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Old 01-09-2013, 11:08 AM   #1
dvandkq
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Panama Canal aboard the Wonder 12/9-12/23 - all photos now up as of 1/22/13!

On December 9, 2012, we boarded a Disney Cruise Line ship for the first time. From the moment we set foot aboard the Disney Wonder, we were captivated by the ship and by her cast members/crew members.

After leaving Los Angeles at 5 pm on the 9th, we spent the following day at- sea. We arrived in Cabo San Lucas the morning of December 11th and did a harbor tour and bus tour Port Adventure. December 12th found us in Puerto Vallarta, where our Port Adventure was swimming with dolphins - an amazing experience!

After leaving Puerto Vallarta, we spent four days at-sea. On December 17th, we transited the Panama Canal! We explored Cartagena, Columbia on December 18th. Cartagena is a spectacularly beautiful city, and one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.

We spent the 19th and 20th at-sea.

December 21, 2012 (12/21/12 - the last day of the Mayan calendar - at least according to Hollywood) gave us the opportunity to climb Mayan temples and explore the ruins at Chochobben, our Costa Maya, Mexico Port Adventure.

We were again at sea for December 22nd, and we arrived in Miami the morning of December 23rd.

Our experience was so wonderful, we booked a 7-night Alaska cruise aboard the same ship for this coming August!

I've shared our photos and videos from our cruise, Port Adventures, and canal transit to our family's website - dvandkq.net. Feel free to browse around to get a sense of what our Panama Canal cruise experience looked like.

Below are excerpts from the letter we wrote to Disney Cruise Lines upon our return home:
Quote:
Dear Disney Cruise Line,

We have just recently returned from the 14-day Panama Canal repositioning cruise aboard the ‘Disney Wonder’, and all we can say is “WOW!!!”.

Our first cruise experience was a 7-day Alaska/Glacier Bay/Inside Passage cruise aboard a much-smaller predecessor of Holland America’s ‘Westerdam’ 13 years ago. While we had high expectations for a ‘Disney’ cruise, we were simply blown-away at how far cruising – and particularly cruising with children – has advanced in the past decade.

The ‘Disney Wonder’ is simply a lovely ship inside and out. What brings this to our full attention is that it is the staff that makes the ship lovely – and not just from the constant scrubbing, cleaning, polishing, and painting – but from how the entire crew – from the most senior officer down to the most junior deckhand – stops whatever they’re busy doing to smile and say “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, or “Good Evening”.

The minor complaints and observations offered here and in the enclosed questionnaire (which we were unfortunately unable to drop-off before disembarking the ship) are vastly outweighed by the superior/exceptional/always ‘above and beyond’ customer service and friendliness expressed by every crew and cast member at every opportunity.

We found our experience so superb that we booked a 7-day Alaska/Glacier Bay/Inside Passage cruise aboard the ‘Disney Wonder’, leaving August 19, 2013. We were simply unable and unwilling to get off the ship without a firm commitment to a return date!

The minor concerns:

• It appears that the oval “coffee table” in our stateroom is designed to raise and lower, making it easier for kids to use it as a dining table. The adjustment feature on our table was broken. This presented no inconvenience to us, but as the cruise went on, such a minor issue seemed out of character considering the otherwise excellent condition of the ship and her furnishings. I gained a little insight as to what the furnishings might suffer after watching a lot of broken furniture and fixtures being offloaded while at the dock in Cartagena!

• Staterooms need more electrical outlets – particularly in the desk area - for recharging electronic equipment such as camera, video camera, tablets, e-readers, etc. The chargers for these units often take up an entire outlet, and the switch for the desk lights built into the electrical outlet prevents plugging a charger into one of the outlets.

