No brand is more meticulous about its reputation and standards than Disney. That benefits agents who sell Disney cruises; they can be sure that even the line's older ships are up to snuff.
Disney Wonder's recent refurbishment is a case in point. It was transformational.
Not only does this 1999-built ship look better than ever, it added exclusives that will draw back Disney die-hards and spark the interest of newbies. Probably the most talked-about is the new stage production of the animated hit movie "Frozen."
When the show debuted on a 4-night sailing from Galveston a week ago, the Walt Disney Theatre was packed half an hour before curtain times, and every performance got thunderous standing ovations.
Disney has done a magnificent job with the production. You feel like you're seeing a Broadway show. Real snow swirls over the audience, the staging is imaginative and the ingenious puppetry blurs the lines between the actors, who are visible, and their puppets.
The "Frozen" theme is carried through to the fully redone and expanded Oceaneer Club for ages 3 to 12. There, a "Frozen Adventures" area recreates Wandering Oaken's Trading Post and provides games and a sing-along led by Olaf via a digital screen. Characters pop in, too, with Elsa and Anna playing a coronation ceremony that delights little girls.
Little boys are more into the Oceaneer Club's first Marvel Super Hero Academy, where youngsters can take six "classes" that are adventurous, villain-fighting missions. Led in the flesh by Spider-Man, Captain America or Black Widow, all hinge on teamwork and problem-solving. Technology plays a big part. Kids can control the movement of characters on an interactive digital screen and blast bad guys with repulsors.
Another big change is a new main restaurant in the rotational dining scheme, where passengers move to a new venue each night, and their servers go with them.
Tiana's Place, a fun but sophisticated New Orleans-style venue, replaced Parrot Cay. It is themed on Disney's "The Princess and the Frog." Decked out in feathers and pearls, Tiana greets diners and a band plays jazz, blues and swing during dinner. This eventually builds into a party and parade where Tiana, the servers and diners -- especially the kids -- join in. It's a hit.
Animator's Palate, another of the three rotational restaurants, was redone as well. It features the "Animation Magic" show, and incorporates Disney's latest characters like the new Princess Moana, who'll debut in the animated "Moana' movie this month.
The pool deck was updated with an AquaLab, the interactive water play area introduced with Disney Magic, and Dory's Reef, a splash zone for toddlers.
In other changes, the adult entertainment zone was reimagined and renamed, a concierge lounge and concierge-level sun deck were added, and the adults' coffee hangout Cove Cafe gained an upper floor to provide more viewing space.
The adults-only nightlife district was restyled from Route 66 into the more sophisticated After Hours. The Crown & Fin Pub is new, with board games, sports broadcasts and beers. The ambience of the sleek Azure nightclub can be transformed with video projections. And a shiny new model of the Cadillac Lounge offers a handcrafted cocktails menu.
The refurbishment also aligned Disney Wonder with the branded spaces across the rest of the fleet. The buffet dining venue is now Cabanas, brighter and better organized, with expanded outdoor seating. And the spa became Senses Spa & Salon, adding couples' villas with private whirlpool tubs and Chill, for teens.
Disney doesn't reveal what it spends on ship refurbishments, but in the case of the 17-year-old Disney Wonder, it must have been a bundle. For starters, this was a whopping 53-day dry dock. No area was untouched, and the ship really looks new, inside and out.
Even the cabins, where wear and tear tend to show up, are fresh. All 875 of them got more than just a soft-goods change-out. The steamer trunks were replaced with new cabinetry and drawers, and the new beds are elevated so suitcases can be stored underneath. Little touches like that symbolize Disney’s penchant for detail, which defined the entire renovation.