Visiting the Enhanced Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder, Disney's second oldest ship with a total capacity of 2,713 passengers and 950 crew, underwent a major refurbishment in dry dock in Cadiz, Spain, in late 2016. After debuting its enhancements with sailings from Galveston, Texas, back in November, the Disney Wonder repositioned to Port Canaveral, Florida, last month, and will homeport there through spring. I recently was invited to tour the ship and see some of its recent enhancements firsthand while it was docked at Port Canaveral, less than an hour's drive from Walt Disney World.

Disney Cruise Line's "Disney Wonder" was docked at Port Canaveral on February 2, 2017, between scheduled cruises, and opened to invited guests and media for tours of its recent enhancements. Panoramic Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

While docked at Port Canaveral, the ship undergoes routine cleaning and painting before its next cruise. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Frozen: A Musical Spectacular

The primary featured enhancement aboard the Disney Wonder is Frozen, A Musical Spectacular, the newest original Disney Cruise Line stage show, which is presented exclusively aboard each sailing in the 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre. Like its namesake film, the 55-minute Broadway-style show follows the story of royal sisters Anna and Elsa in the kingdom of Arendelle by making use of traditional theatrical techniques, costumes, and sets, as well as special effects (including Disney "snow") and visually impressive modern projection technology. Dynamic puppetry by Michael Curry, whose designs are featured in Disney's Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Lion King (and who also recently created the animal lanterns for Disney's Animal Kingdom's new Rivers of Light nighttime show) brings life to characters like Sven and Olaf.

The Art Nouveau style Walt Disney Theatre aboard "Disney Wonder" spans the width of the ship and encompasses three decks. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney called upon top-notch Broadway talent to create the show for the ship, including Tony Award-nominated director Sheryl Kaller, Tony Award-winning costume designer Paloma Young, choreographer Josh Prince, scenic designer Jason Sherwood, and writer Sara Wordsworth. Of course, the show also includes the popular music and lyrics by the creators of the film's score, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and is adapted from the screenplay by four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin. The show's music direction is by Marco Paguia, with projection design by Aaron Rhyne and lighting design by Rui Rita.

"Frozen, A Musical Spectacular" currently is performed exclusively aboard the "Disney Wonder." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

A Michael Curry designed puppet combined with a talented live performer bring Olaf to life on stage. Photo ©Disney.

As a compact but full re-telling of the film's plot, the show features eight songs from the soundtrack including "Let it Go," "Do You Want to Build A Snowman?" "In Summer," "For The First Time in Forever" and "Love Is an Open Door." Without a doubt, the highlight of the show is Olaf's big show-stopping production number, "In Summer." For special-effects fans, the other highlights of the show include Elsa's transformation during "Let it Go," (which is one of the only times I remember witnessing an on-stage costume change receive a hearty round of applause), and the moment Anna gets frozen.

Tiana's Place Restaurant

Another major enhancement to the Disney Wonder is the new Tiana's Place restaurant, which is inspired by Princess Tiana of the Disney animated feature The Princess and the Frog. Featuring a menu of southern-style cuisine drawing inspiration from the flavors and ingredients of the Louisiana bayou, the restaurant, which takes the place of Parrot Cay on Deck 3, evokes the restaurant Princess Tiana opens at the end of the film which, in Disney Cruise Line's words, "provides food for the body and soul, showing that dreams and dishes come true."

Tiana's Place is a new restaurant aboard the "Disney Wonder". Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The restaurant, which is part of the ship's rotational dining feature, celebrates both New Orleans style dining and entertainment. Tiana herself welcomes guests to her restaurant and introduces The Crawfish Crooners, live musicians that perform jazz, swing, and blues music on the main stage, creating a French Quarter supper club atmosphere.

Tiana welcomes guests to her restaurant and introduces the musicians, The Crawfish Crooners. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Tiana's Place restaurant evokes an era of southern charm. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

A highlight of the sampling menu was definitely Tiana's Buttermilk Beignets with Vanilla Dipping Sauce. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Oceaneer Club and Lab and the "It's a Small World" Nursery

Disney's Oceaneer Club and Lab are connected areas on Deck 5 aboard the Disney Wonder that are open only to children 3 to 12 years old. Both areas received several enhancements during the ship's time in dry dock, including the addition of the Marvel Super Hero Academy at the Club, which is exclusive to this ship (at least so far). Some of the adventures for kids here include live visits with Marvel super heroes and others make use of large interactive digital displays.

