William J. Cullen
Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Disney
Ship: Disney Wonder
Sailing Date: December 13th, 2001
Itinerary: 3 day cruise
We returned to our stateroom to prepare for our vow renewal. I ordered a bottle of sparkling wine in order to toast with my wife on our private balcony. She began to change clothes as I opened the privacy drapes to the balcony. I was angered to find a wet paint sign and shocked to see men on a scaffold looking back at my wife (half undressed) and I. So much for a private romantic toast. The railing was covered with fresh urethane that made the balcony unusable. This certainly did not qualify as “more personal space than you would expect on a cruise ship.” Why was the ship being painted with guests on board? The cruise line cannot afford to take out of service for a few days in the off-season for regular maintenance?
Marianna of guest services then escorted us to our vow renewal ceremony with Captain Tom. The ceremony was very intimate and the Captain very cordial and professional. At the conclusion of the ceremony, we chose to have dinner as a family and “savor the magic” at our scheduled table at Animator’s Pallet, rather than split up and go to Palo’s. Guest services were to deliver the wedding cake as dessert to our table and the collectable cake top and remaining cake was to go to our stateroom. Animator’s Pallet was visually outstanding. The service was attentive but rushed, and the food was fair. The beef was overcooked and chewy. I’m not sure that I would call it a “deliciously different dining experience.” The cake never arrived until we had completed our dinner, including dessert. The section headwaiter apologized and stated that it would be present at our next dinner. I advised him that some of it was to go to our stateroom as late night snack.
We changed up and decided that we would attend the family beach party on the pool deck that started at nine-thirty. By about 10:15PM our children were exhausted and we returned to our stateroom. We found all of our renewal package items in the room, except for the cake and cake top. We went to sleep hoping that Castaway Cay would make up for an awful day in Nassau.
We awoke the next morning to a view of Castaway Cay, a truly beautiful location. My wife and I were scheduled for a morning massage on the beach and we chose to place our children in childcare for the roughly two hours that we would need to be alone. We told the children that they would be together and the schedule indicated sand castle building and fun noodles. The kids thought that would be great. They love to make sand castles and play by the ocean.
We began our “carefree day in paradise”, checked the children in, and enjoyed our 10:30AM massage. I then attempted to purchase a soda at the bar and was advised that they were out. We returned approximately two hours later and found our children having lunch…at different tables. My daughter was sitting alone and pouting and three little boys were jumping on my son as he tried to eat. We then picked up our children as my son sang “Alleluia” and my daughter started crying that they (the counselors) wouldn’t let her sit with her brother and a little boy spat food at her. I chose not to tell her that according to the Disney Cruise Line she was “dining island style”. We also found out that the only water the kids had seen was from a hose being squirted at them to cool them down. My children were also not allowed to remove their tee shirts and shorts in order to get wet in their bathing suits that they were wearing underneath. In other words, they were required to get wet in their clothes instead of their bathing suits. We then decided to snorkel but were unable to see any fish due to the sand being kicked up near the shore. I did swim out approximately 200 yards and discovered fish. However, that distance was far too great for our children to swim. The money spent on rentals was wasted. We contemplated returning to the ship, but instead decided to relax on the beach and do some swimming. We ended our day with a banana boat ride and returned to the ship.
Once onboard the children enjoyed the Mickey pool and we enjoyed a cocktail from Sampson, and charming and friendly bartender. He explained that there was no soda left but provided us with excellent margaritas. No soda again? Why?
We attended our final dinner at Parrot Cay intending to enjoy some “tantalizing Caribbean dishes” and again were disappointed by the food. I requested prime rib medium and it was cooked beyond the point of well done and was chewy and non-consumable. Perhaps it was the communication problem with our waiter that caused the error? My wife had a seafood dish which caused her vomit for most of the remaining evening as I packed for an unexpected 11PM luggage pickup and 9AM debarkation. At the conclusion of our dessert. There was another attempt to serve us our wedding cake that was now a day old. We never did receive our collectable cake top that we purchased with our wedding package.
The 9AM Sunday debarkation was unexpected as we were scheduled for a 4PM flight and anticipated an 11AM check out as is common at hotels. We ended up touring the Orlando International Airport for our final day of vacation. I don’t think that the cruise should even be called a “three day “cruise considering that we were brought to the ship at 2 PM on Friday and were required to leave at 9AM on Sunday.
We subscribe to the philosophy that if one presents a problem or complaint, one should also offer a solution to that problem or complaint. We recommend the following:
1. This was our first Cruise and we found it very difficult to obtain the necessary information to plan our activities onboard and ashore. A catalogue in each stateroom listing services such as that found in hotels would be a great help for future first timers.
2. The ship is beautiful but maintenance should not interfere with the passengers’ comfort or privacy. The ship should be out of service when maintenance is required.
3. Better information on ports of call regarding safety and security and better security for Disney guests while ashore is needed, not just disclaimers to protect the company’s financial interests. More pleasurable and safer ports of call should also be considered for future cruises.
4. Improved food and food services are needed. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza are nice but cannot be the foundation of cuisine for a cruise ship.
5. More activities for kids and parents together are required. Vacations are supposed to be for the whole family, not a place to dump the kids and do your own thing. The result is that many school-aged children are running around unsupervised on the ship.
We expected our experience on the Disney Cruise to be the high light of our vacation where we would be treated to outstanding food, service and entertainment for the whole family. We expected a “one of a kind vacation of enchantment and romance.” “A carefree vacation of fun and relaxation.” We expected to experience “a kind of enchantment as limitless and surprising as the sea itself” and to take home “memories that we’d cherish for a lifetime.” Instead, we were shuffled around and rushed. We were unknowingly placed in harms way and exposed to an unhealthy environment. We had our privacy invaded, our taste buds tortured, our children neglected and our hard earned wages wasted. The cruise certainly was as “surprising as the sea itself “and did provide “memories that will last a lifetime.” Unfortunately, the surprise is that the memories are not good ones. If our cruise experience is common for a passenger on the Wonder, then I it’s a wonder that it continues to have passengers. Based on our experience, we have renamed your ship the Wish…Wish we had spent our time and money elsewhere.
William J. Cullen
Sharon A. Cullen