I was graciously invited to attend my first Agent Education Program this past week with Disney Destinations. I was unsure what to expect at first and nervous! However, after receiving my beautifully bounded, thorough cruise documents booklet via snail mail (luggage tags included), I quickly recalled my time as a Cast Member at the WDW Resort 20 something (a-hem) years earlier and by trip’s end, I wasn’t at all surprised to have been given the royal treatment in sampling all that Disney Land, the Disney Land Hotel and Disney Cruise Line have to offer. Disney just does things up a certain way; Pixie Dust you know!
Before I knew it, I was off for my first visit to the West Coast to board the Disney “Wonder.” Can I just say that I LOVED the intimacy that this ship offered? This sailing happened to be a Halloween on the High Seas cruise and I felt like I was at a three-day private Halloween party with Mickey and a small gathering of my close friends. It was great! There was no getting lost on this cruise ship, yet unbelievably there was so much to do one would struggle to fit it all in. There were shows to take in, newly released movies to watch indoors AND out (even in 3D), food & restaurants to try, kids clubs to explore, spas and relaxation amenities to schedule, characters to meet and be photographed with, clubs to peruse and family games to partake in over at the Promenade Lounge. I was able to keep track of it all via the handy dandy “Navigator” app for smartphones. A paper copy is also left in your stateroom every day as well as copies being available at guest services. The app also lets you chat with your friends onboard using their guest “chat number”, which can be located on the upper-right hand of the smartphone screen, all using the ship’s wifi, no internet package purchase required. If you actually want to talk someone via voice, feel free to utilize the wireless “Wave Phones” in the stateroom. Two phones come standard with each room, additional ones can be rented for a fee and the phones allow you to text and talk text without using your personal cell phone from home. Other staterooms, other Wave Phones, and any other shipboard phones are able to be dialed from your complimentary Wave Phone. Should you decided to purchase a “Connect At Sea” Internet package don’t forget to let a Crew Member disable your background running apps so they are not updating and using your newly purchased data package. Always remember to set your cell phone to “Air Plane” mode when boarding the ship.
I had many “first” observations once boarding! My very first was how the Crew Members were lined at the sides of the entrance with a microphone ready to announce you as you boarded. I was traveling alone so I declined a family announcement but suggested to be introduced as a Travel Consultant instead. Crew Members clapped and cheered for me despite being alone and said yay for our Disney Travel Partners!
Two, Fish Extender Participants: Onward to quickly find my very own room, I was giddy to discover the “fish” that is positioned outside of each stateroom which purpose is to hold reservation reminders from the crew, etc. This is what DCL cruisers affectionately use to swap gifts when participating in FE (Fish Extender) groups found on Facebook. As for the room, I noticed it was serviced twice each and every day with towel animals and mints. I was feeling pampered already.
Three, Cabinetry: I noticed the amazing space-saving cabinetry across the entire front side of my stateroom and the high clearance of the bed from the floor. There is no reason not to unpack suitcases and make yourself completely at home on a DCL cruise! Adios suitcases!
Four, Design & Color: :I noticed real tile in the bathrooms and the overall high-grade construction materials on the “Wonder” which made me forget I was even on a cruise. I felt more like I was staying in a hotel. The curved lines added to this sentiment as well. Disney seemed to take great effort to hide any hint of things feeling boxy, compartmentalized, manufactured, cheap, etc. There were a lot of touches on DCL that the average guest may not notice consciously, but as a travel professional, it’s my job to notice these types of things and pass my observations on to clients. Speaking of surprises, I was also surprised that the cruise never felt like one of the Disney Parks on water. Our training facilitators stated that this assumption is sometimes made with new DCL guests and I must admit I was in that category. Instead, our stay felt more of a resort stay with Disney touches. Subtle and rarely seen Disney artwork was placed all over the ship as well as vintage black and white photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Walt Disney in their earlier years together vacationing and exploring the world. Walking past photographs and early animation, subconsciously a story started to build in my mind and I’m sure for other guests as well. I was reminded how the Disney empire started with a young man, a pencil, and a supportive spouse. I actually found myself stopping to take in the artwork and photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Disney and being drawn to their eyes. Even in the early photos the drive, dream, and anticipation of the future can be seen in Walt’s eyes. I realized I wasn’t just on a cruise, but a journey with Walt in his life’s story.
