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Cruise Ship Reviews / Tours

Tour of Disney’s Private Island: Castaway Cay

Did you know that Disney has their own private island in the Bahamas?  Castaway Cay is one of my favorite places in the world!  

You can walk right off the ship onto Castaway Cay and enjoy free chairs, umbrellas, hammocks, water-slides and a splash area for the kids.  You are also treated to a fabulous (also FREE) buffet lunch at Cookie’s BBQ (or Cookie’s Too BBQ) or on the adult only side – Serenity Bay Adult Buffet (which includes steak from Palo!).  Characters are out and about for meet and greets in their beachwear, not to mention a FREE 5K on the island for every cruise that stops there!  What’s not to love?!

Let’s take a tour of this beautiful island, starting with the walkway from the ship:

castaway cay welcome sign

castaway cay

castaway cay map

castaway cay

If you are planning to head to the Castaway Cay 5K first thing, you can drop the kids off at Scuttle’s Cove (the island’s kids club):

scuttles cove

Next head over to the 5K (Don’t forget to go read my review of the Disney Castaway Cay 5K)

castaway cay 5k start

Or, go ahead and find out a great spot to lounge:

castaway cay

castaway cay

castaway cay

castaway cay

Snorkeling equipment is available for rent on the island (or you can bring your own) and this entire area is roped off for snorkeling:

castaway cay snorkeling

snorkeling castaway cay
Life jackets are provided free to use (must wear while snorkeling)

Grab a drink at a bar:

castaway cay bar

castaway cay

castaway cay

castaway cay

Take the kids for some fun on Pelican’s Plunge (life jackets are available for use):

pelican's plunge

Grab a free wagon, stroller or jogger if you need one:

castaway cay wagon

Now let’s head over to Serenity Bay (the Adult Only Beach on Castaway Cay):

serenity bay castaway cay

serenity bay castaway cay

serenity bay castaway cay

serenity bay castaway cay

You might just even catch Jack Sparrow stumbling by:

jack sparrow castaway cay

Grab some lunch at the Adult Buffet:

serenity bay buffet

serenity bay buffet menu

serenity bay buffet serenity bay buffet serenity bay buffet

serenity bay buffet

Did I mention after all that there is also all you can eat ice cream??

There’s also an area called “In Da Shade” with basketball, pool and other games that the teenagers (or big kids) would enjoy:

in da shade castaway cay

Excursions are available on the island such as jet skis, parasailing, bike riding, tube rental, sting ray encounters and more!

parasailing castaway cay

Be sure to stop on your way back to the ship for some pics:

castaway cay

castaway cay

Are you ready to go yet?  What was your favorite thing to do at Castaway Cay?

Be sure to check out my Trip Reports!

As an Independent Travel Agent with Mouse Counselors, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures by Disney®, Aulani and all other destinations at no cost to you.  Message me today if I can help book a magical vacation for you.  

Photo Tour of the Disney Wonder

The Disney Wonder was the second ship to join the Disney fleet, entering service in 1999.  It is nearly identical to the Disney Magic with 11 decks, accommodating 2400 passengers in 875 staterooms.  The Disney Wonder is the ship used for specialty sailings such as Alaska and Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas and Caribbean. 

Pools – The Disney Wonder sports the Goofy pool on Deck 9 along with 2 whirlpool spas. Quiet Cove pool is the Adult Only Pool with a bar area close by.  The Aqua Lab is a play area that has a “Twist ‘n’ Spout” slide and Dory’s Reef, a splash pad area for toddlers 3 and under.  

tour of disney wonder
Quiet Cove Pool for Adults Only

tour of disney wondertour of disney wonder

Kids Clubs:  The Wonder has kids clubs available for all ages.  The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are for children ages 3-12, the Edge for ages 11-14 and Vibe for ages 14-17.  It’s a Small World Nursery is available for children ages 6 months to 2 years, but does require reservations and a small fee per hour.  For ages 3 and up, all of the kids clubs are free.  Castaway Cay also has a kids club available on the island.  

