Disney Wonder Review: Is it the Perfect Fairytale for Your Next Cruise?

Jill Robbins Avatar

Cruise ship Disney Wonder on sea

The Disney Wonder’s maiden voyage was in August 1999, joining the nearly identical Disney Magic, which is the first ship in Disney Cruise Line’s present-day fleet. I’ll spoil it all up front – the Disney Wonder is my favorite. I’ve sailed four of the five Disney Cruise Line vessels. I’m scheduled to sail on the Disney Fantasy in a few months, but I doubt it will replace the Wonder in my top spot.

Here’s what it’s like to set sail on the Disney Wonder and a little insight into why I love it.

Ship Basics

The Disney Wonder is 964 feet long, has 11 decks, and 875 staterooms that can accommodate 2,700 passengers and 950 crew. The ship’s atrium features Art Nouveau styling and a statue of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. All Disney ships have unique stern art, and the Disney Wonder’s stern art features Donald Duck and his adorable but mischievous nephews.  

Choose the Itineraries Over Choosing the Ship

Trying to choose the best cruise can be a little overwhelming because of the sheer number of choices you have. I recommend choosing your Disney cruise based on what dates are good for you and where the ship is going. The Disney ships are similar enough to one another that your experience isn’t going to vary widely from ship to ship, so take the vacation that works for you timewise and go where you want to go, whether that’s the Mexican Riviera, Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, or one of Disney’s new sailings in Australia and New Zealand.

Unless, of course, you’re chasing a grand slam like me. A grand slam is a term coined by the passengers to indicate they’ve sailed on all of Disney Cruise Line’s vessels. There are currently five, and the new Disney Treasure will take that number up to six in 2024.

Staterooms on the Disney Wonder

The types of staterooms on the Disney Wonder are Concierge, Oceanview with Verandah, and Inside. Concierge is Disney Cruise Line’s suite class, with more spacious staterooms and enhanced amenities, access to a concierge lounge, dedicated shoreside and onboard teams to assist them, and more. Sailing concierge has other perks, such as priority embarkation and disembarkation and the first choice of shore excursions and onboard activities.

Of course, this luxury and convenience comes with a price: Concierge staterooms are the most expensive.

The other stateroom categories are pretty much what they sound like, except Disney uses the word ‘verandah’ whereas most other cruise lines use the word balcony. An Oceanview stateroom will have portholes to look out of, and an inside stateroom will have no windows. The inside staterooms are the least expensive.

I’ve sailed on the Disney Wonder twice and stayed in an Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah both times.

Rotational Dining on the Disney Wonder

Rotational dining is unique to Disney Cruise Line. You’ll be assigned a different dining room each night of your cruise, which is included in the price of your cruise. The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App will tell you where you eat each night.

The cool thing about rotational dining is that your servers go with you. That’s right; you won’t have different servers in each dining room. Your servers will follow you from location to location and make every effort to get to know you and your family throughout the cruise. The Disney Wonder has three main dining rooms: Tiana’s Place (Deck 3 aft), Triton’s (Deck 3 midship), and Animator’s Palate (Deck 4 aft.)

Each menu includes bread service. The bread comes with butter and some type of dip or sauce. You’ll also find at least one plant-based option and a “lighter notes” menu, including a salad, a plain steak, plain salmon, and a plain chicken breast. That said, the regular menu items are fairly light on seasonings and spices across the board. If you want more robust flavors, the add-on adult dining is a little more appealing to more discerning taste buds.

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Have a sweet tooth? You’re in the right place. Each venue has unique desserts, a signature dessert, and a sugar-free dessert option.

Early or late dining

Guests will choose between early or late dining when booking their Disney Wonder cruise. Early seating is at 5:45 p.m., and second seating is at 8:00 p.m. This may vary slightly by cruise, and when the Disney Wonder sails from ports outside the United States, the dining times may be pushed later. Once you choose, you’re locked in, and there is no flipping back and forth between early or late seatings.

I’ve found the second seating to be less crowded and less rushed. The earlier seating is popular with young families who are interested in early bedtimes. The dining room staff also has to turn the dining room over between first and second seatings, so lingering diners may get gently nudged along.

Triton’s

In keeping with the statue of Ariel at the entrance, Triton’s decor is inspired by The Little Mermaid. The appetizer menu choices included a duck confit, deep-fried brie, and escargot.

The soup and salad menu included French onion soup, leek and potato soup, and a  Bosc pear salad. Mains included pasta with lobster and tomato, oven-baked salmon, roasted duck, rack of lamb, and chateaubriand.

The dessert list included:

  • A Grand Marnier souffle.
  • Apple tartine.
  • Strawberry shortcake sundae.
  • Creme brulee.
  • A chocolate sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup with chocolate ganache.

