• Overview

  • In-Room Dining Overview

  • Drinks Overview

  • Overview

  • Cove Café

  • Outlook Bar

  • Promenade Lounge

  • Cadillac Lounge

  • Diversions

  • Cove Café

  • Outlook Bar

  • Lobby Atrium

  • Vista Spa

  • Sports and Fitness

  • Wide World of Sports Deck

  • Treasure Ketch

  • Mickey’s Mates

  • Radar Trap

  • Vista Gallery

  • Shutters

  • Vibe

  • Edge

  • Oceaneer Club

  • Oceaneer Lab

  • Flounder’s Reef Nursery

  • Internet Station

  • Quarter Masters

  • WaveBands

  • Walt Disney Theatre

  • Buena Vista Theatre

  • Studio Sea

  • Goofy’s Family Pool

  • Mickey’s Childrens’ Pool

  • Quiet Cove

  • Promenade Deck

  • Wide World of Sports Deck

  • Deck 10

  • Goofy’s Family Pool

  • Mickey’s Childrens’ Pool

  • Quiet Cove

  • Ship Tour Overview

  • Staff

  • General Health and Safety

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview


Not including suites, there are six different types of staterooms on Disney Wonder. Most feature Disney Cruise Line’s unique “split” bathrooms—that is, sink and toilet in one half, sink and shower/tub in the other.

Inside Cabins sleep three or four and come in two sizes. At 184 square feet, Disney’s standard units are slightly larger than the smallest cabins found on most ships. One important distinction from other cabins on the ship: Standard Inside cabins do not have the “split” bathrooms (though you still get a shower and tub). Deluxe Inside features the split bathroom, and comes in at 214 square feet. The next category, pricewise, is Deluxe Oceanview, which have a big round porthole window.

Cabins with balconies come three ways, starting at 268 square feet. Most economical is the Deluxe Oceanview with Navigator’s Verandah, the distinction being that the balcony is semi-enclosed by the ship’s exterior, framing the view. This means you won’t have much of a view from inside the cabin, but the view from the balcony, when standing, is similar to that of other cabins with balconies. The Deluxe Oceanview with Verandah is the same size, but has a traditional balcony, while the Deluxe Family Oceanview with Verandah has a slightly larger interior (to sleep five), coming in at 304 square feet.

Suites are available in one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations, topping out with the Walt and Roy Disney suites, which each boast posh accents and Disney memorabilia.

Flush with wood tones and nautical embellishments, we loved our cozy cabin. *** ## Overview This cabin was comfortably sized for two, and not too tight for a family of three, with its sofa converted into a bed by the steward each evening. Some of these units sleep four, using a pull down bunk that hides in the ceiling during the day. In addition to having a bathroom split in two compartments, a curtain could be pulled to cordon off the main bed from the couch, providing a measure of privacy while sleeping. One annoyance was that, at check-in, we found the ashtray on our balcony soiled with ashes and cigarette butts. The queen size bed was a fine Sealy Posturepedic mattress. It was actually two twins, pushed together, but the plush pillow-top made the split negligible. With 300-thread-count Egyptian linens, we slept very well. We did wish upon a star for brighter bedside lighting, but the Blue Fairy did not grant our wish. Disney’s innovative bathroom provides two separate stalls—one with a sink and toilet and a second containing another sink and a shower/bathtub, each with its own door. Combined, they offer more square footage than non-suite bathrooms on most cruise ships. A family sharing this cabin can minimize some of the dressing and time-crunch issues faced when heading out for the day or evening at the same time. Measuring about 40 inches from head to toe and 12 inches deep, the tub was hardly full-size, but ample for bathing children—bring your own (Donald) duckies. Used as a shower, it was definitely larger than what is offered in most cruise ship bathrooms. There was a retractable laundry line for our wet bathing suits. In addition to hand soap, there were Disney-branded bottles of H2O+ Spa bath and body products—shampoo, conditioner and body butter. We found these amenities to be above average compared to what is supplied by most cruise lines. We did have a few issues with the bathroom. The shower curtain included a synthetic liner and the liner had a mildew stain several inches across; on the third day of the cruise our cabin attendant replaced the liner, without our prompting. We found the adjustable showerhead to be difficult to rotate to its various settings. A sign hanging on the towel rack invited us to “Be a friend to the earth and oceans” by re-using our towels to save water and energy. Although we always left our damp towels on the racks, as instructed, they were still replaced daily. There was no makeup mirror in either stall, but the shallow sink counters allowed us to get close to the wall mirrors (a near full-length mirror is in the bedroom). There was not enough shelving in either stall to hold average size travel kits; above each sink was a single glass shelf about 4 inches deep, while four small triangle-shaped shelves were sandwiched into a corner of the toilet stall. There was an outlet for a shaver in both halves of the bathroom; on the toilet side of the bathroom an Elite brand hair dryer was mounted to the wall. Naturally, the cabin was designed with families in mind, and one of the unique features was a pair of Wave Phones, an amenity Disney introduced on its ships in 2010. These are Philips G955 handsets that can be used by families to stay in touch with each other throughout the ship. With a kid in tow, these would allow us to keep tabs on each other by voice or text. We could call from one Wave Phone to the other, or call a Wave Phone from our fixed cabin line, effectively giving us three phones to work with (additional phones can be rented from the Guest Services desk for $3.50 per day). These are nifty assets, but parents, take heed: There is a $250 charge for phones that are lost or damaged. Fronted by sliding wood doors and 60 inches wide, the closet had good storage space for a party of three. There were sufficient hangers on the rod extending the width of the closet, plus a shelf above, where we found three life jackets. Additional storage space for luggage was located under the bed, and there was a cabinet with four drawers next to the closet, a couple shelves above the TV, plus two sets of smaller drawers on either side of the desk. Cabin lighting was nicely diversified. There were two main sets of overhead lights, controlled by switches at the entry door: one in the entry area and above the bed, another illuminating the couch area. Each of these had a second switch (one bedside, another above the desk). There was also a pair of vertical lights that framed the mirror over the desk and a pair of lamps on either side of the bed—these were a bit dim for nighttime reading. The closet had its own lighting, which went on when the closet doors were opened. The balcony had a pair of lights on each side, at waist level. There was an oval-shaped coffee table that could be used for meals; under it was a knob that adjusted the height by about 8 inches. There was an empty mini-fridge we could use. At the desk was a crescent-shaped padded stool; it was cute, but uncomfortable to sit on for any extended period. In-room entertainment channels were fairly broad. In all, 12 channels showed a total of 17 movies at pre-set times throughout the day and night (generally repeating every 2 hours). All of these were releases from the last year, and rated PG or PG-13; about a third were Disney or Touchstone releases. Additionally there were channels devoted to Disney animated features, Pixar fare, live action Disney releases, and Disney Channel content. Our TV was an LG 22-inch flat-screen model, but considering the extent of in-room entertainment, a larger screen would have been nice. Our balcony was a nice place to while away the day, but unlike most cabins with verandahs on Disney Wonder, which have see-through railings, ours was enclosed by the ship’s metal exterior rising to waist level. When seated we couldn’t see the sea over the railing. We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Disney Cruise Line. Note that any photos on this page may be provided directly by the cruise line and not our reviewer. *** ## Standard Inside With a Disney Cruise Line Standard Inside Stateroom, "standard" comes with substantially more! Enjoy more space than you'd find on most other cruise ships in a room befitted with custom-designed furnishings and charming nautical appointments. Make yourself comfortable in an ample seating area complete with a beautifully upholstered couch, desk and television set. It's the perfect place to spend quality time with your family or to unwind after an exciting day at sea or at port. The polished bathroom is fitted with a shower and a tub, and a spacious closet features room aplenty for all your belongings. At night, retire to a bed that's fitted with luxury linens and separated from the seating area with a convenient privacy curtain.

A deluxe room offers you more space for family activities and relaxation than is offered in a standard room. Find a perfect blend of luxury and down-home comforts within your Deluxe Inside Stateroom. Sprawl across the cushions of a beautifully upholstered couch to watch television or first-run movies, or enjoy your morning coffee and daily news at a handsome desk. Fetching nautical fittings and furnishings set the mood for a true high seas escape. When night falls, a cozy bed is waiting for you, with a privacy curtain separating the sleeping area from the activities in the seating area, so your family can rest or play with minimal disruption. You'll also enjoy the convenience of a split bath with a tub, shower and 2 separate sinks

The deluxe room features substantially more space than you would find in a standard room and decor that reflects an elegant nautical motif. Relax in classic maritime style within an environment that offers generous room to spread out and unwind. Watch television and first-run movies in a seating area that includes a handsomely upholstered couch and a sleek and sturdy desk. When it's time for sleep, a luxurious bed awaits, shielded from the activities in other parts of the room by a convenient privacy curtain. These sumptuous private quarters are decked from ceiling to floor in fine-looking furnishings that will please any sea-farer. Best of all, your Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom allows you and yours to be dazzled by incredible sunrises and stunning sunsets through bright portholes, all from the comfort of your room. Of course, you also enjoy the convenience of a split bath, ample storage space and unparalleled Disney service.

A Disney Cruise Line Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Navigator's Verandah is a spacious accommodation that's specially themed and decorated for adventurous sea-farers. You and your family (of up to 3) can enjoy fun and comfort in a room that features teak siding, imported tiles, antique-style maps on the walls and a unique and intimate verandah. In these spacious quarters, find your stay enhanced by the beautiful details that mark the room's nautical decor, and the remarkable concessions made towards maximizing comfort. An ample seating area contains a television set, couch and sturdy desk. Sprawl out for quality time with the family, or retire to comfy beds at the end of the day, separated by a convenient privacy curtain. A split bath with a tub, shower and separate sinks makes your nighttime routine a breeze, even with multiple family members in the same space. Unique to this stateroom is the distinctive verandah, which is enclosed for added privacy and features a large open-air porthole set in a solid white wall above the railing.

A Disney Cruise Line Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah is a richly appointed and spacious accommodation tailored for families of 5, featuring an elegant maritime motif and more square footage than you would find in a standard stateroom. Relax in private quarters fitted with beautifully antiqued fixtures and furnishings and a private verandah for magnificent views of the sea. A Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah features the pleasant comforts of home. Stretch out in a seating area to watch TV and first-run movies from a comfortable couch, or settle down for an evening of quality family time. When the day is done, nestle into plush beds for restful nights on the high seas. The seating and sleeping areas can be separated with a heavy privacy curtain for greater intimacy, and the entire space is decked from ceiling to floor in charming nautical touches. You also enjoy the convenience of a split bath, complete with a luxurious tub and separate sinks that allow for 2 people to use the space at the same time. Best of all, the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah features spectacular sea vistas from the private balcony, which features furniture, plexiglass or solid whitewall railing and child locks for safety.

Disney Cruise Line Concierge Suites are our most spacious, luxurious and upscale stateroom options offered aboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder ships. They are best suited to Guests seeking a premium cruise experience in the most sophisticated of accommodations.

Cabin amenities are just fine for couples, but there are smart extras designed for families.


