Disney’s Second Ship Still Sparkles
Last week, I had the opportunity to tour a very unique ship while she was docked at Port Metro Vancouver’s Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal: Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder.
Built in 1999 as Disney’s second ship, Disney Wonder is the sister-ship to Disney Magic, and was the newest vessel in the line’s fleet until the launch of the much-larger Disney Dream entered service in February of 2011.
Even if you have never sailed aboard a Disney ship before, you only have to hear the name to know that this is a decidedly family-friendly cruise experience. This is not the cruise to go on if you’re a couple looking for a week of quiet relaxation – but that’s not to say that it’s not for adults, too. In true Disney fashion, their adult offerings are every bit as impressive as the facilities they have set up for children.
Disney Wonder, like her fleetmates, has been designed to reflect the grace and elegance of the great transatlantic ocean liners – albeit in a modern, very Disney-fied way. Circular oversized windows emulate the portholes of days gone by, and Disney Wonder’s hull is painted in an attractive black-and-white scheme, with yellow accents running down her length and accenting her name and stern plate, where Donald Duck can be seen hanging down off the starboard side, paintbrush in hand.
My tour was a very ambitious, fast-paced one that didn’t leave a lot of time to admire the work Disney’s designers and the shipbuilding team at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard had put into her. It did, however, give me a good impression of what cruisers can expect from this beautiful ship that doesn’t even look half her age.
Let’s have a mini-run-through and check out some of the highlights of the Disney Wonder:
Staterooms & Bathrooms
The biggest takeaway of my Disney Wonder tour was how well-designed the staterooms are. In most stateroom categories, a dual-bathroom system is employed. Through one door is a toilet and vanity, while behind Door Number Two is a shower/tub and another vanity area. It’s a clever arrangement that allows two people to get ready at a single time – which really helps when you’re a family of four travelling together. The very first cruise I ever took, as a teenager, was with my family in an oceanview stateroom on another cruise line, and getting ready in the morning bordered on absurd. Not so on Disney.
Disney’s staterooms are surprisingly spacious, and littered with interesting nautical and whimsical touches – like trying to spot all the “hidden Mickey’s” – instances of Mickey Mouse – spread throughout the room.
Staterooms are also equipped with cordless telephones that work anywhere on the ship – great for kids and parents trying to keep track of each other. On Disney, Mom and Dad are also free to bring a bottle of wine or a few beers on board to enjoy in the privacy of their stateroom; a decidedly upscale feature that many other “mainstream” lines are cracking down on.
Disney identify themselves as a mainstream cruise line, but I’d argue that they’re “upper premium.” Certainly, their pricing qualifies them for this (a Disney cruise is far from cheap), but you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck – particularly with kids. Case in point: juices, sodas, coffee and water are all complimentary if you get them from the Pool Deck self-serve drink area. In fact, Disney Wonder has the largest self-serve soda fountain area I’ve ever seen onboard a cruise ship, and it’s all free. Soft drink packages can set parents back quite a bit on other lines.
Also keeping with the “upper premium” designation is the general look and feel of Disney Wonder. Sure, some areas – most notably the Parrot Cay Dining Room on Deck 3 – border on theme-park-tacky, but Disney’s designers have worked their magic on the ship’s interiors, creating something that recalls the grandeur of the great ocean liners. It also seems to (consciously or unconsciously) incorporate some of the best features of Princess, Holland America and Carnival cruise ships.
Kids areas are whimsical and fun, while adults-only areas (of which there are more than a few) are downright elegant. Take Palo, Disney’s adults-only specialty dining venue. Everything in the room is imported