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Cruising With Mickey From Miami
Disney Wonder Cruise
January 2013

By Georgina Cruz

We were enjoying the sail away festivities with Mickey, Minnie and other Disney characters out on deck and taking time to enjoy our ship’s departure from the Port of Miami with the views of the city’s skyscrapers. But wait! Mickey and Miami? Yep! Since late December Disney Cruise Line has deployed for the first time ever its Disney Wonder to South Florida to offer a variety of voyages to the Bahamas and the Western Caribbean from Miami (once upon a time, when the first two Disney ships were launched in 1998-1999, they sailed only from Port Canaveral, convenient to Walt Disney World Resort, but in an announcement last year the line cited “an exciting period of growth that includes fleet expansion and new itineraries” among which is a variety of Port of Miami departures by the Disney Wonder).

Without hesitation, we booked a four-night cruise on the Disney Wonder to Key West, Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas in early January—a much needed getaway after the busy holiday season, and a great way to launch 2013. We wanted the relaxation of the islands with the premium quality of Disney Cruise Line, not to mention the smile-producing-factor of Disney’s whimsical characters. And we found it. This is how it went:

First Day  Embarkation
We embarked the 83,000-ton, 1,754-guest Disney Wonder at mid-day, enjoying a buffet lunch at the tropical-themed Parrot Cay, one of the main, rotational restaurants on the vessel (on this ship guests and their servers rotate together each night to a different restaurant: Parrot Cay, Animator’s Palate—an eatery so magical it changes color during the meal—and Triton’s, themed to “The Little Mermaid.” On other Disney ships the theming of rotational restaurants vary). The buffet is lavish with such treats and peel ‘n’ eat shrimp, various salads, grilled salmon and chicken breast, stir-fry vegetables, pasta, a carving station, and assorted desserts including delectable brownies and strawberry shortcake. The ship’s casual restaurant, the Beach Blanket Buffet, also serves a bountiful welcome aboard lunch.

After the meal we settled into our cabin, a veranda stateroom, attractively decorated with nautical touches such as lampshades with antique maps and Disney touches including “hidden Mickeys,” which are Mickey Mouse shapes incorporated subtly into the décor. We explored the ship with its Art Nouveau décor, grand staircase, bronze of Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” and a dramatic and colorful Chihuly glass chandelier. As we toured, we appreciated the separate areas for families with children and facilities for adults only, such as swimming pools for various age groups and an entertainment district for adults. We took in a first-run movie in the Buena Vista Theatre (they were showing “Lincoln” and “Brave”—it helps that Disney owns some of the movie studios and has arrangements with others!) and after dinner and a cabaret-style show (three Broadway-style revues were also presented during our cruise) in the Walt Disney Theatre we retired to our cabin with a smile on our faces from the memories of our day and the excitement of the adventure we were just beginning.

Second Day – Key West, Florida
Our first port of call, Key West, Florida’s “Last Key,” only 90 miles from Cuba and with a bohemian and tropical ambiance, is very cruise-passenger-friendly. Steps away from the cruise ship pier is Mallory Square, the heart of Key West, surrounded by attractions, shops and souvenir kiosks. The plaza is a great spot to start a tour of Key West as many points of interest are within walking distance from it. Among them is the Key West Aquarium, 1 Whitehead Street, with tanks housing various marine creatures including sea turtles, tropical fish and sharks. The Mel Fisher Treasure Museum, 200 Green Street, is another “must” within walking distance of Mallory Square—it houses the treasures salvaged from the Spanish galleons Atocha and Santa Margarita recovered by treasure hunter Mel Fisher. On display are gold ingots, gold and silver coins, emeralds and a variety of artifacts.

Another key point of interest is the Ernest Hemingway House, 907 Whitehead Street—where the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize novelist lived and wrote such classics as “For Whom The Bell Tolls” from 1931 to 1940. The home is filled with Hemingway mementos including early editions of his books, the typewriter he used to write and descendants of his six-toed pet cats. Sloppy Joe’s, 201 Duval Street, one of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes, is another attraction for fans of the writer.

One can walk to all these points of interest, but if you prefer to take a tourist trolley, from Mallory Square you can take the Old Town Trolley Tour and the Conch Tour Train for narrated tours of Key West.

Third Day – Nassau, Bahamas
“Mom, take my picture with Mickey and Minnie!” a youngster exclaimed pointing to the beloved characters in the Disney Wonder’s atrium. The family was on their way off to Nassau, but they made a pause for pictures, and as if by magic, the atrium was filled with giggles. Disney ships are decidedly for theme park fans. Character appearances abound: in the atrium, on deck, at the children’s clubs, activities, and musical revues in the show lounge. No wonder the kids don’t want to get off.

But ashore, more fun awaits: we joined a tour to Ardastra Gardens to see the famous “marching flamingoes.” Another option is an excursion to Atlantis, the mega-resort with water parks on Paradise Island across from Nassau for a relaxing day spent at its pools, water habitats, aquariums and water slides. Before returning to the ship we made a stop at Nassau’s famous Straw Market near the cruise pier to pick up a couple of souvenirs of our visit—a straw doll and bag.

Fourth Day – Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, seems like something out of Neverland—a paradise with crystalline blue waters where we booked an encounter with tame stingrays that looked like angels swimming in the water. Afterwards, we enjoyed a tropical lunch including succulent mango and papaya slices, and whiled a couple of hours in the afternoon relaxing on a float in the protected waters. Ah, bliss!

IF YOU GO — The Disney Wonder offers a varied menu of cruises including three, four, and five nights from Miami to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean. Depending on the itinerary, ports may include Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Key West; and Nassau and Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. Departures are scheduled aboard the Disney Wonder, and on sister ship the Disney Magic, from Miami with departures in January, February, March, April, May, October, November and December. Visit DisneyCruise.com.


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