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narsibvl 12-15-2011 08:53 PM

“Viva Mexico” - Suite life on the Wonder – A trip report (12/4 – 12/11 2011)

Introductions and the beginning
Hilton Inn LAX at El Sugundo
Day 1 - Of Upgrades, waits and Embarkation
Day 1 continued - Settling down
Day 2 – Captain’s gala
Day 3 – “The day we were charged for Gluttony”
Day 4 Las Caletas – Castaway cay of the west (Almost)
Day 5 - Beaches, Dolphins and pirates to boot
Day 6 -Twin cities of Cabo and San Jose
Day 7 - Day of indulgence for the Adults

Introductions and the beginning

Before I begin, let me confess to a couple of things.

Our first trip report remains incomplete, was hardly able to add two installments and life got in the way (Yes that’s the excuse I am sticking to). I do promise, I will finish this report (fingers crossed)

I have another confession to make… I have no idea what the title means, just that it sounded cool to say it. So, if I have managed to offend anybody over it or for that matter let me extend that disclaimer to the rest of the report, please do not take it to your heart. It was not intentional.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin..First the roll call
Mr. Goofy, yours truly, a.k.a “Moi”,
Mrs. Goofy a.k.a. “DW”,
Adorable a.k.a. “DS6” and
Huggable a.k.a “DD3”.

The roots of this trip began a year back. December 23rd 2010 was the day we bid adieu to “our” ship, “The Wonder”, after a blissful 4 day trip to Bahamas. Pictures from our previous trip…

As the view of the ship from our bus disappeared we realized we haven’t had enough of it yet. The foundation of this trip was laid then and there. We have been looking at sailings, ports, cruise lines. Finally we zeroed in on the January sailing to MR on “our” ship, cost wise and logistics, it made sense. Notice how we gave fair chance to the other ships / cruise lines before picking the one ship we wanted to sail ;). I had exhausted my vacation days for this year and so I took the next possible option, January 2012. Paid the advance and started doing the necessary research, then august happened….
Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you all the time, what you make of those curves is strictly dependent on you. Got busy job hunting and managed to land another one within a fortnight of searching. A job change meant my vacation got erased and I start afresh. Nothing dare come between me and my vacation :). I took this opportunity to move our dates to December; this also meant I could use the Kids Sail free program. So emails flew left and right to our TA’s and before long we were booked on the December 4th sailing and had saved some money in the process (wait, till you hear the plans I have for that saved money).

Being the obsessive planner of vacations that I am, I started pouring over each and every detail. Thanks to the information from this board, there was always something new to learn. We had booked on Categroy 5C, nothing less than a balcony would do for us. I have heard people say they hardly ever used their rooms, not us. Ours is family which makes very good use of the stateroom.
As about our other requests, we wanted the early dinning. The reason for that, see below … :)

We had asked for the dinning rotation “PTTAPTA”. I figured, if the events followed the set schedule then this rotation would put us in Tritons for Formal and semi formal dinner and in Parrot key for the pirate night. This was suggested by yet another disboard member. We had also requested for a separate table. As days passed by, I found myself spending more and more time on disboards, gathering as much information as I could. Full payment day came, and payment was duly made. This also meant I could now make reservations. These was our itinerary

Palo Dinner – Third night.
Las Caletas – Puerto Vallarta day.
Dolphin Encounter – Cabo first day.
Coastal highlights tour – Cabo second day.
Palo brunch – last sea day.

This was our first palo outing too. Since this was our second trip on the wonder, we decided to do things that we didn’t have time for the last time around. Being a weeklong trip, we figured it would be more relaxing (Boy were we wrong!! :)) . Yet another action item in our list was to deck up for the formal and semi formal night. We are not used to dressing up for dinner, so figured it would be novel to try this out in this trip. This also meant, we had to start digging deep in our wardrobes for the suites and dresses. Got dinner dresses for DD3 and suites for DS6, thanks to black Friday.

The idea of door magnets was appealing, but…sounded too complicated for me. Yes, I am a bit challenged when it comes to anything related to arts and crafts. I ended up ordering a customized door magnet from ebay. Just for kicks, I thought I would try and see how good my two left hands were at making them. I was a bit surprised to see how easy they were to make, once you get a hang of things. I got some of the designs from our disboard contributors. Sincere thanks goes out each and every one of them. :worship:

Then came the transportation and hotel arrangements. We had decided that we were going to fly in on the Friday, spend a day in LA before embarking on Sunday. When your bags fly for free, why would I choose any other airline?, so Southwest it was. After much research and deliberation, I went ahead and booked the Hilton garden Inn at El Sugundo. The easy access to the train, the friendly shuttle drivers and the relative safety of the area were the selling points. A more detailed review of the hotel will follow. We booked the super shuttle from residence to the airport and back and from the Hilton Inn to the port and back from the port to LAX.

