First Disney Cruise: Last Day – Evaluation

Just a footnote to Day Five: Because it was our 25th Wedding Anniversary, we were supposed to get a special anniversary dessert with our last dinner sitting, but we skipped it to enjoy more activities. We phoned and asked if we could have the desserts sent to our room so we could enjoy them later, but were told that they would only send them to the room during our rotation time. If we weren’t going to be in our stateroom during that time, then we couldn’t have the desserts at all. Happy anniversary to us!

Fortunately, we met one of the couples who sat at our table and they said they would get the desserts for us and we could swing by their cabin later and pick them up. Disney Cruisers are the best! The desserts looked like this, and were very tasty:

    

We had some more anniversary surprises, such as this nice one waiting for us when we first arrived in the room on Day One. It was from some good friends of ours:

We got sick before we could enjoy it, so have brought it home and are saving it for a special occasion. Disney also helped us commemorate the event by giving us a nice card and a bottle of wine on our anniversary day, and our Host left us this in our stateroom:

So onward with Day Six, or the last day of our vacation.

We woke up in the morning at 6:30 am and finished packing. By 8:30 am we were disembarking in Miami. This process went very well. Port of Miami has a very efficient customs service. We had hoped for a beautiful full day of sun and fun, but again, our little black rain cloud had found us! No blue sky for our last day of vacation.

Goodbye Disney Wonder!

We boarded our shuttle to the Hertz rental car facility and arrived just after 9 am, but due to a reservation mix up (not Hertz’s fault) we didn’t get on the road until almost noon! So most of our day in Miami was lost. Catching a break just isn’t our thing.

By now we are starving as we haven’t eaten all day, so we stopped at a Wendy’s and had some lunch. From there we hit a couple of Disney Stores and then drove to the house of Karen’s parents to repack and get a final night’s rest before flying home. The next day we drove to Orlando and boarded our JetBlue flight for Buffalo. We picked up our own car at the park and fly service and had lunch at Bob Evans. We hit two Malls on the way home and picked up some last Disney souvenirs, from a Hallmark store no less, and so ended the adventure.

F I N A L     E V A L U A T I O N

You might think that I would totally trash the Disney Cruise Line after such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad vacation. Make no mistake, we are planning to contact the DCL to complain and see if we can’t get some compensation. But in life one has to look at the pros and cons. So let’s do that now:

PROS

  1. Time away from our regular routine
  2. New experience, first time cruising aboard the beautiful Disney Wonder
  3. Met some really great people
  4. Enjoyed some excellent service from Crew Members
  5. Saw some amazing shows and performers
  6. Picked up some awesome souvenirs
  7. Were compensated slightly for the bad experience (thanks to Vacation Insurance)

CONS

  1. Got an onboard illness and were quarantined, losing almost 3 days of our cruise (out of 5)
  2. The food was substandard, an almost non-existent buffet, and few gluten-free options
  3. Some truly unhelpful experiences with Customer Service
  4. Missed one port of call and got rained out at the other, bad weather over all
  5. Missed the Pirate deck party, fireworks, and Toy Story the Musical, and 2 movies

We would give the cruise as it turned out only a 4 out of 10, which is very low considering the amount a Disney cruise costs! But in fairness, Disney can’t control the weather and getting sick is just the chance you take. But being as the service was generally poor in response to our troubles, and the food was generally average, and there was almost a total lack of variety in gluten-free options, we can’t give a better mark. However, if everything had gone well we still would only give the Disney Wonder a 7 out of 10.

Cruising is not for everyone!

We arrived home to a DCL commercial on the TV with the tagline: “When it comes to pleasing everyone, the difference is Disney!” I don’t believe the ‘difference’ they are talking about is what we experienced!

We’ve all heard that if you’ve never cruised before, you should start with a 5-day excursion to see if it’s for you. We are definitely glad we did this! For us, a middle-aged couple with no children, there just wasn’t enough to do on board with the majority of the time being at sea. A Walt Disney World vacation with something happening every minute is more our speed, whereas a cruise is more about slowing down and relaxing. Maybe even coming to a complete stop at times! Families would definitely enjoy the experience more.

