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Old 06-26-2010, 06:01 PM   #1
Smileneyes
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A B2B Trip Report - Disney Wonder, June 13th & June 18th

Confessions of a Back-to-Back Cruiser

This trip report is specifically to relay our recent experiences sailing back-to-back cruises on board the Disney Wonder. Our sailings were June 13th and June 18th. Unlike many trip reports, I will not be delving into the usual “what we thought of the show” or “how this menu can be improved”. Instead, I hope to shed a little more detail on our specific experiences with the transition process in between cruises, as well as some amenities that were afforded us on the second cruise. Finally, I’ll relay a little bit of “information” regarding certain DCL cast and their future vessels, etc.

Background Information

As you can probably tell by the signature line, we’re a father and son duo. My DS is 17 as of the date of the sailing. We were not travelling with any other family members. We flew out into Orlando on June 12th, used Magical Express transfers to Port Orleans Riverside, and used out “Give A Day, Get A Day” passes (earned on January 9th) at EPCOT. Side Note: For the second consecutive year, I was selected to play King Arthur with the World Showcase Players in the England pavilion, but I digress…. This is our sixth and seventh cruises on DCL. Despite evidence to the contrary, my DS will shout from the rooftops that he’ll only sail Disney…and it’s because of the service, not the characters or the itinerary. Our stateroom was the same for both cruises: SPH 5520.

Online Booking Notifications, etc.

When I completed the online check in form for both reservations, I made certain to note in the comments for each that we were sailing back-to-back voyages. This information was conveyed to some DCL staff, but not to others. For example: we stayed one day prior the first sailing at POR. The DCL representative there asked me how we were planning to return from Port Canaveral on the 13th, as she had no records of our travel arrangements. I advised her that we were doing successive sailings. However, our entire dining staff and our stateroom hostess had been notified in advance that we were sailing twice in a row.

Back-to-Back Transition

On June 17th (the day before our first cruise was to end and the second was to begin), we were approached by both our head server (Pascal from the US) and the restaurant manager (Carina from South Africa). They asked us the following questions: 1) Did we want the same dinner seating (second), which we confirmed. 2) Did we want the same dining team (again confirmed)? Head Server Pascal (US) had been with DCL a number of years ago, and then left to start a business in Orlando. He has been back with DCL for about 3 months. Server Pascal (Belgium) has been with DCL for 3-4 years…more on him later. Assistant Server Hellen (Kenya) has been with DCL for a couple of years. 3) Did we want to dine at the same table (which sat 8 people) or did we wish to dine by ourselves. We had our own table last year on the Eastern w/Tortola, and really enjoyed the father/son dining experience, so we selected that option.
One confusing aspect of the transition process (for us) was that we did not receive gratuity envelopes from our stateroom hostess (Duma from Indonesia) for the first cruise. She truly had not been given them. Since all of our cast would remain the same, we advised them that we would be providing one gratuity at the end of the second cruise, and they were fine with that. I later had the opportunity to speak with Kylie, the Wonder’s Guest Services Manager. She confirmed that we should have received the first set of tip envelopes, and she would relay that information to the Hotel staff.

As has previously been posted numerous times, we did not have to pack our belongings, since our stateroom remained the same. We also received a letter in our stateroom regarding the transition from first to second cruise. The letter stated that we were welcome to sit in Cove Café until 1:30 p.m., and that light pastries would be provided. Children were welcome, but DCL respectfully requested that they recognize the quiet nature of Cove Café until boarding for general passengers commenced.

While Kylie was present, I also got a chance to speak with Christiaan Abbott, who was our Cruise Director. As far he was concerned, we were free to roam the ship, but with certain understandings. We agreed that, if we went to our stateroom, we didn’t want people to see us crossing the ropes, since other staterooms may not be ready until 1:30 p.m. I had mentioned my desire to take advantage of the “downtime” to do laundry, and that was totally acceptable to him.

