Smooth sailing on a family Disney cruise: Review of Concierge level on the Disney Wonder
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Cruising with Disney, it seems, is even more fun the second time around -- especially with an upgrade to more spiffy quarters.
Almost a year ago, we had a successful sailing on the Disney Dream out of Florida, so we booked another Disney cruise to start 2020. This time we only needed a two-hour drive from home in Houston to hop aboard the ship in the Port of Galveston. No airplanes were involved on our journey across the sea to Mexico on the Disney Wonder, one of the two original ships in Disney's fleet. I can't overstate how fantastic it was to just drive to the port, board a ship and go. No TSA 3.4-ounce limits on liquids or the five-hour flight delays that had plagued our last few trips.
The Disney Wonder is noticeably smaller than the Disney Dream we sailed on previously. The Wonder has 875 cabins and room for up to 2,700 passengers, as opposed to the larger Dream's 1,250 staterooms and capacity for up to 4,000 guests. I was curious as to whether the smaller, older Disney ship would feel like a lesser experience.
For this cruise, we splurged on the Disney Concierge level in the hope of eliminating some of the disappointments of our first Disney cruise. To say I was excited for our trip is a dramatic understatement, and the experience largely lived up to my highest expectations.
FOR NO COST ASSISTANCE WITH PLANNING AND BOOKING YOUR NEXT DISNEY VACATION, CHECK OUT TPG'S DISNEY BOOKING PARTNER, MOUSE COUNSELORS.
Disney cruises are expensive and there aren't many ways to use points for booking, although you can certainly earn a ton of points by booking with the right credit card.
You can earn 3x points per dollar by putting the travel charge on your Chase Sapphire Reserve, which I did.
To use points on a Disney cruise, the easiest way is to make payments with a card that has fixed-value points you can use for travel. This includes the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (currently with a bonus of 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. (worth $750 in travel). Here are some additional tips for using points when booking a cruise.
Although deals and redemptions are scarce, you can purchase Disney gift cards at a discount and then use them toward your cruise. It won't cut the price in half, but you can save 5-10%, depending on available offers and how hard you work on stacking them.
If you have the Disney Visa, you can save on board with discounts on spa treatments, Castaway Cay packages and photo packages. You can also get a promotional 0% introductory APR for six months on Disney cruises charged to the card (then a variable APR of 15.99% applies), if you need a little breathing room to pay off all that shrimp and magic. However, in terms of earning or using points, the Disney Visa isn't actually the best card out there, even for a Disney cruise.
On our first Disney cruise, my family of four booked two connecting staterooms to meet our needs for sufficient sleeping quarters and living space. Two cabins aren't necessary for a family of four sailing on Disney, but they were necessary for my family's sanity. We don't sleep well crammed into one small area. On this cruise, my mom came to experience her first cruise while my husband took a different trip with his dad.
We wanted to try another approach to accommodations, so we booked a one-bedroom suite instead of two staterooms. To be clear, two staterooms on Disney are almost always going to be less expensive than a one-bedroom suite. We went this route, in part, to try out Concierge level.
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We've become fans of the website CruiseCompete. This site allows cruise shoppers to select the cruise that interests them and then travel agents "compete" for their business by submitting quotes via email. The base sailing price is typically the same from all sources, including Disney, but the perks and bonuses can and do vary. Our best offer was via Cruise Vacation Outlet. They offer a stateroom credit based on the cost of your cruise, which for us amounted to $750 in an onboard credit. The cruise was pricey -- very pricey -- but that's $750 we wouldn't have gotten if we'd booked directly with Disney.
Looking at prices for a similar four-night cruise from Galveston to Cozumel for next January, prices for a family of four start around $3,300 for an inside stateroom. A stateroom with a balcony starts at $3,800 and a Concierge-level stateroom starts at $5,700. A one-bedroom Concierge suite, like the one we booked, is pricing around $7,000 for the same itinerary next year -- which is about what we paid this year. These suites sleep four to five people, and are 614 square feet, including the balcony.
