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:
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Miscellaneous: Check out some miscellaneous pictures of the Disney Wonder.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once you’ve had plenty of time to relax, there’s a casino and Bar City area that is great for staying active afterhours:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.