your room key.)
This is awesome because you’ll get to experience all the restaurants and their unique theming and dining options. But do you know what’s really awesome? You have the same servers throughout your cruise and they travel from dining room to dining room with you. I loved that part and loved the level of personalization they provided to our dining experience.
Tiana’s Place has a creole inspired menu and, of course, The Princess and the Frog inspired décor. There is musical entertainment – think Dixieland Jazz – and Tiana herself will visit your table. She will pose for all the pictures you want but she does not sign autographs in the dining room. If you want Tiana’s autograph, you must book the meet and greet with the princesses, which is free.
Shrimp and grits appetizer (no pictures because I was busy INHALING IT) and the beignets. I had a bite of my husband’s food and kids’ food and everything was amazing.
Triton’s is Little Mermaid inspired, both in menu and “under the sea” décor. You can’t miss the iconic statue of Ariel outside, and this is where most of the character meet and greets will take place. If you do a pre-dinner character meet on the night you eat at Triton’s you can go directly into dinner. I was normally not a fan of the pre-dinner character meets because they seemed to be the most popular with everyone else but if you go to dinner a little early on your Triton’s night, the timing should work out.
The Bosch Pear Salad (so weird because I don’t love pears, ordinarily) and the lobster and shrimp appetizer.
The Animator’s Palate is my favorite restaurant on the Disney Wonder, although I say this with some trepidation because it is so hard to play favorites when everything is amazing.
I think one of the reasons I love The Animator’s Palate, so much is because it was my first experience with Disney dining at sea. I attended a special influencer only lunch right after we boarded, put together for us by the Disney Social Media moms and it was just magical.
Animator’s Palate menu has an Asian flair, although everyone’s “palate” will be pleased here…see what I did there?
My picks: Grilled ginger teriyaki beef tenderloin with Wasabi mashed potatoes. I don’t quite have words for how yummy this was, so you’ll just have to trust me.
One of the coolest things about Animator’s Palate is the entertainment. There are “living pictures” on the walls that do cool things. There are a few different entertainment options involving the pictures and I’m going to just leave it at that. The experience is truly first-rate and I hope you get to experience it for yourself.
Still want more options? No problem! On the pool deck you will find a pizza station, a grill (hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets), a salad and panini station, a fruit station and of course an ice cream station! All the ice cream, people. That is one of the best parts about cruising, right?
I can say a lot of things about the dining on the Disney Wonder, but the most important things are that all the food is amazing, and you won’t go hungry. If you want more of a deep dive on the menu, check out THIS POST that is dedicated only to food.
The Entertainment on the Disney Wonder:
You can do as much or as little as you want on board the Disney Wonder. If you want to be on the go all the time, you can definitely find things to do. If you want to relax with an umbrella drink and gaze out at the horizon, well, you can do that, too.
The three and four night sailings of the Disney Wonder currently has three Broadway quality shows: Frozen, a Musical Spectacular, The Golden Mickeys, and Disney Dreams. We didn’t see Disney Dreams but if the other two were any indication, it’s out-of-this world good.
The Walt Disney Theater has a capacity of 977 people, and, while there are no bad seats, I recommend getting there at least 30-minutes early. If you breeze in five minutes before show time, you might be SOL. You can purchase snacks, such as popcorn and candy, on your way in to the theater which are NOT included in your cruise price. However, you are welcome to bring candy from home or stop at the beverage station and bring in your free soda, or even a side order of fries.
There is also bar service available, as in someone will bring you a drink to you seat, if you get there early enough. Alcohol is not included in your cruise package, by the way.
If you want to see a first-run Disney movie instead of (or in addition to!) a live show, you can do that at the Buena Vista on Deck 5. Shows and show times will be in your Navigator, which is your daily rundown of all the things. The Navigator will be delivered to your stateroom daily, but you can find all the info on your Disney Cruise Line app, which you should download before you go.
If you want to watch a movie in a more casual setting, check out the jumbotron on Deck 9. There’s usually a Disney movie playing, and you can watch from your deck chair or while you splash in the pool.
In addition to shows and movies, there are various trivia contests, bingo, as well as classes and seminars, some that come with an additional fee, such as the Mixology class or tequila tasting. Your Navigator will have all the info on what’s being offered, and I found the hardest part to be accepting that I could not do everything.
My advice to would-be cruisers is to always get the most space you can afford, especially if you are traveling with children. Although you probably don’t spend a ton of time in your room, it is important to be comfortable when you are.
If you’ve never cruised before, you might be surprised to find that staterooms are much (much, much, much, much) smaller than your average hotel room. The space is used efficiently, i.e. the storage under the bed and in the cabinets, is perfect for storing luggage, but it is still not a lot of room to move around in.