We arrived in Galveston at 11 a.m. Both times I've cruised, I've been pretty confused about where to go, where to park, where to drop off the bags, etc. There are signs, but it is a little chaotic. Once we figured out where we were supposed to be, the magic began.
I dropped off the bags with Disney cruise tags that had been mailed to us after booking. (Our bags later appeared in the hall outside our stateroom a few hours after boarding.) I also dropped off my kids and Grandma so they didn't have to do the parking lot/shuttle shuffle with me. The nearest open parking lot in Galveston was not within reasonable walking distance of the ship, unlike when sailing Disney from Port Canaveral. After a quick trip back from the parking lot and paying $55 to park for four nights, we were all back together and ready to walk into the terminal. Note that not all parking lots at the Galveston Port Terminal accept guests sailing on Disney, so the official lot is probably your best bet.
Inside the terminal, guests are guided by cheerful employees wearing big white Mickey Mouse gloves. You go through a security check reminiscent of an airport, but with shorter lines and fewer restrictions.
Next up is the Disney Cruise Line check-in desk. This is where our Concierge perks kicked in. We were able to walk right up to a special section with no wait.
Related: What to pack for your first cruise
Our passports were checked again and we were given our "keys to the world." These keycards serve as room keys and ship IDs. They also provide kids club access and charging privileges on the ship. You don't have to wear them on a lanyard around your neck, but it's the easiest way to keep track of them. It wasn't until the end of the cruise that I realized our gold-colored cards meant Concierge level. This made them easy to spot by the crew as most of the keys are blue.
Once we were through all the formalities, we had a brief wait. The waiting areas aren't fancy, though Concierge guests do have their own area and can board first -- just after the Disney-selected "family of the day."
My family was the third to board the ship, at 11:45 a.m. This was hours earlier than we were able to board on our first Disney cruise. I think my mom was overwhelmed with excitement and about ready to cry, which was pretty awesome. She grew up near the water on the Gulf Coast, watching ships her whole life, but this was her first time to step foot on anything larger than a car ferry.
All families are greeted by name as they board a Disney cruise. We were immediately invited to have lunch in Tiana's restaurant, which was reserved for Concierge guests for this meal. However, we had other plans.
On our first Disney cruise, there was almost always a long line for the waterslide and the pools were crowded, so our goal was to enjoy those amenities first thing before the ship was full of more than 2,000 guests.
One quick stop for snacks in the Concierge lounge later, the girls changed into their swimsuits (kept in our carry-on bags) and away we went to start the fun.
Much more on the pools and slide later, but the plan worked. My two girls enjoyed the water features on this sailing for at least an hour and we didn't see another guest during that time.
Laugh if you want, but it was my turn to tear up when I saw our suite: Number 8048.
Regular Disney staterooms are more than fine (and we will probably opt for them when we are lucky enough to cruise with Disney), but the suite was special. Seeing it brought together months of anticipation about the voyage. Square footage is at a serious premium on a cruise ship, so to have two full rooms, two bathrooms and some extra nooks and crannies was really, really cool.
When you enter the suite, there is a bathroom with a toilet and shower immediately to your right.
On the left is a good-sized row of closets, drawers and shelves. This provides storage when the living portion becomes a bedroom.
Past the entry hallway, there is a dining table for four and wet bar with a minibar underneath stocked with soda and water. These are all included, so drink up. You can also refill it as much as you'd like from the large fridge in the Concierge lounge.
The couch was transformed into a bed each evening by the stateroom staff. They do their best to meet with you on the first day to find out what you prefer for sleeping arrangements.
The living room has its own balcony access and TV with Disney movies and shows on demand.
A sliding door separates the living area from the bedroom area. (The door was quite loud. Even in moderate seas, if you tried to shut it all the way, it banged in its tracks all night.)
The queen-size bed in the bedroom area was quite comfortable.There is room for luggage to be stored underneath. (Though that's not how I store luggage anymore.)
A twin-size bed is against the wall across from the TV and next to the queen bed.
Pro tip: You can ask your stateroom hosts to provide cartoon sheets for the twin-size beds.