Also on my radar, I was in love with the color scheme of the “Wonder” as I can be picky about visual things. The color scheme was a rich yet muted crimson, marigold and sapphire mix and reminded me of the 1920’s-1940s era. A crisp royal blue and white were selected for the stateroom split bathrooms. A sink and commode were housed in one bathroom, while a sink and shower in the other. This split bathroom layout was spacious and a very nice upgrade from other cruise lines, plus I had the vanity area by the balcony door to sit down, spread out and put on my face, lol! The entire cabin was spacious boasting approx 270 square feet of space and I did not feel like I was shoved into cubby hole. The water pressure was superb and the water was hot and relaxing. A retractable clothesline blends in ready to hang wet bathing suits in the shower as well. The full-length mirror catty-corner to the bed is one of those intentional designs that other cruise lines seem to miss.
Five, Cleanliness & Safety: Oh my how Disney takes cleanliness and safety seriously. Upon entering the restaurants you will find Crew Members directing traffic to handwashing stations and ready with hand sanitizing wipes. I noticed Crew Members on standby in the restrooms constantly tidying up and wiping everything down. As for safety, I noticed that the railings are higher than on other cruise lines I have traveled on, glass covers many viewing areas such as decks and balconies so no littles will be tempted to climb anything. A latch on my balcony door was high enough I had to raise my hand to release it.
Six, Flexible rooming needs: I was grateful for a Verandah room but worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep with the light shining through. That concern was laughably put to rest on night one because these drapes that can be drawn both in front of the balcony and between the couch and bedroom area are my favorite! A nice view and total darkness for sleep, check! Coffee tables can also be requested to be removed by the room stewards and couches pulled into sleepers as well.
Seven, Stateroom TV, plugs, lighting: I was bummed to find out that behind the scenes tours are no longer available, but not to fret, there is one airing on the stateroom tv along with a plethora of other Disney channels, my favorite being Classic Disney. I played 101 Dalmatians, Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland in the background while I slept and also as I got ready for the day. This was kind of my favorite part of the whole trip, watching classic Disney movies like I was a kid again. P.S. on debarkation eve, there is a great video that loops explaining how to fill out customs forms, guest surveys, and luggage tags. A Disney Cruise truly is a set it and forget it worry-free experience! Speaking of sleeping, I noticed the other travel professionals onboard were also raving about the luxuriousness of the pillows, mattresses, and linens. Luxury bed and Disney movies, do I have to get up? The lighting was also unique in that there was a combination of both soft and bright lighting in the cabin, bright in the bathroom and make-up areas, soft and relaxing in the rest.
Now that my first observations were notated in my head, it was off for some dinner. The first night ended with dinner at Tiana’s (Princess and the Frog) where we got some great live jazz music, a visit with Tiana at our table, parading wait staff, Mardi Gras beads placed on our necks, all while being surrounded by a realistic New Orleans themed restaurant. Nicely done Disney. Not too childish, not too grown, I found Tiana’s to be the perfect Disney blend. Another observation I made was the lack of zealous photographers intruding with dinner taking non-stop photos. One photographer asked for one photo, but other than that, my experience was if you wanted photos you got in the line to see the photographer. Speaking of photos, I greatly appreciated how there was a designated photography area on the ship. Shutters Studio and Lounge allowed you to scan your Key to the World stateroom card to one of the many interactive kiosks where you could view, order and print the photos that you wished.
