This week’s SATURDAY SIX returns back to the high seas as we look at our favorite UNEXPECTED TREASURES on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. Before we start let’s do a recap of some of our recent cruising articles, including a Big Picture look at the Wonder of the Seas itself. A reminder that the Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, loaded with amenities for guests of all ages, so much so that we did a follow-up article presenting A Kid’s Guide to the Wonder of the Seas. We also did an in-depth look at using THE KEY on the Wonder of the Seas, checking out all the benefits that come with Royal Caribbean’s “VIP” up-charge option.
Today we are going to look at things on the Wonder of the Seas which we experienced that took us pleasantly by surprise, and we’re starting off with …
# 6 – The Wow Band
One of my favorite things that Disney has created over the last decade is the MagicBand. While the MagicBand doesn’t do everything Disney said it would do, the MagicBand is great for the things that it does do, including getting guests into the parks much faster at the turnstiles. Upon embarkation for the Wonder of the Seas, we saw a guest wearing what looked like a MagicBand except it had a Royal Caribbean crown & anchor logo on it. These Wow Bands were never offered to us before the sailing in our cruise planner, nor did I see a single piece of advertising for them during the entire week of the cruise. If I didn’t know any better I would think Royal Caribbean actively didn’t want people to buy them.
On embarkation day, the Wow Bands were available to purchase at the Boleros bar on The Promenade (Deck 5) until around 2 p.m. After that, the Wow Bands were only available at Guest Services (also on Deck 5.) The Wow Bands were $10 each, and you could choose the color that you wanted. The options were white, black, blue, and yellow. Interestingly enough, the Disney Cruise Line is currently in the process of adding MagicBand technology onto their ships with the introduction of DisneyBand+. Solid color DisneyBand+ are priced at $34.99 each.
The quality of the Wow Band is solid, and it has an actual metal “clasp and hook” design like most wristwatches have compared to the MagicBand’s snapback securement, which is similar to a trucker hat. One thing that I thought added value was that we could reuse the Wow Bands on future sailings. All we need to do is take our Wow Band to Guest Services and they will encode the band to the new voyage.
Like Disney’s MagicBands, one of the things I liked using my Wow Band for the most was unlocking the door to our stateroom. Did my SeaPass card – which comes with the room – also unlock the door? Yes, but like I said, I’m used to using MagicBands to open the doors at our Disney hotel rooms. Like MagicBands, the Wow Bands are made out of silicone and are resistant to water, so you can pretty much wear them 24/7 on the ship. I wore mine during showers, in the pools, in the hot tubs, and even in the ocean on our various port days and never had a problem with the band all week.
For me, the Wow Band makes things just a little bit more convenient. We used the Wow Band to check into the various shows onboard the ship, and – because the Wow Bands are synced to your onboard account – we used it for all the purchases we made at the gift shops (I even used my Wow Band for a purchase at Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island.) However, when it came to using the Wow Band for my drink package, I almost always had to take the Wow Band off for the bartender or server to use at an RFID reader which was located behind the bar. This was a minor annoyance, and one that could be easily fixed by Royal Caribbean having hand-held scanners for their guest-facing employees to use, especially ones working in bar areas. This technology exists, because Royal Caribbean already employs it in other areas of the ship, including Guest Services and at the theaters.
By the end of the sailing, we ended up loving the convenience of the Wow Band, but it’s important to keep in mind that this review is coming from someone who was already a big fan of the technology. We have had three sailings on Royal Caribbean without using a Wow Band, and our absolutely free SeaPass card worked fine too.
# 5 – Art Around the Ship
Both Royal Caribbean and the Disney Cruise Line are great at delivering top-notch artwork throughout their ships, but Wonder of the Seas takes it up a notch with stunning pieces of unique art located pretty much everywhere you go while also adding family-friendly whimsy into the mix. One thing that surprised me on my Disney Cruise Line sailing was that the ship wasn’t filled with artwork from the latest hit movies or animated films, but instead referenced live action films and cartoons from the 1930s through the 1970s, like The Happiest Millionaire and Island at the Top of the World. I felt the artwork throughout the Wonder of the Seas were things that kids would appreciate more because it focused less on elegance and more on fun.
