Disney Wonder departure celebration. Photo Source Kristi Marcelle
This was my first Disney Cruise Line vacation and besides thinking I’d see plenty of Mickey and Minnie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. By the end of the cruise, I realized that in subtle and not so subtle ways, the mission of the Disney staff is to make every passenger’s vacation as stress-free as possible.
The service level was extraordinary — this vacation helped us understand why families like cruising so much and return over and over again.
Disney Wonder slide
Disney Cruise Highlights
There were many activities that we would have liked to do but just couldn’t fit in. It’s very easy to over schedule yourself with activities and half-way through the cruise realize that kids need an afternoon break of rest or reading in order to enjoy dinner and the nighttime entertainment.
The kids’ clubs are divided by age groups but a helpful feature for families with multiple children is that the kids can “float” between the clubs so that our 4-year-old could be in the same club with our 7-year-old. They chose to participate in different activities but the comfort level for daughter of having her brother in the same place allowed us to enjoy our adult time.
The entire process — including a beeper for parents, electronic sign-in/out, and the ability to drop the kids as needed — is convenient and easy. Tweens and teens are in separate groups. All of the kids’ clubs are complementary except the nursery.
Family Cruise Activities
The sheer number of activities offered for kids and families is overwhelming. In addition to the kids’ clubs offering classes like making “flubber” and cooking, parents and kids can participate in towel folding (the orangutan towels were the winner in our book), board game contests, karaoke nights, and there is always a movie showing in the theater. In short, there are so many things to choose from for families with children of all ages that we never heard an “I’m bored” on the entire trip!
Each evening, the cruise features a show, musical or movie. We had heard great things about the entertainment on the Disney cruises and the hype is well-deserved. The hour-long musicals are Broadway quality with characters that the kids already know and can relate to. Toy Story 3 in 3D was the featured movie and a hit with the kids.
Disney characters roam the ship and are very popular with many families. We chose not to wait in lines to get pictures or autographs but enjoyed just “running” into characters on the deck or wherever they might show up.
The dining experience was the star of our cruise. We loved that we had the same servers each night at dinner (passengers follow a rotational dining program with the same dining staff). Our kids looked forward to dinner each night because they received so much personal attention from our servers.
Our adult dining experience was utterly enjoyable too — when our kids’ food arrived at the table, the server cut it up for them — there was really nothing that they would not do to accommodate their guests.
We did have an opportunity to try out the adult-only restaurant on a couple of occasions and thought this was worth the additional $15 per person charge. The food and view were great and it was relaxing to have a lunch or dinner by ourselves.
Castaway Cay Stingray Adventure
Castaway Cay was our favorite shore excursion. It is a slice of Disney World in the Bahamas — clean, organized with lots to do. Favorites here are the new Pelican Plunge waterslide and the Stingray Adventure. While the barbs have been clipped from the sting rays on Castaway Cay so you cannot be stung, we did learn how to do the “stingray shuffle” for protection as we hand-fed the rays and swam with them in the lagoon afterwards — a unique experience for all of us.
Pelican Plunge waterslide on Castaway Cay
Things to Note
While our family truly enjoyed this cruise, there were a few things that just “come with the territory” when cruising with 3,000 people — including many kids — to the Bahamas in the summer. The ship has plenty of room to explore, but popular areas like the pool were always crowded so we tried to go first thing in the morning or later at night.
Our port destinations were Key West, Nassau and Castaway Cay but the 90-degree heat and high humidity made it tough for walking around. The downside of a cruise in this part of world in July …
Finally, as mentioned, our dining experience was incredible but there were many tired kids which created a considerable amount of noise at certain points during dinner. We also struggled with the readily available and viewable sweets and desserts at meals; we managed this by deciding that each child could have one treat a day — it’s tough to turn down a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar dipped in sprinkles with marshmallows on the side.
Disney Cruise Line provided Ciao Bambino with free airfare and cruise accommodations. They did not ask us to express any particular point of view.
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