• We’re from the Pacific Northwest, which is to beer what France is to wine. The micro-brew/craft brewing market thrives – as I’m sure you’re well aware from having home-ported the ‘Disney Wonder’ in Seattle this past summer. All of the draft beers located in the most popular and accessible bars (i.e. deck 9) were lagers. It was only on the last day of the cruise that we discovered ‘Diversions’ on deck 3 had a Kona Brewing Company Pale Ale on tap. It is our hope that a Northwest/Alaska cruise will feature at least one Northwest craft ale. There are myriad excellent craft breweries in Vancouver, B.C., and in every port of call on the Alaska cruise itinerary. Surely the boat can procure fine beer in the same way it procures fine wine. With a selection of draft craft pale and amber ales available, we would have spent a lot more on adult beverages than we did.

• The ‘Oceaneer’s Lab’ had far too many “Open House” periods, where the lab was unsecured and unattended kids were forced to go to the ‘Oceaneer’s Club’, which is oriented towards younger children and was considered far-inferior to the Lab by our 7 year-old son. It seemed that whenever we had some down-time, or the adults wanted to do something our son found uninteresting, and it was a perfect opportunity for our son to go hang out in the Lab for a few hours, there was a conflicting “Open House” that required rearranging schedules. This is our biggest complaint/observation/issue with the entire cruise.

• “Goofy’s Pool” is too small. We don’t expect this to be an issue on an Alaska cruise, but on a warm-weather cruise, there simply isn’t enough room for everyone, particularly when “Mickey’s Pool” is closed for cleaning (which happened at least every other day). We realize DCL can’t remedy this situation overnight, but we also understand that DCL keeps customer concerns in mind when considering changes when vessels are occasionally updated in dry-dock.

• While we’re on the subject, a water slide adults can share with their kids would be a huge improvement. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as what is on the ‘Dream’ and ‘Fantasy’, but something that lets adults have some fun with their kids is needed.

The major compliments:

• The superb staff at the ‘Guest Services’ desk was always able to provide and answer and/or a resolution to any question or problem that arose.

• The crew members in ‘Mickey’s Mates’ were very helpful with getting fragile items purchased aboard safely packaged for transport home. None of the fragile Christmas ornaments and other items suffered any damage from our long journey from Miami to Seattle!

• ‘Cesar’, a housekeeping crew member who was often seen keeping the restrooms on deck 9 spotless in spite of the onslaught of dripping-wet/covered in sunscreen passengers parading through the facilities, had a particularly friendly and outgoing personality that deserves recognition. He took time to get to know us as people, not passengers, and we got an opportunity to learn about him and his background and culture. We observe that we learned just as much about the cultures represented by the staff with whom we interacted as we did the cultures of the countries we visited! It all adds up to create a fantastic experience for seven year-old boys and forty-something parents!

• Michele, our server in Palo, could not have been more charming, friendly, nor possess a more encyclopedic knowledge of the food, wine, and culture of Northern Italy – precisely what you’d want in your server for an evening at Palo! We were so impressed with Michele – and with Palo – that we brought our mothers to brunch at Palo later on in the cruise. We specifically requested Michele, and he did not disappoint!

• Clare, is a member of the photography crew who always went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable and relaxed as she took stunning photos of us in the chaotic environment that defines a ‘Character Appearance’. We were ecstatic to discover she was the photographer assigned to the family portrait area when we arrived to have ours done, and the resulting photos are exquisite! Her personality endeared her to us, and our son was totally comfortable as she walked him though the poses – and the results speak volumes!

• Faydella, our ‘Stateroom Hostess’, was simply amazing! Whatever we needed, whenever we needed it – sometimes even before we knew we needed it – magically appeared in our stateroom. Her bright smile and sunny disposition meant our entire passageway was always smiling.


• Finally, and most importantly, we could not have found two better dining room servers in Disney’s central casting than the two provided to us by DCL - Dan and Anthony. Much like our stateroom hostess, they provided us with whatever we needed, whenever we needed it – often before we even knew we even needed it or wanted it! Their impeccable service, good humor, wit and camaraderie was an invaluable addition to our experience. Their extra-special treatment of our precocious seven year-old son will be remembered by him and by us forever. I was especially impressed with the patience, service, respect, and love they provided to a young differently-abled table-mate seated with us throughout the cruise. They both worked incredibly hard, apparently effortlessly and graciously. One had to look hard to find the beads of sweat running down their faces as they strived to provide a personalized fine-dining experience to a demanding clientele.