For long-time readers of this fine blog series, you know how much we love Easter eggs in our favorite movies and theme parks. These are details that may not be noticed by every guest, but can be worth going out of your way to check out. For example, the Wonder of the Seas is home to three astronauts located across the ship, and searching for them can be a fun activity for the family and certainly an Instagram-worthy photo once discovering them.
One running theme you’ll see in artwork throughout the ship is how many pieces of art are based around animals, such as this rabbit statue below.
Or this gorilla in the Solarium.
Not exactly sure how the Wonder of the Seas achieves this topiary-like effect with their animals, but it was really cool to see in person.
One of the more stunning pieces for me was the humongous 10-deck high sea dragon.
The picture shows a carousel horse that is in the process of being painted. In a wonderfully subtle touch, the entrance into the Boardwalk area of the Wonder shows the “story” of a carousel horse being crafted from wood all the way to its final version on the actual carousel.
From bow to stern the ship is filled not just with artwork to admire, but plenty that are also used as fun backgrounds for group photos and selfies.
There’s stunning artwork on all the stairwells on the ship and – this is my favorite part – some really fun ones in all of the public restrooms!
This was the first time in my life that I found myself going into restrooms just to check out artwork on the wall.
Talk about cheeky humor!
# 4 – Vending Machines
On Deck 16 you’ll find a room that can almost be considered a Secret Store, as it is filled with vending machines loaded up with just about any item you could possibly need (and might have forgotten to pack) on the cruise. It is located across from the Teen Club and not far from the ship’s family-friendly arcade. To start off, I think the area is just plain cool and something you don’t see everywhere you go. It reminded me of seeing the bank of pressed penny machines at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Items you can purchase include bathroom essentials such as deodorant, razors, and shaving cream, along with products such as Dramamine, Benadryl, feminine hygiene products, and more.
The kiddos will be drawn to the machine which features items such as Pokémon cards, small toys, and card games such as Uno.
I decided to check out how the process of these machines worked, so I looked for something that I forgot to pack, which was a nail clipper. Lucky for me there was a small “deluxe manicure set” that included a small pair of clippers.
There is a touch screen to the right of each vending machine which you can scroll through to see a picture, description, and price for each item inside the machine. This screen was easy to navigate.
Clicking on an individual item brings up an enlarged picture of the item along with more details.
I tapped the “add to cart” button and then proceeded to my cart. The screen asks you to tap your SeaPass card onto the screen, but I used my Wow Band for payment.
Now came the fun part. A lit up bar rose from the bottom of the machine and stopped at the row the manicure set was on.
A manicure set was then ejected out onto the bar.
Purchase complete! I actually thought the prices were relatively reasonable for the items in the various machines.
The screen also shows when your item has been “vended.” All in all, I thought this was a great addition to the ship and something that not only should be included on all cruise ships but probably at all Disney and Universal hotels as well. Very guest friendly and something that can be available 24 hours a day.
# 3 – The Mason Jar Late Night Eats
While the Wonder of the Seas has an unbelievable amount of options to eat during the day and into the evening, once 9 p.m. hits, those options become drastically limited. Sorrento’s Pizza serves slices until 3 a.m., there are some grab-and-go snacks at the Café Promenade, room service meals, and that’s about it. Except at The Mason Jar, where they offer a special Late Night Eats menu from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Mason Jar is a highly acclaimed first-of-its-kind dining venue on the Wonder of the Seas and it lived up to its hype for both our dinner and brunch experiences (you can read my thoughts on the restaurant by CLICKING HERE.)
The Mason Jar is located on Deck 15, directly next to the Windjammer. The Late Night Eats menu is more of a “greatest hits” version of the regular dinner menu, and includes popular items such as smoky deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, and the popular crispy chicken sandwich. Food at The Mason Jar is not included in the price of your cruise and is purchased a la carte. Everything on the Late Nights Eat venue ranged between $3 – $9. In my mind it was worth every penny. The main dining area of The Mason Jar is closed, but there is plenty of seating and tables around The Mason Jar bar. The full bar service is open during the late night hours, so you can order any drink from the regular Mason Jar menu, including their popular PB&J Old Fashioned.
