Disney’s Second Ship Still Sparkles

Disney Wonder was built in 1999, and has the same classic 'ocean liner' look as her fleetmates. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney Wonder was built in 1999, and has the same classic ‘ocean liner’ look as her fleetmates. She’s seen here in Ketchikan, Alaska earlier this year. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Disney Cruise Line's 1999-built Disney Wonder reflects classic ocean liner styling in a decidedly modern way. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Disney Cruise Line’s 1999-built Disney Wonder reflects classic ocean liner styling in a decidedly modern way. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

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.

Captain Mickey on the Promenade Deck. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Captain Mickey on the Promenade Deck. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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

 

Staterooms, like this Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, are Disney's strong suit. They're some of the best-designed accommodations afloat. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Staterooms, like this Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Navigator’s Verandah (#7120), are Disney’s strong suit. They’re some of the best-designed accommodations afloat. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Bathrooms are cleverly compartmentalized and feature two separate entryways. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Bathrooms are cleverly compartmentalized and feature two separate entryways. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

They also feature premium bath amenities. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

They also feature premium bath amenities. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Nautical and Disney touches are featured throughout all stateroom and suite levels. Rather than being tacky, the design comes off elegantly. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Nautical and Disney touches are featured throughout all stateroom and suite levels. Rather than being tacky, the design comes off elegantly. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Rooms are also available for guests requiring wheelchair access, like this spacious accessible Interior Stateroom (7131) on Deck 7. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Rooms are also available for guests requiring wheelchair access, like this spacious accessible Interior Stateroom (7131) on Deck 7. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The wheelchair-accessible bathroom of Accessible Inside Stateroom 7131 on Deck 7. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The wheelchair-accessible bathroom of Accessible Inside Stateroom 7131 on Deck 7. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

“Upper Premium”

Suites - like the Roy O. Disney Suite (8530) on Deck 8 - are decidedly lavish, and represent a modern take on the grandeur of the great oceangoing suites of the past. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Suites – like the Roy O. Disney Suite (8530) on Deck 8 – are decidedly lavish, and represent a modern take on the grandeur of the great oceangoing suites of the past. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

The living area in the Roy O. Disney Suite (8530) aboard Disney Wonder. At 1,029 square feet, it can sleep 7. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The living area in the Roy O. Disney Suite (8530) aboard Disney Wonder. At 1,029 square feet, it can sleep 7. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Throughout, Disney Wonder sports an elegantly whimsical styling that's pleasing to kids and adults alike. Shown here is the Gift Shop corridor on Deck 4. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Throughout, Disney Wonder sports an elegantly whimsical styling that’s pleasing to kids and adults alike. Shown here is the Gift Shop corridor on Deck 4. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney Wonder's Port Adventures Desk on Deck 4 starboard. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney Wonder’s Port Adventures Desk on Deck 4 starboard. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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 direct from Italy, from the marble flooring to the Venetian glass accents on railings and supports. Located on Deck 10 Aft, it features expansive views looking over the stern of the ship, and sports a menu that would give many luxury lines a run for their money.

Dining

The Parrot Cay Dining Room on Deck 4 aft is one of three differently-themed main dining rooms aboard Disney Wonder. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Parrot Cay Dining Room on Deck 4 aft is one of three differently-themed main dining rooms aboard Disney Wonder. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In addition to Palo’s, Disney also offers casual dining at the Beach Blanket Buffet up on Deck 9. Again, Disney’s skill with crowd control is in evidence here: dual serving stations on port and starboard sides of the ship all feature the same menu items, thereby eliminating the need for cruisers to criss-cross the room. They still have trays to carry your food on (!), and special kid-sized trays. Menu items were more varied than I’d expected, with frozen prawns and vegetable stirfry served up alongside classic Macaroni and Cheese. My inner kid came out, and I had to try the Macaroni and Cheese, which turned out to be a real guilty pleasure. Dessert? Jell-O with Mickey Mouse ears.

