I’ve never been much for cruises—the idea of being shipped out to sea with thousands of strangers has always seemed somehow less than appealing—but I’ve always been curious. So, while here in Florida, researching a future travel feature on Walt Disney World, I made the quick trip east to Port Canaveral, where the Disney folks were kind enough to set up a tour of the Disney Wonder for us. The Wonder is one of two ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet (which will soon double with the addition of two new, much larger ships—the Dream and the Fantasy, set to debut in 2011 and 2012, respectively) and, I must say, the visit went a long way toward changing my perspective on cruising.
While some might imagine a Disney cruise to be a rather in-your-face, over-the top kind of experience, the reality is actually quite different. The Wonder seeks to recapture the elegance of the golden age of ocean liners, while subtly weaving in whimsical Disney touches. A good example: the exterior of the ship, with its two large funnels (the front one is just for show) and big black hull are classic ocean liner, but the colours—black, red and yellow—are those of Mickey Mouse (his famous ears also adorn the funnels).
Inside, amongst the art nouveau décor, fun and fantasy meet family-friendly practicality. State rooms are 25 percent larger. An entire deck is devoted to kids clubs (including a very cool teen lounge styled to resemble a New York loft). Play yards and strollers are available on board, and a partner company allows you to preorder all your baby stuff and have it delivered to your room. A huge theatre runs award-winning, Broadway-style shows with Disney themes. The three pools accommodate toddlers, families and adults-only. And there’s plenty for Mom and Dad to do when the little ones are at the kids club or busy with other onboard activities, from the full service spa to the dance club, piano lounge and sports bars in Route 66, a part of the ship reserved for the 18 plus crowd. I’m already contemplating a fall departure.