As days went by, I started thinking about a possible port upgrade. Pictures of the one bedroom suites were pretty tempting. The initial reports were that it cost around $1600 to upgrade from a Category 5 to the suites. I shelved that idea as that was outside our budget. When the MR sailings started again this winter and reports of port upgrades started filling in, I was surprised to hear that it was just $800+ to upgrade. I started making plans to be prepared for a possible upgrade (Note the “I” whenever I talk about the port upgrade, more on that later). (To be continued…)

Donathius 12-16-2011 12:29 AM

Subbing :surfweb:

I'm pouring over every MR trip report I can find - we're a month away from ours!

narsibvl 12-16-2011 12:55 PM

Hilton Inn LAX at El Sugundo
Hilton Inn LAX at El Sugundo

Ever wondered how slow time goes by while you are counting down your days to your vacation and how fast it does while you are actually on your vacation?

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime the day arrived, A short flight from DEN by southwest left us in LAX around 8:00 pm. The travel from the airport to Hilton Inn was painless and true to all the reports in tripadvisor, the shuttle driver was super friendly. I would recommend this hotel to anyone. Once we checked in, we ordered food from the in-house restaurant. This was very convenient.

The restaurant here offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and unless you bought your room with the breakfast package it will cost you money. It was though a really good breakfast with some very good options, not the usual stale doughnut routine that masquerades as continental breakfast. The front desk staffs were very friendly.

Our plans of spending a relaxing day in the pool evaporated the minute we touched the water, it was too cold for comfort. Instead Saturday turned out to be a day we spend catching up with one of our family friends. It was day of shopping and going up and down the fashion district. We even managed to snag a cute dinner dress for DD3 (her second) at a good price. We retired early to bed as we had a morning shuttle to catch.

narsibvl 12-16-2011 06:46 PM

Day 1 - Of Upgrades, waits and Embarkation
Day 1 - Of Upgrades, waits and Embarkation

You know your kids are really into the vacation if they get up early in the morning without a struggle. Breakfast was again at the hotel restaurant. Even as we were in the middle of it, I spotted the super shuttle drive in. He was a good half an hour early. Luckily we were done packing before our breakfast. Within an hour we were heading to the port and I was wondering whether we would be at the port before the help arrived. As it would turn out, all south bound exits on 405(or was it 105) were closed and we had to circle around a few time to find a detour. All in all we were at the airport by 10:00 and we were certainly not the first ones.

After taking care of handing over the luggage and filling up the health forms we found ourselves in front of the check in desk. Once the check in lady got our details, I leaned over the desk and whispered in her ear “Are there any upgrades available”. This was a trick I had learned from disboards and I had secretly practiced this maneuver quite a few times and I have to say I was pretty successful :) :cool1: . Even as my elation was taking flight, I heard my DW’s voice from behind, “What upgrades ?”. Oops….

You see, in all the excitement and preparation of the trip, I forgot to discuss about the upgrade opportunity with DW. A very big Oops and a possible deal breaker. I turned around to see her more bemused then angry, she was enjoying the predicament I was in, and being the good sport that she is, she played along. All she said was “This better be good”. Once at the upgrade desk, the DCL staff began pouring over the available suites. Apparently the midship ones were already gone, so we had to settle for the aft HA accessible ones. So “8602” it was, our home for the week and true to the recent reports, it was just 800+ for the upgrade, “Score!!!”. Finally my dream of sailing concierge was coming true :santa: .

The first time around in 2010, we reached the port at around 1:00 pm. Boarding had already started and we were following the majority of the traffic in, the entire boarding process was such a breeze. This time around, we were done with our check in and security by 10:30. Which meant we had to wait in the concierge lounge till boarding started. Not sure what the norms were for boarding but it was a good two hours before boarding started. Some photos of the concierge lounge.

Contrary to what I had in the forums. The concierge still had to go for the kids club check in along with the rest. We got that done and the kids got to take the regular photos with Mickey when he came out.

