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by Character Diva
Any Disney Vacation is wonderful- but sailing on a Disney Cruise ship is an exhilarating experience in itself, and one that has turned my husband (who tolerates and humors my Disney obsession) into a complete fan. So much so, that we are both anxiously waiting for the day when we can celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary on a repeat vacation.
To begin with, let me say that we spent our honeymoon doing a week-long land/sea package. I definitely recommend it- it was wonderful!! We chose to spend 4 days at Disney World, followed by 3 days cruising around the Bahamas (Nassau and Castaway Cay specifically) on the Disney Wonder. That vacation in itself is amazing. In hindsight, it worked out great for us, but if you’ve been to Disney World before, or choose hopper passes so you can jump from park to park, you would probably be just fine doing 3 days on land, and 4 at sea. The perk about going that route is that you can take advantage of all of the activities on the cruise ship and their amazing food (which with a few exceptions, is completely free). You can also take advantage of the entertainment. Even with 4 days on board, you still can’t see and do everything!

So if you are inspired to take a Disney vacation, you can always check out Patricia Payne, the official Disney Travel Agent for Tips from Disney Diva by clicking here. And for more information on the rooms on board, you can get all kinds of great tips here.

As far as the food goes… it’s never-ending. After roaming around Disney World for 4 days on snacks and one or two sit down meals a day at the parks, I was anxious to get on board where I could stuff, uh, help myself to all of the great food on the ship. Big mistake. You will gorge yourself. Seriously, it is impossible to stay hungry once you are on board.
So let’s begin with what you can do without: you know all those little add-ons you can add to your vacation package? Well, you can probably skip the fruit platter and dessert tray. Ours came complimentary when we booked our trip, but with all the food on board, we hardly touched either. So unless you feel like sampling Disney desserts, or want a healthy snack-unless it’s complimentary- I’d probably skip it. Save your money for buying souvenirs… or funding all of those magnificent offshore port excursions.
Another thing to avoid- being indecisive!! Decision-making and I are not friends. While some people may not find this to be a problem, here is why I do not recommend being indecisive when you’re dining on a Disney cruise ship. Why? Because my first evening there, I asked our very polite waiter which was better- the salad or the soup? He brought me both. Considering I had already eaten a big lunch as soon as we had left port and was still digesting that (not to mention the multi-course meal in front of me), I left more than stuffed. And in case you are like me and didn’t get the lesson the first time, the second night I asked which was better, the beef or the chicken? This waiter told me not to worry about it- he would take care of it, and he asked how I liked my beef cooked. ‘Oh, that makes sense to me, I’m eating beef’, I thought. Well, I did get the beef. And the chicken. Yup. Once again, I got both.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m picturing all of this food going to waste if I don’t eat it, and poor hungry children all over the world, so what did I do? I ate it. (Almost) all of it. So while our companions at our table were turning green from seasickness, I was feeling queasy from overeating. My husband still makes fun of me for it. My Diva tip is this:  unless you are more disciplined, have a football player’s appetite, or really feel like you’re in the mood for a stomachache, just pick something! I promise that whatever you choose, it will all taste wonderful.
Another Diva tip: Unless you want to grab a fast-food style lunch or something to eat before heading onto shore, or if you have kids (especially kids who happen to be picky eaters),  I’d probably skip Goofy’s Galley, Pluto’s Dog House, and Pinocchio’s Pizzeria. Remember when your mom used to tell you to not spoil your appetite and to save room for dinner? This is one of those cases where mother knows best. While I know all the great free food is appealing, you really do want to pace yourself. Don’t forget, if you get off the boat, you will most likely eat on the mainland, and the dinners are very filling. If you’re going to be staying on board or want to save money and not eat at your destination, any of those locations can be great stops. We stopped at Pluto’s Dog House when we first boarded the ship and I ordered the chicken strips and fries… nothing fancy, pretty much your stereotypical greasy fast food, but if you want a quick snack or lunch, it can be a convenient destination.

Now what you do want to take advantage of is the breakfast and lunch buffet. In the mornings you can have breakfast (or grab lunch) at a buffet-style setup. This is nice because you can select what you want, and pile on as much as you want. You have a range from the healthy, to the not-so-healthy. Either way, this is a great time to eat to your heart’s content, especially with a busy schedule ahead. It will give you plenty of energy for the day, and help tie you over during the afternoon so you won’t feel the need to spend a ton of money on the mainland eating, or be starving after a day of snorkeling around Castaway Cay.

At nighttime, the Disney Wonder has three dining rooms that you rotate through for dinner: Triton’s, The Animator’s Palate, and Parrot Cay. While Parrot Cay had a nice ambiance, I really enjoyed watching the artwork at Animator’s Palate change from black and white sketches to the fully colored versions you find in the movies. Also, the Little Mermaid mural at Triton’s? AMAZING!!!! Definitely one of my favorite things on board. It is worth going on our cruise just to see that. Unless you have a big party, you will most likely be seated with other guests, who in our case, were all very friendly, so don’t hesitate striking up a conversation while you color your Disney menus and work on that maze and word search. (Seriously. Our waiter gave each couple one, and who am I to turn down a word search?)
Also, make sure you bring something somewhat formal (button down shirt and slacks for guys and a dress or skirt for the ladies) for your last night on board. While during the day you can get away wearing practically anything, the dinner time is a stricter and higher dress code. On our vacation, my husband and I each forgot to pack something: for me, it was shorts, which let me tell you, going to Disney World in September is hot and humid- don’t leave home without them! For my husband- it was his polo shirts and dress clothes (okay, he packed one dress shirt, but let’s just say, with the exception of the last night, his dinner dress code was below par, as you can see from our picture below the next paragraph). So, please, learn from our mistake and have shorts for when you’re in the heat, and something somewhat formal for dinnertime? You don’t want to stick out more than the sunburned people (which as you can tell from the picture, was also me).
The Disney Wonder also has Palo- a more upscale, more private dining area. The catch with Palo is that you pay extra, so as poor newlyweds, my husband and I skipped it. So while I cannot tell you my personal opinion, I have heard it is wonderful, so if you want a more romantic setting (kids aren’t allowed), you may want to try it out. If you’re on a budget like me, the other dining rooms are wonderful, the staff is extremely helpful, the decor is top-notch, and if you tell them you are celebrating a special occasion, they will not only turn your napkin into a bow worthy of being in Minnie Mouse’s Bowtique, but they will also present you with a special dessert… for free!! And let me tell you, everything tastes better when it is free. J
Another great thing about the Disney Wonder is the Room Service! It is available 24/7, and best of all- almost all of it is free!! (Anything with alcohol you’re going to have to pay for, as well as a few other things, so it’s always best to double-check first.) So if you want to take a nap in the middle of the day and don’t want to mosey on down to Goofy’s Galley, or if you’re craving a midnight snack, room service is just a call away!
Just remember- at the end of your voyage, tip all of your servers and staff well… they work really hard… and sometimes when you come back to your room, they leave you fun little surprises… especially if they discover your sunglasses while cleaning your room.