Disney plans to keep the Wonder in the West. // © 2011 Diana Zalucky/Disney
Regent Announces Third Phase of Seven Seas Signature
Early this year, Disney Cruise Lines repositioned its 1,754-passenger Disney Wonder to California for a season of Mexican Riviera cruises out of Los Angeles prior to its summer season in Alaska. The move has been a great success, and the Wonder will remain in the West, plying Mexican, Alaskan and even Hawaiian waters through 2012 and perhaps longer.
The ship has 11 passenger decks and a wide variety of public venues skillfully divided into adults-only, family and children's districts. Not surprisingly, no less than five spaces cater to the ship's youngest guests. On Deck 5, a trio of facilities includes the Flounders Reef nursery for infants and toddlers; the Oceaneer Club for children ages 3 to 10, featuring games, a computer lab, a dance floor and a pirate ship slide; and the Oceaneer Lab for kids ages 3 to 12. The space includes a science lab, a reading area, a lounge, televisions, toys, a "drive the ship" simulator and computers.
Underutilized conference rooms on Deck 2 were recently converted into a new tween venue, called Edge, for children ages 11 to 13 featuring karaoke, arts and crafts and flat-screen televisions. In the forward funnel, Vibe, a soda bar and recreation room, caters to teens ages 14 to 17. Children also have their own pool and deck area.
The lion's share of the ship's public areas are geared toward family use. New at Goofy's Family Pool zone is a 24-by-14-foot LED screen showing Disney movies, news and sporting events. In addition, the pool can be covered with a sliding dance platform.
Adults have exclusive access to the Quiet Cove Pool, the adjacent Cove Cafe coffee bar, the Vista Spa and, from mid-evening into the wee hours, a trio of bars and cabaret called Route 66 -- linked by a passage with vintage billboard imagery and carpeting that maps the famous interstate that linked Chicago and Los Angeles.
Probably, the most innovative aspect of Disney cruising is the rotational dining system where guests and their wait staff alternate among three restaurants. Each venue has its own ambience and culinary twist: Tritons offers continental cuisine in elegant art nouveau surroundings; Parrot Cay serves up Caribbean-influenced dishes in a tropical motif and the Animator's Palate is a black-and-white diner that gradually bursts into life with vivid fiberoptic colors and LED screens depicting iconic Disney characters.
On a recent seven-night sailing, our international dining staff was exemplary. Maitreíd Tektas (Turkey), waiter Balwan (India) and assistant waiter Titra (Hungary) mastered all guests' names and dietary preferences by the second night. Each was able to please the children at surrounding tables by performing special tricks and showering them with attention without missing a beat on timely delivery of everyoneís beverages and courses.
Palo, the 100-seat extra tariff Italian eatery, is an adults-only option that should be savored at least once. Brunch and dinner are $20 and high tea on sea days is $10. Selections begin with a tray of antipasti and range from fresh pasta, made-to-order pizzas, seafood, salads and prime cuts to decadent desserts, including Palo's legendary chocolate souffle.
Onstage theater highlights include The Golden Mickeys, a takeoff on the Oscars, where guests enter on a red carpet to be interviewed and photographed by paparazzi. Besides The Golden Mickeys and "Disney Dreams -- An Enchanted Classic," a show starring Peter Pan, Cinderella and other Disney characters, there was a comedian and a magician as well as screenings of Disney first-run and classic films, in-cluding "Toy Story 3" in 3-D. The entertainment spectacle of the week, however, was the Pirates In The Caribbean deck party hosted by various Disney characters, a pirate-themed barbecue and live fireworks.
Accommodations range from the beautifully appointed 1,029-square-foot Walt and Roy Disney Suites to comfortable 184-square-foot inside cabins. Most have separate sitting and sleeping areas, am-ple storage space and a third or fourth berth. All but a few feature Disney's family-friendly bath-and-a-half bathroom design -- one unit with a sink and commode next to another with sink and a tub. Staterooms have recently been fitted with flat-screen televisions with ample programming (including, of course, the Disney Channel), and H20 Spa brand amenities are provided.
Since Mazatlan was off the itinerary for the foreseeable future, the ship made two separate calls at Cabo San Lucas after visiting Puerto Vallarta. Excursions in both ports ran the gamut from sightseeing cruises, snorkeling and canopy tours to horseback rides and kayaking.
With the Wonder's repositioning, both Disney Cruise Line loyalists and the U.S. West Coast have a new kingdom of cruising options to explore.