I just came back from a cruise on the Disney Wonder. It set sail from Cape Canaveral on Sat July 19th and returned on Thurs July 23. It included a day at Nassau, a day at Castaway Cay and a day at sea.
Even with all of the research I did (online, with the Birnbaum book and with the Disney DVD) I still was in the dark about many things.
I wanted to post some of the best tips I could think of for future guests.
Here you go:
1. Bring a watch. I use my cell phone as a "watch" but about 30 minutes after we left Cape Canaveral the time on it was no longer correct. I constantly had to ask people for the time and I heard from dozens of people that they had the same problem. So, stick a watch in your suitcase. You will need it to get to dinner, shows and events on time.
2. Need lots of power? Bring an extension cord or a power strip (or ask for one as soon as you get aboard.) State rooms have less outlets than most hotel rooms and do not have one near the bed in most rooms.
3. Early riser? You may have to wait for breakfast. The earliest time to get breakfast at one of the restaurants was 7am and the nicer sit down places don't open until 8am.
There isn't much to do on the ship before 8am either (unless you like working out.)
4. Like to work out? The ship has a great jogging "track" around one of the decks. It is a very cool feeling to run by the ocean as the ship sails. Also the ship has a very nice gym with tredmills that face the water.
In addition, there are many activities. Yoga classes, spinning classes, a 5k race on Castaway Cay were among the many free events you could take part in.
5. Tips? This felt a bit odd to me (a first time cruiser.) You can pre-pay all your tips in advance. It was $48 a person on my cruise. After that, no matter where you dined you didn't tip. I don't even think you COULD tip. You just show up at a restaurant, the waiter takes your order and you eat and leave. That's it (unless you order alcoholic beverages.) You didn't have to show a room card or anything. It felt so strange just getting up at the end of a meal and waving good bye to the waiter.
6. No cash needed. They don't seem to accept cash on the ship anywhere. It didn't matter if you were buying a $5 drink by the pool or a candy bar at the movie theater. You had to charge it to your room.
You would need cash for a Bahamas' excursion and to tip the guy who brings your bags ON the ship when you arrive.
7. Don't watch Disney movies before the cruise! The ship has 2 great theaters. The Walt Disney Theatre (mostly used for elaborate Broadway style shows... but did show a movie during the day at sea) and the beautiful Buena Vista Theatre. During my cruise they showed the following films: Race to Witch Moutain, Disneynature: Earth, Bolt, Hannah Montana The Movie, The Proposal and Up.
A few people in my party were sorry they had seen some of these films at the theater at home when they found out they could go see them on the ship.
8. Safety drill. The only serious part of the cruise was the safety drill. It took place at 4pm on the day we boarded. Everyone (and they do mean everyone) has to grab a life jacket and go to an assigned spot. They know if you don't show up. Don't skip it. It's quick and painless.
9. Disembarking. This seemed to shock a lot of guests. On the last morning you had to vacate your room by 8am. The late breakfast was at 8:15am. Then they needed you to leave. There were no activities on the last day.
10. Photos. They don't have a convient "Photo Pass" system on the ship. They do attach some photos to your "room key" but many others (taken in the dining room, on Castaway Cay and in other places) were just taken and then put on the wall in Shutters (the photo store) if you liked them, you picked it up and took it to the counter.
11. Soda. This was a bit confusing. On Deck 9 ( one of the top decks) they have free soda (and free paper cups) they also give you free soda at all meals.
I found tons of conflicting info about this online (for example many posts said you had to buy a special soda mug like you do at the Disney Resorts.) I assume the policy has changed over the years.
On my cruise soda was free and available.
If you have any tips, please post them. If you see anything I got wrong, correct me!