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  • Writer's pictureLisa Wain

NOLA & Disney Cruise: Day 4 - Boarding the Disney Wonder

Housekeeping- Since this is the first post with us on the ship I’m writing this specific post with more of an "educational" style than "trip report" style so that you’ll better understand the rest of our trip without further explanation. I’ll be back to my regular sarcasm and Matt mockery in the next post.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today we woke up with the excitement of Valentine’s Day and boarding the Disney Wonder. I surprised the kids (Matt included) with some Valentine’s candy which they of course enjoyed with breakfast- it’s vacation, right???

We intended to go to a very popular restaurant spot this morning before heading to the port however both Matt and I were still so full from all of yesterday’s pigging out that we decided to skip on some calorie intake- I mean we were only mere hours away from a lunch buffet on the ship anyway. So sensible of us. We did feed the kids breakfast after their candy, of course, so we were feeling extra responsible.

We decided to take a taxi to the port since Uber/Lyft drivers are known to inflate prices on cruise embarkation days. New Orleans set has a set price from the French Quarter to the cruise ship pier so it made it easy to know what to expect. We asked the hotel to call us a taxi but there just happened to be a car service sitting there so we rode in style over to the ship- which was only a 10 minute ride at the most. Thank God the ride was so short because the kids were so excited that I don’t think I would have made it much longer being asked the “How much longer” questions every three seconds from the kids.

Once we arrived at the pier everything was pretty simple- we waited forever on a line to wait forever on another line. The first line was security so no complaints there. You’ll never hear me complain about TSA lines or the likes since I appreciate the comfort of the feeling of safety that they bring. The next line, however, was a bit much. They broke the check-in lines into three groups, first time cruisers, silver & gold level return cruisers, and then platinum & concierge level cruisers. This breakdown made absolutely zero sense and left the first time cruisers line nearly empty the entire time, as well as the platinum/concierge cruisers line nearly empty. The silver/gold line which is for people that have cruised with Disney Cruise Line anywhere from one to nine times before all in the same line which was extremely long. A few times I contemplated hopping over to the first time cruisers’ line but the O.C.D. side of me didn’t allow for that.

Once we finally finished the check-in process we only waited about 5 minutes before our boarding group, group #3, was called. Our family appeared to be the only ones in group #3 since we were the only ones to get up and head for the ship when group #3 was called, but I was totally fine with that after the massive line we had just stood in.

We took our obligatory embarkation photo that I always purchase no matter how awful we look. This cruise’s photo looked okay so I was pleasantly surprised- I expected worse. Benjamin has entered the phase of over-thinking smiling so getting some decent photos of him lately has been a bit of a challenge so we’ve been going more for the “silly pose” pictures with him.

We’re onboard!! One cool thing Disney Cruise Line does is line up some of their staff and introduce each family over the microphone as they clap and cheer you onboard. It’s a really nice thing they do to start your cruise but I have yet to find a successful way to record it. Listen, I’m not one of those people that is comfortable walking around with selfie sticks, or wearing a camera on my head or wherever else they’re strapping on cameras these days, so I settle with the “in my hand via my short arms” technique and our photos and videos show for it. Oh, well. It’s about the memories, right?

Whenever we get onboard a Disney cruise ship, or really any cruise ship, we always head straight for the buffet for lunch. Yes, they have a less stressful normal dining room open and yes, they have all their fast food, poolside options open as well but we’re all about gluttony and hitting that weight gain high score so off to the buffet we went. I’m really impressed with Disney Cruise Line’s buffet. Their buffet, Cabanas, offers a wide selection of international dishes as well as the kid-friendly standards like Mac & Cheese and chicken tenders. I did not take any pictures of the lunch buffet because I feel like such a weirdo walking through a buffet taking pictures of all the food. I guess, this is where the head-mounted camera comes in handy, but it’s a hard pass for me. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say there are tons of amazing options at the buffet.

After lunch which lasted far less time than I would have liked since I could only take the continued “How much longer” questions so much longer. This time the questions we directed at how long they’d have to wait before they could go have some fun in the kids clubs, because the excitement and contentment of being on the ship literally only lasted like three minutes. Normally, I would be thrilled with the kids desire to head to the kids clubs, but most of embarkation day the kids clubs are only open as “open house” where everyone is welcome in to look around and have some fun so no dropping off- which is unfortunate. Sorry, I cruise on Disney to get away from my kids. Yeah, I said it. I’m a homeschool stay-at-home mom. I have enough memorable moments with my kids in the time it takes to brush my teeth in the morning to last a lifetime. And since we’re being honest, even if I worked full-time outside of the home, I’d still cruise with Disney to get away from the kids. I mean, too much of anything is not a good thing and cramming a family of 4 into less than 200 sq. feet for a week is asking for trouble, so you use those kids clubs, parents!

Disney offers the most impressive kids programing than any other cruise line. Matt and I wouldn’t feel near as comfortable leaving the kids with other cruise lines like we do with Disney Cruise Line. We started when the kids were just babies and at the time, Disney Cruise Line was the only cruise line that offered a nursery for babies and that was our main reason for sailing with Disney and we’ve never looked back.

In fact, one of Matt & I’s best vacations is when we took a Disney cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico when Benjamin was 2 and Vivian was 1. Can you imagine, your most relaxing, smooth vacation being when you and your spouse took a trip with your 1 year old and 2 year old? Yeah, only because we were sailing with Disney. Thanks to their amazing nursery we were able to leave the kids in the nursery for nap time while we headed to the adult only pool for a few hours of quality time in the sun. We also chose to eat dinner at the 8:15pm seating so we’d feed the kids in our room via room service while we showered and got ready, then we’d drop them in the nursery and head to dinner just Matt & I every night. It was amazing. We didn’t feel any guilt since I was home full-time with the kids, first of all, but even more than that, our kids went to bed at 7pm at home so if we were home they’d be in bed so why feel guilty? We’d be enjoying dinner and all the adult-only activities they offer while the nursery staff would change the kids into their pajamas and put them in to bed in the cribs in the nursery. It was heaven. One of the days we even went on a snorkel excursion while the kids stayed in the nursery. We were back by lunchtime so we ate lunch together and then headed to the family pool and water play area. The kids loved the nursery too so that made it super easy. I mean, they would have the Disney princesses come and read them a story and do all kinds of crafts. What’s not to love? I digress.