And in fairness, I doubt anyone would have as many problems as we did! But even if all had gone right, the value just isn’t there when you cost out the fun-to-dollar ratio. And one last time, I just have to mention how terribly disappointed we were in the food. The Beach Blanket Buffet was actually closed quite often, and after everyone telling us you could eat 24/7 on a Disney Cruise, I found this to be unacceptable! And as I saw many other guests throwing up their hands in frustration outside a closed eating location I know I’m not alone in this. The same DCL commercial mentioned earlier touted a ‘Royal Banquet’ enjoyed while cruising. We never found where this was served on our cruise!

Would we cruise again? NO! Should you? I think every Disney fan should keep it on their Disney Bucket List… but… don’t go into it with high expectations. It appears that the Disney Cruise Line may not always be able to live up to them.

I’ve always believed that good customer service isn’t always doing everything perfect up front, but more about how you fix a problem afterwards. Thanks to our having purchased Vacation Insurance, we were able to get a small financial refund and a DCL Embroidered Pillow for our troubles.

At first, Disney sent us a 10% discount coupon for our next Disney Cruise that had to be redeemed in a relatively short period of time. We turned that back over to them for the above item.

And that concludes our First Disney Cruise anniversary vacation. Do you think I’ve been fair in my evaluation? If you’ve cruised with Disney, how was your experience?

First Disney Cruise: Day Five – Castaway Cay

So Day Five begins with the breakfast buffet at Beach Blanket Buffet:

As usual, Karen couldn’t eat here because of her gluten allergy, so she had to go scouting for a piece of fruit. I had a Mickey Waffle and french toast (both of which were rock hard), sausage and eggs (which were very good), and coffee (not so good. What is it with Disney and bad coffee?)

Well, the little black rain cloud did indeed find us, and grey skies quickly turned to rain. But before the sprinkles hit, I was able to take a few pictures from the boat:

Our excursion wasn’t until 12:45 pm, so we decided to brave the elements and do a walking tour of the Island. We walked, we saw, we visited the gift shop ($36.95 for a T-shirt???) and we took some more photographs:

    

    

Even though the weather was less than ideal, they still had the characters out and posing for pictures with the guests. If you ever want to find your way around Castaway Cay, just use this handy map:

The weather turned for the worse so we decided to head back to the ship, as did many other guests. So by 10:30 am we were back on board and looking for something to do. A quick nibble and it was back on shore for our glass-bottom boat excursion. At 12:30 pm we were told it may be canceled due to rain, but at 1 pm it was “All Aboard!” and away we went. In the rain:

Our guide did her best but only two types of fish out of the promised 20 possibles showed up and the view of the sea bed was minimal due to the weather conditions. But I did get one great shot of these colorful Snappers:

And I also got some cool shots of the Disney Wonder:

On the way back in, I got this next shot of Castaway Cay:

Keeping in mind this was the off-season, the tour was still pretty underwhelming, and later we learned that the cost had been refunded, which was a nice gesture as compensation for what must have been a disappointing day on the Cay for everyone.

Being as this was our last day on the ship, we decided not to waste over 2 hours on our dining rotation, so instead tried to find as many activities and shows to enjoy as possible. The first was at 5:45 pm in the Buena Vista Theatre for a viewing of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Vacation… er, Day! This was a hilarious movie and a real treat to see in this onboard theatre!

Next we thought we’d do the last of our shopping on board, but we were so discouraged by our trip, we just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for Disney Wonder/Disney Cruise Line merchandise! So we browsed until it was time to enter the Walt Disney Theatre for the last of the broadway-style shows Dreams An Enchanted Classic. This was the best of the shows we saw and I’ll gladly give it a 10 out of 10.

The show ended at 9:30 pm and we made our way to the main lobby to see the concluding character parade called ‘Til We Meet Again at 10 pm. After this we made our way back to our stateroom to pack for the next day’s disembarkment. On the way, I caught a Princess on the move:

The vacation was thankfully close to ending. In the next, and last, post I’ll share one more post in this series summing up and giving our overall view of the Disney Wonder and cruising in general. You may be surprised by what you read!

See ya real soon!