This entry-level French cuisine is designed to please both sophisticated palates and picky eaters. And, if you’ve been on the Disney Dream or Disney Magic and think this menu sounds similar to Royal Palace or Lumiere’s, you’re spot on. The menus are nearly identical.

Tiana’s Place

Don’t confuse this with Tiana’s Palace, which is coming soon to Disneyland in California. Tiana’s Place is delightfully Princess and the Frog-themed, with a New Orleans-style ambiance. Tiana visits the tables to welcome guests to her restaurant, and there’s a musical number featuring everyone’s favorite alligator, Louis. Note that Tiana doesn’t sign autographs in the dining room, but you can catch her in princess garb at one of the scheduled character meet-and-greets.

Appetizers include a Cajun-style charcuterie board, Boudin fritters, shrimp and grits, and ahi tuna tartare. Soup and salad offerings include a seafood pepper pot soup, creamy tomato soup, and an iceberg wedge salad.

The main dishes include Cajun-spiced sea bass on a bed of jambalaya, prime rib, and pasta with pancetta, mushrooms, spinach, and peas.

 The dessert list included:

  • Beignets with chocolate dipping sauce.
  • Bananas foster sundae.
  • Pecan nut tart.
  • White chocolate bread pudding.
  • Six-layer chocolate sponge cake.

The food at Tiana’s Place has more seasoning and a little more depth than the other main dining room menus. I’m not labeling the other dining rooms bland or subpar in any way, but the Cajun flair takes this menu up a few notches.

Animator’s Palate

I’ll preface this by saying I adore Animator’s Palate, my favorite restaurant across the fleet, with Tiana’s Place being a very close first runner-up. Animator’s Palate is your favorite Disney animation coming to life before your eyes with delicious food on the side.

The entertainment is truly spectacular. The Wonder has everyone’s favorite Animation Magic, which is one of my favorite parts of Animator’s Palate and Disney Cruising. Guests get a placemat to draw on when they first sit down to dinner. The servers will collect the placements, and the drawings magically become a special part of the entertainment.

Delicious Food

Appetizers include smoked salmon tartare, sliced serrano ham, black truffle pasta, and tomato tart. The choices for soups and salads are butternut squash soup, baked potato cheddar soup, an arugula salad, and a chicken salad.

Mains are pasta bolognese, tuna steak, thyme-seasoned chicken breast, herb-crusted pork, and ginger-dusted beef tenderloin with wasabi mashed potatoes that are a fantastic explosion of flavors – and I’m not a huge red meat eater. The wasabi mashed potatoes are a don’t miss – even if you opt not to get the beef, ask for a side of wasabi mash – it’s that good.

Desserts at the Animator’s Palate include

  • A lemon icebox pie.
  • Cookies and cream sundae.
  • Crunchy walnut cake.
  • Cheesecake with a layer of chocolate fudge.

The Animator’s Palate menu doesn’t vary from ship to ship, and that’s OK. This menu has been honed, perfected, and popular with DCL superfans. I wouldn’t mind seeing them expand the menu, but my feelings would be hurt if some of my favorites disappeared.

Read More: Complete Guide to Dining on the Disney Wonder

Other Included Dining On the Disney Wonder

There are many other places to eat included in the cost of your cruise.

Cabanas

Cabana’s is the Disney Wonder’s buffet eatery. Serving a wide variety of items for both breakfast and lunch, Cabana’s offers indoor and outdoor seating.

Room Service

Most room service items on the Disney Wonder are included in the cost of your cruise. A variety of soups, salads, pizza, sandwiches, and desserts can be delivered to your room 24 hours a day. Really.

Certain items on the room service menu are not free, so make sure you’re paying attention when you order. Alcohol, canned soda, and snacks such as candy and popcorn aren’t included.

Pete’s Boiler Bites

Burgers, tacos, chicken fingers, and more.  

Pinocchio’s Pizza

Enjoy a slice of cheesy, delicious pizza pie.

Eye Scream Treats

Unlimited soft serve is a Disney Cruise Line favorite.

Daisy’s DeLites

This pool deck quick service option has lighter options such as fruit, sandwiches, salads, and bowls.

Preludes

Preludes are the concession stand near the theater that serves popcorn that you can smell a mile away, candy and other snacks, sodas, and alcohol. You can also order from a server in the theater before the show starts.

Cove Cafe

The Cove Cafe serves specialty coffee and tea, with and without alcohol. Aside from the self-service coffee machine in the Concierge Lounge, the Cove Cafe is the only place to get decent coffee on the ship, and if you like your morning java, make sure you’re budgeting for it.

