wonderCruising is one of my family’s favorite ways to travel for several reasons. We get to sleep on a ship, eat fabulous food and choose from a fun pool of activities – separately or together as a family. So we were thrilled when the Disney Wonder was recently repositioned to the Port of Los Angeles for seven night sailings to the Mexican Riviera.

We’ve sailed many times from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera on other ocean liners (and loved them all) but there is something magical about a Disney cruise. In the past, we’ve flown to Florida’s Port Canaveral to sail with Disney.

With Disney’s newest ship – the Disney Dream – sailing from Port Canaveral – the company’s itinerary expanded, enabling it to offer regular sailings from Los Angeles to Mexico.

Disney Wonder will also sail to Alaska for the first time from the Port of Vancouver from May 3 – Sept. 6, 2011. Until May, and resuming Sept. 25, 2011 the Wonder will sail from L.A. to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

Boatloads of Fun for Los Angeles Families & Visitors

Visiting various ports is exciting but my family agrees that the cruise experience itself is the best part of the trip. From the moment you step onboard the Disney Wonder, you enter a floating fantasyland decked out with Disney characters, pirate parties, royally good food and plush cabins fit for a princess. There are also plenty of adult-only spaces on Disney’s elegant and spacious ships.

My five-member family sailed aboard the Disney Wonder to the Bahamas a couple of years ago. Even with three teens, we were very comfortable in a deluxe family ocean view stateroom with private verandah. With two teenage girls who spend a lot of time primping and a teenage boy who can’t tolerate that, we were overjoyed with our cabin’s split baths and separate sinks, allowing several people to wash up at the same time. Brilliant!

Wonder festivities begin with an elaborate buffet lunch and Adventures Away! Sail-Away Celebration, a deck party starring Disney characters and cruise crew members. Disney flicks are shown on a state-of-the-art, jumbo LED screen atop the forward funnel.

Exploring the ship is an adventure in itself. The Wonder has cozy nooks and crannies housing lounges and sports pubs; many are family-friendly, others are for adults only. It’s fun to search for Disney character images camouflaged on banisters and hardware. Murals, framed artwork and statues add elegance. My daughters, Christina and Megan, admired a lovely bronze statue of Ariel (from the “The Little Mermaid”) in the lobby.

Meal times are a cruise highlight. Each night features a different, themed restaurant but with the same friendly servers. Inside the Animator’s Palate restaurant, animation scenes from Disney’s classics transform from black and white to color right before your eyes.

One evening, my husband and I dined at Palo, an exquisite adults-only restaurant serving Northern Italian cuisine. We liked it so much we returned for a champagne brunch the next day.

Family Fun Activities

Daytime activities typically revolved around what the kids wanted to do. We carried a copy of the Personal Navigator daily newsletter to keep track of the scheduled activities and events for kids and adults. Disney’s Edge program, for ages 11 – 13, meets in a lounge outfitted with couches, video games and computers. The Vibe lounge gives teens 13 – 17 their own space in a non-functioning smoke stack. For kids ages 3 – 12, the Oceaneer Club is the place to dress up as a character, play games and participate in themed activities. Flounder’s Reef Nursery provides care for ages three months to three years.

We often found our son Michael playing pick-up basketball games outdoors on deck 10. That gave Christina and me time to relax in a sauna or try our luck at Bingo in the Walt Disney Theatre, where many activities take place. The dazzling venue, which spans three decks, features nightly live shows including “Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic,” “The Golden Mickeys,” and “Toy Story – The Musical.”

One of our favorite venues was the Buena Vista Theatre, where we snuggled in our cushy seats and watched first run movies on a large screen. Another cruise highlight is the “Pirates IN the Caribbean” deck party, still taking place on the Mexican Riviera sailings. It begins with a pirate-themed dinner and ends with a buccaneer bash starring Mickey Mouse and a spectacular fireworks show.

Special Los Angeles Cruise Itinerary

Now with the Disney Wonder in Los Angeles, we’re planning another adventure on the high seas. We’re also considering Alaska sailings. To prepare for the Alaska cruises, a new venue –  Outlook Café – featuring floor-to-ceiling, curved glass windows ideal for taking in the surrounding landscape.

Kids ages 17 and younger sail free with two full-fare paying guests from May 3 – June 7. Rates start at $1,249.

Mexican Riviera rates start at $639 per person for an inside stateroom. Prior to repositioning to Alaska, the Disney Wonder will sail a special 10-night Los Angeles to Mexican Riviera voyage, including a stop at Manzanillo.

For more information, visit DisneyCruise.com.