Two hours was still too much time and the kids were getting restless. Luckily before a full blown riot ensured, they call out for embarkation. After the usual emabarkation photos we were announced into the ship.

Once inside we were directed to the concierge reception at cadilac lounge. We were told “Mike” was our concierge and we waited for him to show up. Half an hour later and there was still no sign of him. We figured it would be better to finish lunch and then return to the lounge as the kids were getting hungry. Parrot key had the usual buffet-style embarkation lunch. The kids filled up their plate more with desserts then real food , this would turn out to be a recurring theme, and since they were on a vacation we didn’t mind it that much. Even as we were returning back from lunch, we heard the announcement that the rooms were ready. We finally got to meet Mike, and in terms of requests - We wanted to know if it could be possible to switch the cabo excursions between the two days, the coastal highlights tour was cutting it really close the last tender on the shorter Cabo day and that was making us uncomfortable. Also we wanted to know if we could enroll the kids in the ginger bread house contest. We were shortlisted for it and Mike assured us he would take care of it. That was the last we heard of that, he didn’t even bother to get back to us about it and we were slightly miffed by that.

After that we headed up to our room. 8602 was pretty big, the common area was pretty spacious, we found the castaway club gifts on the bed. The fridge was stocked with soda and water and the first of the concierge complimentary plate was on the dining table. The “wow” factor though was the balcony, it was big and wrapped around the aft of the ship, extending a panoramic view of the wake of the ship. There was a bit of a privacy issue from the beach blanket buffet traffic but nothing that troubled us much. There were half a dozen lounges stacked in the balcony and yes there was enough place to pull them all out.

The kids took their time enjoying the fountain show on the pier from the balcony, as I completed exploring the room. I found a couple of bath robes for the adults and two pairs of extra comfy slip-ons.

The last time around, the kids were not too interested in visiting the children clubs and of course the fact that we had to leave DD3 who was 2 then in the nursery and leave DS6 in the club mattered. This time though, both could go to the club and they showed a bit more inclination. We wanted to make use of the open hours on the sail away day and give the kids a better idea of the kind of activities that happen there. By the time we reached the club they were already closing down for the safety drill.

Soon it was time for the safety drill and we headed down to animators palate. Immediately following it was the sail away party. The sail away party was nothing new to us, so I was not too interested in it. DD3 though can’t pass up an opportunity to shake her legs and flaunt her moves. DW decided to stay back with her while DS6 and I headed up to the front of the ship and watched the ship leave from the port.

(To be continued…)

SanDeeKath 12-17-2011 02:47 AM

Hurry up!!!! We are boarding in less than 48h and I am LOVING your TR so far. :)

We'll be concierge too so I am looking forward to hearing more about "Mike" and the perks...


narsibvl 12-17-2011 10:43 AM

Hi Katherine,

Here is my opinion on concierge. I would definitely
do a port upgrade to any of the midship ones or 8602/8102
any day . The 800+ was worth just for the room. About the perks

We did ask the concierge for a change in our port activities ,
The option they gave us was not very suitable and they had only
one option , so it was not very usefull.

We were pretty miffed that Mike didn't get back to us about
The gingerbread house contest.

The daily compliments were OK. DW and DD are vegetarian,
And two of those had meat in them.

The robes and slippers were super comfy, we used those a lot.

They have an extensive collection of DVDs but we didn't
have the time for it.

The room wa well stocked with soda and water. Our family
doesn't drink soda, we called up for more water regularly and mike
Brought over enough every time.

I wa surprise that concierge did not have priority tendering .

Getting the restaurant menu for room service was a good perk , although mike
goofed it up once and it arrived late.

Let me know if you need any more information.

SanDeeKath 12-18-2011 03:13 AM

Thank you. Off to bed for the big day tomorrow. Fingers crossed that its not Mike...


JJsmama 12-18-2011 04:41 AM

Great report so far! We are on the Wonder in a midship suite in just a few weeks, so I look forward to your info about Concierge. Thanks for showing the pics of the hotel the night before too.

I can't believe that balcony!! WOW!

narsibvl 12-18-2011 10:24 AM


Originally Posted by SanDeeKath (Post 43490386)
Thank you. Off to bed for the big day tomorrow. Fingers crossed that its not Mike...



