Tiny faces press up against the glass windows as our bus turns into the cruise terminal in Galveston, Texas.
Squeals of delight fill the air and adoring fans clap as they catch sight of the Disney Wonder.
Seeing the Disney Cruise Line ship for the first time is impressive enough, but when you’re a kid, there’s almost a sense of reverence.
Little ones aren’t the only fans. Looking around, I see many adults have the same goofy grin I wear. It’s hard not to smile when you’re got a Disney cruise on the agenda.
Cruising with Disney without Kids
My fiance, Benjamin, and I are about to board one of the most magical ships in the world for a 4-day cruise to Mexico.
Our itinerary aboard the Disney Wonder includes three days at sea and a port visit to Cozumel, Mexico.
The best part? It’s just the two of us!
Sure, it may seem strange to take a Disney cruise without children, but we’re looking forward to it. Four whole days to relax and do whatever we want – what’s not to like about that?
My kids, of course, aren’t fans of this arrangement. They’re huge Disney fans, and desperately wanted to come.
But they’re older now and busy with school and jobs. Life simply got in the way.
So our impromptu family cruise has turned into a couple’s getaway – and that’s fine with us.
Disney Cruise Line has a lot to offer adults – from quiet “adults-only” pools to pubs, comedy clubs and fine “adults-only” dining. The kid in both of us knows how much fun lies ahead.
What’s New on the Disney Wonder
Walking into the atrium on the Disney Wonder, it feels like I’m revisiting an old friend.
My kids and I have sailed the Disney Wonder twice before, and its every nook and cranny had filled my little ones with delight.
But time marches on. The kids are older now, as am I. Even the Disney Wonder has aged since I saw her last.
Unlike me, however, the ship seems to have gotten better with age. The 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder, originally built in 1999, has undergone a six-week makeover and come out looking better than ever.
The Disney Wonder has undergone a complete “reimaginging”, with a new restaurant, newly designed spaces for children and a brand-new theater production of Frozen, A Musical Spectacular.
After texting the kids to tell them how much we miss them, we giddily head off to explore the ship.
Our first stop is our stateroom. The staterooms on the Disney Wonder are still as roomy and practical as before, but I notice several enhancements.
The trunks have been replaced with a chest of drawers and platform beds have been added so that full suitcases can now fit under the beds.
From there, we head up to the upper deck, which has been redesigned as well.
The ship’s iconic Mickey pool has been replaced with a new watery fun zone for kids, with the Twist ‘n’ Spout water slide and AquaLab pool. Dory’s Reef is a splash zone for toddlers.
Dining on the Disney Wonder
Dining aboard a Disney cruise has always been a highlight for our family, and we know this cruise will be no different.
In addition to well-done buffets and quick-food options throughout the ship, there are three main restaurants and one adults-only restaurant.
Guests rotate through the restaurants (along with their wait staff too), so everyone gets a chance to try each restaurant.
The exception to this is Palo, the adults-only Italian restaurant, which requires a reservation and an additional charge of $30/person.
On our first night, we dine at Tiana’s Place, and we’re not disappointed. This new restaurant is exclusive to the Disney Wonder.
Drawing on the New Orleans vibe and characters from The Princess and the Frog, the restaurant oozes southern charm, with live jazz performances and an appearance by Tiana.
There’s even a street party, which gets guests up and dancing. Southern-style cuisine influences the food.
Redesigned with Venetian-inspired décor, dining at Palo’s has a quieter, romantic feel.
With an impressive wine list and excellent Italian cuisine, Palo’s has always been a favorite Disney cruise experience for us.
We time our reservation just right and ask for a table by the window so we can watch the sun set over the water.
But truth be told, we’re just as taken with Animator’s Palate, a unique themed restaurant that shows how Disney cartoons are created.
In the past, black and white animations that covered the walls gradually turned to color as the meal went on. Watching this was fun, but Disney has outdone itself this time.
Now at Animator’s Palace, the guests are the animators. Before dinner is served, each guest is asked to draw a picture on what looks like a simple placemat.
The mats are collected. About halfway through dinner, the walls of the restaurant suddenly come to life with those same drawings, now animated.
I’ll be honest – I have no artistic skill. Regardless, my squiggly little drawing comes to life, gyrating across the screen.
I can’t help myself, but I clap my hands in delight. We even get our names in the credits. From the sounds I hear in the restaurant, the experience has delighted young and old.
Pirate Night on Disney Cruise Line
We may be adults, but that doesn’t mean Ben and I don’t like a good pirate party. And Disney Cruise Line knows how to throw one.
The Pirate Party is a highlight on the cruise. Guests don pirate hats and outfits brought from home; others buy theirs in the gift shop.
Ben and I dress the part and make our way to the deck, where a huge dance party is taking place. Later, fireworks light up the night sky above the ship.
I can’t help but laugh. Here I am, floating in the Sea of Cortez in a pirate hat with my sweetheart, dancing to Bon Jovi and watching white streams of fireworks float down in the dark sky.
