Travel

Our Odyssey With Disney Wonder

CAN’T wait to file a report on a cruise with our entire family on the Disney Wonder, one of four ships of the Disney fleet. We sailed, we saw, and we survived with memories that will last a lifetime.

Disney Wonder cruise ship

We were celebrating a BIG birthday with our immediate family, children and grandchildren from Seattle and Fort Worth.

Team Cruise Disney included our daughter Rebecca Suskind and her husband David (who as a pediatrician would be very useful should the captain of the Disney Wonder drive the ship too close to dry land), their offspring, Elias 9, Sadie 5; our son Gideon Davis, his wife Tricia and their sons, Levi 8, and Ezra 3.

They all flew into LAX and we drove in leisurely fashion from Ventura County to San Pedro (90 minutes)where the 2,700 passenger ship departed on a one-week cruise with stops in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. The point after all is not the ports of call but the nonstop Disney immersion on board: a cross between a trip to fairyland and North Korea. But more on that later.

Gideon Davis in hammock at CasaDorada hotel, overlooking the harbor in Cabo St. Lucas

Boarding took longer than we anticipated. They apologized, claiming the pesky immigration people were to blame. But it gave us a chance to see our fellow passengers, draped in Disney regalia, hats, Mickey printed dresses, T-shirts, tote bags, jewelry—and that was just the adults.

The first night at sea we had dinner en famille at the Artisan’s Palette, surrounded by cells from Disney cartoons which changed from black and white, matching the restaurant’s décor, to color, throughout the meal. Even the waiters were in on the act with black and white Disney printed waistcoats.

The next night it was the Parrot’s Cay dining room. Dinner was accompanied by a cacophony of parrot squawks. Not all parrots, we discovered; just a handful of kids in various states of meltdown.

Check Out This Hotel Our Ventura County travel agent suggested while in Cabo we might like to check out one of the five-star hotels on the beach for a change of pace.

From the dock it was minutes to the Casa Dorada resort for lunch—and a spectacular view. (www.casadorada.com) Good choice. Hotels have been struggling in Cabo (and all over Mexico) because of the economy and those Mexican banditos who have swapped plastic swords for a more fearsome form of weaponry.

The hotel staff welcomed us as if we were guests and not just because they needed the business. They were at 80% occupancy which isn’t bad at any time, let alone in these days when Mexico has had reams of bad publicity.

We had a wonderful lunch with great margaritas, on the patio/pool area—with panoramic views of the ocean at Baja’s land’s end. The Disney Wonder sat in the bay looking like a toy ship, as scores of pleasure boats, glass bottom boats and wind surfers turned offered a view of paradise.
Ezra Davis and Sadie Suskind with Disney characters Captain Hook and Mr. Smee

This was to get us ready for the highlight of the trip – Pirate Night with more pirates large and small than on a Somalia raid. The entire ship got into the spirit, donning tri-cornered hats, eye patches, frilly shirts,moustaches and side-arms. Our three-year-old Ezra threatened to wreak serious damage with his plastic broadsword.

The show ended at 11 o’clock with a terrific fireworks display from the bridge over the ocean—the only ship at sea permitted to engage in pyrotechnics. Kids were tottering around the poop deck like drunken sailors, so excited and overtired that they refused to go to bed until they collapsed in a pile of exhaustion.

And talking about the poop deck, we all got used to the fact that the two kid’s pools on board Goofy’s and Mickey’s, (thank heavens there was also an adults only pool) were often closed without warning for “emergency repairs” which of course, was a euphemism for ….well you can guess. With all those excited young ‘uns jumping into the heated waters there was bound to be an accident…or two.

The kids had a ball and so did we as we lined up with the grandkids for thirty minutes or more to have photos taken with Mickey and Minnie, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee and the rest of the Disney gang.

Oh sure, sometimes the Disney ballyhoo got a bit much.

Sadie Suskind as a savage pirate of the Caribbean

That’s the North Korean bit. All that Fairy dust, the constant Disney music playing everywhere, the Disney movies screening in a loop on our stateroom TV screens and in the two big public theatres, the endless promotion of “Walt’s dream” and “Walt’s spirit,” and the “if you believe it will happen” Disney philosophy…Disney as propagandist could teach North Korea’s Junior Kim Jonga thing or two.

Occasionally it felt like being on a very large retreat with a religious cult.

But the food was excellent. The buffets in between meals provided an endless supply of snacks, drinks, smoothies and sundaes. And you can imagine our joy when the kids gobbled up dinner every night —and rushed off to the well serviced Oceaneers club leaving us older kids to enjoy a glass of wine and a tranquil meal—topped off by desserts galore.

One night the kids announced grandly, “We’re going to the club,” and the adults enjoyed dinner in peace at the featured restaurant Palo where you pay a modest $20 supplement per person for the finest Northern Italian dinner we ever had.

Pint-size pirates of the Caribbean, Levi Davis and Elias Suskind

The entertainment was very professional. The movies were mostly Disney offerings. We sat through the Muppet Movie and can now sing, not very well, two verses of the Oscar winning Man or Muppet song.

Our favorite show was the hilarious ventriloquist/comedian Michael Harrison from Canada (www.funnyguy.ca) We saw him twice.

Our balcony cabins were comfortable, with lots of storage space. We loved having two separate bathrooms—one full and one half.

We enjoyed the gym (you need one after four or five nightly desserts) and the spa where the sauna was so hot you could fry two-minute eggs in ten seconds.

Service was superb, except in the Triton restaurant where breakfast was surprisingly slow and creaky. And where the multinational staff didn’t understand that for Americans coffee comes as soon as you sit down.

We were relieved that the Captain of the Disney Wonder turned out to be a strapping Scandinavian – always a source of confidence. Italians need not apply.

The service crew were a real mix: Indians, Indonesians, Burmese, Eastern Europeans, Irish, English and assorted Aussies. All were gracious, hardworking and incredibly patient with the squads of kids who took half an hour to make up their minds what they wanted to eat and then changed them half a dozen times in ten minutes.

The offshore trips went smoothly. At Puerto Vallarta we took the local bus to the old town for lunch. Public transport is actually safer for those nervous about Mexico.

Sally and Ivor Davis with grandchildren Ezra and Levi

Our daughter took her kids to swim with the porpoises. Our son found a remote beach to snorkel.

Cabo San Lucas felt very safe. It seems to have been spared the vicissitudes of some of the resorts on the Mexican mainland. Nice beaches and tons of cafes with views of the water. We decided to lunch at the five-star Casa Dorada Hotel (see sidebar). It was a splendid afternoon by the pool and beach.

Our stateroom was on Deck 6 midship—with a balcony at $1,230 per person. The entire family trip was booked by Martha Jaffe, Travel Planner International of Ventura California (phone 805-642-6034: cell 805-218-3324). Check out diverse prices as kids travel much cheaper.

One tip: Don’t use the ATM machines offering US currency in Mexico. They clobber you for astounding extra bank charges.

We probably won’t go on another Disney Cruise for awhile. Cunard’s Queen Mary II from New York to London is our next odyssey.