While the drinks at the Cove Cafe aren’t included in the cost of your cruise, the snacks are.

There are usually a variety of pastries in a display case that are free to adult guests (the Cove Cafe is located in the adult-only area of the ship. If you visit between 5:00-7:00 p.m., you might get lucky and find antipasto.

Adult Fine Dining on the Disney Wonder

The Magic has one adult-only fine dining venue, Palo. If you’re looking for a sans kids dinner or brunch date, a coveted reservation at Palo is the way to go.

Disney Wonder Adult Dining Experience: Palo

Palo serves dinner and brunch on sea days. Dinner is $45 per person, and brunch is $40 per person. The prices are always subject to change. I’m a big fan of Palo Brunch. Although the buffet portion of Palo Brunch is no more, the current menu is more than ample, and you’re brought an antipasto tray early on in the meal with most of the things the old buffet used to have.

The brunch menu includes tasty delights such as soups, waffles and pancakes, benedicts and omelets, and Italian-inspired dishes such as calzones, pizza, pasta, and chicken parmesan. The current dessert menu includes a light vanilla berry panna cotta, a limoncello torte, and traditional tiramisu. While I can’t find fault with the desserts, the brunch menu is so excellent and robust that I didn’t have much room. I didn’t think any of the desserts were worth saving room for, and I recommend you go for it and sample as much of the brunch menu as you can hold.

They’ll keep bringing you food as long as you can handle it.

For dinner, Palo has an extensive selection of steaks and seafood that are a little more thoughtfully prepared than what you’ll find on the main dining room menus. If you’re a foodie or really crave a good steak or premium seafood, book your dinner at Palo.

The Palo brunch atmosphere is elevated and bright. The sparkling ocean views add to the ambiance. The dinner vibe is more romantic and shadowed. If you arrive before sunset you’ll be treated to dreamy views from the restaurant’s many windows, but after sundown, the darker ambiance takes over, making it cozy and intimate.

Palo Dress Code

Formal or semi-formal attire is recommended. Dress casual attire with a polished look is permitted (such as dress pants, jeans in good condition, collared shirts and blouses, and lifestyle shoes). Clothing such as T-shirts, swimwear, and sports attire is not permitted.

Bars on the Disney Wonder

These spaces are open to guests of all ages before 7:00 p.m. After that, they are adults only.

Azure

Azure is an ocean-inspired retreat that’s a great place to relax with a drink and conversation after dinner. If you seek more activity, Azure is often the spot for adults-only entertainment such as games, variety acts, silent disco, live music, and more. Check the Navigator app for the schedule of activities.

Cadillac Lounge

This whimsical car-inspired bar is sophisticated without being at all stuffy. Adults can listen to live piano music, enjoy a drink, and take in ocean views.

Crown & Fin Pub

O’Gill’s Pub is a British pub-themed sports bar and lounge where guests can catch sports on the big-screen TVs or enjoy a trivia game. There’s often a pub grub-style buffet in the evenings if you find yourself a bit peckish.

Signals

A pool bar is located near the adults-only pool.

Promenade Lounge 

This “blink and you’ll miss it” lounge on Deck 3 is a fun, tucked-away spot to enjoy a cocktail before dinner.

The Always Family-Friendly D Lounge.

Looking for a family-friendly place to hang out and enjoy games that everyone can play? Check out the D Lounge on Deck 4 for family quiz shows, karaoke, and more.

Kids Activities On the Disney Wonder

Kids clubs are included on the Disney Wonder cruise and all Disney Cruise Ships. Young passengers can go to three kid’s clubs based on age: the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, Edge, and Vibe. There’s also a nursery.

The kid’s clubs are open all day and all evening without a break, and there’s no limit to how long a child can stay in the clubs. The clubs will offer an open house on the first day and at various points during the cruise – check the Navigator App for times. Anyone can check out the clubs during Open House. Otherwise, only the kids registered with the clubs can be in them.

Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab

These colocated kid’s clubs are for kids three to 12. Kids must be potty trained. The Oceaneer Lab’s activities are a little more educational-focused than the Oceaneer Club. From indoor play elements themed around Pixar characters to self-directed fun to organized games, the Oceaneer Club is special all the way around.

Edge

Edge is the Disney Wonder’s tween club for kids 11-13.

Vibe

Vibe is the Disney Wonder’s teen club for kids 14-17.

It’s a Small World Nursery

The nursery is not included in the cost of your cruise, and reservations are required. Kids between six months and three years old can go to the nursery.

Pools and Slides on the Disney Wonder

If you want to cool off on deck, the Disney Wonder has several options for that.