The Beach Blanket Buffet, located on Deck 9 Aft, is surprisingly well-designed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Beach Blanket Buffet, located on Deck 9 Aft, is surprisingly well-designed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

One deck up, on Deck 10, Palo offers an adults-only Italian dining experience. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

One deck up, on Deck 10, Palo offers an adults-only Italian dining experience. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Palo uses materials sourced from Italy, where Disney Wonder was built. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Palo uses materials sourced from Italy, where Disney Wonder was built. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Just for Fun: Mickey Mouse-inspired Jell-O. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Just for Fun: Mickey Mouse-inspired Jell-O. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We didn’t get a chance to view much of the dining rooms as they were being prepared for embarking guests, but Disney does have a unique approach to dinner onboard: you are assigned a table and a wait staff, just like “the good old days” of cruising. The exception here is that your wait staff and tablemates travel with you, rotating through three different dining rooms over the course of a week.

Public Rooms

Kids get to feel big on Deck 5, which features dropped ceilings and lowered porthole windows. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Kids get to feel big on Deck 5, which features dropped ceilings and lowered porthole windows. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Kids, of course, run the show onboard Disney Wonder – or do they? They have their own unique space on Deck 5, which cleverly features lowered ceilings and dropped portholes to make the kids feel big and the grown-ups, well, feel a bit like John Cusack working on the 7th ½ floor in Being John Malkovich.

Kids facilities - like this play area in Disney's Oceaneer Club on Deck 5 - are second-to-none. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Kids facilities – like this play area in Disney’s Oceaneer Club on Deck 5 – are second-to-none. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney's Oceaneer Lab is designed to appeal to kids aged 8 to 12. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab is designed to appeal to kids aged 8 to 12. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There's even a waterslide on Deck 10. Note the giant Mickey Mouse hand. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There’s even a waterslide on Deck 9/ 10. Note the giant Mickey Mouse hand. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

But the kids facilities are nothing short of astounding, and the queue of parents looking to sign their little ones of all ages up for Disney’s fantastic onboard programs – which are free of charge for the most part – grew throughout the afternoon.

The adults-only-domains aboard Disney Wonder – like the Vista Spa – are soothing and elegant, but decidedly whimsical in their own way. More than a few adults might get nostalgic ambling up to the Cadillac Lounge that features Cadillac-styled elements from the 1950’s worked into the décor of the lounge.

Adults can retreat into a puff of aromatic steam in the Vista Spa's Thermal Baths on Deck 9 Forward. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Adults can retreat into a puff of aromatic steam in the Vista Spa’s Thermal Baths on Deck 9 Forward. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Movies on the Big Screen. Being Disney, programming is suitably awesome. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Movies on the Big Screen. Being Disney, programming is suitably awesome. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Looking down at the main entry lobby from Disney Wonder's soaring three-story atrium. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Looking down at the main entry lobby from Disney Wonder’s soaring three-story atrium. The chandelier is Chihuly glass. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Stairwells are bright and elegant. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Stairwells are bright and elegant. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Walt Disney Theatre on Deck 4. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Walt Disney Theatre on Deck 4. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney Wonder even incorporates several swimming pools. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney Wonder even incorporates several swimming pools. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Stairwells and corridors are also cleverly designed and are larger than usual, though some staircases and, most notably, Deck 4 access to the Walt Disney Theatre seem surprisingly snug.

Where’s the Wonder?

Disney Cruise Lines' Disney Wonder in Tracy Arm Fjord. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Disney Cruise Lines’ Disney Wonder in Tracy Arm Fjord. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

During the summer months, you can find the 964-foot long Disney Wonder sailing from Vancouver to Alaska. She also sails to Hawaii and the Pacific Coast before transiting back through the Panama Canal for a winter of cruises to the Bahamas from Galveston, Texas.

In 2015, Disney Wonder returns to Vancouver and Alaska, and in October of 2015 sails to San Diego for a series of Mexican Riviera cruises.

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

You can learn more about the Disney Wonder by viewing the overview of the ship on our sister-site, The Avid Cruiser.

 

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