No Kids? No Problem: Couple’s Cruise on the Disney Wonder

You don't have to be a kid to enjoy a cruise on the Disney Wonder.

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Crusing with the Disney Wonder: The Disney Wonder at sea. Photo by Todd Anderson
The Disney Wonder at sea. Photo by Todd Anderson

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.

Exploring the top deck of the Disney Wonder. Photo by Benjamin Rader
Exploring the top deck of the Disney Wonder. Photo by Benjamin Rader

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.

The three-deck atrium in the Disney Wonder features Art Nouveau-inspired details. Photo by Matt Stroshane
The three-deck atrium in the Disney Wonder features Art Nouveau-inspired details. Photo by Matt Stroshane

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 stateroom on the Disney Wonder. Photo by Janna Graber
Our stateroom on the Disney Wonder. Photo by Janna Graber

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.

Frog," Tiana's Place is a new southern-style restaurant aboard the Disney Wonder. Photo by Matt Stroshane
Inspired by the film “Princess and the Frog,” Tiana’s Place is a new southern-style restaurant aboard the Disney Wonder. Photo by Matt Stroshane

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.

Ben's drawing at The Animator's Palate. Drawings are collected and turned into animations, which are played in the dining room. Photo by Janna Graber
Ben’s drawing at The Animator’s Palate. Drawings are collected and turned into animations, which are played in the dining room. Photo by Janna Graber

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.

Ready for Pirate Night on the Disney Wonder. Photo by Benjamin Rader
Ready for Pirate Night on the Disney Wonder. Photo by Benjamin Rader

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.

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