Rounding out the bedroom is another door that opens onto the large veranda and a second TV.
Between the bedroom and the main bathroom area is a small, but extremely functional, desk area next to the main closet. We used this to store and charge all the electronics. It really helped keep the whole family's smaller items organized.
Finally, there is the master bathroom. The bath area off of the master bedroom features a full-size tub and vanity.
The shower and toilet occupy separate spaces in another section.
Bath amenities are provided in large bottles of the Disney's H2O+ line that you could move from the shower to the bathtub, as needed.
You can't talk about the stateroom without talking about the great stateroom hosts. They cleaned the room and put away the extra beds each morning. Then, while we were out to dinner and a show, they magically transformed it back into a clean, calm space for sleeping. Only once during the cruise did they accidentally try to work their magic while we were in the room -- and that was our fault because we changed dining times at the last minute so we could take a nap.
Overall, this space worked well for our party of four, but it is worth noting that on Deck 8 we heard a fair amount of noise at times, mostly from kids running on the outdoor Deck 9 area above. We were also able to hear when a young child in the room next to ours was crying, which thankfully was only a passing issue at times.
Ports of call
Our four-night itinerary on the Disney Wonder was:
- Galveston, Texas
- Day at sea
- Cozumel, Mexico
- Day at sea
- Return to Galveston
Our only true port of call was Cozumel, which I was excited to see. I love much of the beautiful Cancun/Playa del Carmen area but hadn't been to Cozumel.
Day 1: Galveston
We spent the first few hours on the ship playing in the pool, eventually enjoying the Concierge lunch in Tiana's, registering in the kid's clubs and exploring. Around 4 p.m. it was time for the fun to officially begin with the "Sail Away" party.
While my mom went to the front of the ship to watch us pull away from the dock, an important moment for her, the girls and I went to a singing, dancing, laughing character-fueled party on deck.
I highly recommend this show; it was a ton of pumped-up fun. We missed it on our first cruise, in part because we just hadn't fully settled into the ship yet.
Drinks are for sale everywhere on deck leading up to this party, if you want to raise a glass to the start of your vacation.
Day 2: At sea
If you follow our adventures, you may already know that my youngest daughter and I both are prone to motion sickness. We were both mostly unfazed by our first Disney cruise, but not this time.
On our first full day at sea, I felt like drunk death for the first half of the day despite being 100% sober. My youngest daughter didn't feel great either. The captain described the sea as moderate in his daily announcements, but when pool water doesn't stay in the pool because the waves are so big, I call it more than moderately yucky. The remedy was some time on deck and Dramamine.
With our sea legs a bit sturdier, it was time to meet some characters and take in a movie. On a Disney cruise, some characters (like the princesses) require advance free reservations, while others are available for walk-up meet-and-greets.
The classic princesses gather in the ship's main atrium while the Frozen princesses gather in a transformed Animator's Palate.
To see characters for whom you don't have reservations, you can beat the lines by having one adult stand near where the character's published appearance is (arrive 10-15 minutes early) and hold the place for the rest of the family to join.
Day 3: Cozumel
Using some of the $750 stateroom credit, I booked a port excursion through Disney that included three stops during our one port day in Mexico: Mayan ruins, Mayan chocolate and Playa Mia Beach Club. It was $55 for kids, $69 for adults and sounded great since it had a little bit of everything.
We met our group at 10:15 a.m. and left the ship with them by 10:30 a.m. The tour operator took the group on a 30-minute bus ride to the Mayan ruins.
There was plenty to see to entertain impatient children for an hour, but our tour guide did more talking in one or two spots than really guiding the group to explore the area. About halfway through our time, we peeled off from the main group so we could see more of the area, which was wise given our interests.
Next up was a 30- to 40-minute drive to the location of the chocolate and beach break. The chocolate was very good with many varieties available for tasting in the gift shop. My favorite part was a sample of homemade corn tortillas with mole sauce -- I wish there had been more opportunities like that on the tour.