After dinner, it was time to visit the Walt Disney Theatre to watch “Dreams, An Enchanted Classic.” My stars what a treat. Note to self, this cruise is worth the shows, unlimited soda, beds and pillows alone! By the show’s end, I noticed I wasn’t the only travel consultant in my group in tears and ready to give a motivational speech to anyone needing one! After an hour and a half of being inspired by Peter Pan, I was reminded that I could make my own dreams come true just like the characters in the production. You mean I was going to be inspired on this cruise too? The following night was followed by “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular” and by the time the house lights emerged I had to remind myself I was an adult on a work trip because I sure was reverting back to childhood! Olaf got a standing ovation and you will see why when you experience the show for yourself. The Preludes snack bar offered up everything needed to settle in for a good show while professional photographers stood ready to snap a family photo in front of the screened backdrops of the Disney Wonder in all her glory in the nightfall setting, all set up outside the Walt Disney Theatre doors.
The shops had an energy of their own and were filled with Pirate Merchandise for Pirate Night, Princess Wear and exclusive DCL everything. I loved this, not just Disney merch, Disney Cruise Line merch. Princess necessities were also available in the Bippity Boopity Boutique and guests will want to make reservations for BBB and Pirate League 75 days prior to sailing (first time DCL guests) on their Disney Cruise login page as spaces fill fast and are first-come-first served. These can only be done online. Silver Castaway Club Members can book 90 days prior to sailing date, Gold Castaway Club Members can book 105 days prior to sail date and Concierge & Platinum Castaway Club Members can book 120 days prior to sail date.
My other dining experiences while onboard included the Animator’s Palate and Palo. Animator’s Palate is on the regular dinner rotation schedule, but Palo requires reservations with a credit card, is for guests 18 and older and enforces a dress code. I found Palo to be elegant but not stuffy and Animator’s Palate to be amusing and delightful. Younger guests will especially be amazed when they find what awaits them at an Animator’s Palate dinner. Who comes up with these magical ideas anyway? And Palo, honestly the best steak I have ever eaten, ever.
Seasonal extras included activities for both young guests and young at heart. The adult club areas hosted their own events and seasonal activities could be found throughout the duration of the cruise. How fun seeing guests wearing store-bought and homemade costumes going from place to place to Trick or Treat. No one is left out on a Disney Cruise! Mickey and friends could be found in nautical dress as well as Halloween costumes throughout the sailing. Even with all the activities going on, I never once saw a child look or act uncertain, but instead confident and eager to either scan their cruise band (looks like a WDW Magic Band) and enter one of the child/ student areas and refer to their Crew Member by first name or grab a movie with the fam or take a dip in the pool. I didn’t see this cruise being sensory overload for special needs children. The cruise was energetic but relaxed. Yes, I found DCL to be quite relaxing and I had even left the kiddos at home! By the way, if a youngster wants to keep their band as a souvenir no action is needed. The small deposit for the band is simply forfeited if it is not returned. Nice extra. I need a shadow box now!
Guests older than 18 will be surprised to find an area dedicated just to them on a Disney Cruise. The “Wonder” makes adult guests right at home with “Azure”, “Crown & Fin” Pub and “Cadillac Lounge”. The swank colors and decorating really entice one to go scope it all out.
Don’t forget to catch the fireworks and watch Mickey’s surprise stunt during the Pirate Party, see all of the ships’ characters at the high-energy Sail-Away Deck Party and schedule some Open House viewings for all of the kids’ clubs once you board the ship. These times will be listed on the Navigator & Navigator App as well as the entrance of the club themselves. Can you believe we still have Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disney Land, the Disney California parks and Disney Land Hotel and Convention Center to cover? No wonder I didn’t want the fairytale to end! Thank you Disney “Wonder” for a “wonderful” sailing! If you’d like to mark sailing Disney Cruise Line off your bucket list, get in touch with me today for your complimentary quote!
Your sail date awaits!
~Clarissa, Your Cruise Planners ® Travel Advisor