I am a Disney fan. I have an annual pass. I love staying at the resorts in Anaheim, California. And I love cruising. So this weekend trip with the Disney Cruise Line should have been a no-brainer. Yet, somehow it fell short of all the magical things I thought it would be. I don’t give poor reviews easily. In fact, this might be my first official negative article. Oy. Dear Walt…forgive me.
It was a preview weekend for travel agents and their families, known as a “Fam Trip”. In theory, they were pulling out all the stops so that the agents would be wowed and sell this ‘amazing’ vacation to their clients. We initially felt very lucky to get a special invite.
Let’s go Pollyanna and start with the positives. The Disney Wonder is a beautiful ship. Artfully designed with whimsy and grandeur, you will see rich colors, beautiful marble, Venetian glass, and fabulous artwork. I especially love the bronze Ariel in the main atrium, inviting you to sail into her world. There are portions of the boat that are classy, some that are fun, and other spots that have a little nighttime edge. All of these thoughtful elements make this Art Nouveau ship a pleasure to explore. The rooms are fantastic. Two toilets, nice bed, space for a couch, and great décor. The Disney toiletries were no joke. The lotion was divine. I liked the shops – lots of great souvenirs, most of which are especially for the cruise line. Therefore, if you see something you like, buy it. It probably won’t be on dry land. The stage shows were really great. All the characters you love in a woven story, well-played live. Score.
So what fell short? Well, there is a beautiful multi-story atrium – the first room you enter – and there isn’t a thing in it. No shops, no lounges, and no live music. Other than character meet and greets sporadically throughout the trip, this space remains an open hole. What a waste. The spa was nice, but the treatments were really expensive. Cabana-like spaces promised parents indulgent quiet time. You can also buy a pass to hide out in the sauna area throughout the voyage. The adult pool was serene and often sprinkled with exhausted parents. Asleep. The gym was cramped. The buffet, a circus. The nightlife, uneventful. The food was okay, but nothing memorable. The TV in the room only played Disney shows. Miley Cyrus (before the buzz cut), Jonas Brothers, and cartoons. After only a little while, I started to turn into the Mad Hatter. I wanted to see the movie Tangled, but it only played in the theater at 9am. I am on vacation. I am not going to rush to the theater in the morning while on vacation.
One of the cool things I was looking forward to was dining in the Animator’s Palate. This dining room goes from black and white – including the staff’s uniforms – and transitions to color as the evening unfolds. I wanted to see this amazing transformation and they opted not to do it during the Fam trip. As in, we weren’t worthy enough to experience the full effect. Lame.
While the boat was designed with innovative décor and shows, I was not wowed. In fact, I was ready to leave after the first night. And I felt bad because I wanted to love it. The worst part is that a Disney cruise is very expensive. I am guessing a big chunk of that is due to the extensive kid programs (translation: daycare). It became very clear that the programs revolved around them being occupied and the parents taking a deep breath. I knew the cruise line had very creative programs for young cruisers. I think that’s great; however, I did not see a true balance between the little ones, the parental figures, and the kids at heart. If I want to wish upon a star, I’ll just do it at the Magic Kingdom. Sadly, this weekend trip was not ‘Wonder’-ful.