Overview

We found the typical amenities well represented, including safe, flat screen TV, mini-fridge and quality bathroom products. But several features cater to the family market, such as Wave Phones that can be used to stay in touch with roaming kids and extensive child-friendly entertainment offerings on the TV channels. A few things we didn’t find: a stocked minibar, make-up mirror, or bathrobe.

In addition to the ship’s pricy laundry services, self-service, coin-operated laundry facilities were offered on decks 2, 6 and 7; irons and ironing boards were available here as well. Ice could be delivered to the room, but we didn’t discover this till finding it on the room service menu.


The room service menu was short, but was sufficient for what a kid might want.

In-Room Dining Overview

A card was in the room to hang on the door before 3 a.m. to order breakfast at pre-selected times between 5 and 9:30 a.m. On Disney Wonder the selection was limited to continental breakfast—juices, coffee, tea, milk (skim, low fat, whole, chocolate), breads and pastries, packaged cereal and a fruit bowl.

The standard menu—a bit hidden inside the room services directory—was also somewhat narrow, but included some hot choices and was available 24 hours. We found two salads (Caesar or Niçoise), soups (creamy tomato or chicken noodle), a plate of international cheeses with crackers and a fruit bowl. Sandwiches included a BLT, baguette with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, hot panini with tomato, basil and mozzarella, or a cheeseburger with fries. Chicken tenders, hot dog, mac and cheese, chicken wings and three kinds of pizzas were available. The two larger offerings were a steak sandwich with fries and a grilled salmon steak served with asparagus and orzo. Snacks—including M&M’s, buttered popcorn, peanuts or cashews—could be ordered at a surcharge.

One morning we called in breakfast and were told it would be delivered within 35 minutes; it arrived in 17 minutes. On one port day we ordered lunch and were told it would be delivered in 30-35 minutes; in fact, it arrived just 8 minutes later (the server said it was a quiet day in the kitchen).
Food was brought on a plastic tray and could be eaten at the desk, on the coffee table at the sofa, or on a small table on the balcony. The presentation was simple but appealing, though there was no salt/pepper on the side.

A note on our trays asked us to call room service for collection of our dishes. We did following our lunch but the tray sat outside in the hallway for several hours.

We ordered the fruit, coffee and juice for breakfast. The coffee was hot (in contrast to what we found with the self-serve stations) and the juice cold. The fruit bowl was comprised of sliced melon, apple, pineapple and kiwi.

For lunch we ordered a chicken and guacamole fajita, which arrived hot. The tasty fajita mixture included onions and bell pepper and was folded into a flower tortilla. Small ramikins of salsa (mild) and creamy guacamole were on the side; there was no “crisp lettuce” (as stated on the menu), but the dish didn’t really need it. This wasn’t a full-blown lunch, more like a good-sized snack. The chocolate cake for dessert was a rolled affair—more frosting than cake.

Beer, soda and bottled water packages could be ordered individually, or in packages (the in-room deal was to buy five and the sixth was free). Beers included Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Amstel Light, Heineken, Beck’s and Corona. Soft drinks included Coke products, Sprite, ginger ale and orange soda. Evian water was available in 16-ounce bottles.
With its unique rotational dining (and servers) and moderately aspiring menus, dining turned out to be an unexpected plus during our cruise.

While we would not recommend a cruise on Disney Wonder specifically for its food offerings, with some qualifications we found the overall quality to be above average. Although there were kid-friendly menus at most venues, the cruise also provided an opportunity for junior to stretch his taste buds, to sample new, even exotic fare. And parents will appreciate that, while junk food was readily available, so was a fair amount of more wholesome options.

One distinction Disney Cruise Line offers from other lines is its rotational dining. Instead of being seated in the same restaurant nightly, there are three main dining rooms— Triton’s, Parrot Cay and Animator’s Palate. Each cabin is assigned to one of these three, 462-seat venues every third night. The neat trick is that the waiters from our first night followed our table each subsequent evening, and the bonding that goes on between kids and their doting servers was a delight to watch. On several theme nights of our cruise the menu was the same at each restaurant, but overall we felt the meals turned out at Triton’s might be a little better; this is also a more upscale room for dining.

We found the Beach Blanket Buffet to be a problem area for the ship. The buffet eatery turned out some good, sometimes unusual food, but the crowding at breakfast and lunch was a turn-off. There are snack-bar type eateries— Pinnochio’s Pizzeria and Pluto’s Dog House serving you know what, while Goofy’s Galley had more healthful light meals.

Palo is Disney Wonder’s one specialty restaurant, an Italian eatery. The food is solid, service refined, and the views are splendid, making the surcharge ($20) reasonable. We recommend it for a dress-up night away from the kids (the restaurant is restricted to 18 and up), or for the very satisfying brunch served on sea days. Reservations at the beginning of your cruise are advised.

We did not evaluate the quality of children’s meals, but they appeared to be pretty much par for the course for undemanding palates. A children’s menu was available at all restaurants (other than Palo), with the expected fare: Macaroni and cheese, corn dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, all served with choice of mashed potatoes or fries, and vegetable of the day (offerings were more diverse at the buffet). But we found lots of kids enjoying the ability to order from the regular menu.

A late night, Pirates IN the Caribbean-themed buffet was held towards the end of our cruise, on Deck 9. And tasty nibbles were always available in the (adults-only) Cove Café.


The ambience may be family-oriented but there was no shortage of satisfying cocktails, served in a variety of inviting lounges and bars.

Drinks Overview

Disney Wonder had seven dedicated bars around the ship (plus those at restaurants). Bar service could also be ordered at the pool areas and at the Walt Disney Theatre. The adults-only Cadillac Lounge was probably our pre-prandial favorite, with its sleek Detroit-inspired styling and live piano providing the perfect backdrop for martinis.

A 15-percent service charge was added to all drink orders. The minimum age for drinking was 21. There was no charge for soft drinks obtained at restaurants or from the dispensers at the 24-hour filling station just outside Beach Blanket Buffet.
The range of beers available on Disney Wonder was somewhat limited. Draught options at several bars included Bud, Michelob Amber Bock and Shock Top Belgian White. By the bottle, the more exotic offerings were Guinness Stout and Blue Moon. Prices ranged $4.25 to $5.25.

The wine list was also not long, but included Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, La Crema chardonnay, Santa Margherita pinot grigio, Greg Norman shiraz, King Estate pinot noir and Robert Mondavi cabernet sauvignon. Most if these were priced in the $40-$50 range, but a number of bottles could be had for under $30. Wines available by the glass included St. Francis chardonnay, Bogle Vineyards pinot noir and Kendall Jackson cabernet sauvignon, at prices ranging $5.75 to $11.75 per glass.

An expanded, Italian-focused wine selection was available at Palo Restaurant, including Super Tuscans like Solaia Marchesi Antinori and Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido.

The ship’s standard drink list included a selection of specialty martinis such as a Pomegranate Cosmo, Citron Martini, Godiva Chocolate Martini—$8.50 each—or the Eco-Tini (VeeV Açai Liqueur, Triple Sec, Agave Nectar, ginger, lime juice) for $9.50 (served with a souvenir Açai seed bracelet!). Featured cocktails were Bahama Mama, Melon Vine and Captain’s Mai Tai, at $5.75 each. A variety of Daiquiris, Margaritas and Mojitos were available ($5.75-$7.50).

Wine was sold in packages of three to seven bottles at a discount off the single-bottle price. If one shopped carefully, savings near 25 percent for seven bottles were possible. One did not have to drink a whole bottle each night; unfinished bottles could be re-corked and rotated to our restaurant for the following night, or taken back to the cabin.

Other drink packages were availed during embarkation. This included 500ml bottles of Evian water—12 bottles for the price of 10, saving $3.50. Buckets of beer were six bottles for the price of five. A 22-oz. Disney Cruise Line beer mug could be purchased for $14.95 with refills sold at the 16-oz. price. The room service menu also included beer and soda packages.

There were lots of non-alcoholic drinks on offer. Sodas in restaurants (Coke products) were free. Sodas, coffee, decaf, tea and hot chocolate were available at the beverage station outside Beach Blanket Buffet at all hours. The standard bar list included a Passion Fruit Freeze—a blend of juices and vanilla ice cream for $3.95—and a number of mixed drinks could be made virgin.
The modestly sized Disney Wonder had an array of activities available, but not as many as some of its newer, bigger competitors.


Overview


The Cove Café was an appealing hideout for coffee beverages and small bites.

Cove Café

This inviting café was one of our favorite hangouts on Disney Wonder, with seating inside the cozy coffee hours as well as out on the open area of Deck 9, but protected from most of the wind. Though not designated as an adult area of the ship, most kids bypassed Cove Café on their way to the soft drink machine. The varied magazines on a rack for reading included Vogue, the New Yorker, Bon Appetite, Fortune, Parenting, National Geographic, etc.

In addition to coffee drinks and a full bar, small bites were available from a glass fridge at one end of the bar. In the morning there was croissants and muffins, in the late afternoon we found cold cuts, olives, cheese and veggie sticks and dip, and later on a few trays of desserts appeared. There was also a small selection of cigars (though Cove Café itself was designated non-smoking).

A stairwell connects Cove Café with the Outlook Bar, immediately upstairs.

Drink

Coffee beverages includes espresso, cappuccino, café mocha, café latte ($2.25-$3.95 for a small or large) and a frozen cappuccino and mochaccino that were blended with vanilla ice cream ($3.35-$4.00). The ship’s standard bar menu was available, along with coffee cocktails—Jamaican calypso (coffee, Tia Maria, Myer’s Dark Rum, whipped cream), Italian coffee (coffee and Galliano), etc.

Additional Details

Cove Café was open daily from 6:30 or 7 a.m. till midnight.

Outlook Bar

Added in 2009, prior to Disney Wonder’s first foray into Alaskan waters, this adults-only lounge is one key venue not found on sister ship Disney Magic. Also known as the Outlook Café, the bar sprawls from port to starboard on Deck 10, providing good vistas of the passing scenery. Whether coming for a drink or the view or just to read, this was a quiet area of the ship.

Drink

Outlook Bar has a full bar serving the ship’s standard cocktail menu and, like Cove Café immediately below (to which it is connected by a spiral staircase), there’s an espresso machine for various coffee drinks, but no snacks.

Additional Details

Outlook Bar was open daily from 10 a.m. till midnight, although one port day it opened at 3 p.m.
Disney Wonder was conceived with a variety of public areas—some designated for kids, some for adults, while most catered to both crowds.


After dark, Route 66 is Disney Wonder’s adult-oriented area. Although kids scampered through during the day and early evening, the bars here—Diversion, Cadillac Lounge and WaveBands—were designated age 18 and up after 9 p.m. (drinking was still limited to 21 and up).

Promenade Lounge

This was the Disney Wonder’s all-purpose lounge, the first and last bar to open and shut each day. Located in between Triton’s and Parrot Cay on Deck 3, it got busy just prior to the two evening dinner seatings, especially when a nice sunset was illuminating the oversized porthole windows. There were several sets of light live music each night and the lounge is also a venue for some of the many activities taking place each day—trivia contests, talent competitions, charades, etc. Immediately adjacent is the Internet Station.

