A Whole New World: Why the Disney Wonder is the Ultimate Holiday for the Whole Family

  • All Ages

Bella Brennan is a Sydney-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience in publishing and digital media. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her two little girls, Edie and Tilly. You can find out more about her here

When I first told my two-year-old and four-year-old daughters that we would be going on a “Mickey Mouse boat”, it’s fair to say they lost their tiny, adorable minds. While my husband was slightly more skeptical about how he’d fare on a cruise for four nights, I’m pleased to report my whole family is now officially converted to the cruise life. 

As parents, we’re always looking for unique yet family-friendly holidays that cater to the whole crew’s needs because there is nothing worse than coming home from a trip, feeling like you need a holiday from your holiday and all you did was parent in a new location. It’s an expensive and counter-productive assignment. 

Enter the Disney Wonder. For the first time, the Disney Wonder is sailing Down Under for its inaugural Aussie season from October 2023 until January 2024. For its very first Australian trip, we set sail from Sydney to Hobart, then returned to Sydney, but it offers several other routes departing from Brisbane, Melbourne, and Auckland.

My daughters, my husband, and myself were lucky enough to set sail on its maiden voyage and what happened next was nothing short of real-life magic…

 A Holiday Sprinkled with Fairy Dust…

Disney wonder Cruise
All aboard in our Disney best – magic awaits!


The first thing to know about going on a Disney cruise is that it’s like stepping into a whole new world, literally. This is a place that not only champions tapping into your inner child at heart, it celebrates it. Don’t bother packing your regular everyday clothes

On a Disney cruise, every day is a dress-up party! The more colour, tulle and sparkles, the better. My Mickey Mouse ears didn’t leave my head for four days straight, while kids and grown-ups alike got around in all manner of amazing ensembles. Seeing such joy en masse and knowing that you can be whoever you want to be in a safe space is truly special. 

On the first day of our holiday, a longtime cruiser who had clocked up 36 cruises in her lifetime and had travelled from the UK just to go on the Disney Wonder, explained to us what to expect. “Everything has been sprinkled with Tinkerbell’s fairy dust,” she told my wide-eyed daughters. And she was bang on. 

From the staff to the performers, guests and crew, everyone on board is genuinely chuffed to be there and the energy and sense of community is palpable. The service on board is of a standard I have never experienced on holiday. 

From the waiters making note of the exact foods my daughters liked, performing magic tricks for them, to coming home to a sparkling room each morning and night (yep, there are two daily turndown services! A parent’s dream, tbh), every staff member goes above and beyond to give you an incredible stay. 

Welcome to Real-Life Neverland

Disney Wonder Cruise
Dreams come true: Face to face with our Disney heroes.

Going away with little kids, it can often be hard to fill up their days with fun activities. And there is nothing worse than a toddler whose battery hasn’t been drained that day and their still full of beans by bedtime. 

But on the Disney Wonder, our girls were spoiled for choice with what to do each day. First of all, there were the pools. Oh, the pools! If your kids are fish like mine, then you’ll be hard-pressed to get them out of these pools. Not just because Goofy’s Pool is heated at the perfect, warm temperature, but also because there’s a movie screen called Funnel Vision that sits above it playing Disney films and cartoons all day. There’s something pretty special about splashing around with your family as they sing along to the Frozen soundtrack. 

My eldest loved whizzing down the massive waterslide, which juts out at all kinds of crazy angles – a novelty in itself! As for my two-year-old, she liked Dory’s Reef Splash Bath, a more baby-friendly water play area.  

Disney Wonder Cruise
Poolside splashes and Disney classics – perfect combo!

When I could peel them away from the pool, they loved hanging out at the kids’ club and nursery (which also meant my husband and I could get some much-needed mum and dad time, but more on that later). The Disney Oceaneer Club caters to three to 12-year-olds and it’s like a mini-Disneyland for kids to explore. 

They can play in Andy from Toy Story’s bedroom, complete with a slide, meet and interact with some of their favourite Disney characters that swing by (my oldest daughter was beyond starstruck when Spider-Man rocked up), spark their imaginations by pretending to drive their own cruise ship, or channel their inner artist in the adjoining Oceaneer Lab and get crafty. The possibilities are endless. 

