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Spring Break: A Disney Cruise to Mexico

April 30, 2012

I love the ocean, and while I’ve traveled to or near the ocean many times for vacations, I’ve never taken a vacation on the ocean. I’ve been curious about cruises for a number of years, but I’ve never been able to interest my wife (for which I blame David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again). However, for this year’s spring break vacation I took a slightly different approach: I enlisted our daughter.

I’ll confess to being a big fan of Disney. I interned at Imagineering as a grad student, and I worked with my advisor on user testing the virtual reality attractions for DisneyQuest. I’ve always admired how Disney works extra hard to provide a good show, particularly in the little things like logging light bulb lifetimes and nightly repainting of high wear spots. For the past few years we’ve taken our daughter to Disneyland during ski week, so this time around it wasn’t too difficult to convince her to advocate for a Disney Cruise instead (tip for other parents: order the free DVD from Disney and show it to your child). Between the two of us we were then able to convince my wife. Our pitch was admittedly made easier by the existence of a cruise to the Mexican Riviera, since despite living in California for almost 6 years we’d had yet to visit.

So for our daughter’s spring break this year we hopped a Southwest flight down to LAX and boarded a bus for the Port of Los Angeles, where we boarded the Disney Wonder, our floating home for the next 7 days. First impression? Cruise ships are really, really big.

First view of the Disney Wonder at the port

Also, Disney’s penchant for good show extends to their Cruise Line. Despite being around 13 years old (the Wonder had its first cruise in 1999), the interior and exterior of the ship are in very good condition (it doubtlessly helps that Disney apparently retrofits their ships every 3 years to keep them fresh).

On the interior the Disney Wonder has a warm, comfortable design. From the Art Nouveau lobby to the Mickey hands on the elevators to the “movie palace” theater, the spaces are inviting places to spend time.

Disney Wonder lobby
Elevator with Mickey handsThe Buena Vista theater on the Disney Wonder

But of course I wanted to go on a cruise to spend time on the ocean, and the exterior spaces didn’t disappoint either. The promenade deck was a great space for a walk around the boat or a game of shuffleboard (I’m deeply amused they had shuffleboard areas), and it was a surprisingly nice spot to relax in a chair or read a book (many of the families migrated to the top deck where the pools are, leaving the promenade deck much emptier).

The promenade deck on the Disney Wonder

The top deck was also a very nice space. Technically it was the top two decks, while the very top circling the ship and the deck below featuring 3 pools open to the sky (segregated by age, a nice touch).

The top deck of the Disney Wonder

While short on space, I thought the stateroom design did a pretty good job of utilizing the space that was available. And seriously, who doesn’t love looking out of their room to see the ocean?

A room with a view

On the trip we visited Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. We had one day in the former and two in the latter. I personally would rather have reversed that; Cabo had a nice beach, but otherwise seemed like a rather vanilla party town. We chose to do Port Adventures in both (a pirate ship adventure in Puerto Vallarta and swimming with dolphins in Cabo), but I would rather have had an extra day walking around Puerto Vallarta than the day we did have exploring Cabo.

Pirate ship adventure in Puerto Vallarta
Cabo San Lucas

Personally I preferred the days at sea, though (I suspect my daughter would agree but my wife would differ). One of the things I liked the most about the Disney Cruise was that they had dedicated areas for kids to play (an interesting tidbit we learned on a tour: the deck with the kids areas has slightly lower ceilings to make kids feel more comfortable and confident). As a result, our daughter would run off for 3-4 hours each day to play with other kids, leaving my wife and I quiet, uninterrupted hours to kick back and relax. And the ship does feature adults-only areas on the top decks where peace and quiet are easy to find.

A quiet spot to read
An adults only area

One of the things I enjoyed the most, although I hadn’t expected it at all, was the sense of disconnection. Yes, there was Internet access on the boat, but it was expensive enough I didn’t bother. But there wasn’t any cell coverage. No newspapers. And you had to go out of your way to track down a news channel. As a result, there wasn’t any urge to keep with events on land or surf the web to keep on top of news. And I personally found that relaxing indeed.

Sunset over Cabo

From → Fun, Travel

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