Additional Details

Promenade Lounge was open from 8 a.m. till midnight daily.

Cadillac Lounge

Although martinis can be made at most bars on the Disney Wonder, the Cadillac Lounge is the place to order one. It not only has an expanded martini and champagne selection, but the swank décor is a seductive immersion into late 1950s Detroit car culture. White fins, red tail lights and leather seats gave Cadillac Lounge its sex appeal, while the piano went live each evening to provide soft background sounds.

Diversions

Sitting at the end of Route 66, the adult-oriented section of Deck 3 forward, this dark, subdued lounge was overlooked by many cruisers. Aptly named, Diversions serves as a sports bar and game center—among the scheduled activities were trivia games and Wii challenges, and there were tables with built-in backgammon and chessboards (other board games were available). In the mornings and some early afternoons it was a quiet, untended spot to enjoy a book. Rudimentary nibbles were set out at happy hour—buffalo wings, hot dogs and chips.

Additional Details

Bartenders staffed Diversions from noon till midnight, though it opened later in the afternoon on port days.

Cove Café

This inviting café was one of our favorite hangouts on Disney Wonder, with seating inside the cozy coffee hours as well as out on the open area of Deck 9, but protected from most of the wind. Though not designated as an adult area of the ship, most kids bypassed Cove Café on their way to the soft drink machine. The varied magazines on a rack for reading included Vogue, the New Yorker, Bon Appetite, Fortune, Parenting, National Geographic, etc.

In addition to coffee drinks and a full bar, small bites were available from a glass fridge at one end of the bar. In the morning there was croissants and muffins, in the late afternoon we found cold cuts, olives, cheese and veggie sticks and dip, and later on a few trays of desserts appeared. There was also a small selection of cigars (though Cove Café itself was designated non-smoking).

A stairwell connects Cove Café with the Outlook Bar, immediately upstairs.

Outlook Bar

Added in 2009, prior to Disney Wonder’s first foray into Alaskan waters, this adults-only lounge is one key venue not found on sister ship Disney Magic. Also known as the Outlook Café, the bar sprawls from port to starboard on Deck 10, providing good vistas of the passing scenery. Whether coming for a drink or the view or just to read, this was a quiet area of the ship.

Additional Details

Outlook Bar was open daily from 10 a.m. till midnight, although one port day it opened at 3 p.m.

Lobby Atrium

The Disney Wonder’s main entryway was here at Deck 3 mid-ship, a three-story space topped by a Dale Chihuly chandelier made of faux glass (real glass is too heavy to be safe at sea, we were told on the ship tour, so lightweight acrylics were used—look closely and you’ll see it doesn’t quite have the gleam of real glass).

The Guest Services counter (or front desk) was here, along with a desk for booking shore excursions, which Disney calls Port Adventures. A number of character greetings took place in the lobby, announced in the ship’s daily newsletter, and this was also the main entrance to Triton’s restaurant.

On disembarkation day, this area was jammed to the gills.

The sports court was busy most hours of the day, but we took refuge in the modest but well-appointed gym at the Vista Spa.


Vista Spa

Sequestered in the forward reaches of Deck 9, just past the adults-only Quiet Cove, the Vista Spa was a pampering retreat—another area of the ship where parents could dodge familial obligations for a couple hours. The Tuscan-décor facilities are beautifully conceived, with extensive use of mosaic tiles and a lush color scheme we’d call Floridian lite. Overall, a very restful space to chill out.

As with many of the spas as sea, this one is managed by Steiner Leisure. Prices were on par with what we’ve seen on other cruise ships, but still a bit higher than we find at most quality resorts (rates were discounted on port days, and other specials or multiple appointments also availed discount for some treatments). The primary skin care line in use was Elemis and Steiner, and Phyto and Bliss products were also for sale.

Treatments included a variety of massages—seaweed, hot stone, bamboo, chocolate, lime and salt, reflexology, Thai herbal poultice, etc.—ranging $118 for 50 minutes to $249 for 100 minutes. Several treatments are available for couples. Most of the treatment rooms have sea views and there were three also Mediterranean-style spa villas, oversized rooms with whirlpool tubs, foot soaking, tea ceremonies and day beds (starting at $150 for one person, 105 minutes; $449 for two, 120 minutes).

The spa also included a Tropical Rain Forest, which has heated ceramic benches, aromatic steam rooms, and mist fog showers; a pass to use these facilities throughout a seven-day cruise was $99, or $148 for couples. There was also a couples massage workshop held one evening, $60 per couple.

There was a bright full-service salon, where hair and nail services were performed. A new one for Disney Wonder was Ice Cream Manicure and Pedicure, priced $50 and $60 respectively, treatments using various ice cream and sherbet for soaking, buffing, exfoliating and massage—bring your own sprinkles. We’ll try that one next time.

Sports and Fitness

Although the Vista Spa’s gym is not huge, it covered the basics quite well, in a well-maintained crescent-shaped room that overlooked the bow of the ship. We never had to wait to use the Life Fitness cardio equipment, which included the usual array of bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, etc. (headsets were available for listening to the TVs mounted on these). There were also free weights and exercise balls.

There was a good selection of fitness classes, and a number of them—yoga, spinning, pilates—did not carry a surcharge (there was a fee for the 45-minute boot camp workouts—$69 for two sessions, $120 for four). Arrive early for these classes; space limitations meant a couple of them filled before the start time.

Wide World of Sports Deck

Sitting at the forward end of Deck 10, this netted area of the ship had equipment for basketball, soccer, table tennis and Foosball. For most of the day and into the evening it was fairly packed with kids, with various tournaments announced in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.
There were two main shops on Deck 4 that offered a selection of Disney logo merchandize.


Treasure Ketch

There were two main stores on Disney Wonder, both located in the lobby for the Walt Disney Theatre, and they offered a good array of Disney-related merchandise, most of which wasn’t available off the ship.

Retail

We found Disney-logo jewelry, H2O+ Spa products, Fossil leather handbags, wallets and belts, and lots of clothing and purses (Dooney & Bourke) with the Disney Cruise Line logos. This was the place for Timex-brand Mickey Mouse watches along with watches from Citizen and Skagen. There was a wall with a limited selection of fragrances from some of the major lines. Treasure Ketch also sold sundries, including razors, deodorants, pain relievers, sun block, contact lens solution, baby supplies, camera batteries, etc. Even swim goggles were in stock.

Mickey’s Mates

The second of the ship’s two main stores, Mickey’s Mates had even more of the Disney character and cruise line merchandise, much of it aimed at younger passengers.

Retail

This store was awash in princess and pirate outfits plus costumes and T-shirts for other characters. Disney plush toys, Disney games, Disney Wonder model ships—and most of it would not be easily found off the ship.

Radar Trap

Disney Wonder’s duty-free liquor store is a handsome little shop along Route 66 that was pretty quiet most of the time. That might be because liquor purchased on-board cannot be opened until after disembarkation. Still, the duty-free prices availed some attractive deals on vodka, scotch, tequila, whiskey, gin and rum.

Retail

The cognac prices were particularly eye-catching, up to and including Rémy Martin Louis XIV and Hennessy Richard. Cigarettes and cigars were available here as well, also for use after the cruise.

Disney Wonder’s informal art gallery was better than what we’ve seen on some ships. All of it depicted various Disney/Pixar characters and scenes, and many featured the Disney Wonder.

Retail

Although there was a fair amount of original artwork, the best pieces were available as giclées (reproductions)—good mementoes, but none too cheap.

Shutters

A crew of photographers was present to document every inch of the voyage. The images were displayed in this space above the Promenade Lounge. No-obligation private sessions could also be scheduled.

Retail

In addition to selling the photos, Shutters sold camera gear—Pentax, Leica and Olympus point-and-shoots, binoculars, and a few accessories.

Personal Navigator, the ship’s daily schedule, detailed the many activities that took place across the ship each day.


Vibe

There are five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, organized by age bracket. Vibe is the club for teens, age 13-17—the area was decidedly off-limits to adults and knee-high types, except for some fairly cool counselors that staffed the room. Occupying Disney Wonder’s faux funnel at mid-ship, Vibe is the only area of Deck 11 accessible to the public. The facility looks like a college dorm, or the living room of the Friends TV show, with mismatched worn furniture and road signs adorning the walls.

A lot of the activities were unsupervised, including computers games, TVs, internet (at an additional charge) and board games, but among the scheduled activities were karaoke, dance parties, pizza and ice cream socials, basketball and a Hidden Mickey hunt.

Soft drinks were free, smoothies and other items were available for an additional charge.

Additional Details

Vibe was open from 10 a.m. (12 noon on port days) till 2 a.m. daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.

Edge

One of the five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, Edge was designed for tweens, age 11-14, and located deep on Deck 2. The space was primped with low-slung couches, bean bag chairs and lots of computer and TV monitors.

A number of the activities were unsupervised, including the kid-friendly computer lab, videogame consoles, tables for arts and crafts and the stock of board games, but among the scheduled activities were a cooking school, karaoke, bingo, crafts, Guitar Hero, plus pizza and ice cream socials.

Additional Details

Edge was open from 9 a.m. till 1 a.m. daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.

Oceaneer Club

One of the five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, the Oceaneer Club was an activity center on Deck 5, mid-ship, where children age 3 to 12 could play in a Peter Pan themed area. There was the façade of a pirate ship with nets and a slide from the crow’s nest, a child-friendly computer lab, a dressing room where kids could change into their favorite costumes, and plenty of toys and games. We loved the child-scaled restroom.

Scheduled activities were almost nonstop, and includes crafts, puppet shows, pirate face painting and pajama parties.

Additional Details

Hours varied, but Oceaneer Club was generally open from 9 a.m. till midnight daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter. Access to the Oceaneer Club was restricted to children and their parents.

Oceaneer Lab

One of the five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, the Oceaneer Lab was an activity center on Deck 5, where children age 3 to 12 could play in a Buzz Lightyear themed area. In contrast to Oceaneer Club, which catered to the same age bracket, the Lab was geared more towards hands-on activities.

Among the scheduled activities were a cooking school, postcard making, a scavenger hunt, human bingo and make your own Disney nametag. Access to the Oceaneer Lab was restricted to children and their parents.

Additional Details

Hours varied, but Oceaneer Lab was generally open from 9 a.m. till midnight daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.

Flounder’s Reef Nursery

The Disney Wonder is one of the few cruise ships with a proper nursery for the real young ‘uns, age 3 months to 3 years. Rates for the charming facility are $6 per hour for the first child ($5 for each additional from the same family) and reservations were encouraged—a good idea when headed to shore excursions, the spa or Palo for dinner.

We were told to bring our own diapers, wipes, bottles and milk or formula, sippy cups and jars of baby food as needed.

Additional Details

The nursery was open from either 7 or 9 a.m. each morning until 11 p.m. We also noted that diaper changing stations were available on decks 1 and 3 aft, deck 4 forward, deck 5 inside the Oceaneer Club, deck 9 forward, and deck 10 aft. Basic care and feeding supplies—wipes, diapers, formula, food, pacifiers—were sold at Treasure Ketch.

