Christmas 2013 on the Wonder

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by finest14, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    Hi all, and welcome to our trip report. This was our very first Disney cruise but we’ve cruised on other lines before. It was myself, DW and DS (11). Here we go...

    We flew into Houston on Friday, Dec. 20 - the day before embarkation. I had booked round trip transfers through Extreme Elegance limos out of Houston. It was $120 each way, including tip for a town car. Our driver called us just as we stepped off the plane, we found our bags (which took forever in Houston) and met her right at the curb. It was about an hour 20 minute drive down to Galveston. Let me just say that we had an awesome experience with Extreme Elegance both ways and I would definitely use them again - great communication, fair prices and excellent service. It got the trip off to a great start.

    We arrived at the Tremont House in rainy Galveston for our pre-cruise night and checked in. We liked this historic hotel. The room (2 queen beds) was large and comfortable for the three of us. We live in a town with 17 craft breweries so we thought we’d check out Brews Brothers brew pub because it was just around the corner from the hotel. We had some good beers and burgers. The chef/manager even came out to make sure that our orders were correct. We appreciated the good service. After that, it was off to Jerry’s Liquors for a couple of bottles of Deep Eddy Vodka to carry on the ship.

    Tomorrow...we board!
     
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  3. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    We had an 11 a.m. PAT and, the night before, asked about the shuttle to the port. We were told it would pick us up shortly after 11 a.m. So, that morning we went to the hotels cafe for breakfast. It’s the type of place where you order at a counter and they bring you the food. There were two parties in front of us to order but it still took over 15 minutes to place our order - our PAT was getting closer. The wait for the food took forever and we noticed that people who ordered after us were getting their food first. Not good. A manager asked us how we were doing and we explained our frustration. After about 10 minutes more our orders arrived. We didn’t want to miss the shuttle so we quickly ate and headed to the front desk. We were there just before 11 a.m., plenty of time! Now it’s 11:15...no shuttle. We’re told it’s on the way from the Hotel Galvez. 11:30...no shuttle. We’re told they don’t know where it is. We’ve missed the early PAT, which isn’t that big a deal, but we don’t want to arrive at the port and stand in long lines...which we’re now afraid of. Finally, the shuttle pulls up and my DW bolts out the door, runs up to the driver and says “we’re getting on this bus!” I had to laugh. Apparently, the shuttle was full of passengers from the Galvez so they dropped them off first and came back for us. We were the only ones on the shuttle from the Tremont to the port.

    After the quick drive in the rain to the port, we arrive. There’s the Wonder and she looks great. We forget about the morning madness at the Tremont House. A porter takes our bags and we head inside. This was, by far, the best cruise check in experience I’ve ever had. We wait a few quick minutes to get through security...hassle free. Our DS has Down syndrome so we booked through the TA “Autism on the Seas (AOS).” Since this was new to us, we thought the details they handle might be worth it.

    AOS told us we’d have “priority check in” and to proceed to the accessible/handicapped check in line if there was one. There wasn’t, but we were directed to a line with a red carpet where no one else was waiting. We stood there for about two seconds when we were called up to check in. We were told we were in boarding group five and that group had just been called to board. So, we stopped in the quick family boarding picture line, went up the escalator, and before we new it, the cast members were calling our name (awesome by the way) and welcoming us aboard. Wow. I would estimate from the time the porter took our bags to the time we walked on the ship, it was less than 15 minutes. Impressive! In retrospect, our shuttle delay from the Tremont House was a blessing.

    I thought the Beach Blanket Buffet might be crowded so we headed to Parrot Cay - which was nearly empty...nice! We ordered our first drinks of the day (margarita), grabbed some lunch and were so happy to be on board and starting our vacation. Life is good!

    As we were finishing lunch, I had some errands to run. I had booked Palo for night four, but I knew, just knew, that we’d have the Animator’s Palate show that night. And we did.
    Our dining rotation was PTTAPT. I headed to WaveBands (which was empty) and changed Palo night to the last night. I also booked two tastings while in WaveBands: Tequila Tasting and Martini Tasking. I wanted to do Mixology but the times just didn’t work for us. Next time!

    Next we headed to the Oceaneer Lab to check in our DS. He was at the age where he could either choose the Lab or Edge, but because of his disability, we thought the Lab would be a better fit. We also didn’t want him to have self check in/out ability. We wandered around the Lab and the Club and they looked great. DS loved the Lab and we were feeling comfortable.

