The Disney Wonder made a first ever stop in San Francisco last week along her repositioning route as she makes her was up to Vancouver and Alaska, offering locals a rare glimpse of the quasi-theme park at sea.
The ship was liked I’d expected in the sense that it looked like great fun for all ages, the perfect trip for little kids, grandparents, and everyone in between, but it was surprising too because it was more adult than I’d expected, as well. There are far fewer Mickeys than I would have guessed. I would have thought that everything from the carpeting to the soap dispensers would have the famous ears, but the character aspect was really restrained. There is enough to make children excited, but not enough to turn off someone who was more about cruising than about kids.
There are adults-only lounges, an adults-only pool (that is truly separated from the kid and family area, making it unlikely any kid noise would spill over), a gym, and the most amazing spa I’ve ever seen on a ship.
The spa has a relaxing Rainforest Room with heated tile lounges, steam, and scented showers, which looks great until compared to the Villa experience. The Villas alone sold me on the Disney Wonder. They are private rooms with couples massage tables and each villa has a private deck with a full sized hot tub, shower and lounger for two.
The huge bonus of a Disney cruise is that babysitting is guilt free. There are so many activities for kids that parents have plenty of time to do what they want, while the kids are doing what they want to do too. Hang out in the spa or eat dinner while the kids are entertained.
We got to see some kids making Flubber in a show that was entertaining, but had a hands-on science component. Even the littlest kids could handle it with the aid of the child care staff to mix and measure. It felt like summer camp.
The ship has three main restaurants that the guests cycle through, which means dinner each night is not at the same place, but your serving staff moves with you, adding a personal touch to the experience. The restaurant that looked the most fabulous was the Animator’s Palate, which starts out black and white – stunning on its own – but transforms into color during the meal.
While the meals can be a great family time, the second seating time, 8 p.m., may not work for everyone, which is why there is a no rush, dine and play option where parents can elect to have their children fed quickly at the later seating, and once finished, Disney staff will take them to the kids entertainment areas while parents finish their multi-course dinner at their own pace. It’s a guilt free date night.
Night time features movies poolside on a giant screen, some Broadway-style shows full of Disney characters, and first run Disney movies (although the indoor movie theater runs during the day too). The big night time show, however, features on ship fireworks. It happens only one night a trip, and is the only one of its kind.
While the cruise is clearly designed to appeal to all ages, I’d been feeling that tug to go sooner, rather than later, while my kids are still young enough to get completely caught up in the Disney magic. That was until we passed by a stateroom with it’s door decorated (apparently this is a spontaneous thing that passengers do on Disney cruise ships) by a family announcing that the trip was to celebrate their daughter’s eighteenth birthday. There were pictures of the birthday girl with characters and despite no longer being a child, she looked pretty caught up in the magic.