Internet Station

Disneys Wonder’s internet station was a collection of nine PCs in a walled-off area of the Promenade Lounge. The facility was not staffed, but there were printers for those who needed them (.25 cents per page).

Basic internet rates were .75 cents per minute, whether using the ship’s computers or your own laptop, with packages available that brought the per-minute price down (100 minutes for $55, etc.).

Quarter Masters

The ship’s arcade was a popular spot throughout the day and evening. Arcade Cards, starting at $10, could be charged to rooms.

Though most shows were designed with families in mind, there were an option or two each night that would skew more adult.


WaveBands

With décor and lighting inspired by the guts of an old transistor radio, WaveBands was Disney Wonder’s go-to spot for dancing. Located along Route 66, the lighting resembles both oversized glowing circuit boards and undersized radio towers with bolts of lightning. It’s a quirky room, with a dance floor and small stage at the front, wrapped by booths and tables.

Shows and Performances

This multi-purpose venue was used for stand-up comedians, magicians, juggling and even a hypnotist. The quality of the performers here was excellent, and the material skewed to adults after 9 p.m. A few game-show type contests were also staged here.

Additional Details

During the day and early evening, Wave Bands was open only during scheduled events. Around 9:30 p.m. it was open for DJ dancing, but this usually petered out by midnight.

Walt Disney Theatre

The Walt Disney Theatre, located on Deck 4 forward, is an attractive venue that seats 977 guests. The big shows are put on here and they’re fairly impressive performances, though we were disappointed that there’s no live orchestra for accompaniment; it’s strictly a recorded soundtrack for performers to sing to. Although seating is tiered, there’s no balcony meaning that seats in the rear are a fair distance from the stage.

Shows and Performances

The line-up of shows on our cruise started with The Golden Mickeys, a tribute to some of Disney’s best known animated films and their songs, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs up through Mulan. The staging is attractive, the singing and dancing solid and the kids love it. Much of the same could be said for a show based on the hit movie Toy Story, which features six new songs written for Disney Cruise Line, in addition to the classic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” The third production on our cruise was Disney Dreams, which—surprise—is a tribute to Disney animated classics. Again, sets and performers were quality, though it helps to have a kid at your side.

Each of the one-hour stage shows were performed two or three times in the afternoon and evening on one day. On other nights there were standup acts held here—a juggler-comedian one evening, ventriloquist-comedian another.

Buena Vista Theatre

This was one of our favorite places on the ship, a proper 268-seat cinema on Deck 5 that feels like a plush Hollywood screening room transported into the art deco era. The facilities include equipment for 3-D presentations and a Dolby Surround 7.1 sound system. Sight lines are excellent throughout (a steep rake for seating helps), and the projection quality was bright and crisp.

A snack stand was manned at showtimes, offering bagged popcorn, beer, soda and candy for sale.

Shows and Performances

The 13 films screened during our cruise were mostly releases from the previous three to six months, but a few were Disney classics like “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast,” generally played during the day, usually starting by 10 a.m. One evening, a major Disney release was played on the same day it opened in theatres (due to high demand, this film was screened in the larger Walt Disney Theatre as well). Four of the films were presented in 3-D; the schedule on our cruise did not include any R-rated features.

Studio Sea

This venue, set up a bit like a bar with seating areas, was a catchall space for other types of shows and activities that didn’t fit elsewhere. There are director chairs and makeup mirrors (to make it look like a television studio), along with billboards along the walls advertising shows on Disney’s ABC TV. The outsized marketing was a bit blatant for our taste.

Shows and Performances

Entertainment varied here—some was geared towards adults, but most designed for all ages. On the family end, we saw a napkin-folding demo, a dance party, karaoke and a game show called Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer. For adults, there were presentations by reps from the Disney Vacation Club and cooking demonstrations.
Although the crowd on Disney Wonder doesn’t stay up as late as some ships, there was plenty of entertainment following dinner.



Decks 9 and 10, where the pools and main sunning areas were located, were chock-a-block with bodies on sunny sea days.


There are three pools on Disney Wonder—one for kids, one for adults and one catering to all.

Goofy’s Family Pool

At mid-ship on Deck 9, this was one of the busiest areas of the ship, the one pool that could be enjoyed by parents and kids together. Considering the number of water-lovers on the ship, the four-foot-deep pool was a bit small, and deck chairs were in high demand. A pair of small whirlpools were at one end of the pool, also usually full.

Overhead, a 24 × 14-foot jumbo LED screen nicknamed Funnel Vision offered movies and entertainment through the day and evening. Throughout our cruise the movies shown were Disney (and Pixar) classics: Sleeping Beauty, Ratatouille, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. Below the screen was an outdoor stage where some entertainment was offered. The stage was the focus of attention during the “Pirates IN the Caribbean” deck party, when the pool was covered and converted to a dance floor.

Mickey’s Childrens’ Pool

Located on Deck 9 aft, this pool was dedicated to youngest cruisers, a Mickey-shaped pool just one foot deep, with a bright yellow slide snaking into the pool. To use the slide, kids had to be between age 4 and 14, and between 38 and 64 inches in height. A crewmember staffed the slide when it was open. The area was packed throughout the day—though the kids didn’t seem to mind.

An additional Splash Zone to one side was designed specifically for children under 3 wearing swim diapers; water depth here was just a couple inches, with playful fountains for endless entertainment.

There are no sun loungers here, just deck chairs and tables, many of which were in use by passengers dining at Pluto’s Dog House.

Quiet Cove

One of Disney Wonder’s designated adult hideouts, the Quiet Cove was not exactly hidden—it was perched right behind the spa on Deck 9 forward—but kids tended to stay clear, making this pool the best outdoor area for grownups seeking sun and quiet. The pool was the same size as Goofy’s Family Pool (4 feet deep), and there were two small whirlpool spas flanking one end and Signals bar at the other. The sun loungers here are upgraded, with cushions and towels at the ready, and there were usually empty ones available.

Deck 10 was our go-to spot for sun worshipping, though the Promenade (Deck 4) offered nice rays in the late afternoon.


Promenade Deck

This was the big walkway that wrapped around the entire ship, on Deck 4.

Wide World of Sports Deck

Sitting at the forward end of Deck 10, this netted area of the ship had equipment for basketball, soccer, table tennis and Foosball. For most of the day and into the evening it was fairly packed with kids, with various tournaments announced in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.

Deck 10

The Wide World of Sports area occupied the forward section of Deck 10, but the further we got away from that frenetic area, the quieter things got. There were lots of deck chairs at mid-ship, but towards the rear of the deck, a sign instructed us not to bring sun beds to that area (perhaps for fear Palo diners might see us!).

Additional Details

One night of the cruise is designated at Pirates IN the Caribbean night, and pirate outfits are encouraged. A themed menu takes over the dining rooms (other than Palo) and eye patches and ; a 45-minute party on decks 9 and 10 culminates in fireworks and a flyover by Mickey Mouse (we were told that, for environmental considerations, the fireworks are curtailed on Alaska cruises). For dancing amid the crowd, stick to Deck 9; for the best view of the fireworks and Mickey, aim for Deck 10.

Goofy’s Family Pool

At mid-ship on Deck 9, this was one of the busiest areas of the ship, the one pool that could be enjoyed by parents and kids together. Considering the number of water-lovers on the ship, the four-foot-deep pool was a bit small, and deck chairs were in high demand. A pair of small whirlpools were at one end of the pool, also usually full.

Overhead, a 24 × 14-foot jumbo LED screen nicknamed Funnel Vision offered movies and entertainment through the day and evening. Throughout our cruise the movies shown were Disney (and Pixar) classics: Sleeping Beauty, Ratatouille, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. Below the screen was an outdoor stage where some entertainment was offered. The stage was the focus of attention during the “Pirates IN the Caribbean” deck party, when the pool was covered and converted to a dance floor.

Mickey’s Childrens’ Pool

Located on Deck 9 aft, this pool was dedicated to youngest cruisers, a Mickey-shaped pool just one foot deep, with a bright yellow slide snaking into the pool. To use the slide, kids had to be between age 4 and 14, and between 38 and 64 inches in height. A crewmember staffed the slide when it was open. The area was packed throughout the day—though the kids didn’t seem to mind.

An additional Splash Zone to one side was designed specifically for children under 3 wearing swim diapers; water depth here was just a couple inches, with playful fountains for endless entertainment.

There are no sun loungers here, just deck chairs and tables, many of which were in use by passengers dining at Pluto’s Dog House.

Quiet Cove

One of Disney Wonder’s designated adult hideouts, the Quiet Cove was not exactly hidden—it was perched right behind the spa on Deck 9 forward—but kids tended to stay clear, making this pool the best outdoor area for grownups seeking sun and quiet. The pool was the same size as Goofy’s Family Pool (4 feet deep), and there were two small whirlpool spas flanking one end and Signals bar at the other. The sun loungers here are upgraded, with cushions and towels at the ready, and there were usually empty ones available.

The staff was warm and engaging, and services were professionally handled.


The ship’s daily newsletter, Personal Navigator, is packed with details about events transpiring around the ship; it was delivered to our room each night. Of particular note was the listing of scheduled character appearances—dedicated autograph seekers or paparazzi should pay close attention to maximize their face time. And we appreciated having adult- and youth-oriented events broken out separately. The newsletter format is a bit cluttered—we found ourselves discovering lots of tidbits in tiny type that we overlooked earlier.
There are 11 public decks on Disney Wonder, though one is dedicated to teens only.


Ship Tour Overview


Deck 1 Layout Image

Deck 2 Layout Image

Deck 3 Layout Image

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Deck 5 Layout Image

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Deck 9 Layout Image

Deck 10 Layout Image

There were no surprises here, with a relaxed dress code that seemed like a good match for the crowd.

Staff

Without exception, the crew on Disney Wonder seemed to be chosen for outgoing, upbeat personalities, and their ability to interact with children. Waiters went out of their way to accommodate special requests in restaurants, and performed magic tricks and engaged us with brainteasers suited for all ages. There was quite a bit of disorganization with drink orders at Parrot Cay our first night, but this was not a recurring theme.

Our cabin was generally looked after well, but with its dirty ashtray and mildew-stained shower curtain, it was not quite ship-shape when we arrived (these issues were soon taken care of).

One area we felt let down was during final checkout. While the embarkation process went smoothly and efficiently, disembarkation on the last morning was chaotic. Maybe procedures were in place that guests (hundreds of them) disregarded, but decks 3 and 4 were clogged with bodies, many of them little ones, with luggage filling in any unused spaces. The gleeful pop music blaring in the lobby didn’t help.
The tipping guidelines on Disney Wonder were comparable or slightly higher than those of other lines—a total of $12 per day allocated toward dining room server ($4), assistant server ($3), head server ($1) and cabin steward ($8). Parents should be aware that the recommendations are per person, regardless of age. The day prior to disembarkation we were provided envelopes for gratuities; we could provide the tips in cash or charge them to our room account in exchange for tip vouchers. We noticed some parents giving the tip envelopes to their children to give to the crew.

