We just returned yesterday from our family Disney Cruise – and what an experience it was! I’m going to give HUGE props to Disney for knowing how to create a magical experience – from small details like EVERYONE being friendly and helpful (it really was the happiest “ship” on Earth) to non-stop activities all around the ship from a full movie theater to live productions to adult activities and age-appropriate kid clubs.
We sailed on the good ship WONDER out of San Diego, a five-day cruise with stops in Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, Mexico. This particular trip was “Halloween on the High Seas”, complete with a Halloween night (trick or treat and costumes), a Pirate night (ARRR!) and a Mardi Gras finale. While this was our first cruise, you could easily spot the repeat customers who were fully decked out for every single event. And in true Disney fashion, they provided the key accoutrement for even we unprepared folks to blend in – from trick or treat bags to pirate bandanas to Mardi Gras beads. It was amazing, really.
We have tons of pictures, as you’d imagine, many of which I’ll share here, but I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow and just say, WOW, we did a lot.
It all started with a night in San Diego, where we met up with my mom and my sister’s family, and Frank and Spencer tried out the scooters lying all around the city:
On the first morning on the ship, we booked the girls for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, an extremely overpriced (yet priceless) salon just for kids, complete with “Fairy Godmothers in Training” to turn any little princess into a, well, princess:
Yes, even the lighting was pink in this room, and a few of my favorite shots include, my first one of Ella, Zoe with a protector for her “fairy dust” (hair spray), and – because they prepared their hair and makeup with their BACKS to the mirror – the first shot of Zoe seeing herself transformed into a princess:
And here’s the official transformation video prior to the big reveal:
Once they were princesses, there was no turning back… Though we had prepared for a family Halloween costume night (with an Incredibles theme), Ella insisted on remaining in her Anna costume. Best laid plans. The rest of us, however, had an “INCREDIBLES” time:
On Tuesday, we went ashore on a tender boat to Cabo San Lucas, heading back to a restaurant Bart and I had found on our one and only trip to Cabo a few years ago called Mi Casa. The whole restaurant is lovely, and they have a gift shop up front with Dia de los Muertos themed handmade items.
That night we enjoyed a Pirate themed evening (with a bottle of rum – ok, not really, but it sounded good and I did have a Piña Colada – does that count?).
After dinner, we enjoyed a Magic Show with David Gatti in the Walt Disney Theater. It was a great show, but what was even more impressive was that it was one of many events on the ship that did not require tickets BUT seating and experience were both seamless. Oh, Disney. What can’t you do? Here’s Zoe & Ella with the magician after the show (Sharon Strauss – do you KNOW him?!):
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet (and pictures were not allowed IN the clubs), but the kids really enjoyed that part (read: by the last day, we barely saw them ALL DAY). There were two clubs for kids 3-11: The Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab. Each had events going, staggered, all day long, from princess and superhero sightings to hands-on experiences like animation, making cookies and building volcanos…
There were separate rooms for tweens and teens, which Spencer and Sophie checked out, and I think from their degree of freedom on this trip (they could go in/out of the rooms, while Zoe & Ella had to call us to leave), they just might go on another one.
On Wednesday evening the adults enjoyed a Martini Tasting (I thought I hated martinis but we did our best):
There was a tasting of some sort every day: Wine, Beer, Tequila, etc. Believe it or not, the TASTINGS sold out before the PRINCESS GATHERINGS!! Literally months before we went on the cruise, we attempted to sign up for one and they were ALL sold out. Thankfully, they held back a few tickets for those boarding the ship early (which we did) – though this should explain how we ended up with a “martini” tasting when I am not a fan.
That evening we dined in the Animator’s Palate, an animation themed dining room where animations were displayed around the room, with a finale that stitched together animations from lots of Disney movies. So cool:
On the morning of our final day, we had booked two Princess Gatherings for the girls. These were free but required tickets, and they were worth every effort to get there! For the first gathering, the girls went from princess to princess, getting signatures and photos. While we were allowed to take our own pictures, they of course had professional photographers there to charge you for their INCREDIBLE pictures later – and yes, we suckers bought those (you’re welcome):
I’m too embarrassed to even show you ours. Though I am not too embarrassed to tell you I teared up as they hugged every princess, especially Cinderella who was the most convincing (and super sweet to our children).
The 2nd gathering was Princesses Anna and Elsa, and OMGoodness… so cute, and again, 1000 times better than our photos. In my defense, they had a lovely blue light in the room which was awesome for their fancy cameras and terrible for my iPhone skills.
On this final day (as I mentioned) the girls spent almost the entire day in the kids club, and Shawn and I took Mom ashore to see Ensenada, a tourist trap of identical shops with vendors hawking wares, negotiation ready. That night we dined in Tiana’s Place for a proper Mardi Gras style dinner, with live music and a “parade” (they did a few of these for all the servers, and sometimes the guests, to wind through the tables to music).
That night Tiana stopped by our table to wish Zoe and Ella a Happy Birthday:
We loved every minute of it! I have a few more miscellaneous photos to share below, but before I do that, I want to share one more bit of Disney magic. Every day when they cleaned our room or provided turn-down service (which included putting away and setting up a bunk bed for the girls), they would stage a scene in the room with some of our toys, towels, blankets (and provide chocolates every night). I looked forward to it every time we returned to the room, and here are just a few:
On the last day while we were ashore, Bart took a nap and when I got back to the room (he was not there), I found THIS scene – though I do not attribute it to Disney staff…
Ok, so I think I hit the high points, though there’s just no way to capture the experience completely. Picture Disneyland without the lines, surrounded by smiling helpers (supposedly the staff to guest ratio is around 1 staff to every 2.75 guests!). I will say while the food was good (and plentiful), as Bart pointed out, it’s hard to feed a truly incredible dinner for 400 guests at each of 2 seatings (5:45 and 8:15) in 4 separate restaurants.
And finally, a HUGE thank you to my mother, who funded this adventure for our families to be together on the first “travel trip” we’ve EVER been on together. She tolerated our schedules and varying interests and provided her own magic, as she always does.
THANK YOU, MOM!
Enjoy the miscellaneous magical pictures below. And if you get the chance to board a Disney Cruise, I’d say absolutely do it! We had a fabulous family vacation.