Large, interactive digital displays play an important part of the new Marvel Super Hero Academy. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Young guests may get a special visit from Captain America while training at the Marvel Super Hero Academy in Disney's Oceaneer Club. Photo ©Disney.

Additional new play spaces and character experiences are also available in Disney's Oceaneer Club. Frozen Adventures includes digital and actual interactions with Olaf, Anna and Elsa. Club Disney Junior includes storytelling and games involving Disney Junior characters, and Andy's Room is a multi-level play space themed to the Disney-Pixar Toy Story movies that let kids "feel" toy-sized while sliding down a nearly deck-high slide made of "toys" and when meeting Woody and Jessie.

The Oceaneer Lab received a pirate ship-themed update throughout its space, taking over from the original science lab theme.

Disney's Oceaneer Club and Lab includes games, storytelling and other interactive activities for kids. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Olaf visits young guests at Frozen Adventures in Disney's Oceaneer Club. Photo ©Disney.

A new "It's a Small World" Nursery is also nearby for the youngest cruisers on Deck 5. As its name suggests, that space is inspired by the style of the theme park attraction and is a theme change from the previous Flounder's Nursery.

After Hours: The Adult District

DCL also brought enhancements to Disney Wonder's adults-only district of clubs called After Hours, taking over from Route 66. The update includes the addition of a brand new English tavern, the Crown & Fin Pub, formerly Diversions, which features British and specialty beers and cocktails in a pub atmosphere that includes subtle details relating to Disney films set in London. The After Hours area enhancements also include a new version of the Cadillac Lounge and the Azure nightclub, which was formerly Wavebands.

After Hours is the adults-only nighttime "club" district on the ship. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Crown & Fin Pub is the new English tavern in the adults-only After Hours area aboard the ship. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Azure nightclub is new to this ship. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Cadillac Lounge is an intimate piano-bar. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The interior of The Cadillac Lounge recreates the look and feel of classic Cadillac cars. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Enhancements Around the Ship

Additional enhancements were made around the entire ship, from refurbishment of the three-deck tall Atrium Lobby, where passengers embark and disembark the ship, to the bow and stern. In the following photos, I will highlight some of them.

Passengers enter the ship in the three deck tall Atrium Lobby. Panoramic Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Captain Mickey & First Mate Minnie may greet cruisers in the Atrium Lobby. Photo ©Disney.

D Lounge on Deck 4, the former Studio Sea, is the place for family games and entertainment. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Palo is an adults-only specialty restaurant on Deck 10, which was extensively made over with Venetian-inspired décor. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

While at Port Canaveral, topside deck views include the nearby Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The new AquaLab water playground, inspired by Donald's nephews, includes jets, geysers and bubblers. The new Twist 'n' Spout water slide gets everyone drenched. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The new Dory's Reef is a splash zone that offers water play for toddlers. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Guests can swim and enjoy movies on Funnel Vision, the large video screen above the Goofy pool. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Edge is a tweens-only club that was recently moved from Deck 2 to the space that used to be the arcade on Deck 9. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Senses Spa & Salon, formerly the Vista Spa and Salon, has been reimagined. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Senses Spa & Salon aboard "Disney Wonder" now resembles those aboard other Disney Cruise Line ships. Panoramic Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Like its theme park counterparts, the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on Deck 10 provides makeovers for children. Photo ©Disney.

When young princesses-to-be make their royal entrance at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, they are greeted by their very own Fairy Godmother-in-training who transforms them. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney Wonder will sail from Port Canaveral through April 20, before making its way April 23 to the West Coast for its Alaska sailings. This fall, Disney Wonder will return to Galveston, and then to Port Canaveral in February 2018. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, visit, call Disney Cruise Line at (888) 325-2500 or your travel agent.

Disney Wonder sails from Port Canaveral before making its way to the West Coast in late April for its Alaska sailings. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.