Finally, after spending about $40 for chocolate bars to take home, we had 90 minutes at the Playa Mia Beach Club. Lunch was not included in our package, but it was close to 2 p.m. and we were hungry. By this point in the afternoon, the buffet looked less than great to me, so we ordered off the menu. The food was served in an area that could hold hundreds of people at one time and it wasn't great (the margarita was undrinkable and awful), but we survived.
The last hour of the excursion was spent in the pools and on the beach. We didn't fully explore the waterpark area, and the beach was less than glamorous.
I didn't love the way we spent our time on Cozumel. I didn't hate it either, but there probably are better beaches and much better food in the area. Our tour returned to the ship about 15 minutes before the all-aboard time, so almost as soon as we were back on the ship, we were pulling away from Cozumel.
Pirate Night is held aboard ship during the evening after spending the day in Mexico, making for a pretty full day. So full that we begged to change our dinner to the late dinner so we could work in a nap before the nighttime fun.
You want to go all-in on Pirate Night. Trust me, your kids will love it. The meals that evening are all pirate-themed, there are pirate games and then a big pirate show.
There's dancing, pirating, battling and eventually, a fireworks show. Full warning, though, this fun goes on way past normal bedtime, so plan ahead with naps.
Day 3: At sea
On the third day we spa-ed, saw another movie, did a tequila and margarita tasting and ate Mickey bars, lots of Mickey bars. We were legitimately on vacation.
The tequila and margarita tasting was in the Cadillac Bar and Lounge and wasn't quite what I had hoped for. It was much more tequila and much less margarita. Only go to this one if you are a fan of hard liquor, which I'm not.
Even if you are on a shorter cruise, be sure to devote a full day just to exploring the ship and enjoying movies and more. Other than the big-ish waves at first, I was thankful to have two sea days on this cruise; our first cruise had none.
You are paying a premium to cruise with Disney, so make the most out of what is included on the ship.
You don't actually have to get off the Disney ship at all to have a full family vacation. From basketball to pools and waterslides to shows to the spa to kids clubs and more -- there are tons and tons of amenities, most of which are included in your base sailing price.
Pools and slides
On the Disney Wonder, there are three main pool areas for guests. There's the adults-only pool, the main pool and a smaller kid-friendly pool nearest the waterslide and splash area. Children still in diapers are not permitted in the pools, but can go into the splash area with swim diapers.
Here's the thing: The pools are small and they aren't as useable as you might think. We headed straight for the pools as soon as we got onboard this time around to avoid the crowds we experienced on our first Disney cruise. That strategy worked great, and indeed that first hour was the only hour we spent in the pools on our cruise. I won't post the photo of what it looks like when 15 people are in one hot tub, but you can imagine it for yourself.
Not only did the pools and slide get much busier at times, but on our first full day at sea, the water essentially sloshed out of most of the pools because it was so choppy. As shown below, the waterslide was still open on that sea day, but the line stretched all the way down the stairs.
Only one person at a time can go down the slide and you must be 38 inches or taller. My 4-year-old was tall enough by several inches, but the solo-sliding requirement made her decide to stay in the splash zone.
The adult-pool area had lots of swimmers and hot-tubbers at some times but was generally less busy than the family areas.
There are four or five different kids clubs on the Disney Wonder, depending on how you count. The largest, busiest two clubs are the Disney Oceaneer Club and Lab -- designed for children ages 3-12.
The two clubs are on Deck 5 and are connected by a "secret" passageway. The clubs are free for kids in that age range, though they do need to be potty-trained and one-on-one care is not provided. These connected kids clubs have a slide, a video-game area, a Marvel-themed area, Andy's playroom area, craft areas, movies, games, activities and character visits.
Your child's exact location within the club is tracked with what looks like a Disney Magic Band, and you can check them in and out at will. The only time parents are allowed to actually hang out in this club is during designated open-house hours.
On our first cruise, my girls (then 3 and 9) had a blast in these clubs and begged to return together again and again. However, I made a strategic error this time.