Disembarkation/Embarkation Date

On the morning of the 13th, we went to the assigned breakfast location…Parrot Cay at 8:00 a.m. After the standard breakfast, we waited around a bit until just after 9AM. There were still people disembarking at that point, and we had a little bit of a queue. When we finally left the ship, we had our KTTW cards swiped…effectively closing our first voyage. We then went down the escalators and through Customs. This is mandatory, even for back-to-back sailors. The entire passenger list must be cleared through Customs before the next passengers may commence boarding. After Customs (approximately 9:15 AM), we found our way back up the escalators to the terminal lobby. We were immediately motioned over to the concierge counter, where we checked in and received our new KTTW cards, lanyards, and Navigator. For this particular journey, there were only two families doing back-to-backs: us, and a nice family of four from Maryland. We “cooled our heels” until just before 10AM, when we were approached and told that we could reboard the Wonder. We went through a side door (not through the usual mouse ear entrance), were reswiped, and boarded the ship. NOTE: no photographers, no “DCL greeting announcement”…but we were expecting neither.

I made my way to the stateroom, gathered the dirty laundry, and went up to the sixth floor. DS went to the Goofy Pool area and found an empty lounge chair. Oh, wait…they were ALL empty! It should be noted at this point that the Wonder did feel different. Stateroom hosts/hostesses were found everywhere, preparing rooms for the new passengers. Some maintenance work was done on Deck 9, but the lack of passengers made it look a little like a ghost ship. The new KTTW cards worked immediately, as I was able to swipe them and charge the laundry costs to my room. I will state that one time the swipe didn’t appear to take, and it asked me to reswipe…subsequently, I had an extra charge that Guest Services later removed.

While the laundry was running, I was able to roam a little bit…checking in with DS at the Goofy Pool, who was watching FIFA World Cup, etc. Laundry was complete about 12:30, and we then went to the room, dropped it off, and snuck back out into the general areas, since the new passengers were now boarding.

DCL Staff

Aside from those who were already alerted, a fair number of cast recognized us as back-to-back cruisers. From muster drill leaders to excursion staff, from entertainment staff outside the Walt Disney Theater to Rafael, the chef at Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, we thought this was a nice touch.

Castaway Club Gifts

True to all I had read on DisBoards, we did receive two sets of Castaway Club gifts. The regular “Silver” gifts (bag, water bottles, keychain, and rice treats) were in our stateroom earlier. The “Gold” gifts (luggage tag and leather business card folio) came later on in the day.

That Special “Disney” Touch

DISCLAIMER: I do not know with certainty if this is a new policy, or if it was a “magical moment” just for us.

We did receive a letter thanking us for sailing successive voyages, along with a fruit basket on the first day of the second cruise. I thought that might be it…but every day, something special was delivered to our stateroom. On other days we received: a cheese/cracker tray, a dessert tray, and a cookie tray.

The other special event was at dinner. We were surprised when the Chef de Cuisine for our dining rotation (Alex from the Netherlands) approached our table and introduced himself. He advised that he would be personally overseeing our entrees for the second cruise. If we wanted something “not on the regular menu”, he would see that it happened. It may have been his presence playing mind games with us, but DS and I could swear that our entrees that night were hotter than normal…and didn’t seem like they sat for minutes under a heat lamp. Of course, he wasn’t the pastry chef, but we did request Palo soufflés for Father’s Day (since I don’t enjoy dining solo, and DS is still 17). He confirmed that we’d be accommodated.

However, I think that Chef Alex guessed that we didn’t fully comprehend what we could request…and he asked us again if there was anything “special” he could do. In a way, I felt like Aladdin, and he was Genie.  Finally catching on, we asked for “something different” on Pirate Night. My son got a barbecued chicken with a specially made glaze…while I received a pan seared grouper with a curry sauce…both variations from other menu items. Both entrees were incredible.

Chef Alex came by our table every evening…it was fun talking to him about his career, but more fun discussing the World Cup! On the final night, we got our soufflés, as well as a “Magical Moment” certificate from Chef Alex and the Parrot Cay galley team!

