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Disney Vacation Club's S.S. Member Cruise
Friday, February 14,
The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) chartered the Disney cruise ship Disney Wonder for a special members-only cruise from February 2 through 6. Unlike its 2002 cruise where DVC secured a block of staterooms, the 2003 cruise was completely unavailable to non-members altogether the entire passenger list consisted of DVC members and their guests. The result meant many subtle and not-so-subtle differences from a regular four-day Wonder cruise.
As soon as I checked in, it became clear that Disney had taken steps to recognize and honor DVC. We received our check-in materials in a folder similar to what we receive when checking in to a DVC resort. However, instead of an image of four mailboxes signifying our "neighborhood," the photo on the folder had four deck chairs along the deck of a cruise ship instead, with a life preserver ring logo we would see constantly throughout the rest of the cruise. Passengers also received a beautiful lanyard with a bolero-style logo medallion and a name tag with room to hold a room key or other identification.
The itinerary on seven-day cruises includes special guests who conduct brief seminars for adults on a variety of topics. While this is not normally offered on the three- and four-day cruises, this was not true on the S.S. Member Cruise. Scotty Bowman, the most successful head coach in NHL history, was on board and scheduled for an autograph session early in the cruise it turns out he is a DVC member.
Tom Acomb, a Walt Disney Imagineering manager, gave some ship tours, a session on Disneyland Paris, and two sessions about the building of the Disney Wonder. Jim Korkis, a popular Disney Historian gave a seminar where he revealed some of the stories behind the romance of Mickey and Minnie, another where he talked about the making of Steamboat Willie, and two sessions about Walt Disney. David Pacheco and Tim O'Day from Walt Disney Art Classics held four sessions about Disney collectibles. In addition, Andrea McArdle probably best known for her long run as the original Little Orphan Annie in Broadway's Annie performed on Tuesday night and held an autograph session the following day. All of these activities were annotated in the Personal Navigator daily schedule, with the cruise logo to indicate this was an event exclusive to this cruise.
The sign at the entrance to the ship had been modified to reflect Disney Vacation Club, and once on board there were many banners and other signs to welcome guests. Guests received gifts in the staterooms everyay, including several pins, a tote bag, T-shirt, and a limited edition porcelain teapot. Repeat cruisers also received a Castaway Cay beach towel and a couple of pins.
At the Sail Away party, Frankie & the West End Boys, a popular band on Pleasure Island, performed under a large DVC banner. During the party, the DVC flag was raised to fly next to the Disney Cruise Line flag, which was a very nice touch.
On one night in each cruise, the evening's entertainment is a game show called "Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer" (similar to Who Wants to be a Millionaire). On this cruise, all of the questions were DVC-related. The early questions were very easy, but then they got very difficult. For example, "What type of wood is the boardwalk made from at Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resort?" The answer was "ekki."
DVC cast members were available throughout the cruise, and member update sessions were held a couple of times each day to give members the chance to hear about new ways to use their DVC points, and hopefully purchase more of them. Although I did not attend since the updates were the same as what are held at the DVC resorts, of others who did attend, some enjoyed winning prizes, while others were bored to death and would not do it again.
One highlight of any cruise is the reception held for Castaway Club members, or repeat cruisers. On this particular cruise the number of repeat cruisers was very high instead of filling one nightclub, we filled all three! Disney was prepared however, with plenty of food and drink, even though finding a seat was a bit of a challenge. DVC members generally get a kick out of hearing "Welcome home," which symbolizes that when we are at our DVC resort we are truly home. At the Castaway Club reception, they even carved a watermelon into that DVC greeting.
Ask any group of Disney Cruise Line passengers what they liked best about their cruise, and chances are they will mention Castaway Cay. This is Disney's private island in the Bahamas, and many people consider this to be the best day of the entire cruise. This cruise spent two days at Castaway Cay, instead of the normal single day. I believe this is the first time that was scheduled, and everyone I spoke to thought it was a great idea.
They had another DVC flag flying at the post office on Castaway Cay, and a giant banner hanging with the sign welcoming guests to Castaway Cay. The second day was the official Member Day, and a group photo was taken on the beach. It will undoubtedly appear in future promotional materials, although there were so many people it would be really difficult to identify anyone. Most people wore the T-shirt provided the night before, so the picture shows a sea of blue-shirted adults with a somewhat smaller number of yellow-shirted children tossed in for good measure.
Even the desserts on the last night were modified to pay respect to DVC, with a special Celebration cake.
Disney truly went above and beyond making this cruise special, and traveling with a group of people who share a common interest made it even more fun. Assuming DVC charters one of the ships again in 2004, I definitely hope to be onboard!
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.
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