This was our fourth Disney Cruise. Out of the four ships currently sailing, we’ve been on the Wonder (2x), the Fantasy, and the Dream. All that is left is the Magic. The cool thing about going on the Wonder twice is that we did it before its big make-over and after. It was like being on two different ships. Two new ships will make their debut in 2019 and 2020. The names have not been announced yet. Cici is hoping for a ship called “Imagine”. Our goal is to hit up the Magic before the two new ships set sail. The Magic’s itineraries have never match our schedules. Hopefully it will soon so we can accomplish our #travelgoals.
The Disney Wonder (Reimagined)
Oh….my…..gosh. The six week make-over completed in 2016 on this ship made a world of difference. The Mickey slide is higher and longer with more twists and turns, the little kid’s pool area is bigger with an added aqua lab (like a splash pad but more sophisticated), Tiana’s Place Restaurant replaced Parrot Cay which includes a live band and Tiana walking around and dancing with guests every night, and they added the show, Frozen, to the nightly Broadway style show rotation. The kids club and adult district also got a make-over. They added an Irish pub and extra night club for the grown-ups, and the kids club now has Marvel, Toy Story, and Frozen themed rooms with Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post. The only thing missing really is the AquaDuck (water coaster on the top deck). We’ve ridden it several times on the Fantasy and the Dream, so we were okay with not having it this time. The Wonder is one of the smaller ships (so is the Magic), so we could get around easily, and it made getting on and off the ship a breeze at the ports and at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Our room was on deck 8 aft, which was directly below the pool, the main buffet area, and the drink station on deck 9. Tiana’s place pushes Animator’s Palate out of first place on this ship for best restaurant. Animator’s Palate on the Wonder is still amazing in that the décor changes from black and white to color and has LCD screens built into the wall that provide entertainment during dinner, like name that character as it is being drawn. Tiana’s Place is just so spectacular that I was grateful we got to eat their two nights in a row. The kids enjoyed the party that occurs their every night. Animator’s Palate wins for best food though. My favorite is the black truffle pasta. The Cadillac Lounge was our favorite bar on the Wonder.
Ports of Call
We flew to Puerto Rico and jumped on this “unique cruise” as it was called, because the ship had just returned from the southern Caribbean and was headed back up to Port Canveral. We chose this cruise because we got a great deal, it stopped at St. Thomas (one of our favorite places), and it ended in Port Canaveral so we could hit up Disney World afterwards. Secrets Beach has always been one of our favorite activities ashore in St. Thomas, and we had our same tour guide, Nakream, who was ready with rum and punches, snacks/drinks for the kids, and sand toys. We were driven around the island afterwards with our rum punches and stopped at one of the look-out points for great views and music. This year, we had the best time in St. Thomas because the weather was perfect, and the kids had so much fun swimming and playing in the sand. It was truly relaxing. We learned that Beckham does better on excursions than he does on the ship overall. This year we weren’t able to do the sky ride though which was a little disappointing.
Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is also a must, obviously, since it’s Disney’s private island. The BBQ they put together is one of the meals I look forward to. This year it was a bit chilly and overcast that day, but getting back on the ship early turned the day around since no one was there and the kids (and Kacey and I) were able to go down the Mickey water slide over and over without a wait. Even though Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and St. Thomas pretty hard, both places were still very enjoyable and beautiful. Damage can still be seen everywhere in Puerto Rico, but it was still a great place to be. The port looks a bit like a large garage, but when you are leaving on a Disney Cruise, who cares? It was small and easy to navigate.
Activities New and Old
This year was the first year that we ran the Castaway Cay 5k. This particular race was the largest race in the Disney Wonder’s history. It was a unique course with part of it being on the air strip and the other part being a scenic nature loop by the adult beach. There were three places to run on the ship; deck 4, the top deck (my personal favorite), and the indoor gym that overlooks the water. I got up early the day we docked at St. Thomas and ran on the top deck. It put me in a good place. The sun was rising, the water was quiet, and I had me time. We got to watch the Super Bowl on the big screen on the top deck which will go down in the memory books as best super bowl watching experience ever; unless we actually make it to the real deal. The Frozen play was incredible. I got there super early and got us front row seats. It even snowed on us! Beckham still talks about it. Of course we still enjoy going to the Golden Mickey’s show as well. It is a classic. Endless ice cream cones and Mickey bars; enough said. Yes, I consider eating an activity. We also did the Mixology class again where you learn how to make different cocktails and you get to taste them all too. On the Wonder, this took place at the Cadillac Lounge with a large group of people. On the Fantasy, Mixology took place at the Skyline Lounge with only about 10 people and we actually got to take turns making the drinks. Mixology on the Fantasy was a bit more intimate and fun, than what the Wonder set up, but it was still a good time. Kacey and I snuck away one night and listened to a 90’s cover band piano man play Oasis, Robbie Williams, and The Verve at the Cadillac Lounge; so fun. They had beer, wine, and whisky tasting too on the ship this time; but these tickets sold out fast.
