The second ship in Disney Cruise Line’s fleet, Disney Wonder was launched a year after Disney Magic, and together they elevated the idea of what it meant to cruise with kids. For many passengers, the happiest surprise is that Disney really is, as they say, in the details. These ships are not floating theme parks but rather elegant throwbacks to the golden age of cruising. While the prices are higher than other family cruises, the service and food quality are higher, too.
This particular ship was refurbished in 2016 and received such a face-lift that it looks brand new: The Oceaneer kids club (for ages 3 to 12) has been especially transformed. It now has all-new areas dedicated to Marvel Super Hero Academy, "Frozen," "Disney Junior" (including Sofia the First), and "Toy Story" — in addition to craft rooms and other play areas. Each room has displays for interactive games, and the characters themselves visit on a regular basis. (Captain America, for example, teaches the kids about the heroic act of sticking up for others who need help.)
The nursery also got a refresh, the tween club moved to an entirely new space, and a new splash park for little ones (called Dory's Reef) was added.
A new restaurant was also installed on the ship: Tiana's Place is an ode to New Orleans, with jazz, the gorgeous Disney princess herself, beaded necklaces for everyone, and menu items such as fish with jambalaya, a bananas Foster sundae, and beignets. Kids march around the room behind Tiana, dancing under parasols to the live band.
In addition, the "Toy Story" stage show was replaced by a new production of "Frozen," complete with snow that floats down from the ceiling of the theater.
And grown-ups benefited from the dry dock time, too. The adults-only area, now known as After Hours, has been redone with the addition of Crown & Fin Pub, a British-style bar with TV screens that air key football games during the season to a full house.
What We Love
Family-Friendly Staterooms: Larger than the cruise industry standard, Disney cabins feature pull-down beds for kids, oh-so-handy split bathrooms, ample storage, and (for families of five) Murphy beds. Portable cribs and Diaper Genie disposal systems are available upon request at no extra charge.
Rotational Dining: Your family dines at a new venue every night (the better to sample all three main restaurants), and your waitstaff follows you. The result is service that’s personalized but never stiff. When you arrive on the second night, your kids’ favorite drinks will be waiting on the table. Don't skip the night in Animator's Palate: Each passenger gets to create a drawing of a character, which is then turned into a cartoon before the end of the meal.
Palo Restaurant: At just $30 a person, this adults-only Italian restaurant feels like a big upgrade. Meals start with antipasti plated at your table, and include fresh handmade pastas and gorgeous soufflés for dessert.
Imaginative Cocktail Presentations: Our advice? If you like cocktails, don't disembark without trying the Alexander in the Cadillac Lounge. It looks unassuming on the menu, but the gorgeous tray includes a perfume atomizer of cognac. We hear one of the martinis comes in a glass that actually breaks apart.
Best Known For
Standout Kids Clubs: Amazing play spaces and a terrific array of age-specific activities for everyone from babies to teens keep kids busy with science experiments, pizza parties, cooking classes, video game tournaments, and fun with Marvel. A highlight for the little girls on board: the "Frozen"-themed coronation ceremony. (Just don't ask to take pictures: Aside from open houses, there are no adults allowed in these spaces.
Memorable Deck Parties: From the first night’s Sail-Away Celebration to Pirate Night and fireworks at sea, deck parties are a high-spirited blend of music, dancing, and Disney characters.
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Who It's Best For
Kids and Their Parents: No cruise line caters to — or understands — families better than Disney. The adults-only pool, for example, is just a few feet from the chaos of the main pool deck, but it feels worlds away. (It also is home to Cove Cafe, a truly special coffee bar with baristas who take the time to make proper foam, as well as lovely latte art.)
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It Isn't Cheap: Disney is a premium cruise line, and prices reflect that. To be fair, the line also delivers great value, as prices are more inclusive here than on some other lines.
Pools Are Charming But Crowded: The Mickey and Goofy pools are undeniably adorable but small, and the top deck gets packed on sea days during sunny Mexico, Bahamas, and Caribbean sailings.
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Boston Globe.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.
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Disney Wonder at a Glance
- Line: Disney Cruise Line
- Class: Magic
- Number of Passengers: 2700
- Ship Size: Large
- Launch Date: 1999
- Refurbish Date: 2016