tour of Disney Wonder

tour of Disney Wonder

tour of Disney Wonder

tour of Disney Wonder

Adult Bars/Lounges:  The Wonder has several adult bars/lounges available with plenty of activities to keep adults busy such as Music Trivia, TV Tunes Trivia, late-night games such as “The Feud,” “Match Your Mate,” “Intuition,” and more.  Azure is where the nighttime entertainment takes place, while Cadillac Lounge is used for the beverage tastings (Mixology, Champagne, Martini, etc).  The Crown and Fin Pub is where most of the daily adult trivia is held.  You can also catch the latest sports game live at the Crown & Fin.

tour of disney wonder

tour of Disney Wonder
Inside Azure where late night adult games are held, as well as Family Bingo games during the day

 

disney cruise to alaska

tour of Disney Wonder
Cadillac Lounge where beverage tastings are held

 

tour of Disney Wonder
Crown & Fin is where you can catch the latest sports, as well as partake in some adult trivia games throughout the cruise

 

Senses Spa & Workout Room:  The Disney Wonder has a spa onboard where you can get treatments from acupuncture to massages, as well as a Rainforest Room where you can purchase a day pass to use the sauna, sensory showers and hot stone lounge chairs.  A workout room is also available for those 18 and older with the latest equipment and some spectacular views.

Treatment Room
Couples Villa Whirlpool
Couples Villa Lounge Chairs
Couples Villa Treatment Room
Sensory Showers
Waiting Room
Locker Rooms
Hot Stone Loungers
Singles Treatment Room

 

tour of Disney Wonder
Workout Room

Family Spaces:  The Disney Wonder has separate spaces for adults and kids, but they also have some family areas too.  The D-Lounge is used for family trivia, family karaoke and talent shows among many other activities.  The Promenade Lounge is used for animation classes, some trivia, live music and more.

tour of Disney Wonder
D-Lounge
Promenade Lounge

 

Theaters:  The Disney Wonder has two theaters onboard (three theaters if counting the outdoor movie screen by the pool).  The Walt Disney Theater is where the live entertainment is held each night.  The Buena Vista Theater is where you’ll find the newly released Disney movies, and if you’re lucky, you can see a Movie Premier onboard!  tour of Disney Wonder

Inside the Walt Disney Theater where you’ll find live broadway caliber entertainment

tour of Disney Wonder

tour of Disney Wonder
Buena Vista Theater

 

Dining Rooms:  The Disney Wonder has 3 Main Dining Rooms, with guests rotating between each restaurant.  Triton’s, Tiana’s Place and Animator’s Palate.  The dining rooms are beautifully themed and have their own unique menus.disney cruise to alaska

 

disney cruise to alaska
Tiana’s is the newest restaurant on the Disney Wonder, with a New Orleans Inspired Mardi Gras atmosphere and menu as well as live music

tour of Disney Wonder

Animator’s Palate starts out in black and white, and slowly colorizes as dinner goes by. The drawings come to life at the end, with Sorcerer Mickey dropping by for a visit
tour of Disney Wonder
Triton’s is the most elegant of the three dining rooms with an Art Deco theme

 

Adult Only Restaurant:  Palo is the adult only restaurant that requires reservations and a nominal fee.  Brunch is the popular reservation that can be difficult to get (read my Palo review here).  The food is great and a nice romantic getaway for adutls.tour of Disney Wonder

Disney Cruise to Alaska

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique:  Just like Disney World, the cruises also offer the experience for girls (and boys) to get a makeover.  Offerings include princess & pirate makeovers, as well as special experiences such as Star Wars for special sailings.

tour of Disney Wonder

Miscellaneous:  Check out some miscellaneous pictures of the Disney Wonder.

Chandelier in the Atrium
Shutters Photography where you can tap your Key to the World card to view your photos
Hallway with gift shops
Carpet design that helps you navigate where you are on the ship (Forward or Aft) by using the direction on the map.

Thanks for taking the time to Tour the Disney Wonder!   Be sure to check out my other blog posts for some Disney Cruise Tips & Tricks!

As an Independent Travel Agent with Mouse Counselors, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures by Disney®, Aulani and all other destinations at no cost to you.  Message me today if I can help book a magical vacation for you!

