Disney Cruising – Concierge on the Wonder

Disney Cruising – Concierge on the Wonder

We splurged for a cabin in the concierge category on our recent Disney cruise. Let’s talk about what amenities we enjoyed (and which ones we skipped) and the bottom line:  Was it worth it and would we do it again?

It was a short (four night) repositioning cruise from Vancouver to San Diego with one stop in Astoria, Oregon. This cruise was perfect for us as it gave us the opportunity to celebrate our 29th anniversary in a special way while avoiding the unfriendly East Coast hurricane season.  It was also the right length to allow us to add a 3-day visit to Disneyland to the end of our trip.

Pre-Cruise

We booked cabin 8044 and, having never splurged on concierge before, didn’t exactly know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the excellent service begins long before the actual cruise!

The concierge team called us and asked us what activities and dining we would like them to book for us. This was just about our favorite perk since we take our cruise activities seriously and do whatever it takes to get what we want including setting our alarm for middle-of-the-night online booking.  We asked for Palo dinner and brunch, the bicycle tour in Astoria, and both a whisky tasting and a chocolate and liquor tasting (we’d been trying to do this one for several cruises).  Everything we asked for was magically taken care of when the booking window opened without any extra effort on our part.

When we did our online check-in for the cruise, instead of getting a boarding time, we were told to arrive at the port whenever we pleased and that’s just what we did. We took our time getting ready and right at the Fairmont Waterfront’s checkout time, we walked across the street, down the ramp, and into the cruise terminal.  After making our way through an uncrowded, but lengthy trek through customs, we found the concierge waiting area.  This was not fancy, just a bunch of folding chairs in a separate, closed off area.  After a short wait, it was time to board the Wonder and concierge guests are the first to get on.

Setting Sail

The onboard concierge team was made up of three Cast Members: Glenn, Selena, and Cristelle.  Glenn was in the lobby to greet us and direct us to Tiana’s Place for lunch.  While in Tiana’s we enjoyed complimentary adult beverages with our meal and Glenn came around with personalized folders for each family.  The materials included a customized itinerary and information about concierge amenities.

The Concierge Lounge

Once lunch was over, we checked out the concierge lounge on Deck 10 where a representative from the spa helped Raymond book a massage for later that afternoon. The lounge offers food (coffee/tea, non-alcoholic specialty drinks, light breakfast items, sandwiches, fruit, sweets, and snacks) throughout most of the day and in the evenings serves cocktails from 5-10 pm.  We did take advantage of breakfast, some of the lunch offerings, and bags of free popcorn.  Surprisingly, we never made it to the lounge in the evenings.  We did attend a special character meet & greet there one afternoon.

Our Cabin

Stateroom 8044 was located midship. It was in great shape and very clean.  There were two TVs – one larger one in the sleeping section of the room and another, smaller, in the seating area.  Our veranda was used quite a bit and we loved the toiletries provided.   As an extra-nice touch, we received a pre-soaped loofa-like sponge for the shower that was great.

When it came time to disembark on the last morning, we took our luggage up to the concierge lounge with us and, after enjoying one last breakfast, were escorted down to deck three and sent on our way with a warm goodbye from Glenn. The concierge staff was professional, friendly and helpful in exactly the Disney way one would expect.

Bottom Line

So, while we opted out of a few opportunities for group activities and amenities, we enjoyed our first experience with Disney Cruise Line’s concierge level. For just the two of us, I’m not sure we’d splurge on it again.  I could see, absolutely, wanting concierge level if travelling with our entire family…IF we could afford it.  Sailing concierge added convenience and time-savings, some nice extras, and expedited boarding and disembarking.  For Raymond and I, it didn’t make this cruise any more fun or magical than the 8 that came before it.

Disneyland Good Neighbor – Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance

After booking our Disney cruise on the Wonder and our pre-cruise stay in Vancouver, I needed our add-on Disneyland post-cruise stay to be a bit…let’s say…economical.  There was no way I could afford one of the on-property Disneyland hotels, so I researched the Good Neighbor choices and quickly settled on the one I liked best – Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance.