Needs to Go
If I had to make some changes in the activities on the ship, here is what I would do. Pirates night and the menu that goes with it; I’m over it. Disney needs to come up with a new deck party, like maybe involving princesses or close to what Illuminations at Magic Kingdom is like for their fireworks show. I get that pirates and ships go together, but the show never changes. I would like to see a Frozen or super hero deck party with the fireworks instead. I think the Frozen Deck Party exist, but it hasn’t been on any of the itineraries we’ve sailed on. The food for Pirates night at the restaurants are disappointing. The buffet they offer after fireworks is a little bit better, but not by much. I also despise the plays Believe and Villains. They are on the Fantasy and the Dream. The characters in Believe are annoying and so is the concept. In the play Villains, they reference a lot of older movies that the kids and I didn’t know (Kacey knew them) and the scenes didn’t fit well together. The movies they do reference are nothing special. We didn’t have to watch them this go around thank goodness. Tangled is the big show on the Magic, Frozen on the Wonder, Aladdin on the Fantasy, and Beauty and the Beast on the Dream (newly added since we’ve been on the Dream). I also think the restaurant, Triton’s, and the menu need to go. I did not like the food and it lacks excitement and entertainment like the other restaurants have. Lastly, when you get a massage at Senses Spa, it would be great if they would just leave it at a massage and not try to upsell you on products.
Disney World Parks
This year, we went to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom after the cruise. Last year we did Epcot and Magic Kingdom. I like doing Disney World after the cruise instead of before because leaving the cruise can be a very sad moment. Having Disney World to look forward to helps relieve the sadness. We really enjoyed the rides this time at Disney World, and did more rides this time than last time. If you ask the kids, their favorite ride this year was Splash Mountain which is just like the Log Chute at Mall of America, but a longer ride. I always enjoy It’s a Small World (Disneyland Paris has the best version though) and Peter Pan’s Flight. Kacey and Cici rode the Everest roller coaster in Animal Kingdom and said it was awesome. Kacey got a little queasy, but Cici was totally fine afterwards and talked all about it. The kids’ favorite ride at Animal Kingdom was Dinosaurs. It was a pleasant surprise and actually kind of scary. The Pandora area at Animal Kingdom is spectacular. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the big floating mountain structure in the middle with the waterfall. Disney really did an awesome job adding this area to the park. The Navi River ride and Flight of Passage are very unique as well. The Magic Kingdom Festival of Fantasy afternoon parade is always magical and a must. Here is a short list of rides that we went on at each park:
It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain, Dumbo, Magic Carpet, Barnstormer, Haunted Mansion (B was not pleased with this ride), and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids (B freaked out during this one), Navi River, Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Dinosaur Spin
Disney World Hotels
This year, we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside which was a great hotel. It was quiet, serene, and clean. The pool was great and had a small water slide. It also wasn’t very busy. I LOVED the room. We had a preferred room with a Murphy bed. Beckham called it his Alligator bed since there was the big alligator character from the movie Tiana as the headboard. Last year we stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort which was the largest moderate resort at Disney World. The reviews for the Caribbean Beach Resort were not all good when it came to the size of this resort, but I loved everything about it. When comparing it to Port Orleans, I would choose Caribbean Beach Resort because I liked the walking paths, all the different parks, the pools (toddler pool area and the main pool), and food court better. The room and bus stop at Port Orleans were the only things better than the Caribbean Beach Resort. The rooms seemed cleaner and less like a motel feel, and the bus stop was right outside our door and was never full. It is crazy how big Disney World resorts are in general. There are so many rooms and several bus stops at each hotel. The people that work here also don’t always know where certain buildings are; it is kind of weird. The food courts always seem to be crazy as well. I don’t know if I will ever understand how to navigate the food plan (even though I insist on getting it every time). The snack credits and what you can get always confuse me. I seem to make poor value choices often when it comes to purchasing snacks. Like sometimes milk is included for cereal, but only if you buy that for breakfast. There are also some meals that count as snacks. I will never understand this. That is one of the reasons that I like the cruise better. Food is food, and you can eat it without organizing it.
Disney World Meals
This year, I made reservations at some sit-down restaurants at Disney World which required much more planning; like 180 days in advance planning. We chose Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast Castle) at Magic Kingdom so we could see the beast and see it snow in Florida, T-Rex Café in Disney Springs because Beckham is obsessed with dinosaurs, and Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. I loved all of the restaurants! The African food buffet at Tusker House was delicious. Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Daisey visited our table too. The Salmon and the desserts at Be Our Guest were great. We got to sit in the ballroom by the window where it snows, visit Beast, and tour the castle. The west wing was dark and scary and features the rose and lighting/thunder. I actually don’t know how people ate in there; it was so dark! Everything at the T-Rex Café, including the atmosphere was perfect. When it comes to quick service, Pecos Bill’s is my favorite because I love the taco salad; so I made sure we ate lunch there on our Magic Kingdome day. Gaston’s has the best chocolate croissants, and we found a nice little pizza and beer place at Animal Kingdom to chill at while waiting for our fast pass times.