The tween club, Edge, is for kids 11-14, but I made the mistake of discovering that 10-year-olds can go to Edge with parent approval. I gave that approval and then my 10-year-old never wanted to go back to the "little kid club." Ever. This created lots of heartache for my 4-year-old who felt left behind. As a result, kids club time for her was not nearly as easy a sell on this cruise.
My 10-year-old, however, never wanted to leave Edge; she enjoyed hanging with the "big kids." Note that Edge is a come-and-go space without a parental check-in process. We did have some issues with my daughter not being where I thought she would be courtesy of that newfound ship freedom.
Lesson learned: Perhaps you should hide the fact that 10-year-olds can visit Edge, especially if you have a younger child still in the main kids clubs.
For teens, there is also Vibe, for ages 14-17. Consider yourself warned: Once your kid gets a taste of the clubs for older children, they may want nothing to do with the more supervised clubs for the young ones.
There are two types of shows on the Disney Wonder, the nighttime Broadway-caliber shows and Disney movies. The nighttime shows are scheduled opposite your dining time. This means if you have early dinner, you go to the late show, and vice versa. Of course, you are free to mix this up by not going to your regular seating for dinner and instead ordering room service, going to a grab-and-go food station or the Cabanas buffet.
On our cruise, nighttime shows included "Golden Mickeys" and "Frozen" -- both of which are excellent.
The Walt Disney Theatre has open seating, so you should get there 15-20 minutes before shows start for better seats. But here's a problem for families: There's no way to enjoy meals in the regular dining rooms (which are very good), see the shows and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Some pretty cool offerings, like Pirate Night, don't even start until 10 p.m. or later. This isn't a big deal the first day or two of the cruise, but by the end of the cruise, I saw full-scale meltdowns everywhere. I'd love to see more matinee showings of the nighttime shows so families can make the most of their cruise and still get kids to bed at reasonable times. This was offered once, with "Frozen," but typically those with early dinner times (like us) end up going to shows that don't start until 8:30 p.m.
One of my favorite things to do on a Disney cruise is see a movie. It feels luxurious to walk right in and enjoy a first-run movie. On this cruise they were showing movies such as "Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker," "Maleficent 2" and "Frozen 2." Those in Concierge level can pick up sodas in the lounge and free popcorn at the shop right outside the theater. Otherwise, a bucket of popcorn is about $3.50.
There are two movie theaters on the Disney Wonder and some of the showings are in 3-D.
The Senses Spa is located in the forward area of Deck 9 on the Disney Wonder, which means that parts of the spa -- like the salon area -- have some great unobstructed ocean views.
Although I've seen some discounts on the spa during port days in the past, I didn't notice any this time. However, we still had some of that stateroom credit to use, so we happily made a few spa appointments for the last full day of the cruise.
My 50-minute massage was, in short, exceptional. It's hard to judge a whole spa on one service, but it really was great.
The spa treatment room wasn't overly impressive, nor was the area where you change clothes and shower. In fact, there was a line for the two showers at one point. However, the treatment was good enough that I didn't care about the rest. A small warning: They will try to sell you products unless you make it clear you're not interested.
My mom and I also had shampoo/blow-dry appointments in the spa and we both enjoyed them.
If you want some relaxation without paying for full spa services, you can purchase access to the Rainforest area of the spa. During our cruise, it was $29 per day if you purchased access onboard. It is likely cheaper if you buy access online ahead of time. This will also protect you from a potential sell-out which wasn't an issue on this cruise, but can happen. You can also buy a multi-day pass if you want to make this a part of your daily cruising routine.
This tranquil room has heated stone loungers, aromatherapy steam and showers with different temperatures and pressures. But wait, there's more.
Since you're already at the spa, you can use the full-size showers in the spa dressing rooms to clean up instead of relying solely the smaller showers in your stateroom. Beware that there may be a wait for the changing-room showers as there are only two in the women's dressing area of the spa on the Disney Wonder. It is a solid option if you get claustrophobic and want a larger shower space.
The spa isn't the only kid-free area on the Disney Wonder. You can also head to the Quiet Cove area located on Deck 9.
