Note: Next week I will have be posting daily live reports from the Walt Disney World Resort Showcase. This week, join me on my Disney Wonder cruise.(already in progress) as I post a day by day trip report. Click the Subscribe link on this page to be notified when I posted updates.
Our first sailing of 2010 was Disney cruise #72 on the Disney Wonder. The Wonder is currently our “home ship,” although that will all change in 2011 when it sails to California to do cruises on the Mexican Riviera and Alaska. The brand new ship, Disney Dream, will take over and become our new home away from home. I’m sure it will be lovely, but it’s going to be hard to adapt, at least initially, since we’ve been doing the majority of our cruises on the Wonder for ten years. Oh well, there’s still a year to go and we have quite a few cruises booked on the Wonder in 2010.
The trip started out with the drive to Port Canaveral. We live next door to Disney World, so it takes us a little over an hour to get there by taking the 417 tollway to 528, then taking that to the exit for Cruise Terminal A, which puts you on the road to the docks. Disney Cruise Line has buses from many of the Disney World resort hotels and Orlando International Airport, but as locals we just take our own vehicle. There is parking across the street from the ship, although it’s rather messy right now because they are in the middle of building a parking garage (see photo below left) to accommodate the larger passenger capacity of the Dream.
Sometimes we head out early and get to the port right when it opens; this time we were being lazy and headed out at noon. The ship usually starts boarding around 12, so we figured the first big wave of people would be gone by the time we got there. It’s always a crap shoot as to whether it might still be crowded anyway as many of the airport and resort buses tend to arrive around that time too. But we were both busy so my husband (the luggage packer in our household) didn’t have time to pack the night before and I hadn’t finished cleaning and setting up the pet areas. We woke up early, got everything done and jumped into the car to head to Port Canaveral.
Fortunately traffic was minimal, so we got to the port around 1:15. There was a long conga line of cars waiting to drop off luggage. It was actually the most crowded I’ve seen it in all the times we’ve arrived late. It took longer than usual to do the drop off; you show your ID, pulled up to the building, and a porter takes your bags. The curb area was fully lined with cars and there weren’t enough porters to go around, so we had a bit of a wait. Finally we headed across the street to the temporary parking lot and dropped off our vehicle. We headed to the terminal with our day bags and joined a fairly long security line (you go through a screening similar to that of an airport). It actually moved steadily so soon we were heading upstairs to check in.
We are Platinum members of Disney’s returning cruisers program, the Castaway Club (see photo at top right of page, taken at the repeat cruisers’ party), so we were able to check in at the concierge desk. Normally that desk has a longer line than the regular windows when we arrive early, but on this day we were darned glad because the regular line looked never ending. You can fill out most of your paperwork online at home, so check in is a breeze. Soon we were getting our security photos taken and heading on board the Disney Wonder for cruise #72.
You pause for one more photo; the first is for security purposes, and the second is one you can buy later. There are actually lots of photo ops on the ship. You can let the photographers take as many photos as you want as you are under no obligation to buy them. If you do want them all you can purchase a DVD with everything on it, or you can buy individual prints.
We headed down to Parrot Cay for the embarkation day buffet lunch. The staterooms were already open (they open for guests at 1:30, regardless of the time you embark) but we just brought out day bags with us since the restaurant didn’t look crowded. With our luck, a busload of people might have showed up if we’d taken the time to do a drop off. My husband adores the cold shrimp, while I like the salad fixin’s and cold strawberry soup. Soon we were nourished and ready to begin another Disney cruise adventure.
In our stateroom we found our Castaway Club gift waiting for us: the usual tote bag and a few other little gifts like a key chain and rice krispie treats. The safety drill wasn’t too far away (4 p.m.) but our luggage arrived fairly quickly so hubby got most of it unpacked before the alarm went off and we had to don our life jackets and head down to our station.
Our muster station is always Station Q, located in Animators Palate, the restaurant just below our room. Everyone must attend, and attendance is taken to make sure each guest knows how to get to the right place in case of emergency.
After the drill we headed back up to our room to watch sailaway (most people watch it from the big deck party). We were in stateroom 5650, our favorite spot on the ship because it’s all the way in the back, meaning it’s extremely quiet due to lack of foot traffic. We had to don jackets before going out on the verandah due to the cold and wind. Florida weather…ha! Last time we sailed we saw a number of dolphins behind the ship near the terminal, as well as a little farther out. We watched again this time, and sure enough they were there (see photo at right). It’s so cool to see them in the wild. One was even playing with a crate that must have fallen into the water down by one of the other ship’s docks as we passed.
My husband headed off to see “The Golden Mickeys,” the night’s Broadway-style stage show. It’s a variety show with Disney songs from cartoons like “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Tarzan,” “Mulan,” “Toy Story,” and “The Lion King.” I decided to watch it in the stateroom rather than live, hoping the video had not yet been updated. It used to be “co-hosted” by Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew, via video footage in which he interacted with the hostess. He died recently so I figured they had switched to the other version of the show, which features Whoopi Goldberg, at least in the theater version. I thought I might get to see Roy one more time on the version they show in the staterooms, but no such luck. It was sad because Roy gave the show a true connection to Walt. I especially liked the fact that he showed photos from a family scrapbook, and in the end a photo from the show flew into the scrapbook as the latest entry. Alas, that is missing from the new version; I guess the family scrapbook thing wouldn’t really fit in, so Whoopi just reads from a history book about Walt.
The next major event after the show was dinner time. We like being on the late seating because we don’t have to feel rushed, although families with kids usually prefer eating early. Disney rotates you through three restaurants (you repeat one on the four night cruises), and your servers go with you. You can also opt for Palo, the adults-only restaurant, which costs extra but is well worth it, and there is casual dining on the middle two nights as well. Casual lets you come at whatever time you want.
Animators Palate is actually the signature restaurant on the Disney ships. It is black and white, but you start to see color throughout your meal and the whole experience culminates with a cartoon show and a parade of severs as the whole restaurant becomes colorful. You find out which restaurants you are assigned to each night when you check in (we had Animators on our first night). The other two are Triton’s, which is themed to the Little Mermaid, and Parrot Cay, which is tropical.
There were several activities in the evening, including “Match Your Mate” (a Newlywed Show type of thing, but with couples married for various lengths of time), but my husband had wine with dinner and the alcohol plus a full stomach put him out early. I did some work, then wrote my report while he drifted off to dreamland. My jobs are done via the internet, and you can purchase various web access packages on the ship and use wireless right in your stateroom, which makes it very convenient for me to work while I cruise.
Click here to continue to Day Two, and click here if you missed my construction photos of Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, where the facilities are currently being expanded to accommodate Disney’s new ships. Click here for a preview of the Disney Dream, which will set sail in 2011. To read more of my articles, click here.
Photos: Barb Nefer