It was just our experience. wishing you a much better one with your concierge.

narsibvl 12-18-2011 10:25 AM


Originally Posted by JJsmama (Post 43490455)
Great report so far! We are on the Wonder in a midship suite in just a few weeks, so I look forward to your info about Concierge. Thanks for showing the pics of the hotel the night before too.

I can't believe that balcony!! WOW!

Have a great time...Since you are going in Jan, you will have a better luck with the whales.

narsibvl 12-18-2011 10:30 AM

Day 1 continued - Settling down

Once out of the port, the ship picked up speed. After the sail away party, we headed down to the children’s club and got the general tour of both the lab and club. The kids loved the slide and we breathed a sigh of relief. Things were looking up for us, this time around.

Then it was dinner time and we headed down to Parrot cay. Ours was table 67 and we were introduced to our dinning team, Balwan from India, Jermey(Not sure of the spelling) and the head server’s name eludes me. Balwan was very impressive; Jermey not so much and we hardly saw our head server. Jermey even managed to mix up our drinks with the next table once. I guess it is all a part of being human I understand. What thought was not impressive was her attitude. She tried to be friendly, but you could see she was forcing it out, it didn't come naturally for her.

If at all there is one thing that I can never remember, it is the food we had. So right through the report, you will see me ignore details of the dinner. After dinner, walking back to the room, we realized it was time for the Holiday tree lighting ceremony. We stopped over to see Mickey and pals help the chosen kid light up the tree and it was time to head back.

Heading back to our room, got to meet our host, Philip from India. After the introductions, I enquired whether we could get a couple of robes for the kids as I didn’t find any in the room. Within five minutes he was back with two robes. Over the seven days, the kids really took a liking for him (Of course the extra chocolates he left behind every night helped). Here is a collection of the different towel animals he made. The kids loved the elephant.

Meanwhile the luggage had also arrived, and DS6 insisted that the first order of business should the decoration of the door. So there it is.

I left the request with room service for coffee in the morning. This will be a recurring thing right throughout the cruise. Once every other noise in your room dims down, the only thing you hear is the wave beating against the ship and the creaking of your stateroom as the ship surges forward, it is amazing how quickly you get so used to that. Not one to miss the sunrise, I left the blinds to the balcony window open and we drifted off to sleep in no time.

narsibvl 12-18-2011 10:42 AM

Day 2 – Captain’s gala

Day two dawned on us with the ring of the phone; room service was on its way with our coffee. Remember I had left the blinds open to watch the sun rise, it would have been nice..if only our stateroom balcony was facing east !!! :confused3 . Anyhooo..we will have our share of the sunrise on our way back.

Sunrise or not, starting the day with coffee in the balcony with the view of the ocean would be enough to relax anybody. This was an experience even the kids did not want to miss.

We as a family start our whale watching really early in the morning !!! :) . Talking of whales, if at all there is one bummer in this trip it was that. We had to settle for dolphins but who is complaining !!! Everyday in the morning, the beach blanket people would have seen a family, all in robes, having a quite time in their balcony, I guess the PV day was the only day we didn't do it as we had to leave early for the excursion.

After a very relaxing breakfast, just a floor up in the beach blanket buffet, DS6 an avid movie watcher, wanted to see Cars 2 3D , never mind we have done that routine twice already, we headed down to the Buena vista theater. The kids again had a good time in the movies. After that we decided to hit the pool. By this time, the sun had also broken through the clouds and the day was showing signs of coming to life. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the pool. Pool, Pizza and Minnie mouse to give you company, the kids had their share of fun.

DW got into the pool with the kids while I took this opportunity to get a few laps under my belt in the quite cove. After that I joined the family in the goofy pool. You can tell you are having a good time, when you spend three – four hours and it feels like just minutes.

Soon, it was time for the formal dinner. We hurried back to our room and got the kids and ourselves ready for the formal dinner. When we left for the dinner, the room looked like a tornado had gone through it. We took our pictures with captain Fabian and the usual picture under the Christmas tree before heading off to dinner. Dinner was followed by more pictures, this time with the background of the wonder at night.

Doing a quick stop in our stateroom , the boys shed of our suits and we were off for the Golden Mickey’s show. The stateroom magically had turned from a area that had to be cordoned off to a well organized space. I made a mental note to tip Philips real good.

I Had heard quite a bit about golden mickeys but we were seeing it for the first time. We were amazed at how many things they handle within that limited space of the stage. When you are sailing other cruise lines, you might comes across aspects of the cruise that are comparable to Disney, and sometime even better, but Disney's show are one thing, I am sure cannot be outdone. After the golden mickey’s it was a lights out for us.