Here you'll find plenty of comfy lounge chairs, a main adult-only pool and two hot tubs.
There's also an adult coffee shop that transforms into a bar as the day goes on.
This is where you can get your cold brew fix each morning. If you plan to make multiple visits, pick up a frequent-sipper card that gives you a free specialty drink when you buy five on that particular cruise.
The beverages in this shop are sold for a fee, but the pastries in the display case are free.
I'm going to do a whole separate article on whether the Disney cruise Concierge level is worth it, so stay tuned for a deep dive into the service and access it conveys. But here's an overview of the lounge itself.
The Concierge lounge is open from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. and serves meals and snacks at the following times:
- Continental breakfast (7 a.m.-10:15 a.m.)
- Lunch snacks (11:00 a.m.-1:45 p.m.)
- Afternoon offerings (2:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m.)
- Dinner snacks (5:00 p.m.-8:15 p.m.)
- Dessert (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.)
For breakfast in the lounge you will often find smoked salmon, diced fruit, muffins, pastries and these truly addictive Mickey-shaped cinnamon rolls. There's also a great coffee machine and sugar cubes shaped like Mickey's head.
At lunch you'll generally find wraps, small sandwiches and single-serve desserts.
In the evening, there are complimentary beverages from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. This is a big deal as alcohol is not routinely complimentary anywhere else on the ship. The bartender on our ship knew everyone's name by the second evening and was a true joy to see each night.
During the evening (and during the day on the first day of the cruise), you have your pick of wine, liquor and beer. Available brands include, Tito's, Bombay Sapphire, Crown Royal, 1800, Jack Daniel's, etc.
For evening snacks, there are small salads, cheese, bread and more.
Having complimentary wine in the evening in a private lounge is pretty great. You can get a glass to take to dinner or your stateroom too.
Second perhaps to the adult beverages, my favorite lounge offering was the stocked fridge -- which you can raid. This means you can have drinks on hand in your stateroom, to take on excursions and enjoy around the ship. There's bottled water, sparkling water, Coke products, juice and juice boxes. I didn't count how many drinks we consumed over the course of a four-night cruise, but a couple dozen is a fair estimate.
A cool event in the Concierge lounge was a special meet-and-greet with a surprise Disney character after the Cozumel port day. On our cruise, the special character was Stitch, but I believe it varies from cruise to cruise. There was a line to meet the character, but it was no more than five minutes while we were there.
In addition to the main indoor area, the Concierge lounge on the Disney Wonder has a private bathroom just outside the entrance, as well as an upper-deck outdoor area that overlooks the adult-pool area.
Food and beverage
The Disney Wonder has three main restaurants. These are included in your cruising price and your serving team rotates with you each night. For example, they remembered that my oldest daughter likes barbecue sauce with virtually everything and had it ready at subsequent meals.
The newest restaurant option on the Disney Wonder is Tiana's, a New Orleans-themed restaurant.
This restaurant is an absolute party. We enjoyed shrimp and grits, lobster salad, beignets and way too much fluffy bread.
But that's not even the best part. The best part is the live music, dancing and general merry-making that is the theme of this restaurant.
We missed the main meal in Animator's Palate as we dined at the adults-only Palo that night. We were able to enjoy Animator's Palate during Pirate Night, but it's not the same experience. Rumor has it that the restaurant transforms from black and white to color as the main meal goes on. We'll have to catch it next time.
We enjoyed Animator's Palate during the pirate-themed night with shrimp, crab cakes, noodles, jerk chicken with red beans and rice ... and the requisite kid meal: macaroni with chicken strips. Your kids can order whatever they want from the menu, but my 4-year-old happily stuck to a narrow list of options.
All the restaurants were good, but Triton's was probably my least favorite. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as fun or themed as the others. If you want to skip one, this is it.
Still, we managed to eat our weight in seafood.
As you are ordering your courses, know that on a Disney cruise, included dessert is never more than a request away. In fact, the servers often insist you at least try it. And in that case, we all know calories don't count.