First Disney Cruise: Day Four – Touring the Ship

Welcome back! We’re still in quarantine at this point, alternating between sleeping and trying to watch some TV. Some basic room service breaks up the monotony but we are obviously looking forward to 5 pm and the end of our exile! This was a sea day:

We received several calls from different departments checking in on us, which was nice. But as the quarantine came to an end at 5 pm, we noticed that we had forgotten to send out our soiled laundry, which is done for you free if due to your illness. However, Customer Service informed us that because we waited to make the call minutes after our quarantine ended, we were no longer eligible for this service. After Karen discussed the matter for a while they did offer to give us free detergent. After I called Customer Service back and had my own discussion with them, they sent a Crew Member to collect our laundry, which was then done for us.

So around 5:30 pm we headed back out into the general population. We did a little browsing in the shops before attending the 6:00 pm showing of The Golden Mickeys. Again, no photography was allowed, but I can say it was a good show, which I would give an 8 out of 10. At 7:30 pm we ended up at WaveBands for the So You Think You Know Your Family show. This is where parents and their children have to match each other’s guesses to a series of questions. It was mildly amusing and a nice, relaxing diversion. Next, it was more time to explore the ship:

At 10:15 pm it was back to WaveBands for the physical comedy of Max Winfrey. This bar has a rather small stage, so imagine a man on a 6′ high unicycle, juggling machetes thrown to him by a woman picked from the audience. Yup. This guy was crazy! But again, as I mentioned in Day One, I’d give this guy a 10 out of 10 any day! By far he was among the best entertainment on the ship.

Day Five was our 25th Wedding Anniversary, which we were looking forward to spending on Disney’s private Island, Castaway Cay. So we shuffled off to our stateroom, which by now, we were on intimate terms with!

Were we due to catch a break and have at least one great day on this cruise? After all, we were feeling much better and had an excursion planned. Well, if we didn’t have a little black rain cloud following us around so far on this vacation, it would find us on Castaway Cay! Be sure to join us tomorrow for Day Five of our First Disney Cruise.

First Disney Cruise: Day Three – Quarantine

So as mentioned, we have been getting up close and personal with the cabin commode since 10:30 pm of Day Two. It’s now around 7 am and the ship has arrived at the Cayman Islands.

We had an excursion booked but were obviously not going to be able to enjoy it. The picture above is taken from our room TV and shows the Cayman Islands as seen by the Bowcam. This is as close as we got both to the Caymans and a blue sky.

We needed to cancel our excursion so we phoned Customer Service to ask them to take care of it, but they told us to simply go down to Port Adventures and tell them ourselves. This was not going to happen, for as you can imagine, we still didn’t feel so well and looked even worse. After some discussion, they agreed to take care of it for us.

We slept on and off until 3 pm and got up and showered and prepared to visit Medical Services when they opened at 4:30 pm. At this point, Karen still wasn’t feeling one hundred percent, but I felt better and so ordered some room service. I had toast and cereal with some juice. This turned out to be a mistake, as you will see soon.

We arrived at Medical Services and were treated extremely well. The Doctor and the Nurses were top flight and showed a very understanding and caring attitude! It was determined that I had a 102.8 degree temperature after which I deposited my toast, cereal, and juice in a convenient bucket provided. So for me, this was not sea sickness, but I then became the fifth case of Acute Gastroenteritis and thus subject to a 24-hour quarantine, starting from the last time I donated food, which was now listed as 5 pm of Day Three. So now I would have to spend all of my time in my stateroom until 5 pm of Day Four. Karen was diagnosed with the same thing, and so we enjoyed the quarantine together.

At least someone seems to be enjoying the cruise!

So now we are on a bland diet, which we couldn’t keep down at this point anyway, and shots for both of us with an oral medication chaser. We slumped back to our stateroom to begin our quarantine. This meant that we would miss Toy Story the Musical which was the show I was looking forward to the most! We could have watched it on TV but the medication made us sleepy and we ended up passing out until about 11 pm.

And so ends Day Three.

Join us in our next post for the story of Day Four, or as I like to call it: Making the Best of a Half-day Left at Sea Day. Catchy, isn’t it? Although, I doubt Disney will be optioning the rights anytime soon.

First Disney Cruise: Day Two – Sailing

Day Two started with breakfast at Triton’s:

Being as Karen has a gluten allergy, our server on night one was supposed to take her order for the following day to speed up serving times and make sure her dietary needs were met. We were unaware that this was to be done and so when it was not done we didn’t think to ask. And so we had to go back to the restaurant, and waste more of our vacation time, to place Day Two’s menu orders.