Just for Kids: On Board the Disney Wonder
While Disney Cruise Line was created for all ages, kids are the true target audience. That’s evident in the careful consideration and design of each age-appropriate children’s space on the Disney Wonder.
Infants have their own space at the Small World’s Nursery, which offers babysitting care for infants ages 6 months to 3 years (for an additional fee).
Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are open to children ages three to 12 years old.
Kids rotate with their age group throughout the spaces, and they can even eat meals at the club if mom and dad need some time alone.
Disney is all about storytelling, and the children’s spaces on the Disney Wonder bring some of its favorite stories to life.
Kids can step into the story of Frozen at Wandering Oak’s Trading Post. Character programs take place in each space, such as a scavenger hunt with Olaf, or helping Anna and Elsa prepare for the coronation.
In the Club Disney Junior area, Disney Junior characters come to life with storytelling and games.
And in Andy’s Room, kids feel like they are toy-sized in this multi-level space from “Toy Story.” Woody and Jessie make frequent appearances.
The biggest addition to the children’s program on the Disney Wonder is the Marvel Super Hero Academy.
The Academy is led by favorite superheroes, from Spider Man to Black Widow. Kids undergo superhero training, with careful input from an ongoing stream of super heroes.
In one mission, Spider-Man helps his new recruits to hone their spider senses and increase the skills of reflex, speed and sharp minds.
Children practice their web-slinging, and even see themselves in the headlines of the local paper.
The Edge is a space made just for tweens ages 11 to 14, where they can watch movies, play games and hang out with guests their age. Trained Disney kids’ leaders ensure a safe and fun experience.
Teens ages 14 to 17 have their own space as well. The Vibe, which is designed to resemble a laid-back urban loft, is the spot for teens-only dance parties, games, karaoke and other fun teens-only activities.
Just for Adults: On Board the Disney Wonder
On past Disney cruises, we’ve always focused on what the kids wanted to do. Pool time? You bet. Playing ping pong, watching Disney movies in the theater and having ice cream snacks? Of course.
But this time, we can do whatever we want. It feels delightfully luxurious.
We read by the adults-only pool, have drinks at one of several lounges mid-day, and eat long leisurely meals.
Our favorite area onboard the Disney Wonder is After Hours, an adult district which features the new English-style Crown & Fin Pub, the Cadillac Lounge and the Azure Night Club.
Every evening after the main Disney show, Ben and I head to Azure, where comedians rule the stage.
From crazy game shows to one-made comedy acts, they keep us laughing night after night.
One evening, we play cards and enjoy drinks at Crown & Fin Pub. The dark woods, plush leather chairs and English specialty beers provide an authentic English vibe.
Ben’s favorite night spot, though, is the Cadillac Lounge. The décor pays tribute to 1950’s-era Cadillac cars, with couches resembling automobile rear seats, and a bar that looks like the front end of a Coupe del Ville.
The bar serves an impressive array of spirits, cocktails, wine and beer, with many high-end whiskeys and bourbons.
The Cadillac Lounge is used for wine and spirit tastings throughout the cruise.
While the Disney Wonder may have its biggest fan base in the age 3 to 18 crowd, it fares pretty well with adults too – even those cruising with no children at all.
Frozen, A Musical Spectacular
Quality family entertainment is a highlight on every Disney Cruise. From Broadway-style shows to comedy clubs and piano bars, there’s no lack of things to do.
Frozen, A Musical Spectacular, is Disney Cruise Line’s newest on board theatrical show.
Two years in the making, the show combines top talent with puppetry, intricate sets and laser technology to recreate the story of Anna and Elsa.
Watching the show, I’m not disappointed. The combination of a beloved story, strong acting and imaginative sets, as well as Disney’s professional production skills, create a musical that holds you from the very first moment.
The little girl sitting in a princess dress beside me lights up when favorite songs like “For the First Time in Forever” and “Love is an Open Door” are presented.
And I’m just as engaged as she is.
At the moving end of the production, snow floats down on the audience, then it turns to colorful leaves as Arrendale warms up.
The Disney Wonder also features several other theater productions, including “Disney Dreams,” a musical that includes appearances by many beloved Disney characters, from Peter Pan to Pinocchio to Belle.
Snuba in Cozumel
There’s so much to do on board the Disney Wonder that we really don’t need to leave the ship, but we do book one excursion – snuba in Cozumel.
Snuba is a mix of scuba diving and snorkeling. Inside of breathing from a regulator on a dive tank, air is supplied from a tube floating from a tank on the surface.
You don’t have to be certified to do snuba – and it’s just as fun as it sounds. The water is warm and the seas are clear as we follow tiny fish and discover rows of coral.
Back on board, we get ready for our last dinner at sea. It’s been everything a cruise should be – relaxing, fun and full of memories in the making.
On a Disney cruise, even adults can embrace the magic of being a kid again. And we did it with gusto.
If You Cruise with Disney
Disney Cruise Line currently has four vessels – the Disney Wonder, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy.
Two more cruise ships will be delivered in 2021 and 2023. Disney Cruise Line offers itineraries in the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska and Europe.
Disney Cruise Line