If relaxation is what you desire as you head into the new year, a cruise is the perfect way to accomplish that goal.
A couple of years ago, I had to delay my plans for an Alaskan cruise with Disney Cruise Line. Thankfully, I realized the need to change my plans early in the year and was able to book a 7-night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Wonder.
Why a Bahamian cruise from Galveston was the perfect fit for my family:
- The port of Galveston, Texas is within a comfortable driving distance from our hometown. Because of our prior experiences driving to Port Canaveral for other Disney Cruises, I knew the ropes. We left a day early and booked one night at a hotel a couple of hours from the port. Easy-peasy.
- This cruise would be a special way to celebrate the New Year with my family. The Very Merrytime itineraries at Thanksgiving and Christmas were familiar to me. This itinerary was Bahamian, which we had never sailed before.
- We were all very excited about sailing on the Disney Wonder for the first time. The ship was re-imagined in 2016 and even though this was our first sailing on the Wonder, we would be able to enjoy the changes to the ship.
Differences between Port Canaveral and the Port of Galveston
- Port Canaveral offers both outdoor and garage parking that is operated by the port. The Port of Galveston only offers outdoor parking. You could opt for covered garage parking from independent vendors, but the lots are located across the street from the port and I felt like my vehicle was more secure in the gated parking lot.
- As we got closer to the Port of Galveston, I expected the Port Canaveral view of bright greenery and multiple ships in the port. This port has more of an industrial look. The Port of Galveston is known for being foggy and that added more of an air of mystery than merriment to the port.
- Unlike Port Canaveral, we had to catch a small bus in the parking lot with our luggage. The bus drives guests to the cruise terminal where you disembark with your luggage. At Port Canaveral, guests drive to an area with luggage porters. Your luggage is taken from your vehicle and whisked away.
- The check-in area is not as bright and open as the terminal at Port Canaveral, and after receiving Key to the World Cards, guests go upstairs to a waiting area for boarding. At Port Canaveral, guests go upstairs after a brief wait in the security line and receive all boarding materials in the upstairs terminal.
Despite these differences, the service is still up to the level of Disney attention to its guests.
After the mandatory guest assembly drill, I immediately headed to the stage on Deck 9 for the “Adventures Away!” Family Deck Party. This is an upbeat event that gives families the opportunity to get together and dance to their favorite tunes as the ship leaves the port. Even though I’ve sailed with Disney Cruise Line many times, I never miss the opportunity to attend this event. I love to hear the ship’s horn play a special Disney tune at the end of the countdown.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve on the Disney Wonder
Before we went to dinner at Animator’s Palate, our room turndown service was complete, and a box of chocolate was placed on our bed.
When we arrived for dinner at Animator’s Palate, our table was set with “Happy New Year” party goods, one for each member of our family.
A New Year’s Eve deck party was scheduled to begin after dinner. It included the characters dressed in their New Year’s Eve best, a countdown on a big screen and fireworks at sea.
New Year’s Day and Beyond
Key West, Florida
After leaving Galveston, New Year’s Eve was spent at sea and I was looking forward to docking at our first port on New Year’s Day. This was my second time visiting Key West on Disney Cruise Line. The Wonder docked on a side of Key West that the Disney Magic did not, and I saw views of the city that I had not seen before. The turquoise waters were stunning.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Castaway Cay as the next stop after Key West.
Castaway is always my favorite port on the Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, but it is always the last port before returning to Port Canaveral. There’s something about an entire day of relaxation on Disney Cruise Line’s private island the day before going home.
I may have come off the Wonder as a skeptic, but I spent the day there as a believer. My beloved Castaway Cay was just as ‘Wonder’ous on the fourth day of a Disney Cruise as it was on the seventh day of a Disney Cruise. I spent the day in complete and total relaxation.
It was a warm, sunny day when we arrived at Nassau. Nassau is a port that you either love, like or are neutral about. I fall into the neutral category and remained on the ship for the day. There were two sea days remaining on our New Year’s cruise, and I used this day to go to the movies, caught up with character greetings I missed earlier in the week, and relaxed on deck.
The Wonder of Expectations
We all have preferences and expectations when we take a vacation, and the majority of my New Year’s Cruise met and often exceeded those expectations. As with all vacation experiences, there were also moments that we made the most of despite our disappointment.
Adult Dining: We dined at Palo, and if you haven’t read my blog entry, Palo and Parents on the Disney Wonder, click through and read about this amazing, adults only dining experience.
New characters: This cruise introduced us to a couple of Marvel characters that we hadn’t met on previous cruises, and my kids loved adding the autographs of Spider-Man and Black Widow to their autograph books.
Tween Club Edge: My daughter reached the age where she was able to participate in activities at the tween club, Edge. You will need to know that we sailed on the Disney Fantasy when her age did not allow her to go to Edge. We visited the club during an Open House and it is more spacious because the Fantasy is a bigger ship. When the Wonder was re-imagined, the arcade was removed and Edge was designed in the same space. My daughter’s feedback was that the Cast Members who worked there were really nice and she liked the people she met (she gained a pin trading buddy), but the space was too small for her to enjoy.
Pirate Night: There is a Pirate Night on the Wonder during the New Year’s cruise, it is not as grand as pirate night on the Eastern & Western Caribbean itineraries. The spectacular show that features Jack Sparrow and his crew is not performed, and instead the characters and Cast Members dance to a few songs in a show similar to the “Adventures Away!” Family Deck Party. Also, because there were fireworks on New Year’s Eve, there are no fireworks at sea after the show. I really missed the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song synced to the booming fireworks!
I would sail again during New Year’s because nothing can beat the feeling of being carefree at the beginning of the year. A year brings many ups and downs, and sometimes the opportunity to get away from it all is the perfect therapy for the mind, body, and soul.
Planning and timing are essential to booking cruise vacations, and if you’re reading this today and think that sailing away during New Year’s might be something you would want to do in 2019, start making your plans.
Happy New Year!