I Made Australia’s First Disney Cruise the Ultimate Girls’ Trip
I’ve been off Australia’s first Disney cruise for less than an hour, and I’m already missing it. I’m missing the cosy stateroom I shared with my two friends. I’m missing planning my days around mealtimes and showtimes. And I’m missing the excitement of getting to try a new ship restaurant and see a new Broadway-level Disney show.
But mostly I’m missing the feeling of being cocooned in a fairytale world with two of my best friends. A world where wearing Mickey ears to breakfast, doing the limbo in a pirate outfit at dinner and running into a crouching Spiderman in the hallway becomes the norm.
These are just a few things I didn’t expect to feel after taking the maiden voyage of Disney Wonder, which sailed between Sydney and Hobart over four days. I was among a group of media invited to join the 2000-odd other passengers and 1000-odd crewmembers (representing 60 nationalities!) on the trip.
I don’t have kids so brought my two friends — in their 30s, like me. None of us had ever been on a cruise before. But I’m American so had been to Disney World a handful of times. It hadn’t occurred to me how lucky I was to have a theme park within my home country until I was on Disney Wonder in Sydney. It was then that I realised that getting to experience that IRL Disney magic without having to leave the country was a big deal.
“I’ve been working with Disney for 17 years, and you can bet I’ve been asking them to come to Australia for seven years,” Disney Wonder’s Australian-born executive cruise director Trent Hitchcock said. “I blubbered like a baby when the ship went under the Harbour Bridge.”
Aside from not expecting it to feel so many feels and for it to become the ultimate girls’ trip, there was lots else I didn’t expect on the Disney cruise. I’m sharing some of the other surprises here. Note that this is only a small snapshot of my experience and that there’s obviously so much more I don’t have the space to mention. If you want to ask me anything specific, though, feel free to DM on Instagram or TikTok (many others already have).
How Passionate Disney Fans Are
This was probably to be expected given Disney’s nostalgia factor, but I don’t think I understood the level of passion. A family dressed in Disney gear, watched the cruise leave from a bar at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. They weren’t part of the cruise, and I don’t think they even knew anyone onboard – they just wanted to be part of the magic.
Another family – this one, onboard – had a list of the 100+ Disney cruises they’d done since 2003 pinned to their front door. Another family was onboard since the ship had left Vancouver — this was around their 28th day on the ship.
The Disney merch shop onboard was almost always packed, too. I asked a woman wearing Mickey earrings I met in the hot tub when she’d bought her ticket to Disney Wonder. “The day they were released,” she answered without hesitation. “Around 400 days ago, I think.”
How Smooth a Trip It Was
By the end of the trip, I’d heard a lot about rotational dining. It’s a concept Disney invented where you move from ship restaurant to the next – with your same serving staff. We stayed at the same table number – 86 – and were always served by Lito who gave us origami art he’d folded the night before. He knew us all by name and by the end, our food preferences.
Ahead of the cruise, I had the choice of dining time — 6pm or 8:30pm. I chose 6pm, which meant we ate first and then watched one of three Disney shows onboard at 8:30pm. The other half of the boat did the opposite.
Every morning, you’d hear a Disney chime outside your door and know to turn your TV to station 1 to watch a live broadcast of Hitchcock reporting on what was in store for the day. Every afternoon, as part of our stateroom package, we’d get a knock on the door and delivery of a treat — chocolate-covered strawberries, brownies or a cheese platter.
And every evening after dinner, we’d come back to our room, and it would’ve been all beautifully set up for bed. My queen-sized bed was made with a towel animal and three chocolate pieces at its edge. The sofa was turned into bunk beds with the beds made and the curtain separating the bunk beds from the queen bed was pulled across. It was so cosy.
Hitchcock joked at one point: “I heard someone went to the bathroom at 4am and they came back, and their bed was made again.” Though, it was an exaggeration — it wasn’t far from the truth. Our room attendant was almost never not in the hallway with his cleaning cart.
How Many Activities There Were
I’ll never forget walking to meet my friends at Crown and Fin bar one afternoon, passing activity after the next — live piano music in the French Quarter Lounge, trivia in the D Lounge, characters posing with kids and lines of families waiting their turn snaking along the corridors.
If you wanted to pack your days full of activities, you easily could. You could book an extra-charge treatment at the spa, join a free stretching or workout class at the fitness centre (my friends spotted dolphins from their treadmills!), take part in a Disney or general knowledge trivia or catch a new-release Disney film at the ship’s Buena Vista Theatre.
All the activities offered on the trip were listed in the Disney Cruise app, and after adding them to your itinerary, you’d get an alert reminder just before. The activities ranged from cooking classes and cognac tastings, to foot readings and pirate parties. Or you might want to do as I did and spend most of your cruise time, nursing a coffee in Cove Café, watching the water from your room’s balcony, if you have one, or soaking in the adults-only area hot tub or lying by its pool.
How American the Ship Would Be
I didn’t realise how ‘American’ the ship would be, but it makes sense given Disney is an American company. The food was American-influenced — grits for breakfast and macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and pizza offered for lunch. And the prices of everything extra — spa treatments, alcohol, specialty coffee from Cove Café — were in USD.
@sangeetatatiana Disney Wonder in Australia so far 💖 #disneywondercruise #disneywonder #disneycruise ♬ The Little Mermaid (Marimba Remix) – Harry Goes Boom!
Even the menu wording was American. “What’s arugula?”, my Australian friend asked me, while reading the menu. It’s rocket, by the way.
This also means you’ll need to tip the staff. To make it easier, a gratuity charge per person in your room is automatically added to your bill towards the end of your stay. You’re welcome to change the amount, though, by going to the guest services desk.
How Good the WiFi Was
Finally, as a frequent traveller who works on the road, I have to mention the quality of the WiFi connection, which was excellent the entire trip. The WiFi package itself certainly wasn’t cheap – though more affordable if you buy it for the full cruise. For a 24-hour package, it was around $45USD, meaning about $75AUD.
I didn’t stream any shows or movies, but I imagine I could’ve easily. Though, if you don’t need to work onboard or need to be in service for an emergency, I’d recommend you don’t even get a WiFi package. There are pockets of mobile reception at sea, and you’ll have full service on the day you dock at Hobart, of course. And it’s not like you’ll need WiFi to be entertained on your days at sea.