Here are a couple of drinks we got from the wonder Mason Jar bar menu during a brunch experience later in the week. These drinks can be ordered late night as well.
The Mason Jar uses broken up pieces of its crispy chicken skin on several dishes on the menu, but on the Late Night Eats menu you can order an appetizer sized version of just the chicken skin which you can dip into their signature remoulade sauce. The large chicken skin pieces are served in a Mason Jar branded paper bag, which was appreciated by this theme park blogger.
The crispy chicken sandwich is worth going out of your way to try. The fries were also on point. Zero notes.
This was definitely a top-notch chicken sandwich and is right up there with my favorites from Disney and Universal including the sandwiches at Art Smith’s Homecomin’, Bar Rivera, and – don’t laugh – Cletus’ Chicken Shack in Fast Food Blvd.
While we didn’t order the smoky deviled eggs from the Late Night Eats menu, we did get them during a brunch meal and they were fantastic.
Only one dessert option is available on the Late Night Eats menu, and it is the Gone Bananas. This option was good, but the Fried Oreos that are part of the dinner menu are the best I have ever had anywhere (and trust me, I’ve had my fair share of fried Oreos. You can take that to the bank.)
# 2 – El Loco Fresh Breakfast
Staying with food…don’t get me wrong, I love the Windjammer buffet on every Royal Caribbean ship. Dare I say it is pound-for-pound my favorite venue to eat at on any cruise line (and we’ve had some amazing dining experiences on both Royal and the Disney Cruise Line.) THAT SAID, there are times that the Windjammer can be a little hectic, and that’s being generous. Sometimes I just want a peaceful meal. We found out during our cruise from some people we talked to that El Loco Fresh on Deck 16 served breakfast in the morning and was a more relaxing experience than the Windjammer. I loved El Loco Fresh during the afternoons with their chips & salsa, quesadillas, and burritos, but never would have thought of going there in the morning. We realized right away that we would be returning to El Loco Fresh every morning of our sailing. It was fantastic.
While El Loco Fresh didn’t have the overwhelmingly large variety of options that the Windjammer has, it had all the breakfast essentials including eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, and hash browns. More importantly, it was *never* crowded. It was easy to get your breakfast, easy to find seating, and you got to eat in an open-air setting on Deck 16. This was a classic Michael Scott win-win-win scenario.
There’s even plenty of fruit for you
weirdoes health conscious people that are into that type of thing on vacation.
# 1 – Anchors Aweigh Parade
The Anchors Aweigh Parade takes place on The Promenade (Deck 5.) For our sailing, the parade took place on two separate days, Day 3 and Day 7. One of the biggest mistakes I almost made on our Wonder of the Seas sailing was skipping this parade. Years ago, on a different ship, we had seen a parade on The Promenade and – to be frank – it wasn’t that impressive. Our kiddos love the parades at Disney and Universal, but I assumed the constraints of being at sea would limit Royal Caribbean from putting together a parade worth going out of your way to watch. Boy was I wrong.
On Day 7, after we returned to the ship from a day spent at Perfect Day at CocoCay, my family and I went straight to Deck 6 to the Picture This location. Here is where you can look at all the photos that you have taken during the course of your sailing. While we were looking at the various photos, the Anchors Aweigh Parade was starting below us on Deck 5. You can see the Anchors Aweigh Parade from Picture This on Deck 6, and there is also a staircase leading straight down from Picture This to the Promenade. I told my family they could go enjoy the parade while I picked out what photos would be printed from our photo package.
The Anchors Aweigh Parade lasts almost 20 minutes long and is a complete blast! A true spectacle, the parade is a massive production and involves Royal Caribbean personnel from the Sports Deck, the Royal Theater cast, the Ice skating cast, the Aqua Theater cast, live musicians, and more. It is absolutely crazy how many people are involved in this parade and the elaborate costumes many of them are wearing because the story of the parade involves pirates, Vikings, and pretty much any sea-based character archetype you can think of.
There were large floats in the parade along with a whole bunch of smaller pieces that were all intricately detailed. Royal Caribbean did not need to go this hard but I am so glad they did, it was amazing.
Several characters during the parade were on themed Segways that looked fantastic.