    In fact, let me address the the Lab now. DS had a great time every time he was there. The staff in the Lab couldn’t have been better. They were awesome with our DS and he seemed to enjoy the other kids as well. We were told he did great the entire trip. I guess we were a little worried at first, but really, there was no need to be worried. We also dropped off some current magazines to the Lab staff the first night and a bag of candy the last night. They seemed genuinely appreciative. They are rock stars!!

    By now the staterooms were ready so we went to check out 6124, port side/aft. We loved this stateroom. It was roomy enough for three with plenty of storage and closet space for all of us. The split bathrooms were handy and we spent a lot of time on the veranda. I liked the fact the the sofa bed, when converted, didn’t take up any move space then when it was a sofa. DS loved all the different Disney programming on the TV. The location seemed quiet and very close to the aft stairs and elevators. Our stateroom host was friendly and efficient (but I can’t remember his name).

    We had a 2:30 p.m. meet-and-great with our Facebook/FE group and it was great to meet all the people we had been communicating with for the months leading up to the cruise. Really a wonderful and friendly bunch of folks! The FE gifts were a big hit with all of use throughout the cruise and we had an some unbelievably creative and generous people in our group. Participating in the FE exchange was a great experience that we would do again.

    It was time for the muster drill and we were assigned to Animator’s Palate. It was quick and painless. The “Adventures Away” sail-away party was moved to the atrium because of weather (although it had stopped raining and party cloudy at this point). We decided to skip the crowds, unpack and enjoy watching the ship leave port from the veranda.

    Dinner time! We had early seating and a table by ourselves. We were at Parrot Cay the first night and met our servers. Richard was the Head Server, Santana the Server and Tita the Assistant Server. All were excellent the entire cruise. Really, really attentive and friendly. We learned an important lesson the first night: don’t order fish...ever (more later in this report). DW ordered the grouper and it was so fishy, she couldn’t eat it. We do enjoy good food and dining out at home, and she’s not a picky eater. However, she earned that reputation the first night. After she couldn’t eat the fish she just wanted a chicken breast. She really didn’t eat it either, so, the staff insisted on bringing another dish. It was a vegetarian mushroom dish that she said was very good.

    A general note on the food for the entire trip. It was good, but unremarkable. We all found something we could enjoy every night, and with the exception of the fish (more later), nothing was really bad. So, I won’t go into detail on the food and I really didn’t take an food photos because dining wasn’t a real highlight of the trip. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the dining experience, the decor and the excellent service - and did look forward to dinner every night. The food was just unremarkable.

    Next it was off to our first show: “All Aboard, Let the Magic Begin.” The Walt Disney Theatre was beautiful and we looked forward to going to a show every night. This show was fun and Michael Harrison (comedian/ventriloquist) was good. DS decided he needed a giant bucket of popcorn every night so DW bought some giant plastic tub that we could refill at a discount. Was it worth it? No clue.

    After the show we checked DS into the Lab and went to the Cadillac Lounge. We had a few cocktails and listened to the Starlight Duo, then went to WaveBands for Michael Harrison’s “adult show” and more cocktails, then back to the Cadillac Lounge for Late Night Piano and...more cocktails. We pick up DS at the Lab and decided we were hungry, so we headed up to Pinocchio’s Pizzeria. I swear I ate eight pieces. Why!?! Well, it was pretty good. We learned an important lesson: don’t overdo it the first night!!
     
  4. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    The obligatory boarding photo...

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    First Drink of the Day!

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    Our little cabin Christmas Tree...

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  5. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    The poop ship next door in Galveston...

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    Cabin 6124 - port side/aft...

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    Enjoyed the veranda...

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    No, you can't keep the pillow!

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  6. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    We did some door decorations...

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    The "F" was an FE gift. Awesome!

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    More cool FE gifts that we received...

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    This was our FE...

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  7. rentayenta

    rentayenta <img src=http://photopost.wdwinfo.com/data/500/dm.

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    Is that the Naviagtors Verandah?
     
  8. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    rentayenta, it wasn't a navigator's veranda. However, when I first saw it I was kind of disappointed because it sure looked like one on that end. The other end was more open. We spent a lot of time out there and it ended up not being that big of a deal.
     