There are a multitude of included quick-service dining options -- pizza, chicken fingers, burgers, hot dogs, chili bowls, ice cream, salads, gyros and more. Basically, no one will ever go hungry.
For lunch, we usually went to the Cabanas buffet which is open for three meals per day -- plus late into the night on Pirate Night. Cabanas has everything from chicken fingers to ham, stir-fry, seafood, salad, fruit, calamari and dozens of other selections.
I'm a sucker for room-service breakfast and thankfully it's included for all guests on a Disney cruise. The only catch is that the menu is continental. Donuts, muffins, beverages and cereal are no problem, but there's nothing hot (or particularly healthy) on the included menu.
However, a perk of Concierge level is that Concierge guests can order from the Triton's breakfast menu and have hot items delivered to the room. We ordered omelettes, Mickey waffles, bacon, sausage, yogurt parfaits, hashbrowns and more.
Note that although normal room service was always delivered during the time I selected on the door hanger the night before, our one special room-service order from Triton's took a long time to arrive. That may be a fluke, but budget at least an hour for delivery. Once it arrived, it was perfect.
Last, but far from least, ordering ice cream Mickey bars from room service is a must-do. There's no fee for this (other than an optional tip) -- so your kids may want to make this a part of your daily cruise routine. Our oldest daughter learned how to order the bars herself on our previous cruise ... and put those skills to use on this one. (Just be careful what you wear when eating a melting Mickey bar -- something in these bars is very hard to get out of clothes.)
There's no better meal on the Disney Wonder than Palo. This is an 18-an-up restaurant that requires reservations and costs an additional $40 per person. We couldn't get into Palo on our first cruise as Disney newbies because it was already booked by passengers who had access to advance reservations. First-time cruisers are at the bottom of the advance-booking food chain. But this time, Concierge-level access made it happen, and with the kids together in the kids club (at my insistence) my mom and I dined so well that we went into a legit food coma.
Our reservation was at sunset, a visual treat. People also dress up more here, which raised the ambience a notch or two over Pirate Night.
The service was out-of-this-world exceptional. And the food, well, I'll crave it forever.
Palo is an Italian-themed restaurant. On the menu you'll find everything from heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella to tableside antipasti to grilled lobster with pasta, to calamari to handmade gnocchi to scallops to the best meat on the ship (per the chef) -- the prime beef tenderloin.
Every bite was rich and succulent, but my favorites were the butternut squash agnolotti and chocolate souffle (both shown below). Once you pay your $40 fee, you can order away at no additional charge, which can be quite the bargain considering some items on the list. What a wonderful experience this was.
Finally, the ship has bars and an entire area devoted to adults, though kids can enter some of these spaces at times. Outside Tiana's restaurant is the French Quarter Lounge which has live music in the evenings. Kids were welcome here during our visit, though the area was never busy when we stopped by.
There's an English pub, Crown & Fin, that was lively during some football playoff games. There's typically a selection of complimentary bar food at the buffet in this pub.
Also in the "After Hours" portion of the ship is the previously mentioned Cadillac Lounge, where we did the tequila tasting. There is some fun live piano and jazz here in the (kid-free) evenings.
There's a lot to take in on a four-night Disney cruise. Nothing is perfect, but our sailing was pretty darn awesome. It was admittedly very expensive, even by Disney standards. However, it was worth it. We had no worries, my mom got to come with us and it has even piqued the interest of my dad and extended family now taking their first cruises. As for me, it makes me think even bigger when it comes to cruising. Alaska is now on my radar, though likely not in Disney Concierge level as that would probably cost as much as a small car.
The Disney Wonder is a perfectly sized ship. It was large enough to keep us entertained for multiple days, but small enough that my 10-year-old could navigate it pretty well by the second day. The elevators were laughably small (we logged many flights of stairs), but otherwise it didn't feel small in any way.
I wouldn't hesitate to return to the Disney Wonder for this or a longer sailing. The only thing that may get in my way is the temptation of booking a sailing on the all-new Disney Wish when it enters the fleet.