Again, I do not know if this is something that DCL is now doing regularly for those “back-to-back” sailors or not. It would make sense, however, if this was a new policy. For those people who have “seen it, done it” with the Animator’s Palate menu, this would be a good incentive for regular guests to consider future back-to-back cruises.

From a personal perspective, we liked our experiences…even if the menus and ports of call were similar. For that reason, we booked a back-to-back on the Dream in September of 2011.

News Regarding Staff

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that our server Pascal is now in training to be a head server, and will be moving over to the Dream by January. The restaurant Manager, Carina (who is AWESOME) will be remaining on the Wonder for Alaska in 2011. For us, this means we’ll see Carina in June and Pascal in September.

Some other staff of note: Our captain for this sailing was Captain Guus. He has been promoted from Staff Captain to full Captain status. For the immediate future, he’ll be on the Wonder, but has hopes of going over to one of the new ships. Christiaan (CD) will be remaining on the Wonder, but eventually will move over to the Fantasy. Kylie (Guest Services Manager) will be moving to the Dream. At the Castaway Club reception, I got to speak with Richard (UK), Chief Engineer. Those of you who’ve seen the DCL show on the Travel Channel will remember him. He is moving to the Dream as well. The Wonder’s Hotel Director (Lisa) is staying with the Wonder next year. Many of the people above did confirm that there is a plan in place to shift staff from one ship to the next upon return from vacations…so as to provide a more consistent guest experience, regardless of the ship.

Final Thoughts

In closing, we felt that a lot of thought has recently been given to those customers who sail back-to-back. It appears that attempts are being made to make the second cruise “unique” from the first cruise.

We welcome any questions you may have…and wish all of you pleasant sailings with DCL!

--Drew
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Last edited by Smileneyes; 06-26-2010 at 07:52 PM.
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:34 PM   #2
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Great trip report!! Thanks for all the info! I really want to do a back to back now! I am so jealous you had Duma as your stateroom hostess! Sara and I love her!! We even stopped by to say hi to her when we were delivering your FE gifts!
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Old 06-26-2010, 08:31 PM   #3
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Matthew sounds so much like Celina....she saids the same thing about sailing on another cruiseline!! Thanks so much for the TR....
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:34 PM   #4
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Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences, and for such a thorough, thoughtful report of the back-to-back experience! It makes me want to do a back-to-back!
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:15 AM   #5
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Thank you so much for sharing such a detailed report on your B2B. We are doing a September, 2010 B2B on the Wonder so it will be nice know a little bit about what to expect (we also will not be changing staterooms). It sounds like you and your DS had a great time.
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:20 AM   #6
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Thanks for the report!

I know my friends got treats in their room every day for a B2B on the Magic last September.

I wonder if the 'perks' for the second round of B2B cruises will alter slightly depending on how many B2B guests there are? I know there will be a large number for the LA-Vancouver repo and 1st Alaska for example. I know the EBTA and first Med this Spring had a record number of B2B cruisers...and I've been TRYING to get anyone to report in on how that was handled...no luck yet!

.
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Old 06-27-2010, 06:47 PM   #7
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Do you have a picture of Pascal, your waiter? If so, would you mind posting it? Our waiter on our last cruise was named Pascal and I would love to see if it is the same guy. Plus, if it is the same one and he is going to be on the Dream, I would like to request him for our serving team. We loved him!! TIA!
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibouncetoo View Post
Thanks for the report!

I know my friends got treats in their room every day for a B2B on the Magic last September.

I wonder if the 'perks' for the second round of B2B cruises will alter slightly depending on how many B2B guests there are? I know there will be a large number for the LA-Vancouver repo and 1st Alaska for example. I know the EBTA and first Med this Spring had a record number of B2B cruisers...and I've been TRYING to get anyone to report in on how that was handled...no luck yet!

.
Jackie, that's a very good question. To my knowledge, there hasn't been any official promoting of the perks by DCL for the second sailing...and, in the absence of word out of their mouths, I guess that may mean the program could be "flexible, depending on sailing". I'm with you, I'd sure like to know if larger groups of B2B's will be/were treated in the same fashion. I was thinking that there may be a first year spike in B2B's on the Dream. I know that (personally) four days of DCL isn't enough for me anymore (or for DS).

