My family just got back from our first Disney cruise in three years! We sailed on the Disney Wonder on a 4-night cruise out of San Diego, stopping in Cabo San Lucas before turning back around. Yesterday, I wrote about all of the planning and logistics that went into the cruise. Today I want to bring you further into the magic and talk about all of our time on the ship. Our sailing had two sea days, so there is plenty to cover. Join me and see just how much fun can be had on a Disney Cruise!
We typically love going to the rotational dining restaurant for embarkation lunch because it’s less crowded than Cabanas. But because we were the first people on the boat, we had a choice to make. We were done with our virtual muster drill and Navigator app training by 11:45, and neither restaurant would open until noon. Eventually Cabanas opened first, so we took advantage of being first through the buffet.
Cabanas will always have the biggest selection of food items, so it’s a great option if you have picky eaters or you just want to try a lot of things. But it does quickly get crowded with folks that are looking for a quick bite to eat before hitting the pool deck or going to their newly-opened staterooms.
After lunch, we experienced our first two “unscheduled” character run-ins. Ariel discovered us exploring in Buena Vista Theater, and Captain Mickey was ganging out on Deck 4 by the Atrium with no line. Unscheduled character visits are some of the best!
Kids Club Open House
On the afternoon of embarkation day, all of the various kids clubs on the ship will host open house hours. It is incredibly important to take advantage of these events if you have kids that you want to attend the kids clubs later in the cruise. During open house, parents and families can accompany their kids into the clubs to explore the spaces and meet the cast members. Visiting during open house will also help speed up check-in on subsequent visits because you’ll have all of the setup questions and procedures out of the way.
Our 4-year-old is typically hesitant when approaching new situations and groups of people. So it was important for us to experience these spaces along with her for the first time. That way she could be comfortable and find out just how much fun she could have when she came back later. We started in the Oceaneers Club and saw Andy’s Room, Avengers Academy, and Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post.
Next, we took the sneaky hallway over to the Oceaneers Lab. This space was originally intended for the “older” kids (aka, ages 8-12ish), but is now open to all kids, just like the Club. The Lab has more interactive areas. You can color, do crafts, play games, virtually steer the ship, and trace some animations. We actually spent quite a bit of time participating in these activities before heading to our stateroom to unpack.
Our bags arrived to our room around 3 pm, and I spent time unpacking and getting us set up for a successful cruise with four people in a tiny room. This included setting out our fish extender, since we had signed up for a fish extender group gift exchange.
At 4 pm, we made our way up to Deck 10 for the Sail-A-Wave party. The party itself happens on Deck 9 (the main pool deck), but we find that the views from the rails on Deck 10 let our kids get an unobstructed view.
We danced, we partied, we saw fun characters, and then the ship pulled away from port exactly when those classic Disney ship horns sounded.
After sail-away, we delivered all of our fish extender gifts (yay for groupmates that unpack early!) and headed to our first rotational dining location. We had main dining, and so we lined up outside of Triton’s at 5:35 pm. Thanks to the cool new dining location request feature in the DCL app, I had requested a table “near the entertainment”. This wouldn’t impact anything at Triton’s, but it ended up getting us a table with pretty spectacular location at each restaurant. And, bonus, we had a private table. I could be crazy, but it seemed like there were more private tables, with littler space in between tables than on our previous sailings.
We met our serving team, and ordered our food. On DCL, you’re welcome to order as many items as you’d like from whichever courses. On our first night we stayed pretty tame, and ordered one appetizer, one entrée, and one dessert per adult. We had the escargot and fried brie, the duck and the lamb, and the Grand Marnier soufflé, and … something I don’t remember. Ha! The Grand Marnier soufflé was too good. The brie was bland, but the lamb and the escargot really stood out. My kids had cheeseburgers and Mickey bars, if you must know.
Sea Day One
After a bit of catch-up sleep (thanks, time change) and breakfast at Cabana’s, we had our free Princess Gathering scheduled for 10:15 am. We lined up shortly after 10 and were allowed to join the already existing line. This meant that we saw our first princess slightly before 10:15. This is an absolutely must-book for anyone with young kids, or any princess-lovers of any age. You get plenty of time with each of the four princesses. I give all of the kudos to these princesses. They were “on” for a long time, and they were remarkably energetic and kind to the hundreds of people that they met.
We were already dressed for our Royal Court Royal Tea, and the princesses commented on the girls’ outfits and how lovely the looked, among many other things. Watching my youngest daughter’s face as she stared at each princess in awe is a memory that will stick with me for a long time.