Goofy’s Pool, located on Deck 9, is the main pool, with two hot tubs nearby. There’s also Mickey’s Pool, which is shallower and designed for younger cruisers. The AquaLab splash zone is a 1,800-square-foot Huey, Dewey, and Louie-themed play area with water cannons and geysers. Dory’s Reef is a smaller, Finding Nemo-themed splash pad for kids under three.

The Quiet Cove Pool is adult-only and has a connecting bar and hot tubs. Disney does a great job at keeping kids out of the adult-only pool area, so it is a much more serene experience than being on the main pool deck with all the excited kids.

Younger Guests and Pools Aboard the Wonder

Kids must be three and older and potty trained to be allowed in the pools on the Disney Wonder. Kids in swim diapers are not permitted in the onboard pools, hot tubs, or in the AquaLab but may use Dory’s Reef.

The Twist N’ Loop Water Slide

The Twist N’ Loop is a 250-foot body slide with two loops. The height requirement is  38” tall, and all in all, this is a pretty tame slide.

Note: The Disney Wonder is the only ship in the fleet that doesn’t have a thrill slide. There’s no AquaDuck, AquaDunk, or AquaMouse on board.

Entertainment and Live Shows on the Disney Wonder

The onboard Walt Disney Theatre will have Disney-themed, Broadway-style entertainment on board. The current shows on the Disney Wonder are Frozen, A Musical Spectacular, Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic, and The Golden Mickeys.   

The shows typically run about 50 minutes to give guests time to get to dinner and other activities. Frozen, A Musical Spectacular, is an abbreviated version of the beloved animated film and the show’s designers have done a fantastic job of telling the full story in the time allotted without making the guests feel cheated.

Dreams is a production exclusive to Disney Cruise Line about a little girl named Anne Marie who learns to believe in herself through several musical interactions with various Disney characters. The Golden Mickeys, also exclusive to Disney Cruise Line, is an Oscars-style show featuring Disney favorites.    

On longer cruises, the entertainment may include illusionists or family-friendly comedy shows. If there’s a world premiere of a Disney movie while you’re on board, the Walt Disney Theater may hold a Hollywood-style opening night.

Shows are aligned with dinner seatings

There are two dinner seatings and two nightly shows. If you’re dining early, you’ll eat first and then go to the show. Dining later? Your designated show will be before dinner. If you do not eat in the main dining room during your designated time, you can go to whatever show suits your schedule.

Movies on Board the Disney Wonder

Watch Disney movies on board the Disney Magic in the Buena Vista Theater. The Buena Vista will show first and second run Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars movies, so if there’s something from one of those franchises playing at the theater when you take your cruise, you’ll be able to watch it on board the Disney Magic, and it’s included in the cost of your cruise.

A schedule of movie times will be posted on the marquee outside the theater, and they’ll also be listed in the Disney Navigator App.

Funnel Vision

If you want to watch a Disney movie from the pool or while relaxing on the sun deck with a piece of pizza, there are nearly round-the-clock movies playing on a giant screen on Deck 9.

In Room Movies

If you prefer to cozy up in your room and watch Disney films, just turn on your TV.

Disney Character Meet and Greets

Whether you are a first-time Disney cruiser or whether it’s your tenth Disney Cruise, seeing your favorite Disney characters on board is always a fun treat.

There are almost endless opportunities to interact with your favorite Disney characters on a Disney cruise ship. Your Navigator app will tell you the character times and locations, so find out when your favorites will be available and line up early for that photo. Don’t forget your autograph book.

Surprise character sightings are constantly popping up. You might see Cinderella or Belle waving from the balcony overlooking the atrium or spot Pluto clowning around in the elevator, which seems to be a favorite spot. Or, you might get lucky and encounter a character as they’re moving from one spot to the next. I once happened upon Captain Hook traveling down a corridor on Deck 5. He kept moving and gave me a disdainful little wave.

Fun Character-Themed Outfits

If you’re into character greetings, you’ll be delighted to know that character attire on a Disney Cruise Line ship is unique. You’ll see characters in nautical outfits on board, in beachwear on Disney’s Castaway Cay, and in pirate garb on pirate night.

If you do an Alaska cruise, you’ll see your favorite character in fur-trimmed parkas, and if you take a seasonal cruise, such as a Halloween or holiday cruise, you’ll see characters in costumes and Christmas sweaters. There’s nothing cuter than seeing Mickey Mouse dressed up like Dracula.

Where Does the Disney Wonder Cruise Stack Up For Me?

The Disney Wonder is my forever favorite, with the Disney Magic being a close second. I love the smaller ships, and I’ll be heartbroken if they retire these ships without replacing them with a more intimate-sized cruise ship. The layout of the Wonder and Magic are nearly identical.

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Jill Robbins Avatar
Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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