  9. wiigirl

    wiigirl DIS Veteran

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    Following along! :)
     
  10. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    After the first night’s late night activities we slept in a bit on the first sea day. We ordered coffee from room service and DW went up to the buffet and brought some breakfast down to the room. We check DS unto the Lab and DW and I headed to fitness center for a workout. By now it was 11a.m., but the place was packed. I was hoping for a treadmill but they were all full so I settled on an elliptical. I’m glad I did because the ship was rocking and I didn’t want to hold on while running. The handles on the elliptical were perfect. In fact, the ship was rocking a lot the entire trip and we talked to a lot of people what were sea sick. After the workout we picked up DS for lunch and opted for table service which was in Triton’s. I think we found the lunch fare each day to be a bit better than dinner.

    After lunch, DS went back to the Lab and we headed to the Quiet Cove pool, which was packed. We ended up on deck 10 above, which was really windy. After a while, some chairs opened up by the pool so we headed back down, sat in the sun and had a few drinks. Very relaxing! We really enjoyed this area of the ship on sea days.

    Our afternoon entertainment was Margarita Tasting in the Cadillac Lounge, which isn’t really just margaritas. It’s more like tequila and margarita tasting. We had three different shots of tequila and then two small margaritas. Wawan was the bartender and led the event. He was very informative and interesting. We learned a lot about what tequila is and isn’t and had a great time. I would recommend the tastings.

    We had dinner at Triton’s and then off to the show...Michael Harrison again? No Toy Story, Golden Mickey’s or Dreams? Ok, now we’ve seen Michael Harrison three times in two nights. He was funny but I think we were ready for something else at this point. DS went back to the Lab and DW and I headed to Route 66 for a drink and then called it a night.
     
  11. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    Somebody packed too many shoes, just sayin"...

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    Margarita/Tequila tasting! Just do it...

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    Ran into Goofy on the way to...

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    Route 66...

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  12. Amunet

    Amunet DIS Veteran

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    Subcribing! Just to let you know ^_^
    I'm a little obsessed with cruising on Disney during Christmas day. Never done it, but it is a dream of mine. The issue is getting time off work during that time :(
    One day! So I will live vicariously through you for now ^_^
     
  13. kdeans1010

    kdeans1010 DIS Veteran

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    This is informative. We're doing the Wonder in Sept. Have to know what's happening.
     
  14. KT2038

    KT2038 Mouseketeer

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    It sounds like you all had a magical time!! :)
     
  15. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    We had booked Nachi Cocom for Cozumel, so to maximize our time were were up early, fed and ready to go. We walked off the ship and grabbed a cab ($20 total, with tip) for the 20 minute ride to the beach club. This was our first time there, but I had read on the boards about the obligatory sombrero photo at check it. We did that and then were shown to our chairs under a palapa on the beach. Perfect. I think we were the second or third family to arrive, and even though Nachi takes only 100 people maximum, I’d be surprised if there were 40 people there. It was awesome and we all loved it.

    We swam in the ocean and the pool. We were asked a few times about the optional activities but declined. DW did want a massage but it was cash only and I only had enough for the cab back to port after she spent the rest on the sombrero photos! We thought the food was very, very good. Best food on the trip. The fresh salsa used habaneros and was very spicy. These were green, “younger” habaneros, not the orange one’s we’re used to. DW and I thought this was the best salsa picante we’ve ever had (and I’ve lived in Southern California and Arizona - had a lot of fresh salsa). DW had the grouper (oh no, fish!). However, this was fresh and delicious. An amazing piece of fish. Of course, the drinks were included and we enjoyed a variety, including the venerable Dirty Monkey. DS loved the smoothies. Just a perfect day!

    We stayed as long as we dared and cabbed it back to the port. It was pirate night, and we brought our gear. It was really fun to dress up but it seemed people at the second seating participated more than the first seating. For dinner, they had mahi mahi on the menu, and yes, I order it. Stupid. It wasn’t fishy, but so overcooked and dry. Fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice, shame on me? Ok, note to self: do not order fish on the ship again. Just don’t (more later).

    They premiered Saving Mr. Banks on this night but we met a few characters and then headed up to the Pirates on the Caribbean Party. We were really early and got a great spot on the rail, front and center, on deck 10 overlooking the festivities. It was really fun and DS loved it. At the end he insisted on heading down to dance, and then wanted to stay for a bit and dance to the DJ music, so we did. We had a great time and were all tired from a long day in the sun so it was off to bed. We had another long day on Grand Cayman tomorrow.
     
  16. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    They saw DW coming a mile away...she had to have the sombrero picture...