For bar service a 15 percent service charge is automatically added onto all beverage tabs. Tips for spa staff are left to the discretion of guests.
Overall, attire on Disney Wonder is fairly casual. There are formal nights—two on our seven-night cruise—when dress pants and shirt for men (jacket optional), dress or pant suit for women are “suggested.” But this guideline was overlooked by many. Still, there was a happy minority that enjoyed dressing up on these evenings.

The one place where a dress code was strictly enforced was Palo: Dress pants and shirt for men (jacket optional), dress or pant suit for women are “required.”

One night of the cruise is designated at Pirates IN the Caribbean night, and pirate outfits are encouraged. A themed menu takes over the dining rooms (other than Palo) and eye patches and bandanas were evrywhere; a 45-minute party on decks 9 and 10 follows. Disney pirate-themed attire was for sale in the shops.

Disney Cruise Lines allows guests to carry their own alcohol on board at check-in, but it must be brought aboard in carry-on luggage. It cannot be consumed in lounges or public areas. A corkage fee of $20 per bottle is charged for any personal wine opened in Palo. The drinking age on Disney Wonder is 21.
The frequent cruiser program for Disney Cruise Line is the Castaway Club. Passengers become Silver members automatically after their first cruise and the benefits include separate cruise terminal check-in area and a stateroom gift.

Guests are elevated to Gold status after the fifth completed cruise, which avails early booking opportunities ahead of the general public, a private onboard reception event, and earlier access to online booking tools for future cruises. After the tenth cruise, guests are elevated to the Platinum level with additional benefits.
Health and safety standards on Disney Wonder were followed closely.


General Health and Safety

Attendance at the Muster Drill was required and our room cards were scanned when we arrived at our station. We were not required to bring life vests from our cabin, but the information on their use was explained in a thorough, detailed manner.

Hand sanitizers were present at all restaurant entrances and their use was encouraged.
A health center is located on Deck 1, forward and it was staffed 9:30-11 a.m. and 4:30-7 p.m.
All indoor areas of Disney Wonder—including cabins—are designated as non-smoking. Smoking was allowed in designated outdoor areas of the ship, specifically cabin balconies and the starboard side of decks 9 and 10 (except around Mickey’s Childrens’ Pool). Smoking was allowed on the Promenade Deck (Deck 4) from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

On some nights, Signals next to the Quiet Cove was designated as the Cigar Club at 9 p.m.
These two elegant ships deliver a similar immersion into all things Disney, but the Dream is a step above the Wonder in many ways.


Overview

When Disney Wonder debuted in 1998 the ship (and sister Disney Magic) was among the half-dozen or so largest cruise vessels plying the seas. Not anymore, and Disney Dream (and sister Disney Fantasy) is 40 percent larger, allowing an even greater variety of activities. With its two additional decks the Dream has more restaurants (including the top-flight Remy’s), a 765-foot “water-coaster,” and new stage shows. With 13 years of experience under the belt, Disney Cruise Line execs were able to tweak, expand and improve on many elements of the Disney Wonder, leaving untouched the elements that worked just fine (like the innovative split bathroom concept that is great for families).

We like the more intimate feel of Disney Wonder, but when sailing at full capacity (as it usually does), the passenger space ratio is very tight; Disney Dream has a bit more elbow-room to work with and crowding isn’t as much a problem at the family pool and buffet restaurant.

Although adult spaces have generally been augmented on Dream, one disappointment was that the adult pool, Quiet Cove, seems more constrained than the same area on the smaller Wonder. Another area where Disney Wonder comes out ahead of the Dream is in variety of itineraries: For now, the Dream is chained to Port Canaveral, just east of Orlando, Florida. But Disney Wonder has matured into a jetsetter, sailing to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and through the Panama Canal. For the foreseeable future, with the Dream offering new bells and whistles to keep the die-hard Disney fans enchanted, we anticipate the Wonder will continue to venture to more varied corners of the globe.
Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas is almost twice the size of Disney Wonder—does it work for families?


Overview

Almost a decade younger than Disney Wonder, Liberty of the Seas is currently the third largest cruise ship at sea (along with siblings Freedom and Independence of the Seas), and in designing this mastodon for the masses, Royal Caribbean looked both inwards and outside for inspiration. The result is impressive, with blockbuster features like an ice-skating rink and snazzy ice shows, a theatre with productions that aspire to touring-show quality, a towering climbing wall and cool surf simulator, and tie-ins with crowd-pleasing brands like Johnny Rockets and Dreamworks (creator of the Shrek franchise). Based on sheer size alone, there is more to experience on Liberty of the Seas than most of us can tackle in a week—who needs ports of call?

But size isn’t everything. While we found dining on Liberty of the Seas about average for the cruise industry overall, from the buffet to the specialty dining venue Palo, meals on Disney Wonder were better. And Disney Wonder is a surprisingly elegant ship, smartly designed in an art nouveau style that may never age; Liberty of the Seas is a bit more like a big floating mall. Royal Caribbean hasn’t come up with anything as novel as the split bathroom concept Disney conceived for Disney Wonder (and sibling Disney Magic), a great solution when families are sharing a room. And by the way, cabins on Disney Wonder are larger than those of Liberty of the Seas (though you’ll also probably pay more for that cabin on Disney Wonder).

Perhaps the most important comparison is how the ships stack up for families, and here we’d call it a draw. For pre-teens the edge goes to Disney Wonder, where the stable of Disney characters inspires wide grins that go beyond what the Dreamworks characters can muster; the Disney crew seems particularly well chosen to interact with kids. For the tween-and-up crowd, Liberty of the Seas might appeal more because the Disney scene may be passé, and that rock climbing wall and surf simulator are great places for showing off at an awkward age.
Disney Wonder caters to families, but a ride on Sapphire Princess offers many family amenities, and is often quite a bit less expensive.


Overview

Parents considering a cruise with children might assume that Disney Cruise Line is the first and last place to look for an ideal family experience at sea. And Disney does an excellent job of catering to the under-18 market as well as providing adult options that allow parents some quality time of their own at sea. But when Disney Cruise Line arrived in the market in 1998 it forced most existing cruise lines to reexamine their family offerings, and today Sapphire Princess is an example of a ship that provides facilities and activities for kids, staffed by carefully trained crew-members. While not as extensive as the services on Disney Wonder, the three facilities on Sapphire (each dedicated to a different age bracket) will keep kids engaged from beginning to end of the cruise, and provide parents a bit of escape. Bonus: Sapphire Princess is generally priced less that Disney Wonder on comparable itineraries.

For couples without children, the choice between the two might seem obvious—go with the ship that caters to couples. But Disney Wonder offers a quality experience for adults, and we found a small number of couples on-board this ship enjoying the Disney treatment, without kids. Most of them were members of Disney Vacation Club (a plan similar to timeshare), but Disney Wonder does deliver restaurants that are somewhat better than Sapphire Princess, and the stage shows (though mostly family-oriented) are head and tails above the shows on Sapphire in quality. Still, couples should not be lulled into thinking the Disney Wonder offers an intimate adult-oriented experience; on an average cruise, the ship will have upwards of 1,000 kids roaming its decks. Aboard Sapphire Princess, the number of kids varies heavily by time of year, but can range between as few as a couple dozen to several hundred, and the ship is a considerably larger vessel for them to blend in to.
Overall, we really enjoyed our cruise on the Disney Wonder. Since arriving on the scene in 1998 Disney Cruise Line has polished its game to the point that—with a four-ship fleet—it has emerged as a formidable competitor to the bigger cruise names. Cabins are spacious by industry standards and boast the smart split-bathroom concept that works like a dream for families; those Wave Phones for communicating ship-wide are a great addition as well. The cabins also have a lot more design flair than is typical in the industry, guided by Disney Wonder’s overarching art nouveau décor motif.

Mealtime was usually rewarding, with varied menus that integrate a welcome measure of vegetables and seafood along with more traditional favorites (there were always safe options for fussier stomachs). Only a few dishes missed the mark, a better batting average than most of the major cruise lines. And the specialty restaurant Palo is a treat for parents looking to have a night out on the town, leaving kids to the reliable staff of “camp” counselors. The ship's gentle family ambience can be enchanting, stoked by a well-chosen crew that seems to genuinely enjoy the company of children; their interactions were cheerful and unforced, with servers entertaining families with magic tricks and mind-bending puzzles. However, some crewmembers seemed a bit green, and attention to detail was not always apparent; we suspect this was due in part to recent expansion that added the Disney Fantasy to the fleet.

Shows in the Walt Disney Theatre were solid, though aimed squarely at the family audience. But in a couple lounges we found PG-rated entertainment that, while not quite “adult,” was still of high quality. We loved seeing movies in the Buena Vista Theatre, one of the best screening rooms at sea. In service of Disney Wonder’s core demographic, it’s worth noting a few things the ship does not have: There’s no casino (though bingo is ever-present), no real disco, no indoor bar designated for smokers, and no library (though magazines were available at Cove Café).

Disney doesn’t let you forget who’s running the show: From the wake-up calls that use a recorded greeting from Mickey Mouse, to the ship's horns, which blare a discordant version of the seven-note melody from “When You Wish Upon a Star” at sail-away, the company’s branding is pervasive. In common areas of the ship, you’ll be humming along to “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “Some Day My Prince Will Come” while an autograph session with Disney princesses commences with the kind of fanfare usually accorded to elder statesmen. For some, this will be a welcome atmosphere; others may chafe. In the end, the passenger make-up is self-selecting and it involves a large percentage of newbie cruisers who are along for the Disney ride, not necessarily for the cruise experience or any particular destination. Veteran cruisers may be put off by the number of novice travelers and their casual attire.

Another important issue should be noted when considering a cruise on the Disney Wonder. When this ship (and sister Disney Magic) was conceived, Disney execs estimated that passenger makeup would be 60 percent families, 40 percent couples. Whether that was an incredibly optimistic projection or a whirl through Fantasyland, we can’t say, but we estimate that couples traveling without children probably made up less than 5 percent of the passengers on our cruise.

If Disney Wonder were occupied at only two to a cabin, it would offer a relatively average passenger space ratio. But most cabins sail with three to five sleeping in them, and with that many kids sharing rooms the Disney Wonder is a lot more crowded than other ships of this size. The throngs come in waves—there were times when we enjoyed the 268-seat Buena Vista Theatre in the company of barely a dozen others or had the Cadillac Lounge to ourselves; but at the Beach Blanket Buffet, Mickey’s Childrens' Pool and Goofy’s Family Pool, the congestion can be overwhelming. And our messy disembarkation was a pile-on.

To Disney’s credit, the adults-only areas, including the Quiet Cove pool and Outlook Bar, were never crowded on our sailing. And this brings us to a key asset of a cruise on the Disney Wonder: Despite the wide range of ages being catered to, the Mouse manages to keep things humming smoothly for all. To be sure, the Disney Wonder is not a good cruise for anyone allergic to lifesize cartoon characters or princess sightings, and it would be anathema to those who don’t enjoy the presence of kids or need a casino close by. But, relative to the competition, the Disney Wonder delivered a high-quality, professional cruise experience.

