Fans of Star Wars and Marvel, Disney princesses, Pixar movies, and Mickey and Minnie won’t be disappointed if they opt to sail on Disney Cruise Line’s first new cruise ship in 10 years, the 4,000-passenger Disney Wish. Many of the popular characters make appearances onboard.
Those who love the Disney theme parks will likely also be swayed. While the other four ships in Disney’s fleet—Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy—were conceived as grand floating hotels, Disney Wish is pure amusement park, complete with the first Disney ride at sea. Just as the parks transport guests into the Disney universe, passengers on the upscale Disney Wish will also feel they are immersed in a land of fairy tales, superheroes, Jedis, and classic cartoon personas. From Rapunzel’s 60 feet of hair decorating the ship’s aft end, to the animated Mickey-and-Minnie-themed raft ride on an upper deck, the ship features Disney touches and encounters at every turn.
Traveling with my 35-year-old son and 5-year-old grandson on a three-night preview cruise last month before the ship’s official debut on July 14, we all found attractions that were “wow” moments. Here are some of our favorite onboard experiences (and some potential drawbacks).
The Grand Hall
The first thing passengers see when they walk onto the ship is this extravagant three-deck atrium that sets the stage for the Disney Wish experience. Inspired by Cinderella’s Castle at the Disney parks, the Grand Hall makes guests feel as though they have stepped onto a luxurious floating theme park—and in a way, they have. You can sense the excitement building as children’s faces (and some adult faces, too) light up as they look toward the giant chandelier, grand staircase, and Cinderella statue—and especially if they see Cinderella, Belle, and other Disney characters waving at them, which occurs regularly throughout the cruise. Fiber optics allow for what Disney calls “magical moments,” including appearances by a Tinkerbell, with twinkling lights and accompanying bell sounds marking her presence.
“Star Wars": Hyperspace Lounge
Personally, I got the biggest kick out of this small bar and lounge on the Disney Wish. While it’s no Mos Eisley Cantina, entering through a door that impressively “whooshes” open is like boarding an upscale intergalactic “spaceship,” complete with a new-age bar where a cognac cocktail that is torched to smoke will set you back $20. High-definition screens hang over the bar, showing galaxies far, far away and every so often revved up space maneuvers—you aren’t actually moving but may feel you are, and with each hyperspace “jump” the crowd cheers along. Kids can visit the lounge during the day (to experience the space visuals); it’s adults-only at night.
If you’re wondering about a $5,000 drink on the menu here that drew much attention on social media: It’s actually several drinks plus other perks, reportedly including an invitation to Skywalker Ranch, Lucasfilm’s California sound design facility.
A kids club with immersive “Star Wars,” “Marvel,” and “Frozen” experiences
If you have little ones who are Star Wars fans, they’ll be thrilled to know that there’s an entire Star Wars room in the complimentary Oceaneer Club, a drop-off kids program for ages 3–12. On the Disney Wish, the club has prime real estate right below the Grand Hall and is accessible to kids via a cool one-deck tube slide (there’s also a staircase). The Star Wars room is a hit with kids, including my grandson who hasn’t even seen the movies yet. The idea is that the kids are in a spaceship cargo bay caring for creatures such as a seven-tenacle “dianoga” (trash monster) in a jar and a “porg” bird in a cage. Other club highlights are a Marvel-themed space and superhero academy and an area centered on Disney royalty like Anna and Elsa from Frozen, with activities to match.
Adults can visit during open house hours to see what all the fuss is about. Disney Cruise Line asks that families pre-register for its onboard kids clubs, but you can also register once on the ships. Across the Disney fleet, the kids clubs are open 9 a.m. to midnight, with tweens and teens having their own clubs. There is also a nursery with babysitting (for a fee) for littles age 6 months to 3 years, which needs to be booked in advance.
All the Disney ships have a rotating dining system where you eat in a different themed restaurant every night. On Disney Wish, one of the most impressive is inspired by the fictional Arendelle for a Frozen dinner theater experience. Performers dressed as Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff sing hit songs from the movies on stage, with an animatronic Olaf delighting young fans. While passengers dine on meatballs in rosemary cream sauce or juniper-spiced roasted chicken breast, all the characters visit each table, with Olaf wheeled around on a dish cart. One downside is that views of the show are a bit obscured unless you are sitting very close to the stage.
“Avengers: Quantum Encounter” dining experience
Another exciting dining experience is the Avengers restaurant, tricked out in all things Marvel, which feels like a Disney attraction that just happens to also serve food. Ant-Man and the Wasp, plus friends such as Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Ms. Marvel, appear on screens around the room as diners are immersed in a story about evildoers taking over the ship. The audience is asked to push buttons on a “quantum core” on each table to help the superheroes, and while my grandson didn’t buy that the buttons did anything he totally bought into the slightly scary story line.
The AquaMouse ride
The much-hyped first Disney “attraction at sea,” AquaMouse is a 760-foot raft ride featuring Mickey and Minnie. Riders climb into their designated raft and are then pulled along a conveyor belt through a dark tunnel punctuated by more than 60 squirting devices and flanked by screens depicting animated story lines starring Mickey and Minnie either under the sea or in the Swiss Alps. The two-person raft then hits the water portion of the ride where you will get wet as you twist and turn through waterslide-like tubes. I couldn’t stop giggling and then screaming as the ride twisted through a clear tube out over the sea and then did a dramatic drop. It’s a fun two-and-a-half minutes.
While no big ship can be called truly ecofriendly, the 144,000-ton Disney Wish has some green credentials. It’s the first ship in the fleet (and second in North America) to run on LNG (liquified natural gas), which cuts carbon emissions by 20 percent compared to more traditional fuels. In 2023, a one-megawatt fuel cell is expected to be installed to provide additional emission-free energy, a prototype for what may appear on Wish’s sister ships arriving in 2024 and 2025.
A Disney ship for hardcore Disney fans
While kids will love the myriad of movie references and drag you to spaces such as the Inside Out–themed ice cream and candy shop (for treats you pay extra for), the in-your-face branding can be a bit much for adults who aren’t serious Disney fans. Each cabin is themed—I slept under a gilded mural of a scene from Princess and the Frog. Adults-only experiences are also themed from the bars to over-the-top fine dining (for an added cost). Fortunately, if you’re willing to pay a bit extra, you can get away from it all at the spa, with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas and a snow room. Or you can retreat to the gorgeous, complimentary adults-only Quiet Cove area with cushy loungers and an infinity pool, a setup that would look at home on any luxury cruise ship.
If you are a serious fan, the fanciest 1,966-square-foot two-level suite is uniquely built into the ship’s forward funnel and themed on Moana, complete with a beating heart sculpture in the living room. The price tag for this accommodation can top $29,000 for two adults and two kids. There are also four princess-themed royal suites that can cost close to $24,000 to book.
Disney Wish cruises on three- and four-night sailings out of Florida’s Port Canaveral (near Orlando), visiting Castaway Cay, Disney’s private Bahamas island, and Nassau. Pricing for a family of four in October starts at about $3,600 (for the entire fam) for a veranda cabin.