Posted on Friday, April 15, 2011 by Peter Knego
Spend two days at sea and visit Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas with Peter Knego aboard the 1999-built DISNEY WONDER for part two of his recent seven night cruise to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles.
Please click on image for larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego unless otherwise noted.
Monday, March 28, 2011
We slept in late enough to skip breakfast and head directly to Palo, the DISNEY WONDER’s a la carte dining room on aft Deck 10. Palo is an adults-only venue offering nightly dinner ($20) as well as brunch ($20) and high tea ($10) on sea days. Named for the poles that line the canals of Venice, Palo has a Northern Italian menu with some delicious courses, exemplary service and a leisurely dining experience.
We were seated at a table by the window on the starboard side and were immediately offered a glass of champagne or a mimosa by fab Trinidad-based veteran server Judy.
I waived the bubbly concoctions for a much-needed cappuccino before Judy escorted us to the spread in the center of the room. There was antipasti (olives, cheeses, marinated veggies, prosciutto, bresaola), fresh baked breads, sea food and desserts. Pizza, pastas and an assortment of entrées could also be ordered fresh from the open kitchen.
We both had pizzas margherita and dipped our forks into the pool of brunch gluttony for the next hour or so.
On the way back to the cabin, I was struck by how empty the ship’s public spaces were. It was a great opportunity for me to grab the cameras and try to get things photographed.
Lots of random details succumbed to the camera lenses and as more of the ship was checked of my “to do” list, I began to wonder where everyone actually was.
On such a balmy sea day, the DISNEY WONDER’s populous had flocked to the lido areas on Decks 9 and 10. It was a veritable “child’s soup” in Mickey’s Kids Pool.
Goofy’s Family pool was also fully-occupied.
Even the erstwhile laid-back Quiet Cove adult pool area was bustling with sunbathers and swimmers on this sunny afternoon.
From atop Deck 10, there was a breezy view of the ship’s wake and the sunning platform on Deck 7.
Since we chose late dining at 8:15, there was a daily dilemma between seeing the mainstage entertainment or going for a pre-dinner workout, watch the sunset or walk around deck in the late afternoon. On Disney, guests in first seating at 5:45 can see a show after dinner at 8:15 but shows for second seating guests are offered prior to dinner at 6:15. This of course makes great sense for families but isn’t optimal for those wanting to enjoy a show later in the evening. So, we were happy to have a chance to see the matinee performance of “The Golden Mickey’s” in the 977 seat Walt Disney Theater at 1:30.
“The Golden Mickeys” is about an unwitting stage manager who is unexpectedly inducted to host Disney’s version of the Oscars with a little help from CEO Robert Iger and a cast of familiar characters. Laser effects, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, pyrotechnics and evolving stages contribute to the spectacle.
Surprisingly good cajun chicken sandwiches from Pluto’s Doghouse by the Goofy Pool fueled our pre-dinner workouts. The DISNEY WONDER’s Gym was recently expanded into the lookout platform above the bridge in the uppermost level of the two deck glass crown that tops the forward superstructure. It now offers an inspiring view over the bow during romps on the ellipticals.
We enjoyed formal dinner in the Animator’s Palate (images and more details in the next post) and then headed to the 278-seat Buena Vista Theater for a screening of the film “I Am Number Four”. The Buena Vista Theater is a lovely space and along with the cinemas on the DISNEY MAGIC and DISNEY DREAM, among the nicest dedicated movie houses ever put to sea.
We wrapped up the night with a romp around the magnificent teak promenade that encircles Deck 4.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
No better way to begin the day than a visit to the 33 seat Cove Cafe, originally built as a teen coffee bar and in recent years transformed into an adults-only venue. In the lounge, which is located just aft of the Quiet Cove pool area, it was fun to watch weathered parents pop in for a quick respite from the kids. Lured by the excellent coffees (great double shot cappuccinos) and relatively strong wifi waves, I was pretty much a “regular” every morning and for a good chunk of most afternoons.
The Quiet Cove filled up as the days grew warmer and thinned out when the sun faded away. It is an architecturally-pleasing sanctuary from the more frenetic kids and family areas just aft.
There are so many pleasant design details to discover and savor on the Disney ships. I love the coil-shaped rods that protrude from the dummy forward funnel like props from the “Bride Of Frankenstein’s” laboratory.
Another day at sea had pleasantly passed — and all too soon.
We had a relatively intense shore excursion (for me, anyway) in Puerto Vallarta the next morning, so I made an early evening of it. But the night was not over for anyone else wanting to enjoy activities that included family games in Studio Sea, a live band and DJ spinning Disco tunes in Wavebands, a juggling comedian, a movie on deck, piano music and sing-alongs in the Cadillac Lounge.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
We were queueing up in the Beach Blanket Buffet at 8:00 AM for a breakfast that would include smoked salmon drenched in lemon, onion and capers, cereal and a freshly-cooked omelet.
Made-to-order omelets are available in the aft portion of the Beach Blanket Buffet. We enjoyed ours on the terrace in the fresh sea air with a view of Puerto Vallarta’s marina.
We mustered in the Cadillac Lounge for our shore excursion, a zip line canopy adventure in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. After a short taxi ride, we were piling into a jeep for an hour long ride into the mountains just east of Puerto Vallarta.
Our guide expertly engaged us in a name game during the bumpy but scenic journey. Farms, quaint villages, open pastures and a minimum security prison were among the sites seen.
I have battled acrophobia all my life and aside from some unavoidable pilots’ ladders in Alang, have not had much of a chance to exorcise its demons. I chose this journey in the hopes that it would help me get over my fear of heights and managed to get through almost all of the challenges, except a 25 foot hanging vertical rope ladder climb.
Back at the ship, we had time for a quick snack on deck, then headed ashore to the friendly Starbucks in the mall adjacent to the cruise terminal. After that, I almost got arrested for taking this photo of the beautifully lit DISNEY WONDER between two pirate ship replicas that offer booze cruises along the scenic shores of the Mexican Riviera resort city.
Although they are structurally identical, the DISNEY WONDER can be distinguished immediately from her 1998-built sister by the character on her stern. The DISNEY MAGIC has an upside down Goofy while the WONDER has a Donald Duck.
While climbing out onto the jetty, I almost missed a very craggy looking iguana that did his best to blend into the scenery.
Shortly thereafter, the WONDER cast her lines for Cabo San Lucas. She was the last ship to leave that day, following in the wake of Holland America’s OOSTERDAM and NCL’s NORWEGIAN STAR. Dinner was in the Caribbean-influenced Parrot Cay on aft Deck 3.
After our banana and chocolate cake dessert, we took another stroll around the DISNEY WONDER’s promenade and headed to the cabin for a good night’s sleep.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
We arose in time to get a cappuccino from The Cove and take some photos of the OOSTERDAM and Cabo San Lucas from the aft decks of the WONDER.
After lunch in the Beach Blanket, which included a delicious chicken tikka, we tendered ashore in a nice, open local tender (Disney does not use its own lifeboats for the service).
Once at the tender depot in Cabo’s marina, we gathered for our excursion, a horseback ride along a Pacific beach.
As we waited, Cabo’s abundant sea life thrived around us.
A forty minute drive up the Pacific coast delivered us at a ranch with all-terrain vehicles and a stable of horses. After a brief lesson from one of the caballeros, we were straddling saddles and off on a cactus-lined trail.
It began with a bouncy ten minutes or so riding through cacti and tumble weeds..
For the next hour, we were trotting atop pristine Pacific sands in a single line formation, despite the attempts of several of us to veer our equine transports to one side or the other.
End of second post. Much more to come…