Disney Cruise Line - Disney Wonder Down Under Trip Report
I boarded the Disney Wonder in Honolulu and got ready to set sail for the land Down Under! Disney did a great job of making everyone feel special at check in with a black kukui nut lei necklace. It is a symbol of enlightenment, protection, and peace. Check in was smooth and easy even though it wasn't a terminal Disney has used very much. Before I knew it I was being welcomed onboard the Disney Wonder. Each guest was given a beautiful purple orchid lei as they stepped on the ship. Orchid leis are given as a thank you or as a welcome to a visitor.
Just like any Disney Cruise I headed right to Cabanas to grab some lunch after dropping my things by my room. Shortly after that it was time for sail away. Everyone was excited for this first voyage Down Under. Our next 5 days were sea days. I know that sounds like a lot of sea days in a row but they went by pretty fast. Disney does a great job of offering lots of fun things to keep busy. Trivia seemed to be one of the most popular things everyday. We also got lucky and were able to get a Palo Brunch. For those of you that have trouble snagging Brunch that was it one of the plus sides of so many sea days. Disney has not brought back the Palo brunch buffet like it used to be but everything was still delicious and plenty of food.
There were a lot of firsts on this cruise. Crossing the Equator was one of the firsts for Disney Cruise Line and we had a special party on deck counting down to the seconds to when we officially entered the southern hemisphere.
Our first stop was American Samoa. I was up on deck as we pulled in and it was amazing to see the greeting we got. There was a large group of traditional dancers welcoming us with song and dance. They seemed so excited to have us visit their island. I had an excursion through Disney booked for each stop. I wouldn't normally do that but since this was the first time I was going to this area of the world I figured it was best to try out what the ship offered. Unfortunately this excursion wasn't that great and but I hope they can sort out the issues before they return in February. Part of the problem was that it was overbooked and there wasn't enough room for everyone on the buses provided. The buses themselves were a whole other issue but it's an island and I have seen similar types of transportation on other islands. The other issue is that they tired to squeeze too much into one excursion and it was too long of a time riding in these buses. We got to see a traditional ceremony which was cool but again had too many people squeezed into the pavilion to really enjoy it. After that we were supposed to see some scenic sights and then be back to the port with at least 2 hours to get to do some shopping and exploring on our own. Unfortunately it ran way overtime and we made it back with only a little time before all aboard so we didn't get to shop or visit the National Park that was within walking distance.
Our next first was crossing the International Date Line. Going in this direction you lose a day so we went to bed on Thursday and when we woke up it was Saturday. Yes it took a bit of getting used to and even the technology onboard was having issues since the elevators kept showing Friday's date most of the day. I was disappointed that Disney didn't do any special deck party count down to crossing the date line or have any cool merchandise to commemorate the first time doing that. I totally think a Dory shirt where she says something like - What day is it? What happened to Friday? Oh well just keep cruising! would have been funny.
Our next stop was Fiji. We were welcomed into port with a marching band which was very cool. Fiji was also much more organized and ready for us than American Samoa was. They had a fleet of nice motorcoaches ready to go. We learned that our ship wasn't docked on the more popular side of the island so all of the tour guides and buses came from 4 hours away on the other side. They all seemed very excited to have Disney stop at their island though and didn't mind having to be up at 4 am to make the drive over to meet us. Today's excursion was out to a beautiful waterfall an included a traditional ceremony and lunch. It was an excellent excursion. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday so shops were pretty much all closed. Some ladies had some handicrafts for purchase at the excursion. Our bus took us into town on the way back to the ship and there was one big ship that opened just for us.
Our 3rd stop was New Caledonia. I really didn't know much about this island beforehand but it is a French Island. We didn't get the same kind of greeting when we arrived that we got from the other 2 stops which I thought was strange but found out later that due to this being a working industrial port no people were allowed to walk around the ship area. This also meant if you were not going on an excursion you still had to wait for a shuttle bus to take you out of the port area. My excursion today was to the cultural center. It was interesting to learn more about this island. The center was also very popular with local school field trips.
Our next stop was also the end of the cruise in Sydney. The day before though we were told we would be crossing a cold front as we approached so be ready for some rough weather. It was so strange to be sitting on the aft deck of the ship enjoying a little breakfast outside when the announcement came on that we would be crossing the cold front in a few minutes. The weather changed almost instantly when we hit it. We went from sunny and warm to chilly and windy with rough seas in a snap. Most of our last day onboard was a bit rocky but nothing I hadn't felt before and doesn't bother me at all.
We were all very excited to be going under the Sydney Harbor Bridge even if that did mean being up on deck at 4:30 am! We lucked out and the full moon was still up and in a perfect spot for photos as we went under the bridge. I have cruised under quote a few iconic bridges over the years like the Golden Gate and Bridge of Americas but going under the Sydney Harbor was my favorite so far.
Even though the cruise was almost 2 weeks long with only 3 ports of call it flew by way too fast! I was excited to explore a bit of Australia though. I had booked a harbor cruise for the day we got off the ship. The weather was a bit windy and we had some brief rain showers but it was mostly a nice day and we got to see all around the harbor. The next day I booked an all day tour out to the Blue Mountains. This was a wonderful tour! Getting out to see more than just Sydney was great. The tour started with a great breakfast in a cute little cafe along the way. Then we got to see the sights in the Blue Mountains like the 3 Sisters rock formation.
After exploring the mountains we got lunch and then got to visit a wildlife park. The park was great with lots of unique Australian animals. I got to feed Wallabies and Kangaroos which was so cool. I also got to see a lot of Koalas and some were even awake which can be hard to find since they sleep like 22 hours a day. After the tour we back in the harbor in time to see the Disney Wonder set sail for the first of many short cruises it is offering in Australia. The Wonder will do these short cruises for a few months before heading back to the US in February. For those that hop onboard in Sydney to make the cruise back to Honolulu will get to see the same stops I did but they get the bonus of going over the date line in the direction where they get a bonus day! For me I was flying back to the US so for me I boarded my flight at 11 am on 10/29 and arrived Los Angeles at 7 am on 10/29 after 14 hours of flying.
It was an amazing cruise and I feel lucky to have been part of the first time Disney Cruise Line experienced the many firsts we had on this itinerary. I definitely plan to go back Down Under again one day to explore more of this unique part of our planet!