By AllEars Team Member Lee Zimmerman
Sometimes there are just too many activities in the Disney Universe. AllEars had opportunities on the same day to attend a press event at Disneyland Resort for this year’s Halloween Time activities and to visit the Disney Wonder while it was in port in San Diego. Laura and I decided it made more sense for me to cover the Wonder event so she didn’t have to drive from San Diego to Anaheim late on a Friday afternoon. Besides, I am a former Navy officer, so clearly I am more qualified to talk about what is happening on a cruise ship. 🙂
The Disney Wonder has been in Alaska for the summer and now slowly making its way back to its nominal homeport of Galveston, Texas. The ship is sailing out of San Diego for much of September and October doing Halloween on the High Seas cruises to Baja California and the Mexican Riviera.
The Wonder was the second ship to join the Disney fleet, entering service in 1999. In September and October of last year it underwent a dry dock period in Spain that made significant changes to the kid’s spaces, the adult entertainment district and converted the Parrot Cay restaurant into Tiana’s Place, in addition to replacing carpet, furniture and other general upkeep. This was my first chance to see the re-imagined ship, so I was excited to go onboard, even if only for a few hours.
For anyone who has been on the re-imagined Disney Magic, the changes to the Wonder will not be a surprise. The ships are very similar with the most noticeable differences being the decorating style (Art Deco on the Magic vs. Art Nouveau on the Wonder) and the theming of the restaurants and adult entertainment venues.
The first interior space on the ship guests see is the three-story Atrium Lobby. There have been some significant changes here – the most visible being that one of the two grand stairways is now gone. That, in combination with moving the atrium lobby statue of Ariel from the center of the entrance to Triton’s to the right side, opens up the space for big events and makes a space for oversize decorations like the large Halloween and Christmas trees. In addition, there is a new carpet design and the large Dale Chihuly chandelier has been replaced by new glass work based on flower in Ariel’s hair. I have to say that the original chandelier was beautiful, but it always looked like it would fall from the ceiling if things ever got rough. The new one is much less intimidating and looks like it opens up the sight lines from the third level of the Atrium. I’ve put before and after pictures below to show the changes.
We made a stop in the Walt Disney Theatre – home of the new/exclusive cruise line production of “Frozen – A Musical Spectacular”. We had our own performance of “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” by Kristoff and Sven and a chance for pictures and questions. Disney does excellent Broadway-class stage shows on the cruise line and I am sure “Frozen” lives up to that reputation.
Next we went to one of the most popular areas on the ship…and the one the adults most want to have access to – the Oceaneer Club. This space has been completely reimagined and now includes Andy’s Room, Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and the Marvel Super Hero Academy.
We got to try out one of the interactive games in the Super Hero Academy – working with the other Avengers to stop an invading force. Our role was to shoot down drones using a motion recognition system that let us stand in front of a big screen video display and use our gestures to fire repulsers (just like Iron Man). Captain America, Spider Man and Black Widow all visit the Super Hero Academy during cruises.
We then went on deck to get a tour of the three pool areas and other features topside. That is when I realized what was missing – there is no water ride on the Wonder! The newer ships have the AquaDuck and the Magic had the AquaDunk added when it was last in dry dock. The “children’s pool” area of the ship was modified to be similar to the Magic – with Dory’s Reef splash zone, the AquaLab and a bigger Twist ’n’ Spout water slide.
As we moved forward on the pool deck we saw two other changes – the addition of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the pool deck arcade is gone and is the new home of the Edge “tween” club. Like on the Magic, there are new staterooms where Edge used to be.
The biggest change for me was the Concierge Lounge – The Wonder is unique in that it has a two-story coffee bar (Cove Cafe’) and bar (Outlook Cafe’) in the adult only area that was built to provide additional enclosed viewing space for Alaska cruises. That upper viewing space used to be on both sides of the ship. Now it is just on the port side. The center and starboard sides are the Concierge Lounge, which is entered from the forward stack.There is also a Concierge only sun deck above the Concierge Lounge and Outlook Cafe’. I have not been in either of them (yet), but it looks like the Concierge Lounge on the Wonder is a lot bigger than the one on the Magic. I think this also answers my question on why no water ride on the Wonder.
We then went down to the adult area which underwent significant changes. The overall area was renamed – from Route 66 to After Hours – and re-themed with the effect being what I would describe as “classier”.
All three of the venues were significantly changed. The three new venues are: The Crown & Fin Pub – styled after a classic British pub (with beer selection to match) that doubles as the sports bar onboard:
The Azure night club for dancing and stage shows:
The Cadillac Lounge in what has typically been the quieter bar, though the new car-themed decor is a bit more upbeat.
Azure is technically the most interesting of the venues – the furniture and walls are shades of white providing a backdrop for extensive lighting and projections that can completely change the personality of the room.
The final space we visited was the restaurant formerly known as Parrot Cay. It has been completely re-styled to become Tiana’s Place based on the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog.”
The decor is from the movie and, unlike any other Disney Cruise Line restaurant, Tiana’s has live entertainment during the meal. There is a small stage at the back of the room and both Tiana and a New Orleans-style jazz band perform.
The food is New Orleans and southern inspired. On longer cruises, the second dining night in Tiana’s includes a parade including the guests and servers.
I noticed that they moved server’s stations to the four corners of the room (instead of interspersed with the tables as is normal). That really opened up the space both visually and physically. I asked our server what he thought of that arrangement and he said that it is better for the guests but more work for the servers (longer walks from the stations to the tables).
We were treated to lunch – which I think was actually dishes off the dinner menu – and everything was great. We also got to enjoy live entertainment from Tiana and the Crawfish Crooners who were very good. My only concern was that the entertainment made it hard to talk with each other at the table. We were sitting right in front of the stage and the restaurant was basically empty, so it might not have been so noticeable during a normal dinner.
We didn’t go in there, but Animator’s Palate was refreshed with lighting and video displays to host “Drawn to Magic” and “Animation Magic” dinner shows. The third table service restaurant, Triton’s, was unchanged. The primary buffet restaurant is now called Cabanas, as on all the other ships, and was increased in size.
Our final event was to experience a Chocolate Tasting in the Cadillac Lounge. Tasting events – wine, beer, mixed drinks, hard liquor and chocolate (depending on the size of the ship and the length of the cruise) are optional, added cost events typically held on sea days. They are enjoyable, educational and popular enough that they fill up days before they are held. While this is called a chocolate tasting, it also involves sparking wine, red wine, and whiskey…..as well as lots of really good chocolate.
Disney Cruise Line is celebrating Halloween on the High Seas on most voyages aboard the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic from September through October. The Wonder was undergoing the transformation for the first of these Halloween cruises while we were onboard. It was fun to walk through a space later in the day and see that it had changed since we were first there. This extra-spooky celebration features Halloween-themed parties, lively entertainment and elaborate décor, including The Pumpkin Tree, which magically transforms throughout the cruise.
Other special experiences include:
Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party, a celebration with games, dancing and lots of candy! Beloved Disney characters, wearing special Halloween costumes just for the occasion, will join guests for this fun-filled costume party.
I have to say that the ship looks great inside and out – not showing her age at all. All the new spaces look great, and the whole ship has been refreshed with new carpet, paint, and soft goods. As a frequent Disney cruiser, it was tough being on the ship as guests were starting to board, and having to leave.