Upon arrival, we immediately knew I’d made an excellent choice.  This hotel was most obviously committed to three things – Friendliness, Cleanliness, and Halloween Decorations!

Disneyland Good Neighbor – Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance

Arriving early in the day, we knew our room would not be ready.  We were warmly greeted by an employee who assured us that he would get us the very best room possible and call us when it was available.  We were handed our Disneyland packet of park tickets, coupons, and freebies before we passed off our luggage to the bellhop for storage and made the very short (9-minute) walk to Disneyland’s park entrances.

It was obvious during the check-in process that this hotel takes Halloween seriously!  The decorations were extensive and incredible!  This added to our visit since Disneyland was likewise adorned and all that seasonal splendor created extra fun.

As we were enjoying Disney California Adventure, we got a call from the Courtyard’s front desk about our room.  It was ready and on the top floor (6th) with a theme park view!!!  I must say, we were warmly welcomed every single time we entered the hotel and sent off with kind words every time we left.

We headed back to our room to change for dinner at Napa Rose and found our room spacious, extremely clean and tidy, and with a balcony that would allow us to enjoy Disneyland’s fireworks each evening.  NOTE:  This place was perfect for us, but for folks with small children, the fireworks were loud!  Certainly loud enough to disrupt bedtime and possibly cause some fear in little ones.

The split bathroom was luxurious.  We had two showers and since Raymond and I like our separate getting-ready-spaces, this was ideal.  The toiletries, hair dryer, comfortable linens, and high ceilings made us feel like we were in a much more upscale hotel.  Our room had two queen beds and a set of bunk beds, so would have easily slept 6 (four adults and two children).

Bottom line:  I was trying to save money when I booked our Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance room and what I ended up with was a delightful experience that exceeded our expectations and was worth every penny.

Disneyland Attraction Reviews (by Old-ish People)

For fun, here’s a quick rundown of everything Raymond and I experienced attraction-wise during our very first visit to Disneyland.  (Bonus:  Comparisons to WDW when applicable)

Disneyland Attraction Reviews (by Old-ish People)

Disney California Adventure

Golden Zephyr – Yes, this was the ride we chose as the first one upon arrival.  No line, great views, very sweet and gentle.  Also, not at Walt Disney World, so added bonus of being unique!  We got to see the cutest Green Army Man parade from way up in the air.

Pixar Pal-A-Round (non-swinging) – I wanted to see the sights and thought the swinging version of this would impair viewing.  It was relaxing, but the caged-in feeling detracted from my enjoyment.  I’d ride it again.  Maybe.  Raymond was likewise underwhelmed.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout (Twice!) – This was awesome!  No comparison to Tower of Terror (apples to oranges).  Everything about this attraction is amazing and we thought it was about as entertaining a ride as could be.  We loved how the experience changes (like Star Tours) and the humor was great.  The queue was excellent too.  This attraction deserves all the hype and lives up to its reputation.

Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue – Cute!  Exactly what you’d expect and Monsters, Inc. fans are sure to be pleased.

Incredicoaster (Twice!) – A bit like an outdoor Rock’n’ Roller Coaster.  We love the Incredibles and are thrill-ride fans as well.  We thought this was the perfect combination of the two.  I want to be Edna Mode when I grow up.

Radiator Springs Racers (Twice!) – This won my heart.  It was my favorite attraction of the trip.  We almost skipped it because it was described as being like Test Track (which we think is just meh).  It was @CaptainAlabama on Twitter who convinced us to try it and boy!  What a phenomenal experience!!!  We rode during the daytime and then again one night.  I strongly suggest, if you ever have the chance, you do that too!  Cars Land by day is vastly different from Cars Land at night and this attraction is too.  Every detail, every twist and turn, every view, each and every moment…outstanding!

Toy Story Midway Mania – Not much different from the one at WDW.  Always a favorite.  Guess what?  No matter which coast I’m on, I always win the same prize on this ride!  Darn you, poor eye/hand coordination!