Is this “yellow submarine” super charming or what?!
The Anchors Aweigh parade was a total home run from Royal Caribbean and something we will be searching out on our next cruise.
Honorable Mention – Poolside Casitas
Another “new to us” item for this cruise was the poolside casitas. There were 10 total casitas, all located on Deck 16, each with a view of the pools located on Deck 15 below. For our sailing, the regular price of the casitas were $179.95 for sea days, and $139.95 for port days. Like most items on the cruise planner you can purchase before sailing, there were occasional sale prices as well. This was a cruise we booked in 2019 for an April 2020 sailing, but – like the theme parks – the cruising industry shut down for Covid and that sailing was cancelled. When we were finally able to align all our ducks in a row and rebook the cruise, we wanted to go all out, so we splurged on a casita for two of our cruise’s 3 sea days.
Like the cabanas at Universal’s Volcano Bay, while you can purchase your casita for a day of your sailing, you can’t choose what casita you want. That can only be done once you are on the ship. We received a note in our stateroom that we were to proceed to the Lime & Coconut bar on Deck 16 to check into our casita. There we would find out which one we were assigned to. On embarkation day, I scouted the pool deck and checked out the 10 casitas, and tried to figure out which one would work best for us. Four of the casitas are located near the kid’s play area of the pool deck along with the giant slides and a pool, Four others are located at the other end of the ship next to the two other main pools, and the remaining two casitas are pretty much in the middle.
After figuring out what I thought would be the ideal casita location for us, I walked over to Lime & Coconut bar and asked if I could reserve a particular casita for our first sea day. Like all the crew members throughout our sailing, the Lime & Coconut employee was awesome to work with, and marked my name down next to the casita I requested and said to come see him in the morning to confirm. The next morning was our first sea day of the cruise, along with our first casita reservation, and we were able to get the casita I requested. All that said, there’s really not *that* much difference between the 10 casitas and we would have been fine with any of them as they each have their pros and cons.
Each casita is reserved for the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The casita comes with a double-padded lounger, pool towels, and an ice chest that you can use as a table. We ended up moving our lounger to one side of the casita and brought in a pool chair for extra seating. There is a charging outlet in the cabana for any of your electronic devices.
The casita worked out great for us as a home base and a place to get out of the sun if it became too hot.
The top of this table lifted up to reveal an ice bucket inside. The table portion was handy when I would go to grab food from the Windjammer, El Loco Fresh, and Sorrento’s Pizza to bring back to the group.
The ice bucket had four chilled water bottles in it when we checked in, and we used it to store drinks from our various drink packages. Two complimentary Welcome Drinks were included, but because each adult in the casita had a premium drink package, we didn’t really get to take advantage of that amenity. Can not overstate how great the bar service was, as for both of our casita days they were consistently coming by to see if we needed anything. While I was hoping the casita experience was going to be worth the money, I had no idea it would be one of the best purchases we made for the entire cruise. For us, the casita experience was straight up E-Ticket.
As a connoisseur of poolside cabanas, I wanted to see how Royal Caribbean’s casita would compare in the area most important to a theme park blogger: CLOUT. Let’s take a look at the signage on my previous cabana purchases, such as this one below at Volcano Bay. As you can see, my last name of Burgan is misspelled as Burgen. It’s hard to play the “do you know who I am?!” card when clearly, they don’t.
So let’s check out the next time I reserved a cabana at Volcano Bay. Everyone makes a mistake once, and it couldn’t happen again, right?
Now let’s head over to Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel, and check out my poolside cabana there.
At this point I was starting to smell a conspiracy, or at the very least my life was replicating a scene from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 when Groot kept repeating the same mistake.
I have great news to report. Royal Caribbean did not, I repeat DID NOT misspell my last name on our casita. Nay Nay. They did one better…
…THEY MISSPELLED MY FIRST NAME!!!
*Double Secret Honorable Mention – Bathroom Night Light
We can’t leave without a final “little touch” that was something I never would have thought of asking for, but was glad that Royal Caribbean built it into the ship. At night, inside the bathroom, there is a small light that is on to help people navigate their way while the rest of the room can be pitch dark.
So there you have it: Hidden Treasures of Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.