Heather recently returned from a family cruise through the Bahamas aboard the Disney Wonder, so we compared notes.
When the Disney Wonder was recently docked in San Francisco, a handful of bloggers were invited to tour the ship. For the most part, it was empty of passengers as they were all off enjoying their day in The City By The Bay, so I got to take in most of the ship's features in peace and quiet.
I expected a ship that was slathered in Mouse-ears and logos, with a healthy dash of Princesses. I was surprised to find that the Disney branding was as quiet as it was. Much space has been dedicated to adults-only areas, including a restaurant, a wireless cafe, an amazing spa with massage and beauty treatments, and a pool with two adjacent hot tubs.
The decor is sort of art deco, or maybe art nouveau — something that is designed to hold appeal longer than a modern design. I was completely wowed by the ship's two theaters, one that can hold two hundred guests and one that has nearly one thousand chairs. (If a Disney movie hits the theaters while you are on board, you'll be able to see it here.)
Plus, you can watch (and you will watch!) Disney entertainment while you're in the swimming pool.
Free unlimited babysitting? Yes, Virginia. In addition to a nursery for kids under three, a kids club, a tween club, and a teen club, activities, characters, and shows are offered around the clock. Every night, should parents want to dine later, or, um, have the room to themselves, a Parent's Night Out flavor of childcare is available. Kids hunker down in sleeping bags and watch a movie in a group setting. There is no available in-room babysitting.
Families dine in a different restaurant every night with a waitstaff team who travels with them, having learned their names and food preferences. One restaurant onboard is entirely black and white and changes to color over the course of the dinner hour.
I was impressed with the Kid's Club activity I observed in which a staff member played the part of a nutty professor and led the children through making a potion that turned into flubber, a silly putty-type substance they could play with.
The camp counselor-type folks who staffed the Kid's Clubs hailed from all over the world and were impressively engaged with the kids. However, the stations for screen-based games around the Club were numerous. A video game-loving child would have no complaints.
A week-long cruise from Vancouver to Alaska (oh yes, the point is that we're travelling!) is in the neigborhood of $2000 per person which includes lodging, all meals, kid's club access, and loads of character experiences. A five-night cruise to Baja along from San Diego is about half that. More details about routes and departure points are available at the Disney Cruise website.
Would I go? Um, who's paying?
For a multi-generational family vacation, I think a cruise can solve some problems, such as the different paces with which family members want to approach their day. Tweens and teens can have a lot of freedom; elderly parents don't have to pack and un-pack to change destinations; folks who fear local cuisines will feel safe. It's not the kind of thing my immediate family needs right now, but if my grandfather wants to take us all on this ship, I'll quickly pack up my family and climb aboard.
Photo of “nutty professor” courtesy of Kimberly Krauer, who toured the Disney Wonder on behalf of Silicon Valley Mamas. All others by me, Whitney Moss.
Disclosure: I did not receive payment to review this experience, but I was treated to lunch on the ship. Heather's trip was discounted by taking part in a conference.