First was breakfast. Being as Karen can’t eat at the Beach Blanket Buffet due to cross-contamination, her only breakfast option is to have a sitdown meal at Triton’s. So we arrived at 9am. Karen had gluten-free waffles, eggs, and bacon which she enjoyed immensely! I had Eggs Benedict which was also amazing. But again, this sitting used up a full hour and a half leaving us just one and half hours until our noon sitting for lunch!

And this is where it all went south again. Karen was hoping to attend the Port and Shopping Talk in the Buena Vista Theatre at 1 pm, but by 12:45, her food had still not come. After mentioning our time constraint to the server, he brought Karen’s meal and mine came as well. Karen ordered a hamburger with a gluten-free bun and fries. When it came there was no patty in the bun. Now it was 12:50 pm and she had to leave. The head waiter came and had the patty delivered, the whole meal packed up, and assigned an escort to carry it for her to the Buena Vista Theatre where she had to eat it while trying to listen to the presentation. Not cool!

    

On-deck views, no blue sky in sight

Determined to soldier on, we met at 2pm in the Walt Disney Theatre for a viewing of Big Hero 6 and then it was off to the Art of The Theme Show Tour which started just outside the Palo restaurant on deck 9.

    

This was a great one-hour walking tour of the ship with a guide who pointed out the theming details throughout the ship. There were no backstage portions, which was disappointing, but understandable. I’ll steer the ship next time!

Points from the tour:

  • All bathroom signs throughout the ship feature gentlemen and ladies, not the usual men and women, as above. This is because the ship is supposed to be a grand sailing vessel from the turn of the last century, like the Queen Mary, when the elite traveled by sea in elegance. The sign above has the standard men and women symbols because it is along the Route 66 themed ‘road’.
  • Did you know that most cruise ships have 10 different patterns of carpet? The Disney Wonder has over 100!
  • The Disney Magic was the first Disney Cruise Ship and was built in two halves and then welded together. It has a weld running from top to bottom amidships. The Disney Wonder was built in one piece, but has a fake weld in the same spot as the Magic, to make them the perfect pair!

If you want to know more… take the tour!

    

Just to prove we were on the cruise!

We had a little over an hour to kill before the next show we wanted to see, so took some time to tour the ship and take more photographs, like the ones above. But 6:15 pm rolled around and it was time to revisit the Walt Disney Theatre for the comedy and ventriloquism of Michael Harrison. He got off to a rocky start but recovered with his closing act of using a real boy as a dummy. This… was… hilarious! But I’d still have to give him a 6 out of 10.

Once again we headed to our 8:15 pm dining rotation, this time at Parrot Cay:

The decor here was very Caribbean and nice, but again, the food underwhelmed both of us. Understandably, by now you’re probably thinking the problem is with us, but the others at our table weren’t enjoying their meals either. As frequent Disney cruisers, they said our waiter was one of the worst they’d had, and the tastes of most of the appetizers and main courses weren’t as good as on other cruises.

But this is where our trip truly became a nightmare. We both began to feel what we assumed was sea sickness. The boat was rocking more than usual, and our table was against the outside wall of the ship, so we naturally felt the up and down rolling of the ship quite a lot. Before we could even finish our meals, we had to leave. We felt so bad that we thought we should visit the medical facilities on Deck One. We asked a Crew Member how to get there and he gave us directions. We got lost and asked two more Crew Members, and eventually arrived at our destination… only to find it closed. A fact all three Crew Members we asked for directions failed to tell us.

By this time we are very close to decorating the walls in a very inappropriate way and are hurrying to reach our cabin five decks up. We had to stop for a bathroom break en route and I ultimately arrived at our stateroom first, just in time to deposit everything I’d eaten and drank in the last two days in every available receptacle. Burning up now, I changed into my jammies and hit the bed to die. Karen arrived 20 minutes later and repeated my performance. From 10:30 pm until 9 am the next morning, we took turns keeping the neighbors up every half hour on the half hour.

So we missed the Pirates in the Caribbean Party! and the fireworks. But that wasn’t all we were going to miss as the next day was only going to get worse!

Descend into Vacation Hell with us in our next post as we bring you Day Three of our First Disney Cruise: Quarantine!