Disney Wish Cruises – July & November 2022
BY DON MUNSIL
In July 2022, Sarah and I were invited to a media preview cruise on the brand new Disney Wish, and then a few months later in November 2022 we sailed (at our own expense) on a separate cruise. We visited essentially every public area on the ship over the course of our 3-night & 4-night cruises. If you don’t want to read all our thoughts about the various features of the ship, here’s the 10-cent version: it’s a great ship, and compares very well to the Dream and the Fantasy. The things that Disney Cruise Line (DCL) does well are mostly as good as ever and there are some fun new features. Anyone who enjoys a Disney cruise is going to love this ship too. There are a few things we thought could be better, but it’s all pretty minor stuff.
Like all the Disney Cruise Line ships, the Disney Wish is exceptionally beautiful. It has a different visual style than the previous ships (the design motif for the Wish is “enchantment” and in practice that seems to mean a lot of princess and castle references), but most of the key features are basically the same. There are still three main dining rooms guests rotate through from night to night, each with a different theme and signature menu. There are elaborate stage shows and a ton of other entertainment and activities available all day long and into the night. The kids clubs on Disney ships continue to be next-level.
While the new ship is roughly the same size as the Dream and Fantasy, the layout is pretty different. If you’re a veteran of Disney Cruise Line, you may find yourself heading the wrong way now and then, or going to the wrong deck. But, the great thing about a cruise ship is that everything is a short walk and/or elevator ride away. So even if you get lost, you‘re never that far away from where you are trying to go.
We won’t cover in detail the things that are essentially the same as on any Disney Cruise Line ship – we already cover those on our Disney Cruise Line pages. But let’s take a look at the various new ship features.
Best New Features
- The new play areas in the kids club (the Oceaneer Club) are amazing.
- Moving the Oceaneer Club from Deck 5 (where it is on the first four ships) to Deck 2 really opens up Deck 5 for more spaces and activities for everyone to enjoy.
- Cabins have tons of USB ports for charging devices: 8 regular USB and 2 USB-C in most cabins.
- Rather than having one or two large pools, the Wish has many small pools.
- AquaMouse is a nice upgrade from the AquaDuck. It’s not a huge change, but it adds some fun elements.
- The adult-only sun deck, Quiet Cove, is a big improvement on the adult sun deck on the other ships.
- The Rainforest Room in Senses Spa has a nice private sun deck with two hot tubs and plenty of loungers.
- The two stage shows we saw (Disney Seas The Adventure and The Little Mermaid) are great. (The Aladdin show wasn’t performed on our cruise).
- The ship has a full live band (keyboard, drums, bass, guitar) used for the Pirate Rocking Parlay Party and nighttime lounge entertainment.
- Scattering the “adult” lounges across multiple decks makes the ship feel more lively at night.
- Almost all lounges are themed to specific Disney movies or characters.
- The two new pool deck food venues (BBQ and Mexican) are both very good, and the pizza has been upgraded in quality.
- The new rotational dining rooms are beautiful and we liked most of the new show elements.
- Partitions are used to break up the buffet and the 1923 dining room into smaller areas. It makes those spaces feel more like a small restaurant and less like a cafeteria.
- Enchanté is basically like Remy, with a nicer layout and a lighter, airier decor. The Palo Steakhouse keeps many of the Palo menu favorites while adding more steaks and chops, which are quite reasonably priced for the quality.
- The new Uncharted Adventure game (in the Navigator app) is essentially an evolution of the Midship Detective Agency concept from the Dream & Fantasy, but run via your smartphone. You view story scenes on your phone, then travel around the ship and interact with digital artworks and screens to finish a quest. It’s a great, family-friendly activity.
A Deeper Look
The kids areas on Disney Cruise Line are so far ahead of the other cruise lines that it’s silly to even compare them. On most cruise lines, the children’s program is basically like a parks and recreation day camp, which is fine, but nothing to write home about. In contrast, the Oceaneer Club on Disney Cruise Line offers 3-12 year old kids a rich bounty of astonishing technology and entertainment that cannot be found anywhere else.
