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Taking a live class with Black Widow at the Marvel Super Hero Academy and feeling the snow during a Broadway-style adaptation of the animated hit “Frozen” are just two of the ground-breaking experiences I sampled on the inaugural post-dry dock sailing of the renovated Disney Wonder.

In addition to adding popular features such as Pinocchio’s Pizza, Pete’s Boiler Bites, Daisy’s De-Lites and Aqualab that make the 2,713-passenger ship consistent with the line’s three other ships, Disney Wonder unveiled some totally new offerings, translating beloved tales into restaurants, water playgrounds and, of course, live stage shows.

“The reimagining of the Disney Wonder gave us the chance to do something new for everyone,” said Theron Skees, portfolio creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. “I love that we can embed stories into everything we do. Guests get so excited when they recognize the allusions to their favorite movies and shows.”

Examples abound, and I too was enchanted to realize that the red chandelier in the atrium was inspired by the flower in Ariel’s hair and to notice the subtly placed Mary Poppins’ umbrella at the new Crown and Fin Pub.

“From the all-new Tiana’s Place to the amazing production of ‘Frozen, A Musical Spectacular,’ Disney Wonder absolutely took my breath away,” noted Monday Cleghorn, owner/president, Magic of Mickey Travel. For example, the redesigned 3-story atrium space has been opened up to provide dramatic visibility for events staged there. “There is now just one staircase and the new chandelier has a lower profile.”

Kid Stuff & Grown-Up Spaces

One of the biggest rollouts was the addition of the Marvel Super Hero Academy to Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab. Exclusively on the Disney Wonder, the Academy uses
high-tech play and live classes with super heroes to teach them that teamwork, bravery and creative problem solving, not super powers, are what it takes to be a hero.

Of course, super heroes aren’t the only characters who visit the Club. At the new Frozen Adventures, Olaf leads games and sing-a-longs and there are royal visits from Anna and Elsa. Similarly, in the multi-level “Toy Story”-themed play space, Woody appears in person for a hoedown and Jessie stops by to join a scavenger hunt. Kids can also meet their favorite princesses and characters at scheduled spots around the ship; it’s advisable to pre-book some of these—and other popular activities and excursions—as early as possible.

“The meetings with characters on board are truly immersive, and the space allows kids to experience activities they may only have seen on TV,” said Skees.

Sue Pisaturo, president/founder, Small World Vacations, said parents might have a hard time pulling kids away from the ship’s new water features including the Donald Duck-themed splash zone, Aqua Lab, and the brand-new Dory’s Reef. She also praised the Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique makeovers. “I saw so many adorable little ‘princesses’ in their royal finest.”

One of my favorite spots was the Crown and Fin Pub. Only on the Disney Wonder, it feels like a neighborhood pub with its dark woods, leather furnishings and brass accents, but the best part was discovering the many prop references to classic Disney films set in London. In the After Hours adults district, formerly Route 66, is a new signature nightclub, Azure, along with a remodeled Cadillac Lounge. An expanded adults-only pool area and the addition of a second floor to the Cove Cafe specialty coffee lounge provide plenty of adult space during the day.

The spa, renovated as the Senses Spa & Salon, offers romantic couples treatment rooms and a new Chill Teen Spa. Also new to the ship is a key-accessed concierge lounge and private deck.

Fun for All

Created specifically for Disney Wonder, “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular” translates the animated adventures of royal sisters Anna and Elsa into a musical production using puppetry, technology and top talent. (Clients who want to feel the snow should snag seats in the front half of the theater.) Two other musical shows, “Disney Dreams” and “The Golden Mickeys,” are nostalgic amalgams of Disney favorites.

Also exclusive to Disney Wonder, Tiana’s Place builds on the animated feature “The Princess and the Frog” with charming details such as waterlily-shaped candleholders, photos of Tiana’s family, and a small frog emblem on every plate that transforms as the meal progresses. Live jazz and Louisiana bayou-inspired cuisine were wonderful, but the
piece de resistance was watching the kids
dance in a Mardi Gras-style parade around
the dining room.

The Animator’s Palate, updated with Disney’s dinner shows featuring drawings by each patron, also thrilled passengers. “What a surprise as everyone’s character dances and marches in familiar Disney movie scenes projected onto special screens around the room,” said Pisaturo. As on all Disney ships, servers and diners rotate together through the three dining experiences. Our group, which included a vegan, was impressed that our servers remembered our food restrictions and preferences.

“Travel professionals enjoy offering something new to their clients, and the additions to the Disney Wonder certainly fit the bill,” said Cal Almaguer, domestic travel industry v.p. for Disney Destinations.

Disney Wonder will sail from Galveston, until Jan. 20, 2017 and then reposition to homeport in Port Canaveral through mid-April.

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