We stayed in an ocean view stateroom with a verandah that came with a double bed and a deep sofa that converted into a bed with another bunk bed atop of that could be folded up against the ceiling. This gave us plenty of room for moving around when the kids were not in bed.
The staterooms on the Disney Wonder are a fun combo of Art Deco style and nautical. The one thing I really liked is that the toilet and shower were separate. There are two tiny bathrooms off the entrance of the stateroom, one with a toilet and sink and one with a sink and shower. For a family of four who is not used to living in such close quarters, this helped make getting ready a little easier.
The “double bathroom” is a hallmark of Disney on deluxe staterooms (Category 10, deluxe inside and higher.)
There's a privacy curtain that divides the “living area” from the sleeping area.We really liked having the verandah, not only because it was cool to have our own little nook to view the ocean, but because it extended our space and gave us a little bit more breathing room. That said, our stateroom was only 268 square feet and that includes the verandah space.
If you’re interested in a concierge suite, those are available in limited number, but the price point will go waaaay up. In addition to more space, you get a whirlpool bathtub, a wet bar with sodas, access to a DVD library, and extra concierge service that will attend to your every need, to include making reservations for shipboard and shore activities. There are also extra in-room dining options at this level and priority tendering and boarding, and excursion booking. Additionally, there is a wonderful private lounge with very attentive staff.
From my perspective, I’d say to splurge on the ocean view stateroom with a verandah if possible. The extra room is nice (okay, the extra room in the suites would be really nice) but the jump in prices versus the time we do spend in our staterooms makes it cost prohibitive for my family. If you are looking to splurge or have a larger family that can’t be accommodated in a single stateroom, then you’ll probably want to seriously look at the concierge suites to see if they’d work for you.
There are endless options for your small humans on a Disney Cruise (and for you, too!)
The It’s a Small World Nursery is for kiddos ages six months through three years. Since our kids are older, I don’t have firsthand experience with this service but you can check out the specifics here. With it's very low ratios for precious cargo, this is the only club with an hourly fee and the only club that requires reservations.
For ages three (must be potty trained) to 12, there’s the Oceaneer Lab and the Oceaneer Club. The Oceaneer Lab offers fun through imaginative themed activities and games. Kids can take part in self-guided or group activities. The Oceaneer Club was simply amazing. When our kids weren’t in kids club, they were begging to go to kids club. When we picked them up, the first question out of their mouth was “when can we come back?”
We got a chance to go to the Oceaneer Club’s open house on our last day of sailing and it was easy to see why they liked it so much. Regardless of whatever your kid situation is, I’d recommend you take the time to check out any open house offerings. When people find out that you’ve been on a Disney Cruise, you will be asked questions. Besides, seeing the Oceaneer Club in person will make you wish you were a kid. It’s just really neat.
If you’re the type that suffers mom guilt for “dumping” your kids while you go have fun, you will feel good about letting your littles enjoy the kid’s activities on a Disney cruise.
One of the COOLEST things about the Oceaneer Club is that it moves to Castaway Cay when the ship stops at at Castaway Cay. They have an awesome sand play area, playground, and splash pad.
If you have tweens (11-14) check out Edge and for the 14 and up, there’s Vibe. We were seriously impressed the Oceaneer Club. I completely understand why my kids loved it so much. If you want an up-to-date run down of the youth activities on all four of the DCL ships, go here.
You can find information on Character meet and greets in your Navigator (hard copy delivered to your room daily or on your Disney Cruise Line App.) If you couldn’t catch Donald (who can be somewhat elusive!) in the Disney Parks, you WILL be able to find him on-board and the line will not be near as long. If you’d like to meet the Princesses or Elsa and Anna, you’ll have to reserve a spot before you sail or with Guest Services once on board. All meet and greets are free, but the Princesses and the Frozen characters are done separately in an out-of-the way location and because they’re the most popular, ahead-of-time signups are the way it’s done.
The pools are absolutely amazing. Sadly, there is no Aqua Duck on the Wonder but there are some really fun slides and a splash pad for younger kids (must wear a swim diaper, though.)
If you’re traveling sans kids (yep, a Disney cruise is popular with couples and honeymooners) you will need to check out both the adults-only pool and the adult’s only entertainment areas. If you want to enjoy all the amenities of a luxury cruise ship without small humans around you (even yours!) it is totally possible. I think the level of offerings for adults is the thing that surprised me the most about a Disney Cruise.
I’ve told you about all the things I loved about the Disney Wonder and, while I’d like to be able to provide some honest and constructive words on things I didn’t love, I can’t come up with one thing that I think Disney could be doing better here.
But, it’s Disney. I’m pretty sure they will come up with a way and that is part of the magic.