After princesses, we headed out to Deck 4 for some fresh air and seeing a bit of Mexico in the distance. And Stitch happened upon us! Another fun accidental meet and greet.
We had to feed the kids an early lunch because kids clubs don’t do meals or snacks anymore, and we had a 12 pm Palo reservation. We grabbed hot dogs from the pool deck and let the girls quickly eat in the room. Then, they escaped to the kids club and we escaped to Palo.
If you’ve never had Palo brunch, you’re missing out. Yes, it’s more expensive than it was in the past. But it’s still worth every dollar. Our server, Tiago, was remarkable. His recommendations were spot on. I had the seafood antipasti (the tuna was a standout) while my husband opted for an apple cinnamon waffle instead. Nothing says fancy meal like a giant Mickey waffle! Our next course consisted of eggs benedict for me and a calzone for my husband. The eggs benedict (or more accurately egg benedict) was the only disappointing item – it sorely needed some salt, and tasted bland as a result. Our “main” course was the lasagna for my husband and veal saltimbocca for me. That veal is the stuff dreams are made of. I should have just ordered 4 helpings of veal. I wouldn’t have regretted it.
And of course we had to wrap things up with the most important part of every meal – dessert! I ordered the chocolate raspberry tart and my husband ordered the panna cotta. Tiago said that if I was a chocolate fan, I had to also have the warm chocolate amaretto fondant. And for this, I will be forever indebted to him. I wanted that dessert with the rest of my meals for the entirety of the cruise.
Royal Court Royal Tea
By the time Palo brunch was over, it was time to pick up girlies and go get ready for our fancy Royal Court Royal Tea. If you want to hear all about that (and trust me, you’ll want to hear all about that), you’ll have to read here.
We followed up some eating at brunch with eating at tea, followed promptly by eating at dinner. We’re turning into hobbits and I’m not mad about it.
This night’s dinner was at Animator’s Palate. We all drew characters, which were eventually animated on the screens. I have to admit, I miss the classic Animator’s Palate show with slowly changing drawings on the screens and servers coming out in colorful outfits at the end. But I’m an old fogey.
This might have been our most “meh” dining night. The big must-order here are the pasta purseittes. I don’t even have pictures of anything else because service was slow, and I was underwhelmed with whatever else we ate.
Frozen is the featured Broadway-style show on the Disney Wonder, and it was the only evening entertainment that we planned on keeping our girls awake for. We finished dinner around 7:15, and I immediately lined up outside of the theater. Please note that this was wholly unnecessary, especially because the first show hadn’t even let out yet. But I was determined to get the best seat for our 8:30 showing. Yes, I waited over an hour. My husband took the girls back to our room to change into their pajamas.
I ended up chatting with several very lovely parties that lined up behind me at a much more reasonable time. And we got into the theater a little after 8:15. Our seats were in the third row, and the show was perfectly magical for our girls. The snow in the theater, the Olaf puppet, Elsa’s magical transformation, all of it. A must-see if you are ever on the Wonder.
Skipping forward, Pirate Night on our cruise happened the evening after our single day in port for this cruise. I’ll be talking about our port day in the final installment of this short little blog series.
If you’ve been on a Disney Cruise, you know all about Pirate Night. If you haven’t been – you’re in for a treat. Pirate Night is a beloved tradition on almost all Disney cruises. We had matching shirts and were ready to party. We got back from our shore excursion around 2 pm, and started doing the special character meet and greets at 3:15 pm, before most people had made it back to the ship and gotten ready for the night. That’s the secret to avoiding lines!
We met Chip and Dale, Captain Hook and Smee, Pirate Stitch, and Pirate Minnie. All of them were incredibly fun and interactive.
I enjoyed the Pirate Night menu in Animator’s Palate even more than the regular version. On this night, for the two adults in our family, we ordered one appetizer and three entrees, plus two desserts. The samosa entrée was delightful. But the whole meal was defined by the Veal Osso Bucco. It was a revelation. It even looked good enough that the man at the table next to us told his waiter to bring him one as an addition to the entrée he originally ordered. Get that veal on your next cruise!
After dinner, I booked it up to Deck 10 to save spots for the Pirate Deck Party. I got a decent spot, but had to sit shivering in the low-60-degree, over-40-mph winds for 30 minutes. Do I regret my choice? Welllllll, it was eventually worth it. But I may have sent some choice words to my husband over the Navigator app chat as he was staying warm with the girls until a bit closer to party time.