Favorite Disney Cruise Ship
The winner is……………..the Fantasy. The Wonder is a close second though with the Frozen play and Tiana’s place being added. The Fantasy wins because of the Adult District, particularly the Skyline Lounge with the LCD monitors of footage of major cities around the world, the Mickey Pool and Goofy Pool being next to each other so that both areas can see the big screen on the top deck and you can manage multiple children at once, and the fact that the Fantasy is a little more grand than the others. The Dream is almost identical to the Fantasy, but the Skyline Lounge is a bit smaller, and when we went, the shows were not in my top favorites. With Beauty and the Beast being added, that might change things. I still don’t like that the only itineraries for the Dream are short trips to the Bahamas. The Bahamas can be cloudy and cold in the winter. I wouldn’t do a 3 or 4-day cruise either; it’s too short.
Favorite Disney Restaurants
Cruise: Tiana’s Place- Live entertainment, spending time with Tiana, parades, and good food, need I say more?
Disney World: Be Our Guest for Table Service, Pecos Bill’s for Quick Service, and Gaston’s for snacks/dessert. At Gaston’s, I get the chocolate croissant. I especially love the taco salad (it’s called the Nachos on the menu) at Pecos Bill’s; good food and a good value.
Disney Springs: T-Rex Café all the way! Beckham still asks to go here every day. It was the best meal we had at Disney World.
Favorite Disney Shows (in order from amazing to great)
2.Golden Mickey’s (Wonder and Dream)
3.Dreams (Magic and Wonder)
*I am sure Tangled (Magic) and Beauty and the Beast (Dream) would be amazing, but I have not seen these shows in person yet to rate them. My guess is that Tangled would take second place, Beauty and the Beast would take third place, and the rest would move down a slot.
Top Disney Cruise Activities (Based on all three ships we’ve been on and ordered most favorite to great)
- Broadway Style Shows (all four ships)
- Hanging out on Disney’s Private Island or any other fun port of call (all four ships)
- Hanging at the various pools with a cocktail while the kids are entertained, especially the adults only area (all four ships)
- Kids Club (for various reasons😊)
- Castaway Cay 5k- a 5k race on Disney’s private island (all four ships)
- Mixology-you learn how to make various fun cocktails and also taste them (all four ships depending on the number of at sea days)
- Frozen Meet and Greet-you go to Animator’s Palate and spend time with Anna and Elsa (all four ships)
- Princess Meet and Greet- you get to meet four princesses and you go from one princess to the next (all four ships)
- Visiting Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats (on the Dream)
- Be flexible with travel dates. We typically go in February vs. the busy times during school breaks. March-August are super expensive. Halloween and Christmas itineraries are too. We did receive what I will call a “disappointment letter” from the school saying to plan vacations around the school calendar, but being a teacher, I can cover what is missed, and I also believe that travel is important and also a great skill to pick up when you are young.
- Even though we are a family of five, we can all squeeze into one room. I am sure it will get a little tight as they grow, but it works for now (and for the rest of our travels if everyone wants to go)
- If you do go on a cruise, try to pre-book a place holder (to hold your spot on any cruise) for the next one to save 10% and get an onboard credit of $100-$200. The deposit to hold your spot is about $250 and good for two years.
- Buy Disney give cards at target using your Target Red Card to pay off your trip to save 5%. It is too bad the Disney Savings Account is no longer an option. You would get a $20 Disney gift card for every $1000 you spend on your trip. I would buy Disney gift cards and deposit them into the account and double dip on savings
Our family prefers the Disney Cruise. It is more relaxing and requires less planning, There are rarely any lines to see characters, and if there are, the kids are in air conditioning and can easily be entertained by the cruise ship singers or rooms/activities nearby. You get to visit different islands, including Disney’s private island which is magical, you get to run a race if that’s your thing, you get adult only time while the kids enjoy the kids club with characters and activities, there is nothing to worry about, and the dining and Broadway style show rotation every night will keep you full and entertained without having to think or make choices. Being on the Disney Cruise is like getting advanced dining reservations at Be our Guest, meeting all of the characters you could ever want with hardly a wait, and being able to rotate resorts without packing your bags; all without the constant planning and checking in daily to see if something opened up. On the cruise, you get to relax, dress up, have adult only time, a beautiful view, visit different places, run into characters around every corner, access to unlimited food, and have the magic of a lifetime. It is quite a unique experience.
We would love to hit up an Alaskan cruise or Christmas cruise for our next Disney cruise adventure (yes, we pre-booked). We would also like to try Disneyland California since we’ve never been. Kacey and I would love to jet back to Epcot for an extended weekend just the two of us to go around the world, and also hit up Hollywood or Universal studios. The options are endless and it sure I fun to look!
A big reason why our trips are such a big success is because we have an awesome travel agent, Jessica Sloan, from Greenwood Cruise and Travel. You can find her on Facebook @ Jessica’s Dreams &Wishes Travel, or email her @ Jessica@greenwoodcruiseandtravel.com. She makes sure we get the dining time we want, get transportation and a hotel when getting off the plane and the ship, get the best travel insurance, and answer any questions I have with prompt responses. I highly recommend her, and she is free!