Norwegian Pearl Review

If you’re reading this review, then you know I received permission from my loving wife, Tammy, to experience a new adventure without her by my side. This vacation was a stray from my more frequent Disney vacations with Tammy and the family but I was up for the challenge. My best friend Justin had introduced me to the Outlaw Country themed cruise on the Norwegian Pearl that he had experienced himself one year earlier. For a few months leading up to the cruise I would spend time tuning into Outlaw Country to familiarize myself with the genre that would fill four of my days in January. I’ll admit, it was a struggle; some of the songs reminded me of story tellers long ago (think Merl Haggard, Johnny Cash, and George Jones), and others, well, there lyrics were just bizarre. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to hanging out with best bud and experiencing awesome music from cruise favorites like Blackberry Smoke, The Mavericks, Jesse Dayton, Nikki Lane, Steve Earl, Elizabeth Cook, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. For more highlights from the Outlaw Country Cruise, see my trip report here.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Of course this is a repeat picture from my Outlaw Country Cruise Blog but Justin is the reason I was on The Pearl, and hey, it’s a good picture!

Let’s get back to the Norwegian Pearl. A beautiful ship, built in 2006 and refurbished in 2017, with capacity for 2,394 passengers, this ship is the perfect size for a themed cruise. In comparison, the Pearl is similar to the Disney Wonder which entered service in 1999, re-imagineered in 2016, and has capacity for 2,400 passengers. The Norwegian Pearl is home to 16 dining options, 15 bars/lounges, a casino, and a quaint, relaxing spa.

Norwegian Pearl Review

Because it was a themed cruise with several artists and bands on board, The Indigo main dining room, was reserved for the musicians, and beautifully designed Le Bistro Restaurant was reserved for use by the Sixthman Production team, but there were plenty of other food options available. Also, the La Cucina Italian Restaurant was not serving meals during this cruise but it was available for cruisers eating the Garden Café buffet and wanted a quiet environment to eat. 

Norwegian Pearl Review
La Cucina has a beautiful, rustic environment with a row of external window to the left (not shown in picture) that allow for wonderful views and plenty of natural light

The Garden Café Buffet and The Great Outdoors dining areas were the main restaurants for most passengers (did I mention that I never felt crowded on this cruise?). Breakfast offered plentiful options for passengers wanting to eat healthy with oatmeal, bagels, yogurt, and fruit; or for passengers who threw caution to the wind and wanted to enjoy vacation with omelet stations, sausage, crisp bacon, waffles, and even biscuits and gravy! We would always grab our plates and head aft to the Great Outdoors tables to eat on the back deck. The fresh air and views were hard to beat.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Garden Café – very bright, clean, and great food
Norwegian Pearl Review
Garden Café Indoor seating area
Norweigan Pearl Review
My usual breakfast from the Garden Café, with an occasional bowl of oatmeal
Norwegian Pearl Review
There is an identical breakfast buffet in the Great Outdoors, just steps away from the Garden Café

Lunch offered delicious ballpark options of hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries. There was always grilled fish, grilled chicken, daily soups, and even an Asian wok bar that provided a variety of options. Another great lunch location or late evening munchie option was O’Sheehan’s that felt like a neighborhood sports bar and had some of the best wings and nacho’s I’ve ever had. I tried one of the specialty hot dogs one day but was left disappointed.

Norwegian Pearl Review
O’Shennan’s surrounds the Atrium area. Seating is available on both side of the Atrium with a bar in the middle, which is behind me in this picture
Norwegian Pearl Review
Awesome Chicken Fajitas in O’Shennan’s
Norwegian Pearl review
The Asian Wok bar and grilled fish provided a healthy option for lunch in the Garden Café

Our favorite dinner option every evening was the Summer Palace, themed to resemble a Russian Palace. There was a standard menu for dinner but every evening there were daily specials. The food was delicious every evening. We had fantastic options like crab cakes, grilled pork chop, seared tilapia, and the most delicious spaghetti bolognaise I’ve ever tasted! Hint, we received faster service the two evening we sat closer to the kitchen.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Summer Place – a beautiful entrance before entering a Russian Palace
Norwegian Pearl Review
Summer Place Dining Room – Available for dinner every evening
Norwegian Pearl Review
Faberge and Decorated Eggs decorated the staircases and rails
Norwegian Pearl Review
The Tilapia was light, fluffy, and flavorful
Norwegian Pearl Review
I am not lying, this was the BEST spaghetti with meat sauce that I have ever tasted…and my mother’s side of the family is Italian…Shhhh
Norwegian Pearl Review
Let’s just say that Justin and I ate dinner every night in Summer Place – Chocolate Lava Cake