Interestingly, Captain Mickey had a bit of a snafu as he attempted to fly in to save the day. He stepped off of his pedestal … and was tangled in something and had to be quickly pulled back up, untangled, and then sent on his way. Admittedly a little scary to watch, but it all worked out in the end.
As always, the fireworks at sea are a show-stopper. And I’m so glad that they happen earlier at night now – immediately following the 7:30 pm show. I love that it happens in between the two dinner services.
Sea Day Two
Our last sea day on our way back to San Diego was much more boring than the first. We didn’t have anything booked or majorly planned.
We started by hitting the pool and slide as soon as they opened. This was crazy. We knew this was crazy. It was barely 60, and with sustained winds of about 45 mph. But the big kid really wanted to do that slide. The rest of us shivered under blankets on the deck, and that crazy kid did that slide 16 times. 16 times!!
The kids went to the kids club a couple of times. They participated in Pluto’s Pajama Party, where they received pillowcases to color and bring back home. They also got trained to be super heroes in Superhero 101. I will say this is one major disappointment from our cruise. Our littlest kid was most excited to meet superheroes and get superhero training. It was even on her shirt! But “all super heroes were busy saving the world” during our cruise. They did get some training from a cast member in the Avengers Academy space, and got to color their own capes. But we’ll have to wait for our upcoming Marvel Day at Sea to meet the important guys and gals.
While the kids played, we got to do adult-specific activities. This included trivia, an animation class (or as the instructor pointed out, a drawing class), and a presentation from the current Broadway Guest Star currently featured on the Wonder – Matt Hill. He performed Olaf in Frozen the Musical and was delightful to listen to.
We also packed our bags. If you don’t want to carry bags off of the ship with you, you have to have them placed outside your door by 10:30 pm the night before disembarkation. We had some very important things to do late at night, so we packed in the middle of the afternoon instead.
Eventually we headed to our last dinner of the night, which was at Tiana’s Place. By this time at night, we were having to cut through 9-12 foot waves, and I could feel it. I wasn’t able to eat much of the dinner. Otherwise, it would have easily been my favorite menu of the cruise (excluding Palo). It was easily my favorite dining location because of the atmosphere and the show.
The musical act was remarkably talented, and their selection of Disney movie and park movies, all done in a New Orleans style was well-executed and fun. Plus Tiana and Louis both made their rounds. And the parade at party at the end of the night is unparalleled in its ability to get people out of their seats and having fun. This was also where our table request had the most impact – we were on the main aisle and had a great view of everything!
This night we ordered three appetizers, one soup, and ALL of the dessert. Can’t ever have too much dessert on the last night of a cruise. My favorite appetizer was the shrimp and grits, which was wholly unexpected. The grits were so creamy, and the addition of goat cheese won me over. Neither of our entrees (sea bass and prime rib) were particularly thrilling to my constantly-turning stomach. But my little kid ate almost all of the adult portion, so that was something. And of course you absolutely must order the beignets. Beyond that, we also really enjoyed the white chocolate bread pudding.
Wakanda Forever At Sea
Our cruise disembarked on November 11th, the premiere date for Wakanda Forever. But, as often happens on Disney cruises, we were granted the ability to watch early. There were showings of the movie at 4:45 pm, 7:45 pm, 10:45 pm, and 11:00 pm on the night of November 10th. Since we knew our girls couldn’t stay up late, and the 4:45 pm showing conflicted with our dinner seating, this left us with one choice. One parent had to see the 7:45 showing, and then the other had to catch 10:45 or 11. The parent “left behind” would stay in the room with the sleeping girls.
I left Tiana’s Place immediately following the big parade to grab my spot in line for the 7:45 showing. No spoilers will come here. But it was such an excellent movie and I’m so glad that I got to see it in that unique way.
Tempted to Book Your Own Cruise?
I highly recommend it! I’m a Disney World fan, and you all know that I love all of the planning. But a Disney cruise is so much more relaxing, and the service is absolutely next-level. I have some options for you if you want more information or want to explore booking your own cruise!
- Read anything and everything that Erin Foster writes – she’s the queen of all things DCL and author of the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line
- Follow me on Instagram (@raisingminniemes) as I post detailed information and tips from our cruise daily over the next few weeks
- Reach out to the TouringPlans Travel Agency and get yourself a quote! They can find you a good deal.
Stay tuned in to catch my coverage of Cabo San Lucas! And if you have any questions about sea days on a Disney Cruise, please drop them in the comments below!