Another huge bonus is the fact the kid’s club is run by dedicated youth counsellors who will ensure your little one gets settled in and always has something to do. It’s not a fend-for-yourself set-up so you can relax knowing that even if you have a tough drop-off with some tears, they’ll be living their best kid’s club life in no time. 


Disney Wonder Cruise
A royal encounter with Belle – a tale as old as time.

Meanwhile, the It’s A Small World Nursery (for babies up to the age of three) is perfectly set up to accommodate bubs. With on-site cots and highly trained carers to engage with your bub with age-appropriate activities, your baby will be in the safest of hands. Be sure to book in at the nursery before you embark, however, because space is limited and fills up quickly. You can jump online and book through the “My Cruise Activities” within your advanced booking window or, once you’re on board and have sussed out your schedule (aka, when exactly you want to have a date), call the nursery. 

For the tweens and teens, Disney has two other fantastic youth spaces for them - Edge (11-14) and Vibe (14-17), both providing a supervised yet relaxed environment where your child can chill out, watch movies, play ball games or video games, listen to music and socialise with the other kids on deck.

But the most magical element of the Disney cruise for my girls was the Broadway-style shows in the evenings. It takes a lot to keep my energiser bunny babes still and focused but such is the power of a Disney production. We were lucky enough to watch The Golden Mickeys, Frozen, and Disney Dreams during our stay and I know it’s a core memory that will stick with my daughters forever. 

Disney Wonder Cruise
Meeting Princess Tiana and getting star-struck!

The thrill of getting to stay up past their bedtime, eat popcorn and watch a world-class musical featuring some of their favourite Disney characters was a true pinch-the-entire-family moment. And, as we know, kids are resilient little things and because the shows were staggered and held every other night it meant they could have early bedtimes on the non-show nights. But, if your child can’t make it through the entire musical, they can finish it off from the comfort of their bed on the TV back in their bedroom. Yep, it’s streamed on the TV! They really have thought of everything. 

Another absolute thrill for my four-year-old was the Royal Gathering event held in the stunning atrium of the ship. Here, my star-struck daughter rubbed shoulders with the likes of Belle, Tiana, Ariel, and Cinderella. This is a ticketed event you have to pre-book, which means you’re given an allotted time to show up for your meet-and-greet so the whole experience is seamless and you get even more time to hang out with your fave Disney princesses – genius. 

A Proper Holiday for the Parents, Too

Disney Wonder Cruise
An iconic cruise with an iconic view.


Perhaps the biggest draw card for families thinking about going on a Disney cruise is that mum and dad get actual downtime. Once you settle your little ones into the kid’s club or nursery, that’s when the real fun begins. 

The first port of call for me was making an immediate beeline to Senses Spa & Salon, obviously. I was blown away by how big the spa was, you’d be forgiven for forgetting you’re on a cruise because it looked and felt like a high-end day spa in Sydney. Before my remedial massage, my therapist gave me a comprehensive consultation so she knew exactly what areas to focus on, and sure enough, I almost fell asleep it was that good. 

While I was getting pampered, my fitness-loving husband headed up to the gym, which he raved about. Not only did it boast state-of-the-art equipment but it also had the best view on board, sitting at the very front of the ship, looking straight out onto the water. Now that’s some good motivation to exercise. Alas, I never did because I believe exercising on holiday is a crime. But different folks, different strokes etc. 

Disney Wonder Cruise
Culinary adventures at sea – every bite an enchanting delight!

Another must-do on your adults-only agenda is a meal at Palo. Serving up elevated fare from Northern Italy with a modern twist, this makes for the perfect date night setting. Honestly, the whole menu is epic but standouts include the antipasto, the pan-seared salmon and the melt-in-your-mouth agnolotti with butternut squash, buffalo mozzarella, amaretti, sage brown butter and basil. Whatever you do, please save room for dessert so you can enjoy the spiritual experience that is the chocolate soufflé. I’m still thinking about it. 

The drinks menu is wide-ranging, serving up a diverse mix of fine European wines and Italian-American-inspired cocktails. Palo is also open for brunch if that’s more your tempo, with a more relaxed daytime offering like poached eggs, apple cinnamon waffles and flatbreads. But trust me, order the lasagne and you will not regret it.