The Norwegian Pearl is also home to the Mandara Spa. We paid around $145 for a Thermal Suite Pass that allowed us access to the spa each day of the cruise. The Spa was well outfitted with several spa treatment rooms, and several amenities in the men’s locker room including a steam room, sauna, single whirlpool, and chilly plunge pool (for those of you who are into shocking your body). The Co-ed area had several lounger chairs that faced the front of the ship, a 4-person hot tub, warm mosaic tile lounges, and a large relaxation pool with several features.

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
This is co-ed area of the spa. There were several jets that would activate the water in this jet/hot pool. The lounge chairs in the background faced forward, so you could relax and see exactly where the ship was headed

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
Men’s Locker Room, complete with a sauna, steam room, individual hot tub, and an icy plunge pool, if you’re into that kind of thing

Once you’ve had plenty of time to relax, there’s a casino and Bar City area that is great for staying active afterhours:

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
Bar City Lounge. The Magnum Champagne Wine Bar is in the foreground

Norwegian Pearl Review

The one area on the ship that provided the most surreal experience was the Bliss Lounge. Decorated in lush purple and maroon colors, heavy drapes, and plush furniture, including a four-post bed (yes, you read that correctly), and a couple of side VIP-style rooms.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Notice the four-post bed in the background to the right – none of the cruisers knew what this was for)

 

Norwegian Pearl
Bliss Lounge has four bowling lanes

If you are into staying fit during your cruise, the fitness was well-equipped with plenty of cardio pieces of equipment, new nautilus-style machines, and free weights. Healthy food options on board included plenty of fresh fruit, grilled chicken, fish, vegetable, oatmeal, and protein packed omelets.

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review

If you have children traveling with you on the Norwegian Pearl, keeping them entertained will be a challenge. There is an Entourage Arcade, a small childcare area, and the smallest kid’s splash pad area I’ve ever seen on a ship, almost as if it was an afterthought or obligatory nod to the one or two families who may have decided to bring their small children onboard.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Yep, this is the splash area for kids on the 12th deck if I remember correctly, so it’s not close to the large adult pool area on deck 11
Norwegian Pearl Review
Entourage Arcade – small but adequate

We had one port of call during the cruise, Costa Maya, Mexico, which was promoted as a destination built specifically for tourists. If you’re familiar with the commercialization of Myrtle Beach, SC and the variety of Tanger Outlet Malls, imagine if they had a baby.  There were some authentic Mexican vendors but the NFL blazoned items that decorated their shops was puzzling. If you want to visit the Mayan Ruins, there’s an excursion for that. If you want to swim with the dolphins, there’s a small man-made lagoon for that, but it pales in comparison to the awesome and educational dolphin experience available at Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL.  You can read our trip report about Discovery Cove here.  

Norwegian Pearl Review
Costa Maya – View from the ship
Norwegian Pearl Review
The pier looks long but it’s a nice, easy walk…a lot better than being tendered onto shore
Norwegian Pearl Review
Costa Maya Plaza Area

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
Commercialization to American tourist was front and center as soon as you walked into the shopping area

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
There were several quaint restaurants and eating areas away from the crowded shopping district

One of the coolest areas in Coast Maya was the open pool area. You could grab a lounge chair, relax, or swim and float in the pool. There was also a snorkeling area for those interested, but I didn’t see anyone taking advantage of that opportunity during our visit.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Pool area in the middle of the shopping area. Notice the Norwegian Pearl in the distance
Norwegian Pearl Review
Just another view of the pool area

In all, the Norwegian Pearl was a very pleasant surprise. It was colorful, clean, and the food was excellent. The updated furnishing and airy common space areas were a visible indicator that the ship had recently come out of dry dock for refreshing. It’s hard to compare any cruise line to Disney’s Cruise Line for kid friendly options and activities, and with the Pearl’s tiny kid’s splash pad area, this ship is probably better suited for adult only cruises.