One other consideration worth highlighting is that the Disney Wonder isn’t cheap. Leaving out high-end luxury cruise lines, similar itineraries on the major lines almost always cost less than sailing with Disney, especially during summer and school holidays. Several other companies deliver a quality family product—sans Mickey and Minnie—and their cruises are usually priced at least 25 percent less. But Uncle Walt can charge a premium because there’s a sizable herd that will pay extra for the Disney treatment. Still, for families considering a cruise vacation, if itinerary and price are not a consideration, the Disney Wonder delivers the goods.
The classiest of the three main dining rooms, Triton’s delivered good food, even en masse.


Overview

Opening off the main lobby behind a statue of Arial, the Little Mermaid, Triton’s is where the designers let their art nouveau notions fly most grandly—the room is elegant with lots of swoops and curls, and a vaguely nautical theme. A sweeping mosaic depicting the characters from the Little Mermaid dominates one wall, with stained glass accenting others. We’re not sure if it’s intended or by default but the waiters (the same ones from the other main dining rooms) seemed to be a tad more formal, and the meals seemed to taste better—maybe it was just the beautiful room that inspired.

As one of Disney Wonder’s three main dining rooms, we were assigned to dinner at Triton’s every third night of the cruise.

Among the appetizers we enjoyed at Triton’s was sesame-crusted tuna shashimi, accompanied by wakame (seaweed) salad, a dollop of wasabi, pickled ginger and a taste of caviar. There was a salad of baby spinach and citrus wedges lathered in a mild blue cheese dressing, and a deconstructed Caesar salad with a roasted bacon-wrapped date for garnish. Entrées that stood out included the seafood linguini with a few pieces of lobster, scallops, shrimp and clam, in a light wine and cream sauce; the roasted half Cornish hen was served atop Israeli couscous with zucchini and bell pepper and a lemon herb sauce. We also tried the oven-baked orange roughy, stuffed with a morsel of crabmeat; we weren’t impressed.

One of our favorite meals on Disney Wonder was lunch at Triton’s. This started with a bruschetta topped with healthy flakes of Parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. For an entrée we thoroughly enjoyed the pan-seared tilapia, served on spinach and a tarn of cheese grits, ringed by a sweet red wine syrup. Breakfast here were good, if fairly traditional—Triton's offered the best route away from the clamorous Beach Blanket Buffet.

The ship’s standard bar menu was available at Triton’s.

There were two seatings nightly at Triton’s, 5:45 and 8:15 p.m. Breakfast was served here daily from 8 or 8:30 to 9:30 or 10 a.m., and lunch was served from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
The food was fine, but there’s a great concept here that seems unrealized to us.

When Disney Magic and Disney Wonder first debuted in 1998-99 and we heard about Animator’s Palate, we thought the concept—a black-and-white restaurant that evolves into vivid color over the course of dinner—was a promising tip of the hat to the craft of Disney’s animators. During the 75-minute “show,” video screens depict scenes from Pocahontas, Mulan and Little Mermaid while music swells; then the lights dim and Mickey Mouse emerges in his Sorcerer’s Apprentice garb as the room bursts into color.

But we find the actual execution falls short, instead being bombastic rather than magical. If the meals were poor, we’d say the concept was an attempt to divert us from actual dining; instead, we found the reverse to be true—the show begs for attention offering little heartfelt payoff and distracts from fairly decent food, the waiters hustling to stay in step with the pre-determined timing of the show. Given all the high-tech wizardry available to Disney’s creative team, this venue seems overdue for a more imaginative implementation. Unfortunately, we seem to be a minority opinion.

As one of Disney Wonder’s three main dining rooms, we were assigned to dinner at Animator’s Palate every third night of the cruise.

The menu at Animator’s Palate skews to California cuisine, with references to Asian and other cooking styles. For an appetizer, we loved the wild mushroom risotto, the rice nicely firm and the mushroom flavors bold; the porcini bread stick that accompanied could have used a bit more heft and crunch. The confetti tomato salad showcased flavorful tomatoes with a light pesto drizzle. For entrée we enjoyed the lemon-thyme marinated chicken breast, which sat on a mound of root veggies and mashed potatoes; and the phyllo-wrapped salmon fillet joined by green peas. For dessert the warm apple crumble was fine, finished with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream.

The ship’s standard bar menu was available at Animator’s Palate.
There were two seatings nightly, 5:45 and 8:15 p.m.
A Caribbean theme pervaded this dining room, and sometimes flavored the menu as well.


Overview

The third of Disney Wonder’s main dining rooms, Parrot Cay is colorfully adorned with playful fretwork, ceiling fans and bamboo furniture—a theme park-worthy interpretation of the Caribbean. But it’s a fun, less formal room than Triton’s, and we found a few good dishes on the island-accented menu.

As one of Disney Wonder’s three main dining rooms, we were assigned to dinner at Parrot Cay every third night of the cruise. This is also where character breakfasts are held—we had a specific morning assigned to us for this meal (and a photo with Minnie Mouse to prove it).

Most nights, an island-seasoned menu was on offer, with spices leaning forward. That said, we weren’t surprised that the “sizzling spicy jerk sauce” for the chicken tenderloins wasn’t packing the kind of heat we’ve wilted over in Port Antonio! But although the chefs played it safe we found a tasty grilled rib-eye of beef with sides of “double-baked” potato and over-cooked corn on the cob; a delicious shrimp and avocado salad that made a great, light main course; a serviceable half roasted chicken served with mashed sweet potatoes; and a jerk-seasoned pork chop that was sweet with curried peach relish.

On the night of the captain’s dinner (one of three theme nights on our cruise, when all three restaurants shared the same menu) we ordered the baked lobster tail, which was served on the shell with a wedge of lemon, green beans and rice. It was neither the most succulent nor the toughest lobster we’ve had, but the flavor was okay. A salad of grilled vegetables and beef prosciutto was an interesting find, and we also tried the seafood salad, which had nice chunks of lobster, shrimp and scallops, but the dressing and romaine lettuce that accompanied this dish could have been more sophisticated, lighter.

On a couple mornings of our cruise a breakfast buffet was available. The spread appeared to be about the same as what was offered in Beach Blanket Buffet, but with little of the crowding issues we found there.

The ship’s standard bar menu was available at Parrot Cay.

There were two seatings nightly, 5:45 and 8:15 p.m. Buffet breakfast was served here on some days (8:30 to 11 a.m.), as was lunch on select days (12:15 to 1:30 p.m.).
The buffet delivered some nice surprises on the food front, but we weren’t happy about the crush of people.


Overview

This venue, essentially the only full-service buffet on Disney Wonder, is inadequate to handle the mobs that swarm through every morning and at lunch on sea days. Although there are four lanes and we moved through them fairly well, there are kids bolting in all directions, indecisive eaters in line, and sticky floors (spilled soft drinks, we assume) were a regular occurrence. We never had a problem finding a table, especially when the weather cooperated and we could grab one on the outdoor aft deck—maybe everyone else was similarly looking to vacate tables as soon as they were finished.

That said, we always found tasty items at the buffet, along with a number of middling dishes that were easy to dodge. The spread is not big, but it is diverse, and most of the lunch and dinner selections change daily. And a word to the wise: a nearly identical buffet breakfast was available on some mornings in Parrot Cay, with fewer people and considerably more breathing room—check the daily Personal Navigator for hours.

At breakfast, most of the selection was predictable, but good. This included Kellogg’s brand boxed cereals and hot oatmeal, unflavored yogurt and cottage cheese with a nice selection of fruits and nuts for topping. There was fresh fruit, pancakes and Mickey-shaped waffles, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, an omelet station, hash browns, corned beef hash, sausage and bacon. The omelet station was not configured well for trays, so one had to take the tray to the table first, then order the omelet; a few pre-made omelets each day were more useful, usually Western, ham and cheese, and the Yankee egg white.

The lunch and dinner selection was pretty strong, and evolved over the cruise. Among the tasty dishes we found were pork chops with apricots, prunes and slivered almonds; an antipasti station with grilled veggies, meats, olives and cheeses; lightly steamed asparagus with feta; apple, walnut and gorgonzola turnovers; flank steak stir fry with asparagus and red bell pepper; sesame-crusted teriyaki glazed cod with bok choy; and a carving station. Other regular offerings included a cold pasta of the day, stir-fried noodles, a vat of macaroni and cheese, a salad bar. There was sometimes a hot pasta station, two of which were risotto; on another day this section was converted to a stir fry station. One day a seafood bar appeared, and the selection included green lip mussels, crawfish, shrimp, Jonas crab claws and snow crab clusters—a great spread for shellfish fans.

A small dessert section included amaretto cheesecake, tiramisu, apple crumble with vanilla sauce, strawberry tart and various cookies.

There were drink stations at the end of the serving lines that featured Minute Maid apple and orange juice dispensers, along with soda, coffee, tea, and milk (skim, low-fat, whole and chocolate). Soda, coffee, decaf, tea and hot chocolate were available at the beverage station outside the buffet 24 hours—sometimes the coffee here was not very hot.

The buffet is open daily for breakfast from 6:30 or 7:30 to about 10:30 a.m. Lunch is served from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
This top-deck Italian restaurant is well worth the surcharge for parents’ date night out.


Overview

The Disney Wonder’s sole surcharge restaurant serves delicious northern Italian meals. Although seafood offerings showcased a lighter touch, the rich cooking style is fairly heavy. But every dish we tried was satisfying, and all of it prepared to order and served with finesse. As such, we found Palo’s $20 surcharge reasonable.

Palo is restricted to those 18 and up, making it a good choice for an evening away from the kids (there is also a wonderful brunch served on sea days, also priced $20). Note the strict dress code: dress pants and shirt for men (jacket optional), dress or pant suit for women. Make a reservation at the beginning of your trip—strongly advised for cruises of less than a week—and aim for a seating just before sundown to enjoy Palo’s sweeping 270-degree views from Disney Wonder’s top deck. On embarkation day, reservations could be made at Wavebands before the Muster Drill.

Our meal started with a generous plate of antipasti—slices of prosciutto and bresaola, marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomato and red pepper, various olives, and shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano, accompanied by breadsticks, olive rolls and several types of flatbread. For appetizers we enjoyed the grilled shrimp, served with pesto over a ragu of mussel, crab and cherry tomato, and the simple but fresh arugula salad.

Our table happily shared an array of entrées, including grilled sea scallops served atop a mound of beans and pancetta; lightly seared tuna perched against a “risotto” of potatoes and garlic marinated artichokes; a braised beef ravioli bathed in a wine reduction sauce and topped with big flakes of parmesan; and melt-in-your-mouth rack of lamb, crusted with parmesan and oregano and accompanied by slow-baked tomatoes. Most of these had little drizzles of pesto decorating the handsome plates. For dessert we indulged in a panna cotta rich with vanilla bean, a conga line of fresh berries marching across the plate.