Trinity524 12-18-2011 10:46 PM


narsibvl 12-19-2011 03:50 PM

Day 3 – “The day we were charged for Gluttony”

Cruise vacations in general is about relaxation and eating, throw in a Palo dinner in the midst and things really do get out of hand.

Our day started with our usual cup of coffee in the balcony. It was clear and the sun was already out. The seas were pretty calm and an ideal day for sea travel. As we had breakfast at BBB the day before, DW suggested we shake it up a bit with breakfast at the Tritons today. Triton breakfast was relaxing, long drawn out affair. After breakfast we decided to explore the ship a bit more. We strolled up and down Deck 4, DW settled down in one of those comfy lounges while the kids and I tried our hand at shuffleboard.

Here is a pic of DS and his eccentric pose on Deck 4.

After half an hour of that we dropped by shutters to check out the photos from the previous day.

Today was our Palo dinner and we were still not 100% sure how the kids were going to handle the club time. We decided it would be better if we drop the kids in the club at noon just to see how it goes. After lunch at BBB, we collected the kid’s club band from our stateroom and headed to the club. Much to our surprise (and to DW’s disappointment, I must add) once inside, the kids waved a quick good bye and were gone, leaving us wonder what the heck were we apprehensive of!!! .

This was our first time together in the ship without the kids and suddenly we didn’t know what to do. It was a shootout between quite cove pool and any of the events in the clubs. Eventually quite cove pool won. After a quick changeover to swim suits we headed up to the quite cove pool. It was DW’s first time in that pool. There were plenty of chairs available, DW and I picked up a spot where there was enough sun. Within a matter of minutes, the bar attendant was by our side and we were sipping on first of the many bahama-mama’s. DW then got busy with a book and I decided to jump into the pool. The pool was certainly not as warm as the goofy’s but once your body heat takes over it was pretty comfortable. DW felt the water was too cold for her comfort and got into the whirlpool. Half an hour later I joined her. Once your body gets used to the whirlpool warmth, it becomes difficult to get into the pool. Two-three hours and a few bahama-mama’s later we decided to call it a day and headed back to our room.

After a quick shower we headed down to the club to pick up the kids. We saw DS6 in front of the television watching a movie. DD3 was playing a group game led by a CM. We got the armbands removed from them by the CM and walked back to our room. On the way back, DW stopped at Promenade lounge as Origami was about to start. The kids and DW wanted to try their hands at it, while I decided to go upto shutters and book for the CD. We had earlier decided we would get the CD this time instead of paying for the individual photos. We were glad we did that. Most of the photos had come out good and now we have all of them. We didn’t have to go through the painful process of choosing a select few.

DW and the kids trying their hand at origami.

After origami the kids took a quick nap. DW and I had decided we would get the kids dinner through room service and then drop them off in the club. I called up Mike to check how early we could get dinner in our stateroom and he felt if we call them up by 5:45 and tell them we have a Palo appointment by 7:00, they would be able to bring the good in half an hour. A big mistake, we called up room service at around 5:45 and we were duly told 6:45 was the latest they could get the food in our rooms. This threw a wrench in our plans. DW had to rush upstairs to deck 9 to get pizzas and fruits before they closed at 6:00. She said she got there at the very last minute. If we had known this earlier, we would have made plans accordingly. This was another area where we felt, we were let down by our concierge. For anybody who has similar plans, be aware and give yourself at least an hour for room service.

We dropped the kids in the club once again and headed off to Palo. Hristo was our server and boy was he good. You could see his passion for food as he went about describing the meal courses and paying special attention to DW’s vegetarian diet. As always my mind goes a complete blank when it comes what we had at Palo, only that it ended with the ever famous chocolate soufflé. At the end of it all, I felt like a roman emperor( never mind the fact we were in a Italian restaurant), after one of those vulgar feasts. So much food should be termed illegal, and I felt that even more, as we trekked back to the club to pick up the kids.

On our way out, we came across Snow white and Tiana and it was pose time with the princess. Might as well, as this was the only time the kids had with the princesses this time around.

The family hypnotism show was on at the Walt Disney theater that night, but all that food and running up and down the ship had us drained and we headed back to our rooms for the night.

marciemouse 12-19-2011 06:42 PM

Great pics with Snow White and Tiana!

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