After we spent a good amount of time exploring the kids clubs and Benjamin showing Vivian the ropes, since this was Vivian’s first cruise that she’s old enough to be in the kids clubs rather than the nursery, we headed to our stateroom.

We have sailed in every type of stateroom, but for us, we prefer an inside stateroom. For starters, it’s the cheapest room, so we’d rather save some cash so we can vacation more often but also because we’re only in our room to sleep and we love how well the kids sleep due to how dark the room is since there is no windows. This entire cruise we literally had to wake up our kids which was awesome since normally our kids are up before 7am no matter how late they go to bed. Disney Cruise Line’s staterooms are 25% larger than other cruise lines so that helps too. They also have these cool split baths with actual bathtubs which helps when traveling as a family and everyone needing to get ready at the same time. One of the bathrooms has a sink and a toilet, and the other bathroom has a sink and the shower/tub combo- very helpful for a family of four! Our room also has a couch that turns into a bed, as well as a bed that pulls down from the ceiling. The kids obviously had to fight about who would be sleeping on the top bunk so I put Matt up there. Just kidding. The kids took turns sleeping on the top. Another awesome feature is that awesome room-dividing curtain! I feel like every hotel room should come with a curtain that separates the room. It’s helpful for when you put the kids to bed but you and your spouse would like to watch some TV before heading to bed… or maybe even to “discover the magic” with some privacy. *WINK*

Matt's surprise for me waiting in the room for Valentine's!

We spent some time in the room watching cartoons and unpacking so we ordered our first round of room service which is “free” (aka included in your cruise fare) while I unpacked our suitcases and moved in like I was staying for a year. Anyone else HAVE to totally unpack while on a trip? I can’t handle living out of a suitcase for a week, not to mention, on a cruise. On a cruise ship you don’t really have the luxury of space to keep your luggage out so I unpack completely and then store our suitcases under the bed.

About the time I was completely unpacked and ready to sit back and relax, it was time for the mandatory safety drill which, thankfully, our location was in a restaurant so we could just sit there and wait for it to end rather than stand on the promenade deck in a single file line as a family. The safety drill doesn’t take too long and the best part about when it’s over is that the sail away party is about to begin so we headed straight for the pool deck to join in on the fun.

If Disney is known for anything they’re known for their entertainment and they definitely go all out on Disney Cruises- the sail away party is definitely included in that. This is basically the first moment you’re seeing all the Disney characters and they’re right there next to you dancing around getting everyone all excited for the week ahead. The sail away party culminates with the sounding of the ship’s magical horn that actually is the first few bars of When You Wish Upon A Star. After you hear those magical notes blast from the horn (and nearly go deaf) the ship begins to sail away.

Once the ships starts sailing we always head to another area of the ship to watch the ship sail away in a more peaceful, quiet location. This cruise was really cool since we were sailing down the Mississippi rather than the ocean. We were surprised with how much movement we felt sailing the Mississippi that first day. I don’t know, I guess I expected it to be calmer since it’s a river, but we definitely had some rougher seas that first day. It took us about 5 hours of sailing the Mississippi before we reached the ocean. So cool!

Sailing down the Mississippi!

Next it was our favorite time of day, mealtime! Since we hadn’t eaten in like 2 hours we were just famished. Clearly a 4 course dinner was the only thing to help us so off to dinner we went.

There are many different ways the various cruise lines handle dinner. The old school ones have you eat at the same time each night, in the same restaurant, with the same waitstaff, and the same table mates. Yes, they seat you with strangers. This concept is NOT for me but many really enjoy it since they get to make new friends. It’s a hard “no” from me. Other cruise lines offer traditional dining as well as the option of “freestyle” which is when you show up and eat when you want with whoever you want- Royal Caribbean and Norwegian both offers this. Disney Cruise Line offers a really cool mix. Disney offers two seating times, an early (5:15pm) or late (8:15pm). We always choose the late dining since it doesn’t leave you rushing around trying to make it back in time. They have three restaurants and you, your table mates, and your waitstaff all rotate with you between the three restaurants so you get to experience all of the restaurants but still keep the familiarity of your table mates and waitstaff. Now, with Disney you could end up with a private table or with strangers. I leave nothing in life to chance so I always request a private table. A private table is not guaranteed but I’m nine cruises in with Disney and I have always gotten my private table request sailing just two of us or as many as 7 of us. Disney is always so accommodating!

Tonight we were eating in Animator Palate which is a really cool experience! The restaurant is all black and white and has drawing sketched everywhere. As the dinner progresses the drawings slowly start to come alive and color is slowly added. On this night, Mickey even stops in to make a quick appearance. So much fun! One of the best things about this night was the waitstaff bringing the kids their meals with our appetizers and then the kids clubs staff stopping in to take all the kids to the kids clubs so the parents can enjoy the remaining three courses in peace. And you all wonder why I love Disney so much…

With the kids well-fed and happily playing in the kids clubs Matt and I spent the rest of the evening eating dinner and enjoying all of the nighttime entertainment they offer to adult only. We didn’t end up picking up the kids until close to midnight. It was a great start to our wonderful cruise!

Did you love my Disney Cruise Line earrings? Find them here!

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