There are also several adults-only bars and pubs on board, including the nightclub and lounge bar Azure, the Hollywood-inspired nightclub Cadillac Lounge, and the British-themed pub, Crown & Fin. If you’re after a relaxing, wrangle-free swim with no kid to tend to, head up to the Quiet Cove Pool or Whirlpool, which is another tranquil, adults-only oasis that’s just bliss! 

Precious Family Time

Disney Wonder Cruise
Cherished moments that will be treasured far beyond our voyage.

One of the best things about enjoying individual downtime is that everyone in the family gets to fill their cup and come back recharged and with stories to share. We loved hanging out together in our spacious, well-appointed State Room. Whether it was soaking up the spectacular ocean views on the balcony, having a family cuddle on the massive queen-sized bed, or giving the girls some quiet time and letting them pick a show on the Disney on-demand channel, our room became a cosy haven for us to kick back and chill between the activities. 

The girls are still talking about the bunk beds, which pulled down from the ceiling and were set up for us every night while we were out for dinner. Plus, they both had side bumpers so they were super safe and no one fell off. We also appreciated the fact the room had a mini-fridge for any perishables and medicine, plus a much-needed nappy bin. All bases were covered. 

Another special highlight was the day stop-over in Hobart, Tasmania. None of us had ever been before and it was a pretty cool moment waking up and opening our balcony door to see a whole new city waiting to be explored.

Feeding Kangaroos in Tasmania
From the high seas to high fives with kangaroos – adventures in Tasmania.

We decided to take the girls to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which was about a half-hour taxi ride out of the city. Here, they were able to feed over 120 extremely friendly kangaroos, plus see the super quirky Tasmanian devil (an absolute must!), and all manner of other animals including wombats, echidnas, blue-tongued lizards, and Tasmanian bettongs. This dry-land interlude was a great way to break up the trip. 

Looking back on our four days at sea and it still feels like one big Disney-themed dream. When I asked my four-year-old daughter what her favourite thing about the trip was, she didn’t miss a beat and beamed with wholehearted conviction, “Everything!” I have to agree with her. 

How To Cruise Like a Pro

Having spent four days amongst cruising experts, here are a few handy tips and tricks I picked up along the way that will make your trip, well, cruisey…

  • ✔️ Pack a few warm winter items like jumpers and jackets as it can get pretty chilly on the deck outside and in Hobart.
  • ✔️ Pack two pairs of swimmers for everyone so you don’t have to get the kids in wet ones the next day.
  • ✔️ Bring a beach bag where you can chuck suncream, goggles etc and you can use by the pool.
  • ✔️ There are many places on board to get food throughout the day for hungry little mouths. While my girls' preferred place to get a snack was the self-serve ice cream station, there was plenty of fresh fruit and healthier available options, too.
  • ✔️ The Disney app will be your go-to guide. Literally everything you need is on there. Each day, it will show you the schedule of activities and events planned and you simply favourite what you want to do and it will send you a notification 15 minutes before the event kicks off reminding you. The in-app chat function is super handy, too. You don’t need to be connected to the premium internet package, just the complimentary wifi, to be able to speak on there so my husband and I would often use it to make plans when we weren’t physically together.
  • ✔️ You can purchase various wifi packages on board so you’re not without internet.
  • ✔️ Pack US power point adapters as the ship is American and Aussie ones won’t work.
  • ✔️ Arrive at the popular evening shows at least 15 minutes early as the seats fill up quickly and you don’t want to miss out. If you can, sit in the front middle rows to really get the most of the magic (no spoilers, just promise you’ll heed my advice, OK?).
  • ✔️ You’ll need to bring along passports upon arrival so you can be formally identified at check-in. While you’re not travelling overseas, they must verify it’s you.
  • ✔️ Pack sea-sick tablets just in case. And don’t worry if you forget, the on-site medical centre can issue them, too.
  • ✔️ As you are getting such an exceptional level of service, tipping staff is the norm. While we Aussies aren’t used to paying gratuity fees, at the end of your trip, envelopes will be left in your room to take the awkwardness out of it. Tips also make up part of the staff’s income.

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