We’re hard-pressed to come up with anything we would have done differently on the December 9-23 Panama Canal cruise, or that we’ll do differently on our August 19-26 Alaska cruise. We’ll certainly do a better job of decorating our cabin door (#5630) on the Alaska cruise, and we’ll bring an extension cord for charging camera batteries, but our Panama Canal cruise aboard the ‘Disney Wonder’ is an unforgettable experience we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives!

Thank you, Disney Cruise Lines! We can’t wait until August 19th.

Last edited by dvandkq; 01-23-2013 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:34 PM   #2
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Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

And thank you for sharing your family's panama canal cruise pictures. I've just opened them and am now going to grab my coffee and have a proper look through them! Getting me very excited to sail on the her soon!
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:37 PM   #3
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I've gotta make a few pointless posts so I can hit 10 posts, enabling me to add links to pictures to my synopsis above.

While all the photos are on our website (dvandkq.net), I'd like to incorporate them into this thread.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvandkq View Post
I've gotta make a few pointless posts so I can hit 10 posts, enabling me to add links to pictures to my synopsis above.

While all the photos are on our website (dvandkq.net), I'd like to incorporate them into this thread.
haha! I'll happily read pointless posts!
Maybe I can help by asking questions?

You have SO many wonderful pictures. It's very exciting!
Where on the ship was your room and did you like the location?
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:16 PM   #5
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Also...
did your Son like the 'friendship rocks' thing?
They didn't have this on the dream but think my 8 year-old will like it.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredgirls View Post
haha! I'll happily read pointless posts!
Maybe I can help by asking questions?

You have SO many wonderful pictures. It's very exciting!
Where on the ship was your room and did you like the location?
We were in Stateroom 5124. Port side, Deck 5, not far from the Aft Lifts and Stairs. There was only one "Verandah" cabin ahead of us, and that was occupied by the retired Senior Panama Canal Pilot (and his lovely wife) who was aboard to give lectures on the history, design, construction, operation, etc. of the Panama Canal and about shipping in general. He instantly took a liking to our 7 year-old son, and they became buddies who enjoyed seeing each other at the lectures and around the ship.

The location was great as it provided easy access for our son to the 'Oceaneer's Lab', which was also on Deck 5 (along with the 'Flounder's Reef' nursery and the 'Oceaneer's Club' for pre-school aged kids). Being close to the stairs was convenient for access to the beverage bar and the pool areas. Plus, with the exception of Triton's, all the ship's dining rooms, including the Beach Blanket Buffet, are at the aft end of the ship, so that was also convenient.

The ship didn't roll much in the Pacific, but once we got in to the Caribbean, I was glad we were on one of the lower decks and towards the stern. The higher on the ship you go, the more pronounced the roll. The farther forward on a ship you go, the more pronounced the pitch, so being relatively low and towards the stern minimized the ship's motion. There are no Verandahs below Deck 5, so that's as low as you can go and still have a stateroom with a balcony.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredgirls View Post
Also...
did your Son like the 'friendship rocks' thing?
They didn't have this on the dream but think my 8 year-old will like it.
While my son thought it was fun simply to be on the Walt Disney Theater stage, and to get to get close to Mickey & Minnie in their 'Kids staff costumes", being a (relatively) older child, he sat in the back row. We tried to sit as close to the stage as we could, but unfortunately that resulted us in being unable to see him for most of the "performance".

They put the kids from the 'Oceaneer's Club' in the front row, so if your child is on the small side for their age, and is of the appropriate age for the 'Club', you'll at least have a chance of getting pictures of your kid(s) in the skit as they'll be in the front row.

But since he had fun, that's all that matters
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Old 01-10-2013, 03:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvandkq View Post
While my son thought it was fun simply to be on the Walt Disney Theater stage, and to get to get close to Mickey & Minnie in their 'Kids staff costumes", being a (relatively) older child, he sat in the back row. We tried to sit as close to the stage as we could, but unfortunately that resulted us in being unable to see him for most of the "performance".

