Capturing the Wonder
As we sailed away from Port Canaveral, we joined everyone on the top deck for a rousing Bon Voyage celebration. The captain blasted the horn to announce our departure; it was not the usual single-note blast, but rather the first measure of "When You Wish Upon A Star."
Legendary Walt Disney often said, "My business is making people happy." We wanted to see if people of all ages truly enjoyed a four-night cruise on Disney Cruise Line's Wonder. Of course children would enjoy a cruise filled with Disney characters, activities created for their age group, and meals designed to satisfy their finicky taste buds. But what about grandparents and parents who want quiet adult time? Or teenagers who want to socialize with their own peers?
Excitement mounted as guests entered the Art Deco-style terminal, constructed exclusively for Disney Cruise Line at Port Canaveral, Florida. Goofy readily posed for pictures with guests waiting to board the ship. After registering, we received our "Key to the World" cards. These and our photo IDs were all we needed to display while aboard the ship when embarking and debarking; opening our stateroom door; locking our in-room safe; and for charging gifts, pictures and drinks onboard.
Next, we checked our stateroom. We were pleased with the two twin beds pushed together, a convertible sofa, and pull-down bunk arrangement. A privacy curtain can be drawn to separate the adult/child sleeping quarters. The split bathroom with a bath/shower is a practical design for families. The natural woods and imported tiles create an elegant tone.
When our luggage arrived, we changed into our bathing suits and toured the rest of the ship. Up at the Topsider's Buffet, lunch was waiting. Our daughter was handed a child's tray, divided to keep the foods separated. Iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch, water, milk, coffee, and hot tea were complimentary. For those who crave sodas, drink mugs purchased for a one-time fee of $20 can be used at any restaurant or bar onboard, or on the line's private island, Castaway Cay, for unlimited refills.
After lunch, small kids splashed in the Mickey Mouse pool with its yellow curved slide, while older children swam in the Goofy pool.
Since we had the early seating dinner at 6pm, we watched the sunset and then strolled back to our cabin to prepare for dinner. Disney offers a rotating dining schedule; our first evening meal was at Animator's Palate restaurant (Disney spent more than $5 million to create this room). As we ordered our entrées, the "paintbrush" pillars slowly turned from black and white to pastel colors; Disney theme music swelled as various screens on the walls came to life, showing the famous Disney animation stars and short films. After dinner we visited the Walt Disney Theatre to watch a live stage show, "Hercules the Muse-ical," a knee-slapping vaudevillian comedy.
After a smooth sailing night, the Disney Wonder docked at her first port-of-call, colorful Nassau, capital of The Bahamas. Disney offers some exciting shore excursions, but we chose to explore on our own. A $6 roundtrip water taxi ride from the cruise ship to Paradise Island harbor is available, but we decided to walk the two miles along Bay Street and over a bridge to see why it was so highly touted. Passing by the Bahamas Rum Cake factory, we sampled their delicious rum cakes. Let me share a secret with you: walk past the Sheraton Hotel to one of the pretties public beaches on the island, Cabbage Beach. There were only six of us enjoying the white powder sand and clear aquamarine warm water.
A local recommended that we skip the $5 per person cab ride to another popular spot, Cable Beach, and hop on Bus #10 for a $1 ride with the locals. At Cable Beach we wee able to find starfish in the shallow clear water. After a relaxing swim we hopped back on the public bus and got off at the Pirates Museum; The Bahamas is known for its pirate lore. Later we walked though the Straw Market to look at the native crafts and have our daughter's hair braided.
Back on the ship, we dined at Parrot Cay, a dining room with a colorful Caribbean flair. Under gingerbread trim, a live steel band played background music for our listening enjoyment.
The next morning we arrived at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, also in the Bahamas. Families bicycle around the island (training wheel are available for smaller guests), snorkel in the lagoon to search for Captain Mickey's sunken treasures, swim out to a play structure, and eat lobster burgers at Cookie's BBQ.
After lunch, we signed our daughter into Scuttler's Cove. While she built sand castles with her new friends, we biked to Serenity Bay, a quiet, adults-only beach. We splurged and enjoyed a half-hour massage in a cabana overlooking the bay, then relaxed in lounge chairs, gazing out at the emerald-colored water.
Back onboard, we prepared for an elegant dinner in Triton's dining room. Located in the center of the ship, this room has the romantic feel of a classic ocean liner. Steaks and fresh fish are the specialty of the house. After a dessert of Cherries Jubilee, we sauntered to the Walt Disney Theatre to see the award-style show "The Golden Mickeys." Guests walk down a red carpet and have their picture taken by paparazzi. Awards are given out to some of the favorite Disney characters. It was surprisingly entertaining and definitely enjoyed by all.
On our last night, our daughter met friends in the Beach Buffet for dinner and a treasure hunt, while we shared a romantic dinner at the adults-only Palo restaurant. Located on the upper deck, with views of the sea, it is the quietest restaurant onboard. The quality of the food and service is well worth the $10 per-person service fee. Our four-course meal included a Filet Mignon with a Gorgonzola cheese sauce and chocolate soufflé for dessert. Afterward, we strolled down "Adults Only" Route 66 and danced to the celebration of music from the 60s at Rockin' Bar D.
As we docked in Port Canaveral and sat down for our last breakfast, we chatted with a family from North Carolina. This was their third voyage on Disney Cruise Line. Last year they had sailed on the Disney Magic, which sails to the Western and Western Caribbean on one-week voyages. I asked them which cruise they preferred. "The Disney Wonder is great for a long weekend or for first-time cruisers," they answered. "However, on the seven-night cruise we saw more ports and had more time to enjoy all of the ship's activities."
Walt Disney would be proud of his Disney Cruise team. Passengers of all ages left the ship smiling happily.
Photos Courtesy of Jill Weinlein, Steve Burns of www.burnsland.com, and Disney Cruise Line.
Jill Weinlein is a freelance travel writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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