The feeling of setting sail for the first time on a Disney Cruise cannot be articulated. It elicits excitement and curiosity, for sure, but also amazement. I recently returned from a voyage aboard the Disney Wonder, the second ship to debut from Disney Cruise Line back in 1999. This was not my first Disney cruise by any means. Yet each one manages to stir me to sing the praises of Disney Cruise Line.
Albeit more outdated, smaller, and overlooked in Disney’s fleet of four fantastic vessels, the Disney Wonder — which could very well enter a long dry dock (major refurbishment) period in 2016 — offers an array of unparalleled experiences, as well as Disney Cruise Line’s best features.
Each passenger aboard a Disney cruise ship can evaluate it from varied lens. Age accounts for one type of framework. So does one’s traveling party (solo, couple, family, etc.). And who can forget your level of Disney fandom? As a young adult who went with his family, all of whom appreciate the Mouse to varying degrees and in different ways, this truly is one of Disney’s most relaxing and fulfilling vacation choices. My kudos for Disney Cruise Line will remain steadfast for years to come. Exploring the Disney Wonder’s special components, whether easily accessible to the public or more subtle to identify to the naked eye, is necessary to appreciate this ship and its position as part of Disney Cruise Line.
Some individuals in their early twenties may shrug at the idea of taking a Disney cruise, let alone on its more seasoned ship that is starting to show its age in certain areas. Disney Wonder’s adult entertainment district, much like that of the other Disney Cruise Line ships, obtains high marks for its immersive environment and quality entertainment. Step right on Route 66 and follow the road map-designed carpet to one of three spots along the “highway.”
WaveBands, the main dance club, features album covers and various music-tailored posters hanging around the atmospheric, almost circular-shaped room. Imagine being set inside a radio. That is what WaveBands looks like. Leave it up to the cruise staff, the entertainment personalities on board who host game shows, crafts, music events, karaoke, trivia, and other fun activities, to put you in the partying mood. The Disney way, of course. More fun for the adults can be found along Route 66, including Cadillac Lounge, a swanky automobile-themed lounge with a piano player each evening, and Diversions, a sports bar that often hosts trivia games. Route 66 cannot compare to Europa’s size and sophisticated style aboard the Disney Fantasy, but its intricate details, old school Americana vibe and ambiance make for an appealing time.
The adult area may not contain gambling that some might be familiar with on alternative cruise lines, but there are plenty of ways to take “safe” risks on Disney Cruise Line. Disney Wonder and the three other ships all feature multiple sessions of Bingo on each sailing. “Shake it up, Betty!” everyone screams before the host reveals another number. Disney does Bingo justice, especially for the younger crowd whose only image of the game involves a sterile and boring setting with slow participants. Even better, the trivia games span many categories, from “Ultimate Disney Trivia” (in which my team won aboard our cruise, despite stiff competition) to “’80s Music Trivia.” Each voyage usually brings about slightly varied games, but all involve cool prizes. Though the games are sometimes the same across each ship, the character of the Disney Wonder’s Art Nouveau setting (and a classic ’60s-era vibe going on along Route 66) add flavor to the overall experience.
Little touches here and there help passengers recognize they are on the Disney Wonder. The beautiful Ariel statue in the main lobby is distinct from the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy, in that all of those other ships’ featured piece of artwork involves members of the “fab five,” or Mickey, Donald, and Minnie, respectively. Much of the artwork on the Disney Wonder is distinct. Walking up and down each staircase you can find stunning designs, whether concept art for films like Fantasia/2000 or Alice in Wonderland, or of our favorite characters. The Pluto fan I am, I had no choice but to snap a picture of the canine’s prime placement.
Disney Wonder’s more intimate feel accounts for a sense of community for whatever the length of the voyage. Like the Disney Magic, which can accommodate up to 2,400 passengers, you start recognizing people right away. The individuals you see most are your helpful stateroom host and dining room servers. Depending on where you frequent, you tend to spend time with those same individuals. As someone who enjoys games, tours, and trivia, I had the opportunity to chat with many members of the cruise staff. On two occasions, my party was the only one who participated in board game sessions. As a result I came to know great Disney Cruise Line cruise staff like Disney Wonder’s Leslie and Houston. I also signed up for a fascinating art tour around the Disney Wonder, in which I discovered more enigmatic details thanks to guide Steven’s narration and direction. Not all ships are built alike, and as I learned with the Disney Wonder, it was not constructed in two halves, like that of sister ship Disney Magic. But a small detail visible on Deck 4 makes it appear like a seam exists. I can thank my guide for pointing that out.
Since Disney Wonder does not have as many guests on board as the Disney Dream, per se, more chances exist to see the same people. I constantly ran into a family whose parents participated in a hilarious round of “Match Your Mate” in WaveBands. Other times, it was nice to simply see the same faces and say hi when walking down a hallway. Disney Cruise Line constructs that community immediately and this becomes more attainable on a smaller ship. The Disney touch reveals itself when a great cruise staff member like Leslie comes over to you with Disney Cruise Line calendars in tow the day after participating in a game. The crew starts to recognize you and take extra steps in ensuring you walk away from the voyage feeling overjoyed and desiring to plan that next trip.
Whether it’s exploring the ship and locating objects that make you go “wow” – such as seeing the anchor and other mechanisms along the ship while strolling on the walking deck – or lounging in a themed setting that sets a tranquil tone, the Disney Wonder is absolutely “wonderful” by all accounts. From the catchy music featured in the original Toy Story: The Musical to the impressive mural located inside the Triton’s restaurant, the sounds and sights of Disney Wonder are ones that must be experienced in person to most enjoy.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of upcoming editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.