--Drew
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSwan1 View Post
Do you have a picture of Pascal, your waiter? If so, would you mind posting it? Our waiter on our last cruise was named Pascal and I would love to see if it is the same guy. Plus, if it is the same one and he is going to be on the Dream, I would like to request him for our serving team. We loved him!! TIA!
Here you go, Crystal. He was FANTASTIC...then again, I guess he'd have to be, in order to be promoted to Head Server.



Thanks!
--Drew
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:59 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Smileneyes View Post
Here you go, Crystal. He was FANTASTIC...then again, I guess he'd have to be, in order to be promoted to Head Server.



Thanks!
--Drew
Thak you so much! I think it is the same guy! Here is a picture from our May 2008 cruise!



He really was fantastic~~ so good with the kids! I do hope we can get him again on our next cruise in 364 days!
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Old 06-28-2010, 10:44 AM   #11
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Thank you so much for all the great info! We are doing our first b2b in October '11. I too am curious about the "perks". I will not expect them, but it would be a nice touch. Our group alone has 21 people going. What makes me nervous is the "quiet atmoshpere" they want kept at the quiet cove pool, with 21 people and 7 of them being kids, I don't know how "quiet" we will be able to be.
I also think there will be a spike in b2b's until the Fantasy comes out. We have only done 7days in the past and the only reason we are doing a b2b is to get on the new ship and there are a lot of people out there with the same idea. So it will be interesting to see if they are able to offer any of the "perks" with such large groups of b2b'rs.
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:32 AM   #12
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Thanks for the great report. DH and I are considering making our May 22, 2011 4 night into a B2B. Your info is very helpful.
On our May 20, 2010 cruise we also had Duma as our stateroom hostess. She is wonderful. We couldn't have asked for a better person to take care of us on the cruise.
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Old 06-28-2010, 12:40 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Smileneyes View Post
Jackie, that's a very good question. To my knowledge, there hasn't been any official promoting of the perks by DCL for the second sailing...and, in the absence of word out of their mouths, I guess that may mean the program could be "flexible, depending on sailing". I'm with you, I'd sure like to know if larger groups of B2B's will be/were treated in the same fashion. I was thinking that there may be a first year spike in B2B's on the Dream. I know that (personally) four days of DCL isn't enough for me anymore (or for DS).

--Drew
We did the B2B on the cruises before (June 8 and June 13) and had similar experiences. The dining room manager came around but the chef did not and we weren't offered anything special for dining. We did get our seating time changed, same dining team, and a private table.

We also had small extras in our room each day. Fruit plate, petit fours, cheese plate, etc. No explanations as to why...they were just there.

As with you we only had a couple of groups doing the B2B.

Jim
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:17 PM   #14
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Thak you so much! I think it is the same guy! Here is a picture from our May 2008 cruise!



He really was fantastic~~ so good with the kids! I do hope we can get him again on our next cruise in 364 days!
Yes, that definitely looks like the same Pascal. Since he isn't officially listed as a head server "yet", you may wish to wait until after the inaugural sailing of the Dream, then call DCL to request that you be placed in his dining rotation. We will be doing the same for our September vacation.
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:21 PM   #15
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We did the B2B on the cruises before (June 8 and June 13) and had similar experiences. The dining room manager came around but the chef did not and we weren't offered anything special for dining. We did get our seating time changed, same dining team, and a private table.

We also had small extras in our room each day. Fruit plate, petit fours, cheese plate, etc. No explanations as to why...they were just there.

As with you we only had a couple of groups doing the B2B.

Jim
Hi, Jim! Glad to hear you had a great time as well...we had a large group at the DisMeet on the 13th. Hope you enjoyed the FE gifts.

It does sound like the daily treats are for B2B's...I'm surprised you didn't get a letter on the first day of the second sailing like we did.

If all else holds true, the nightly "chef visit" may well have been just a "Magical Moment" for us.

--Drew
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