Posted on Monday, May 2, 2011 by Peter Knego
Wrapping up a week with Peter Knego aboard the 1999-built DISNEY WONDER for part three 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.
Thursday, March 31, 2011, ctd.
On our return to the ship after our first day in Cabo San Lucas, my companion Mike asked the tender captain if we could circle the ship, and, to my pleasant shock, he said yes. I kept the cameras out as we motored along the shaded side of the liner-like Disney apparition and clicked away as we rounded that elegant bow with toothy Los Arcos as its backdrop.
Back aboard, the usual late afternoon workout ensued as the DISNEY WONDER slowly made her way into the Pacific to lazily circle its darkening waters. We donned dress shirts and ties for dinner in Palo, the 120 seat extra tariff ($20 dinner and brunch/$10 for high tea) venue on aft Deck 10.
Veteran waiter Judy took great care of us during brunch earlier in the week, so we were happy to be seated in her section once again. Judy hails from Barbados and has been with Disney since the advent of the DISNEY MAGIC in 1998. She actually spent several months at Fincantieri during the fitting out of the WONDER in 1999 and has earned her status as “queen bee” of Palo.
Our Northern Italian dinner began with antipasti which was all well and good, except for the chunks of Parmesan, which were disappointingly not Reggiano. Ah well…
There was a pungent olive oil and garlic drenched roasted aubergine salad. Delicioso!
The lobster ravioli was also quite memorable.
And a homemade sorbet palate cleanser arrived before the advent of the main course.
I went with the baked chicken breast fillet with ricotta, basil and red peppers served with a Pinot Grigio Reduction, which tasted even better than it looked.
Mike went with the oregano and parmesan-crusted rack of lamb with Sangiovese roasted shallots, olive oil-baked roma tomatoes, potato pave and herb jus.
Judy wasn’t going to let us leave without trying the chocolate soufflé, so we politely obliged.
We finished dinner just in time to head back into the family zone adjacent to Goofy’s Pool for the Pirates in the Caribbean deck party. The buffet was laid out and the pool basin was covered by sliding teak decking to serve as an open air dance floor.
And then, the fireworks began. Disney is the only cruise line to feature live fireworks on each of its sailings. On cue, three minutes of dazzling fireworks erupted from a special launch platform set up on aft/starboard Deck 10.
As much as I tend to want to run away from crowds and big, splashy parties, I was really impressed with the energy and spirit of the Pirates Of The Caribbean deck party. Disney definitely delivers on the spectacle. Alas, we had an early morning excursion, so down to the cabin we went.
Friday, April 1, 2011
We awoke just in time for a very quick breakfast in the Beach Blanket buffet on aft Deck 9. The breakfast spread is somewhat limited and the space is too small to accommodate demand, making it my least favorite dining venue on the ship. However, the freshly-made omelet was worth waiting for and there was plenty of seating on the terrace where we had an inspiring view of Los Arcos.
A tiny blue butterfly joined us as we hurriedly consumed enough fuel to get us through the first half of the day.
Three cheers for the open tenders Disney hires in Cabo San Lucas. They are much more comfortable than typically enclosed ship tenders and they also provide some nice photographic vantages.
Upon arrival at the marina, we hopped aboard another boat that took us to a pristine strand of beach in front of Cabo’s row of luxury hotels. There, we climbed into kayaks and paddled our way across the bay toward Los Arcos and a small embankment called Lover’s Beach.
From there, we had a nice view of the DISNEY WONDER.
The water was as cool as it was clear.
We crossed between the two towering rocks to the Pacific side, with its spectacular sands and an endless landscape of signs warning of rough surf and rip tides.
We left our kayaks on the calmer Sea of Cortez side and clambered aboard the excursion boat for a quick visit to a rocky cove for some chilly snorkeling amidst schools of spectacular fish. After that, it was back into the kayaks for a row back to the beach, another boat back to the marina, and a final tender to the DISNEY WONDER.
Back on board, the sun was heating up the upper decks as DISNEY WONDER hoisted anchor and began her journey back to Los Angeles. I spent some time with the laptop in the Cove Cafe, slurping on a double cappuccino.
DISNEY WONDER’ s staff and crew are extremely well-trained and hard working. Hungarian barista Tibor recently switched over from Sea Dream Yacht Club and, prior to that, Seabourn. His first seagoing “gig” was the QE2.
Dinner was back in the Animator’s Palate. Tonight, the room would come to life with the evolving fiber optic lighting and effects that would transform it from a black and white diner into a colorful fantasy land with animated and real life Disney characters.
Even the waiters’ vests would transform into a rainbow of colors that reminded me of those syrup-drenched snow cones I used to devour as a child. I can’t say the food was as memorable as the service and spectacle but all in all, it was a pretty impressive crescendo to our rotational dining experience.
Hats off (or, perhaps, towels off) to our room steward Sebastian for doing such a great job with tidying our cabin and concocting a series of nightly textures in terry cloth.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
We began our final sea day by ordering cappuccinos in The Cove and taking them down to the Buena Vista Theater to attend the enrichment lecture. I was pleasantly shocked to see that Disney had room for such an adult-oriented function in its jam-packed schedule of children’s activities, especially in such an important venue. Guest speaker Mark Watters did an admirable job explaining how he created the soundtracks for a number of Disney features utlizing Power Point video clips.
We quietly encountered the southbound CARNIVAL SPIRIT in the mist off our starboard side. We were definitely on the better looking ship.
I learned from my father that Croatians love to look after their fellow countrymen. Earlier in the cruise, Mike had met Chief Officer Stjepo Mlicic, who was kind enough to extend an invitation for us to visit the bridge shortly before noon. We joined Stjepo (whose cousin is married to a Knego) and Staff Captain Grgo Skaramuca, also from Dubrovnik, for a short tour of the ship’s control center.
I stepped out onto the open wings for a view of the ship’s hull plunging through the gray seas and was summoned inside by Stjepo, who led me to a little button in (what else?) a Mickey Mouse framework. The captain had just finished the noon announcement when I was cued to push the button that sounded the seven note “When You Wish Upon A Star” salute. Little things like that can make a shiplover’s day…
We bid our hard working hosts farewell and headed to the Rainforest, the Spa’s thermal suite. There, we were supposed to enjoy a relaxing, if brief, visit to the steam rooms but there must have been a malfunction since all of the rooms were barely lukewarm. No matter, the gym was a mere step or two away, so we indulged in our last workout before returning to the cabin to pack and head off to the early performance of “Dreams”, the second of two mega productions in the Walt Disney Theater.
After a final dinner in Palo, we headed to the Buena Vista Theater for a 3D showing of “Mars Needs Moms”. Definitely not something I would choose to do at home but it was kind of a vicarious thrill to defy my typical routine of classic, foreign and documentary films.
One final pass through that three deck lobby with its Art Nouveau flourishes and Chihuly chandelier, another romp around that glorious teak promenade and then it was back to evacuate suitcases into the passageway and get a few hours sleep before the WONDER quietly slipped into her berth at Los Angeles.
Saturday, April 3, 2011
I embarked on this assignment with a keen appreciation of the ship and soon learned to enjoy the actual Disney experience that came along with it. I am definitely not this company’s target market customer but I give Disney props for having such a wide variety of well-executed distractions for people of all ages.
I think there is room for improvement in the catering but if Disney Cruise fans are happy with the food (and apparently, they are) then it achieves its goal. Regardless, the level and quality of the service, the entertainment and the ship, itself, are enough to happily warrant a return some day.
Special thanks: Martin Cox, Paul Garcia, Marilyn Green, Mike Masino, Stjepo Mlicic, Grgo Skaramuca