Paint the Night Parade (did a dining package for special seating) – This turned out to be one of Raymond’s most favorite parade experiences ever!  It was sweet and the floats and characters were interesting and entertaining.  (More on the dining package part in a future post.)

Disneyland Park

Space Mountain – The seating really threw us at first (side-by-side), but the ride was excellent.  The “Ghost Galaxy” theme was cool!  Enough like Magic Kingdom’s version to be familiar yet surprisingly different in a good way!

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – Ah, nostalgia.  It was nice to see Toad again after all these years.  I missed it at WDW when it closed, but knowing the ride lives on in California did a lot to soothe my hurt feelings.

Jungle Cruise – WHOA!  This was so cool!  The jokes are mostly different, the animatronics often much better than in Magic Kingdom, and (spoiler alert!) piranhas!  There was hardly a wait for this attraction – WHY?  It’s awesome and adorable!

Pirates of the Caribbean – This experience did not diminish my love for WDW’s Pirates in any way, but holy moly!  I loved the buildup from the bayou through all the scenes.  It felt much creepier (more creepy?) and the added length allowed more of a story to be told.

Indiana Jones Adventure – I cannot lie.  We hated it.  Go ahead with your gasps of outrage, we did not get anything out of this ride except whiplash.  We moved way to fast to actually see any of the seemingly awesome details.  Just when I’d spot something interesting to focus on – zoom!  We were gone.  I’m a huge Indy fan!  My DOG is named Henry Jones, Jr., for Pete’s sake!  Maybe I was expecting too much.  It’s a once and done for us.

Haunted Mansion – Words cannot describe how excellent the Halloween overlay is!  The Mansion’s exterior is gorgeous!  Absolute perfection that fits in very well with New Orleans Square (excellent details and theming there!).  While I would have loved to experience Haunted Mansion without the overlay for comparison purposes, we were blown away by the excessive details!  It’s extraordinarily well done.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Different, but just as excellent as Magic Kingdom’s version.  The explosions in the mine were so EXTRA!  What a fantastic detail and we were delighted!  It’s a do-not-miss for us.

Mark Twain Riverboat – Scoff if you must, but I drug poor Raymond right on board and loved every second of this!  Have I mentioned the weather?  Blue, blue sky, sans a single cloud, temps in the 80’s.  How could anyone NOT love a relaxing trip around the Rivers of America?  Seriously, it’s fantastic!

Snow White’s Scary Adventure – Like Mr. Toad, the nostalgia factor was the draw here.

Storybook Land Canal Boats – I fell in love with this!  This attraction sounds silly and like a waste of time, but it is not!  The boats are sweetly adorable, the actual real-life human guide is an extra-special detail, and the little kingdoms and villages along the canal’s shores are especially well-crafted.  See all your favorite Disney movie settings!  And ride into Monstro’s mouth too!  What’s not to love about that?

it’s a small world – We were completely and totally unprepared for this.  It’s HUGE!  Makes the one in Magic Kingdom feel like a rip-off.  Sure, they’re basically the same on the inside (and everyone always says it’s what’s on the inside that matters, right?) but the exterior is so EXTRA!!!  It added to the overall experience exponentially.

Pinocchio’s Daring Journey – Well…uhm…this was certainly a tribute to Pinocchio and stuff.  I’m afraid it felt a bit outdated.

Splash Mountain – I have to say it.  Magic Kingdom’s version is much better.  Three things ruined Splash for us here.  One, the boat was much rougher and bashed into the sides of the “river” violently several times.  Two, the boats moved so fast we didn’t have time to enjoy the scenes and the adorable furry animals.  Three, there’s a pitch black section in which we were completely drenched with ice-cold water from head to toe.  We were saddened by the experience.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage – We thought this was precious and it brought back fond memories of the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Alice in Wonderland – This one was among my favorites.  Recently refurbished with added projection effects, we were charmed by the whimsical details.

The Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.  I liked this very much…better than Hall of Presidents, honestly.  They said no pictures and I took it seriously!  I did get a nice picture of this sign though…enjoy!

A word about wait times.  There were hardly any at most of the attractions.  In fact, not all Disneyland attractions have posted wait times.  Unlike Disney World, only the most popular attractions have/need FastPasses.  Interspersed with all those attractions, we had plenty of time to snack, grab a beer or glass of wine, and soak up the outrageously perfect weather and Disney’s magical details.

Attractions we skipped were mostly by design.  Some would have been exactly like their WDW version (Soarin’ and Star Tours), some would have meant we didn’t get to ride our favorites twice.  Matterhorn Bobsleds – closed for refurb, disappointingly.  I was conflicted about the decision to skip Grizzly River Run, but after the complete soaking on Splash, we thought it for the best.  Hopefully, there will be a next time!

Okay, let me have it!  Agree?  Disagree?  Bit of both?

 

 

Disneyland First Visit First Impressions

It may have been only two-and-a-half days, but our first visit to Disneyland exceeded our expectations – it was wonderful!  Our Good Neighbor hotel was fantastic and allowed us quick and easy access to the parks and Downtown Disney.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we did not see a single cloud the entire time we were there.  So with a great place to sleep and sunny skies, we got busy making the most of our limited time.

Disneyland First Visit First Impressions

Our first stop was Disney California Adventure.  So many things felt super familiar, it was odd to not know exactly how to navigate the park without a map.  Much of DCA felt like Disney’s Hollywood Studios and construction walls certainly made us feel right at home.

We were captivated by Pixar Pier and the areas around it.  There’s so much to take in and the theming was completely immersive – which we loved!  Raymond made the observation that the way the attractions were laid out reminded him of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.  We visited Tivoli in 2015 knowing it was inspirational to Walt Disney before Disneyland was built and we noticed many similarities – mainly the way attractions, restaurants, shops, and kiosks were crowded together in an exciting way with something interesting to see or do from the ground to the sky.

We used both paper FastPasses (on Friday) and MaxPasses on Saturday and Sunday and both were certainly handy.  The paper FastPasses made us feel sentimental since those have been long gone from Walt Disney World.  MaxPass was worth every penny!  We used several (4+) a day and with all the PhotoPass photos included, we were very satisfied with how it worked.  We did miss having Magic Bands though.  We’re so used to the convenience of being able to enter the parks and purchase everything with them – doing without felt like an inconvenience.

Disneyland was a delight!  I could not believe how many attractions we could experience in just a couple of hours.  I’ll write separate posts on the attractions themselves, but I’m going to try to describe here how charmed we were by this park’s overall atmosphere.  We expected it to be as magical, interesting, delightful, and exciting as we find Magic Kingdom.  What we didn’t expect was for it to be more.  More of everything that makes us love Disney parks.  Disneyland feels like Disney World’s more mature, wiser and more beautiful sibling.

Yes, as you may have heard (or noticed yourself), Sleeping Beauty Castle is quite a shock.  Like your eyes are playing tricks on you – Where is it?!  It should be the centerpiece at the end of Main Street, visible just after entering the park.  That it doesn’t appear where and when it should certainly takes some getting used to.  Sleeping Beauty Castle’s relatively tiny stature does not detract from its beauty.  Once you get close enough to take in the details, it seems as perfect as can be.

One-stop security is awesome!  As you approach the central plaza in which the entrances to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney are located, there’s a single security stop for bag-checks and metal detector screening.  After that, park-hopping takes mere moments and, compared to Walt Disney World, seems absolutely effortless.  We loved this aspect…except after 5:00 pm.  Word of caution – if you leave the parks and return in the evening, two things happen.  Security lines are extra long due to decreased screening capacity and the sun is brutal!  We were there in September and the setting sun was blinding which made waiting in that looooong security line seem more horrible.  The necessity of arriving before the after-work crowd was one of our biggest take-aways.

Thanks for reading…I have much more to tell you, so please stop by again soon!