November 2016 - Disney Wonder to Caribbean - Bahamas
This was our 1st time to the Caribbean/Bahamas area. We had previously taken a cruise aboard the Magic to the North Sea area of Europe and had thoroughly enjoyed that cruise, so we decided to try out the Wonder after it's recent refurbishment. In fact, we were the 3rd cruise of the post refurb era. They were still installing items that didn't get installed during the refurb or on the previous 2 cruises since then. For instance, they were assembling brand new ping pong tables on day 2 of our cruise, so the 1st 2 cruises before us made do without them. In truth, it wasn't a refurb, more of a upgrade. Improvements were made in several areas, but surprisingly, maintenance was not part of the upgrade. We found several detail things that were broken, not working correctly, or just worn out (flickering lights, burned out bulbs, plugged shower heads, etc). The improvements included an expanded Spa area, which now includes a full barber & expanded beauty salon area, a teeth whitening station, the new Frozen show (which we saw on the Magic in June), new color schemes/decor/carpeting/lighting, a dedicated/isolated walkway connecting the Oceaneer's Club & Oceaneer's Lab, the adults night life area was re-themed/updated, and one of the restaurants re-themed Tiana's Place. Overall, it was very similar to the Magic, so it didn't take us too long to settle in since we knew where everything was located. Since this was a 7 night voyage in the warm Caribbean area (vs. the 12 night North Sea cold), it became very apparent that this was more of a resort style cruise - pool time, beach excursions, more night time outside activities. The Pirate Night festivities was loud & fun with the fireworks capping off the event and it seemed like their were more kids activities going on at any one given time. The North Sea cruise seemed more excursion based with the time on the ship used to recuperate from the daily activities off-ship (which focused more on sightseeing than resort type activities). This was a more youth oriented cruise and we found that 7 nights was just about right for us on this trip. Long enough to unpack & enjoy, yet not too short that you found yourself unpacking one day & packing up in what seemed like the next day that one feels on a 3 or 4 night trip.
The food was it's usual Disney Cruise fare, which kept us looking forward each night to what the chefs were coming up with on the next dinner menu. You have to be adventurous each night as the menu items are not what is expected in your typical family restaurant. We ate in Palo one night, which is something everyone should try, unless you only like meat and potatoes every dinner. Just remember to come hungry & have an open mind for new cuisine. The 7 night sailings allows you to try everything from the restaurant food to the buffet, to the on deck food service. On the 12 night cruise, we didn't try the on deck food (except the soft serve ice cream), so on this trip, we made an effort to try everything - pizzas, hamburgers, shawarmas, soup, salads, wraps, you name it, whatever was served on deck and it wasn't bad at all.
SPOILER ALERT: If you've never eaten @ Animator's Palate and seen the SHOW, stop reading now so you can enjoy this must see event.
The only disappointment was the Animators Palate show. Our table was broadcast on the wrong screen, so none of us got to see our drawings come to life. We did see other drawings, so we got the idea of what happens to everybody's drawings, but it was disappointing not to see your own artwork on the big screen. Disney should figure out a way for each guest to take home a copy of the show for repeated viewings @ home.
Our stateroom was on deck 5 (5628), near the rear. It had a farely quiet hallway (except the last night, when the room across decided to race up & down the halls @ 11:30pm - thanks alot kids (and parents for not controlling said kids). It was close to the rear elevators, but far enough away that the noise was never a factor. This stateroom must have been close to the washer, because every morning @ 5 am or so, I could hear them start up and run. I never noticed the noise on my previous cruise, but we were one deck up in approximately the same spot on the ship (6620). We had 3 adults on this trip and their was enough room inside to not feel cramped when we were all in the cabin. We even had enough drawer space for all our clothes, although we did use the desk for clothes. This stateroom had a refrigerator, which I never noticed on the Magic. Paul was our cabin steward & he did a great job of taking care of us, even changing towels twice a day (once in the morning and once when he turned down the beds).
We embarked/disembarked in Galveston, which accounted for the extra days @ sea since it was a fair distance to the Key West/Castaway Cay/Bahamas ports, but we enjoyed the extra time on board to see the shows, participate in the trivia contests, attend seminars, etc. Getting on board was quick and easy. Large crowds, but handled well by the Disney staff. Getting off was just the opposite. Large crowds and no where to put them. We waited about an hour in line to get off, but once off, finding our luggage & going through customs was a breeze (1st timers take a hint, make your suitcase VERY distinguishable from a distance, you have no idea how many suitcases are waiting to be picked up in the terminal - and they all look the same). Compared to our cruise on the Magic, getting on and off was just the opposite. On our Magic cruise, there were long lines to get on whereas getting off was easy, but getting our luggage was hard (couldn't find one piece because it was in the wrong place) as was going through customs.
Excursions & ports of call. We wish we could have spent more time in Key West (only there 4 hours). We could easily have spent a full day or more there to see the sights and try a few restaurants. The Cuban coffee was good and everywhere serves Key Lime something (pie, soda, tea, etc.). Castaway Cay was a full 8 hours, but we could have spent another 1/2 day there. Fun fact : all the food, utensils, plates, and food service people come off the ship and is then reloaded on the ship at the end of the day - what an operation. Nassau was a full day, but again more time is needed here as well to really get a good look at the city and it's people. The Bahamans that we met on our short stay there were very friendly and always ready to party.
As a whole, this trip aboard the Wonder was too short. It was a good way to get a taste of what cruising is about and just makes us want to do it again to get to experience the stuff we didn't get to do while making us want to go back to the places we visited to spend more time there as a separate vacation. Just remember to pack the sunscreen. Lots of it.