May 2016 - Disney Wonder to Alaska - Inside Passage
My wife and I made our first ever cruise aboard the Disney Wonder on the Alaska itinerary in August 2014. That trip was amazing, and hooked us on the joys of cruising forever. We followed that first trip up with our second in August 2015 aboard the Disney Magic on its 7 night Western Mediterranean itinerary. For 2016 we wanted to treat our daughter and her new husband to a cruise adventure, and the best one we could think of was Disney's Alaska trip. So, less than two years later we found ourselves once again touching down in the beautiful city of Vancouver, B.C. with renewed excitement and anticipation of the week before us.
Disney did not disappoint. In fact, having now been on three cruises with the Mouse and Co. aboard basically the same ship (the Magic and the Wonder are very similar) I am quite amazed at how consistently perfect the experiences have been. Everything we loved on the first cruise in 2014 was there in 2015 and again in 2016. At no point did we ever find ourselves thinking anything negative, i.e. this was better last time or why did they change that or I wish they would have stuck with this rather than change it. The service was exemplary, the dining without flaw, the entertainment as expected. The Wonder was as clean and maintained as we remembered, and we continue to value her classically elegant design aspects. She is a beautiful vessel, particularly when docked next to several other cruise lines at the various port calls. None compare to the Wonder, even smaller ships from the luxury class lines. I was always proud to wonder the port stops with my Castaway Club backpack, and was often asked by people from the other cruise line ships about how it was to cruise aboard Disney's ship.
I must give a shout out to Peter Hofer who has been our Cruise Director on all three of our adventures. Cruise Director Peter can single you out from 3,000 other guests and make you feel as welcome as if he were hosting you in his own home. Now, I realize my sphere of comparison is nil, but I would be perfectly happy if Peter was the CD on every cruise I ever take!
When we first experienced the rotational dining plan practiced on the Disney Cruise Line we were completely enthralled with it. The familiarity one experiences with the Head Server, Server and Assistant Server is what the plan is all about. Okay, the food is important, but it would really be just good food without the servers. We looked forward to each night knowing we had a set time to dine, a set table to eat at and the same people taking care of us for the entire week. Moving among the three main dining rooms is fun and adds to the variety. After the first cruise we did wonder if the experience could be duplicated the following year, and it absolutely was even with a different set of servers. Our third cruise was more of the same. How Disney can find and train servers to be so consistently friendly and attentive and personable is amazing. I've read some horror reviews over the last two years that have made me appreciate our experience so much more and to be further amazed at the consistency from year to year and ship to ship.
And then there is the Room Steward! All three cruises have introduced us to the most wonderful person who could ever look after our room. Three different times we have made a new friend from some far off point. This year we met Grenville from India who was always there with a smile and time to chat. Our room was always immaculate and any request granted immediately.
The only thing left to say is that we will have a difficult time trying another cruise line other than Disney, which worries me a little because they only have four ships and two of them are always in the Caribbean which isn't one of our desired destinations. I understand there are two new ship targeted for delivery in 2022 or so which may open up some more itineraries. I also understand the Wonder is going into dry dock in Cadiz, Spain at the end of this year's Alaska run for a significant overhaul. I will definitely look forward to reconnecting with her a third time, perhaps sometime in 2017.
I know I haven't said much about the port stops or the scenery along the route. It is amazing. I did wonder if I would be disappointed the second time around by feeling all "been there, done that" about the trip, but I was not at all. When you think about it chances are you are not going to go out on deck at exactly the same times each time you do the itinerary so you are bound to see different bits of scenery each time. You can always do a different excursion in the port stops, or, as with us, you just like to stay on the ship during some then you just enjoy the ship's amenities anyway. I will say the Alaska trip is quite different from the Med in that you are never out of sight of land on the Alaska run so there is always something to see and be amazed by. While sailing across the Med with no land in sight at times is equally amazing, it is different.