They put the kids from the 'Oceaneer's Club' in the front row, so if your child is on the small side for their age, and is of the appropriate age for the 'Club', you'll at least have a chance of getting pictures of your kid(s) in the skit as they'll be in the front row.

But since he had fun, that's all that matters
Hmm...she's 8 and very tall! So we'll sit a little further back to see her. Thanks for the heads up!
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:46 AM   #9
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We also had Michele as our server in Palo, and agree, he is the best we've ever had on Wonder (our favorite on Magic is Nergis). I must disagree about your dining servers, however. We had Balwan and Freddy. This was my 15th DCL cruise, and they were by far the best we've ever had. We had a table full of fun people (all DIS'ers, some of us pre-linked for dinner, and the others lucky enough to be stuck with us LOL!!!) and had wonderful service and great fun each night at dinner. I have already requested Balwan as our server for our Alaska cruise in September, and hopefully that request will be granted!

Beth
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:24 PM   #10
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Regarding your query about beer on the Alaska cruise - though I do not drink beer, DH does and he was happy with the special Alaskan beers they had onboard.

Regarding closing the Mickey pool every other day - this has to be done when a child has an accident in the pool. Unfortunately, some get in though not potty trained and well, they must close the pool for a special cleaning.

Glad you enjoyed your cruise so much! We will be on the WBPC in May...
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:15 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolAnnC View Post
Regarding your query about beer on the Alaska cruise - though I do not drink beer, DH does and he was happy with the special Alaskan beers they had onboard.

Regarding closing the Mickey pool every other day - this has to be done when a child has an accident in the pool. Unfortunately, some get in though not potty trained and well, they must close the pool for a special cleaning.

Glad you enjoyed your cruise so much! We will be on the WBPC in May...
I'm pleased to hear they supplement the beer selection for the Alaska cruises - let's hope that continues with Vancouver, B.C. as the port of embarkation. Embarking from Seattle last year was just a one-year deal. For 2013 forward they are embarking from Vancouver, B.C.

As a parent of a child who loves water parks and swimming pools, we're well aware of WHY they need to close and clean the pool - and we can't possibly object Some day they'll invent a chemical/process that eliminates the need to drain, pressure-wash, and re-fill the pool every time there's a potty accident. We're fans of the Great Wolf Lodge as well, and there they call them "AFRs" - "Accidental Fecal Release". GWL was on an episode of "Undercover Boss", and the CEO had to scoop poop out of a pool. The employee who made her remove the poop from the pool was appropriately horrified when it was revealed who she was making clean the pool!
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BethC1952 View Post
We also had Michele as our server in Palo, and agree, he is the best we've ever had on Wonder (our favorite on Magic is Nergis). I must disagree about your dining servers, however. We had Balwan and Freddy. This was my 15th DCL cruise, and they were by far the best we've ever had. We had a table full of fun people (all DIS'ers, some of us pre-linked for dinner, and the others lucky enough to be stuck with us LOL!!!) and had wonderful service and great fun each night at dinner. I have already requested Balwan as our server for our Alaska cruise in September, and hopefully that request will be granted!

Beth
Michele was commiserating about missing his girlfriend back in Italy, and was contemplating leaving the ship so he could spend more time back home. We wish him the best, but we also hope to see him again on a future cruise!

Our best "Michele story" was after a Palo brunch where he spent some time going over how Palo's pizza is the only "real" pizza on the boat. The following day, he was serving pizza to our son at Pinocchio's Pizzia, and I just had to ask him if the cheese pizza at Pinocchio's came from Palo.
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:18 PM   #13
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Just two more posts and I get to add photos to my trip report
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:19 PM   #14
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Perhaps I'll do a day-by-day photo diary/blog...
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:21 PM   #15
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Photo test...

Let's see if I can now link photos to my posts...

Here's one of my favorite photos from our trip:



We were told (we're new) that a photo with all of these friends is almost impossible to get anywhere but on a long DCL cruise...

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