We also tried brunch at Palo and found a regal spread, arranged like an intimate buffet. For antipasti there was asparagus with hollandaise, prosciutto and melon, tomato and mozzarella, and grilled vegetables. One table had a beautiful array of fine cheeses, including derby sage, Cambozola, port-infused cheddar, along with fresh breads and pastries, including a tasty blue cheese and walnut Danish. A seafood table offered stone crab claws, Alaskan crab legs, jumbo shrimp, a trout mousse, Cajun tuna and poached scallops. Another station was set up to prepare pizzas on request (gorgonzola and grape was a memorable discovery), egg dishes (eggs benedict and frittata for starters), pancakes and a pasta of the day. The dessert line-up followed, including cherry strudel, assorted Danish, marscapone, tiramisu, assorted petit fours and parfaits. We stuffed ourselves silly.

Palo had an expanded, Italian-focused wine selection. This included Super Tuscans like Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido and Solaia Marchesi Antinori (priced $279-$299) and sparklers from Champagne. But most of the wine list was less heady, and included a few whites under $30 and a couple reds under $40. There were a few non-Italian choices not found on the ship’s standard wine list—Cakebread chardonnay, Paul Hobbs pinot noir, Montes Purple Angel—and the ship’s standard bar menu was also available.

Palo was open nightly from 6 p.m. with the last seating at 9 p.m. It was open for brunch on at least one sea day during our cruise, but for some reason this was not publicized in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter that arrived in our room each night.
This was a good spot for between-meal treats, some of which were healthier than pizzas and hot dogs.


Overview

This outdoor deli counter had a small selection of food through the day. A self-serve ice cream station was adjacent.

In the mornings we found fruit—both whole (bananas, apples, oranges) and sliced (melon, pineapple, watermelon)—yogurt with granola and berries, boxed cereals, Danish and muffins. Later in the day there was simple salads, wraps (chicken Caesar, tuna), ham, tomato and mozzarella panini, and turkey and cranberry sandwiches.

Goofy’s Galley was open daily for breakfast from about 6 or 7 a.m. till 8 or 9 a.m., and re-opened for lunch from 11 a.m. till 6 or 7 p.m.
Burgers and wieners of all stripes were available here.


Overview

This outdoor venue next to Mickey’s Childrens’ Pool indulged us with everything mom told us we shouldn’t eat.

Dog varieties included traditional hot and brats, while hamburgers could be ordered as veggie or fish burgers. Fries came with the plates, and chicken tenders and a Cajun chicken breast were also available.

The doghouse was grilling from 11 a.m. to 9 or 9:30 p.m. daily.
We would be telling a lie if we said there was much to get excited about here.


Overview

Overlooking Goofy’s Family Pool, the menu was theme park-simple.

Pepperoni, cheese, Hawaiian and vegetarian pizzas were the rule, served by the slice.

Pinocchio runs a full bar, with beer on tap, a few tropical specialties (Bahama mama, mai tai, rum runner) and a selection of soft drinks, smoothies and bottled water.

The pies were coming out the oven from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and again 9:30 p.m. till midnight.
This was the Disney Wonder’s all-purpose lounge, the first and last bar to open and shut each day. Located in between Triton’s and Parrot Cay on Deck 3, it got busy just prior to the two evening dinner seatings, especially when a nice sunset was illuminating the oversized porthole windows. There were several sets of light live music each night and the lounge is also a venue for some of the many activities taking place each day—trivia contests, talent competitions, charades, etc. Immediately adjacent is the Internet Station.

The ship’s standard drink list was available at the Promenade Lounge.

Promenade Lounge was open from 8 a.m. till midnight daily.
Although martinis can be made at most bars on the Disney Wonder, the Cadillac Lounge is the place to order one. It not only has an expanded martini and champagne selection, but the swank décor is a seductive immersion into late 1950s Detroit car culture. White fins, red tail lights and leather seats gave Cadillac Lounge its sex appeal, while the piano went live each evening to provide soft background sounds.

In addition to the ship’s standard cocktail menu, Cadillac Lounge was the place to go for specialty martinis and more refined drinks. Signature cocktails included the Limone Basilico (Absolut Citron, limoncello, muddled basil), the Balsamic Grande (Grey Goose vodka, 5-year-old balsamic vinegar, fresh strawberries) and the Elderbubble (Grey Goose vodka, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, raspberry purée, Taittinger Champagne); prices ranged $9.25-$10.50.

The upgraded wine list included quality champagnes by the glass, including Moët et Chandon Imperial ($18) and Taittinger Prestige Rosé ($19); bottles of champagne ranged $69-$499 and featured Perrier-Jouët La Belle Epoque and Armand de Brignac Gold. Wines by the glass included Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc ($15.50), Far Niente chardonnay ($18.50), Amarone della Valpolicella ($14) and Barolo Marchesi di Barolo ($19), at prices ranging $10-$26. Johnny Walker Blue scotch, Woodford Reserve bourbon and Remy Martin Louis XIII were among the fine spirits on offer.

Cadillac Lounge was open from 5:30 or 6 p.m. till midnight nightly. The minimum age was 18.
Sitting at the end of Route 66, the adult-oriented section of Deck 3 forward, this dark, subdued lounge was overlooked by many cruisers. Aptly named, Diversions serves as a sports bar and game center—among the scheduled activities were trivia games and Wii challenges, and there were tables with built-in backgammon and chessboards (other board games were available). In the mornings and some early afternoons it was a quiet, untended spot to enjoy a book. Rudimentary nibbles were set out at happy hour—buffalo wings, hot dogs and chips.

The ship’s standard drink list was available at Diversions.

Bartenders staffed Diversions from noon till midnight, though it opened later in the afternoon on port days.
With décor and lighting inspired by the guts of an old transistor radio, WaveBands was Disney Wonder’s go-to spot for dancing. Located along Route 66, the lighting resembles both oversized glowing circuit boards and undersized radio towers with bolts of lightning. It’s a quirky room, with a dance floor and small stage at the front, wrapped by booths and tables.

The ship’s standard drink list was available at WaveBands.

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This multi-purpose venue was used for stand-up comedians, magicians, juggling and even a hypnotist. The quality of the performers here was excellent, and the material skewed to adults after 9 p.m. A few game-show type contests were also staged here.

During the day and early evening, Wave Bands was open only during scheduled events. Around 9:30 p.m. it was open for DJ dancing, but this usually petered out by midnight.
This is the bar that serves the adults-only Quiet Cove.

The ship’s standard drink list was available at Signals.

Signals was open from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (till midnight on the Pirates theme night). On some nights, Signals was designated as the Cigar Club at 9 p.m.
This inviting café was one of our favorite hangouts on Disney Wonder, with seating inside the cozy coffee hours as well as out on the open area of Deck 9, but protected from most of the wind. Though not designated as an adult area of the ship, most kids bypassed Cove Café on their way to the soft drink machine. The varied magazines on a rack for reading included Vogue, the New Yorker, Bon Appetite, Fortune, Parenting, National Geographic, etc.

In addition to coffee drinks and a full bar, small bites were available from a glass fridge at one end of the bar. In the morning there was croissants and muffins, in the late afternoon we found cold cuts, olives, cheese and veggie sticks and dip, and later on a few trays of desserts appeared. There was also a small selection of cigars (though Cove Café itself was designated non-smoking).

A stairwell connects Cove Café with the Outlook Bar, immediately upstairs.

Coffee beverages includes espresso, cappuccino, café mocha, café latte ($2.25-$3.95 for a small or large) and a frozen cappuccino and mochaccino that were blended with vanilla ice cream ($3.35-$4.00). The ship’s standard bar menu was available, along with coffee cocktails—Jamaican calypso (coffee, Tia Maria, Myer’s Dark Rum, whipped cream), Italian coffee (coffee and Galliano), etc.

Cove Café was open daily from 6:30 or 7 a.m. till midnight.
Added in 2009, prior to Disney Wonder’s first foray into Alaskan waters, this adults-only lounge is one key venue not found on sister ship Disney Magic. Also known as the Outlook Café, the bar sprawls from port to starboard on Deck 10, providing good vistas of the passing scenery. Whether coming for a drink or the view or just to read, this was a quiet area of the ship.

Outlook Bar has a full bar serving the ship’s standard cocktail menu and, like Cove Café immediately below (to which it is connected by a spiral staircase), there’s an espresso machine for various coffee drinks, but no snacks.

Outlook Bar was open daily from 10 a.m. till midnight, although one port day it opened at 3 p.m.
The Vista Spa and its fitness center were a great retreat.


Overview

Sequestered in the forward reaches of Deck 9, just past the adults-only Quiet Cove, the Vista Spa was a pampering retreat—another area of the ship where parents could dodge familial obligations for a couple hours. The Tuscan-décor facilities are beautifully conceived, with extensive use of mosaic tiles and a lush color scheme we’d call Floridian lite. Overall, a very restful space to chill out.

As with many of the spas as sea, this one is managed by Steiner Leisure. Prices were on par with what we’ve seen on other cruise ships, but still a bit higher than we find at most quality resorts (rates were discounted on port days, and other specials or multiple appointments also availed discount for some treatments). The primary skin care line in use was Elemis and Steiner, and Phyto and Bliss products were also for sale.

Treatments included a variety of massages—seaweed, hot stone, bamboo, chocolate, lime and salt, reflexology, Thai herbal poultice, etc.—ranging $118 for 50 minutes to $249 for 100 minutes. Several treatments are available for couples. Most of the treatment rooms have sea views and there were three also Mediterranean-style spa villas, oversized rooms with whirlpool tubs, foot soaking, tea ceremonies and day beds (starting at $150 for one person, 105 minutes; $449 for two, 120 minutes).

The spa also included a Tropical Rain Forest, which has heated ceramic benches, aromatic steam rooms, and mist fog showers; a pass to use these facilities throughout a seven-day cruise was $99, or $148 for couples. There was also a couples massage workshop held one evening, $60 per couple.

There was a bright full-service salon, where hair and nail services were performed. A new one for Disney Wonder was Ice Cream Manicure and Pedicure, priced $50 and $60 respectively, treatments using various ice cream and sherbet for soaking, buffing, exfoliating and massage—bring your own sprinkles. We’ll try that one next time.

Although the Vista Spa’s gym is not huge, it covered the basics quite well, in a well-maintained crescent-shaped room that overlooked the bow of the ship. We never had to wait to use the Life Fitness cardio equipment, which included the usual array of bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, etc. (headsets were available for listening to the TVs mounted on these). There were also free weights and exercise balls.

There was a good selection of fitness classes, and a number of them—yoga, spinning, pilates—did not carry a surcharge (there was a fee for the 45-minute boot camp workouts—$69 for two sessions, $120 for four). Arrive early for these classes; space limitations meant a couple of them filled before the start time.

This was the big walkway that wrapped around the entire ship, on Deck 4.

This was also the ship’s jogging course—three laps around this deck equaled one mile. And a shuffleboard court with equipment was on both port and starboard sides.

Sitting at the forward end of Deck 10, this netted area of the ship had equipment for basketball, soccer, table tennis and Foosball. For most of the day and into the evening it was fairly packed with kids, with various tournaments announced in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.

The Wide World of Sports area occupied the forward section of Deck 10, but the further we got away from that frenetic area, the quieter things got. There were lots of deck chairs at mid-ship, but towards the rear of the deck, a sign instructed us not to bring sun beds to that area (perhaps for fear Palo diners might see us!).