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    Beautiful Nachi beach...

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    Kinda like a commercial?

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    I could have spent a week here...

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  17. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    More beach...

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    Smoothie number 38??

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    Nachi's pool...nothing was crowded this day!

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    Really, really great food at Nachi...

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    Time to get back on the beautiful Wonder...

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    Disney details...

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  18. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    Lots of pirate themed characters to meet...

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  19. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    Our most excellent servers, Santana and Tita...

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    Waiting for the festivities to begin...

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    Pirate Party!

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    Mickey zip lines in to save the day...

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    Dancing at the after-party. I was surprised he kept the hat on all night...

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  20. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    Another early day as we had booked a private excursion on Grand Cayman. It was a Sailing, Snorkeling and Beach Excursion through Island Marketing. I found it online and did some research before committing. The reviews I found were all good. Although Island Marketing does the booking, the excursion is provided by Scotch Bonnet Charters and Captain John Michael Stafford. So, we headed to the Buena Vista Theatre to get tender tickets and wait. We were told the wait was about 10 minutes but it was more like 20. We were finally called, boarded the tender and headed off to the island. Really a painless process. We were told to meet John Michael next to the Blue Iguana store, a short walk from the pier. We thought we were headed the right way but it was taking a while...then we thought we might be going the wrong way when we rounded a corner and found the Blue Iguana store. John Michael was there, loaded us in his truck and we were off. We made a stop at a grocery store for some drinks, and if we wanted, some food for lunch. We opted to stop at Rum Point and eat instead. Next we headed to his boat. You can either book a Boston Whaler power boat or a J22 sail boat. I love to sail, so it was a no brainer for me. It was just the three of us and the captain. The website says he’ll take up to five in this boat but that may have been crowded. For us, it was perfect. First, it was a long, up wind sail to Stingray City. It wasn’t too rough, but just wet and wild enough to be a blast. We arrived at Stingray City and John Michael expertly anchored the boat. We jumped off and headed onto the sandbar. John Michael had squid to feed the stingrays and helped us safely hold them. Unfortunately, DS (who is usually up for anything) started to freak out. He didn’t like the stingrays and alternated between enjoying himself and screaming. We pushed it as far as we dared and got back on the boat for our next adventure.

    John Michael asked if we wanted to stop and snorkel but thought DS needed a break, so it was off to Rum Point for some lunch. DS and DW got a turn at the helm and then John Michael whipped the J22 into the dock at Rum Point. Impressive! He told us when we were done to walk 10 minutes down the beach to meet him. We found a table at the restaurant and enjoyed a leisurely lunch and, of course, some Mudslides. The service was a bit slow, but friendly. The view was, of course, tremendous. After lunch we headed down the beach for a beautiful walk and to meet up with the boat. We boarded and set sail for a calm downwind trip to Star Fish Beach. This was a great stop and DS loved the starfishes as much as he disliked the stingrays. It was a great experience. Back on the boat for the final sail back to John Michael’s dock. On the way he caught a grouper that DS didn’t like flopping around on deck - more screaming! We has asked John Michael to have us back at the tender pier by 3 p.m. as the last tender back was 4 p.m. (better safe than sorry). I think we were back by 3:10. No small feat on a sail boat with no motor. John Michael was an expert sailer with years of experience including in the Olympics. We felt completely safe and had a great time.

    It was formal night, so we needed to hustle and get ready for dinner. This was our Animator’s Palate show night and we didn’t want to miss it. We enjoyed the color change and the parade at dinner and then it was off to an actual Disney show, the Golden Mickeys (no ventriloquist!).

    The show was great. We all loved it, especially DS with his giant tub of popcorn. Great cast, great production and just very well done. Similar to the shows I’ve seen at the parks. We did make it a point of getting to all the shows 30 minutes or so early to get a good seat and it was worth it. Sitting down and waiting for the show to start never seemed too long.

    Afterwards we headed to Studio Sea for the Golden Mickeys After Party because, as we found out earlier, DS loves a good DJ. So we all danced a bit, had a cocktail (or smoothie) and then stayed to listen to a few minutes of Family Superstar Karaoke (no singing for us). It was another long day in the sun so we hit the hay. After all, Santa was coming. What a magical trip so far!
     
  21. finest14

    finest14 Cruisenado!

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    In front of the J22...

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    On the way to Stingray City...

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    John Michael getting us set...

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    The freak out begins...

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    At least someone enjoyed the experience...

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