One night of the cruise is designated at Pirates IN the Caribbean night, and pirate outfits are encouraged. A themed menu takes over the dining rooms (other than Palo) and eye patches and ; a 45-minute party on decks 9 and 10 culminates in fireworks and a flyover by Mickey Mouse (we were told that, for environmental considerations, the fireworks are curtailed on Alaska cruises). For dancing amid the crowd, stick to Deck 9; for the best view of the fireworks and Mickey, aim for Deck 10.
There are five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, organized by age bracket. Vibe is the club for teens, age 13-17—the area was decidedly off-limits to adults and knee-high types, except for some fairly cool counselors that staffed the room. Occupying Disney Wonder’s faux funnel at mid-ship, Vibe is the only area of Deck 11 accessible to the public. The facility looks like a college dorm, or the living room of the Friends TV show, with mismatched worn furniture and road signs adorning the walls.

A lot of the activities were unsupervised, including computers games, TVs, internet (at an additional charge) and board games, but among the scheduled activities were karaoke, dance parties, pizza and ice cream socials, basketball and a Hidden Mickey hunt.

Soft drinks were free, smoothies and other items were available for an additional charge.

Vibe was open from 10 a.m. (12 noon on port days) till 2 a.m. daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.
One of the five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, Edge was designed for tweens, age 11-14, and located deep on Deck 2. The space was primped with low-slung couches, bean bag chairs and lots of computer and TV monitors.

A number of the activities were unsupervised, including the kid-friendly computer lab, videogame consoles, tables for arts and crafts and the stock of board games, but among the scheduled activities were a cooking school, karaoke, bingo, crafts, Guitar Hero, plus pizza and ice cream socials.

Edge was open from 9 a.m. till 1 a.m. daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.
One of the five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, the Oceaneer Club was an activity center on Deck 5, mid-ship, where children age 3 to 12 could play in a Peter Pan themed area. There was the façade of a pirate ship with nets and a slide from the crow’s nest, a child-friendly computer lab, a dressing room where kids could change into their favorite costumes, and plenty of toys and games. We loved the child-scaled restroom.

Scheduled activities were almost nonstop, and includes crafts, puppet shows, pirate face painting and pajama parties.

Hours varied, but Oceaneer Club was generally open from 9 a.m. till midnight daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter. Access to the Oceaneer Club was restricted to children and their parents.

One of the five designated kid zones on Disney Wonder, the Oceaneer Lab was an activity center on Deck 5, where children age 3 to 12 could play in a Buzz Lightyear themed area. In contrast to Oceaneer Club, which catered to the same age bracket, the Lab was geared more towards hands-on activities.

Among the scheduled activities were a cooking school, postcard making, a scavenger hunt, human bingo and make your own Disney nametag. Access to the Oceaneer Lab was restricted to children and their parents.

Hours varied, but Oceaneer Lab was generally open from 9 a.m. till midnight daily. The scheduled activities were helpfully listed in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter.
The Disney Wonder is one of the few cruise ships with a proper nursery for the real young ‘uns, age 3 months to 3 years. Rates for the charming facility are $6 per hour for the first child ($5 for each additional from the same family) and reservations were encouraged—a good idea when headed to shore excursions, the spa or Palo for dinner.

We were told to bring our own diapers, wipes, bottles and milk or formula, sippy cups and jars of baby food as needed.

The nursery was open from either 7 or 9 a.m. each morning until 11 p.m. We also noted that diaper changing stations were available on decks 1 and 3 aft, deck 4 forward, deck 5 inside the Oceaneer Club, deck 9 forward, and deck 10 aft. Basic care and feeding supplies—wipes, diapers, formula, food, pacifiers—were sold at Treasure Ketch.
There are three pools on Disney Wonder—one for kids, one for adults and one catering to all.


Overview

At mid-ship on Deck 9, this was one of the busiest areas of the ship, the one pool that could be enjoyed by parents and kids together. Considering the number of water-lovers on the ship, the four-foot-deep pool was a bit small, and deck chairs were in high demand. A pair of small whirlpools were at one end of the pool, also usually full.

Overhead, a 24 x 14-foot jumbo LED screen nicknamed Funnel Vision offered movies and entertainment through the day and evening. Throughout our cruise the movies shown were Disney (and Pixar) classics: Sleeping Beauty, Ratatouille, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. Below the screen was an outdoor stage where some entertainment was offered. The stage was the focus of attention during the "Pirates IN the Caribbean" deck party, when the pool was covered and converted to a dance floor.

Located on Deck 9 aft, this pool was dedicated to youngest cruisers, a Mickey-shaped pool just one foot deep, with a bright yellow slide snaking into the pool. To use the slide, kids had to be between age 4 and 14, and between 38 and 64 inches in height. A crewmember staffed the slide when it was open. The area was packed throughout the day—though the kids didn’t seem to mind.

An additional Splash Zone to one side was designed specifically for children under 3 wearing swim diapers; water depth here was just a couple inches, with playful fountains for endless entertainment.

There are no sun loungers here, just deck chairs and tables, many of which were in use by passengers dining at Pluto’s Dog House.

One of Disney Wonder’s designated adult hideouts, the Quiet Cove was not exactly hidden—it was perched right behind the spa on Deck 9 forward—but kids tended to stay clear, making this pool the best outdoor area for grownups seeking sun and quiet. The pool was the same size as Goofy’s Family Pool (4 feet deep), and there were two small whirlpool spas flanking one end and Signals bar at the other. The sun loungers here are upgraded, with cushions and towels at the ready, and there were usually empty ones available.

The Walt Disney Theatre, located on Deck 4 forward, is an attractive venue that seats 977 guests. The big shows are put on here and they’re fairly impressive performances, though we were disappointed that there’s no live orchestra for accompaniment; it’s strictly a recorded soundtrack for performers to sing to. Although seating is tiered, there’s no balcony meaning that seats in the rear are a fair distance from the stage.

A small snack bar called Preludes is open just before showtime, selling popcorn and candy, sodas, and there’s a full bar.

The line-up of shows on our cruise started with The Golden Mickeys, a tribute to some of Disney’s best known animated films and their songs, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs up through Mulan. The staging is attractive, the singing and dancing solid and the kids love it. Much of the same could be said for a show based on the hit movie Toy Story, which features six new songs written for Disney Cruise Line, in addition to the classic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” The third production on our cruise was Disney Dreams, which—surprise—is a tribute to Disney animated classics. Again, sets and performers were quality, though it helps to have a kid at your side.

Each of the one-hour stage shows were performed two or three times in the afternoon and evening on one day. On other nights there were standup acts held here—a juggler-comedian one evening, ventriloquist-comedian another.

This was one of our favorite places on the ship, a proper 268-seat cinema on Deck 5 that feels like a plush Hollywood screening room transported into the art deco era. The facilities include equipment for 3-D presentations and a Dolby Surround 7.1 sound system. Sight lines are excellent throughout (a steep rake for seating helps), and the projection quality was bright and crisp.

A snack stand was manned at showtimes, offering bagged popcorn, beer, soda and candy for sale.

The 13 films screened during our cruise were mostly releases from the previous three to six months, but a few were Disney classics like “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast,” generally played during the day, usually starting by 10 a.m. One evening, a major Disney release was played on the same day it opened in theatres (due to high demand, this film was screened in the larger Walt Disney Theatre as well). Four of the films were presented in 3-D; the schedule on our cruise did not include any R-rated features.

This venue, set up a bit like a bar with seating areas, was a catchall space for other types of shows and activities that didn’t fit elsewhere. There are director chairs and makeup mirrors (to make it look like a television studio), along with billboards along the walls advertising shows on Disney’s ABC TV. The outsized marketing was a bit blatant for our taste.

Entertainment varied here—some was geared towards adults, but most designed for all ages. On the family end, we saw a napkin-folding demo, a dance party, karaoke and a game show called Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer. For adults, there were presentations by reps from the Disney Vacation Club and cooking demonstrations.

Disneys Wonder’s internet station was a collection of nine PCs in a walled-off area of the Promenade Lounge. The facility was not staffed, but there were printers for those who needed them (.25 cents per page).

Basic internet rates were .75 cents per minute, whether using the ship’s computers or your own laptop, with packages available that brought the per-minute price down (100 minutes for $55, etc.).

There were two main stores on Disney Wonder, both located in the lobby for the Walt Disney Theatre, and they offered a good array of Disney-related merchandise, most of which wasn’t available off the ship.

We found Disney-logo jewelry, H2O+ Spa products, Fossil leather handbags, wallets and belts, and lots of clothing and purses (Dooney & Bourke) with the Disney Cruise Line logos. This was the place for Timex-brand Mickey Mouse watches along with watches from Citizen and Skagen. There was a wall with a limited selection of fragrances from some of the major lines. Treasure Ketch also sold sundries, including razors, deodorants, pain relievers, sun block, contact lens solution, baby supplies, camera batteries, etc. Even swim goggles were in stock.

The second of the ship’s two main stores, Mickey’s Mates had even more of the Disney character and cruise line merchandise, much of it aimed at younger passengers.

This store was awash in princess and pirate outfits plus costumes and T-shirts for other characters. Disney plush toys, Disney games, Disney Wonder model ships—and most of it would not be easily found off the ship.

Disney Wonder’s duty-free liquor store is a handsome little shop along Route 66 that was pretty quiet most of the time. That might be because liquor purchased on-board cannot be opened until after disembarkation. Still, the duty-free prices availed some attractive deals on vodka, scotch, tequila, whiskey, gin and rum.

The cognac prices were particularly eye-catching, up to and including Rémy Martin Louis XIV and Hennessy Richard. Cigarettes and cigars were available here as well, also for use after the cruise.

The Disney Wonder’s main entryway was here at Deck 3 mid-ship, a three-story space topped by a Dale Chihuly chandelier made of faux glass (real glass is too heavy to be safe at sea, we were told on the ship tour, so lightweight acrylics were used—look closely and you’ll see it doesn’t quite have the gleam of real glass).

The Guest Services counter (or front desk) was here, along with a desk for booking shore excursions, which Disney calls Port Adventures. A number of character greetings took place in the lobby, announced in the ship’s daily newsletter, and this was also the main entrance to Triton’s restaurant.

On disembarkation day, this area was jammed to the gills.

Disney Wonder’s informal art gallery was better than what we’ve seen on some ships. All of it depicted various Disney/Pixar characters and scenes, and many featured the Disney Wonder.

Although there was a fair amount of original artwork, the best pieces were available as giclées (reproductions)—good mementoes, but none too cheap.

A crew of photographers was present to document every inch of the voyage. The images were displayed in this space above the Promenade Lounge. No-obligation private sessions could also be scheduled.

In addition to selling the photos, Shutters sold camera gear—Pentax, Leica and Olympus point-and-shoots, binoculars, and a few accessories.

The ship’s arcade was a popular spot throughout the day and evening. Arcade Cards, starting at $10, could be charged to rooms.

Tucked away on Deck 7, this deck has sun loungers and little else, not even a soundtrack. Its hideaway location—not shown on any ship maps—means it can be a good spot to escape the crowds. The deck is closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

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