For example, the Wish’s Oceaneer Club has a new Star Wars themed area called Star Wars Cargo Bay that allows kids to have adventures onboard a spaceship in the Star Wars universe. There’s an Imagineering Lab where kids learn how Disney Imagineering comes up with the themed rides and attractions at Disney theme parks and on cruise ships. Kids can design their own rollercoaster and ride it in a simulator! There’s a Fairytale Hall where kids can meet princesses, including creating art with Rapunzel or learning about storytelling from Belle.
Moving the Oceaneer Club to from Deck 5 to Deck 2 is a nice change to the ship layout. The kids clubs take up a bunch of deck space; this new layout opens up Deck 5 for lounges and multipurpose entertainment spaces that everyone can use. And, making Decks 3, 4 and 5 more open and easily navigable is a nice improvement.
The two clubs for older kids, Edge & Vibe, are roughly the same on the Wish as on the other ships, albeit in new locations on the ship.
Pool and Sun Decks
Disney chose to lose the big main pool in favor of creating many small pools positioned on different decks. Different pools have different features and depths, so folks that want to soak can use a different pool from folks that just want to get their feet wet, or cool off in a sprayer. It feels like there’s more total pool capacity, just spread around the ship. No pool is deeper than about 4 feet, and no pool is big enough to do significant swimming in. This makes sense, as the number of people who want to swim laps on a cruise ship is tiny, while the number of people who just want a cool place to soak is huge. This new arrangement offers about the same amount of water as the previous ships, and redistributes it in a more practical way.
On all Disney ships, the main pool can be covered to make more deck space for things like the Sail Away party. Now, they can cover just one or two pools as needed, but leave all the other pools open. And, if there’s an unfortunate accident in one of the pools, it can be drained, cleaned and refilled much faster than a larger pool. Meanwhile all the other pools can remain open.
The AquaMouse is basically the AquaDuck from the Dream & Fantasy, but with some video screens and water effects as you climb the initial lift hill. After that, it’s just a nice, but short, water coaster. It’s a good upgrade and plenty of fun. If you love the AquaDuck, you’ll surely love the AquaMouse as well, but don’t expect it to be radically different.
The adult sun deck area is called Quiet Cove, just like on the other Disney ships, but we think the Wish’s version of it is the best one. It wraps around the back of the ship on a high half-deck, a good distance from the main family pool deck. The way it’s designed means that every deck chair has a panoramic view of the ocean, and there’s a nice little infinity pool on the very back of the ship, with a great view of the ship’s wake (or of the port if the ship is docked). Because it’s way at the back and on a higher deck, kids really have no reason to pass through, so you don’t typically get a lot of noise and activity like you do in the similar spaces on the other four ships. It really feels like an oasis of calm. The Cove Café also has upgraded coffee offerings, including pour-over coffee, vacuum brewed coffee and cold brew coffee on a nitro tap. The only real issue is that its location way at the back on the top deck means that it’s a bit harder to get to in the morning if you want specialty coffee. If you just want a simple latte or mocha or something, almost all bars have an espresso machine, but there are some special coffees only offered at Cove Café.
If you want an even more exclusive oasis to catch some rays and soak, you can book a concierge room, which gets you access to a small, but very nice, concierge sun deck. Or you can spring for a Rainforest Room pass, because the Wish’s Rainforest Room has a private sun deck. The main Rainforest Room has the usual heated loungers and sauna found on the other ships, but also has a door to an outside private sun lounge, where you can find two exclusive hot tubs and a bunch of shaded loungers and sunbeds. Because they only sell a very limited number of passes each day to the Rainforest Room, it never really gets crowded.
We saw all three main stage shows that will be performed on each Wish cruise, and they are all excellent, and quite different.
Disney Seas The Adventure follows the pattern of other Disney cruise shows: a fairly simple story sends a character (in this case Goofy) on a journey of discovery where he meets various Disney characters who sing one or more of their signature songs and encourage him to believe in himself and follow his dreams. Modern technology like projection mapping and LED video walls give Disney more opportunities to execute big effects and quick scene changes, and they put them to good use.
The Little Mermaid is a retelling of the classic Disney movie about Ariel and her wish to leave the ocean and become human. This production has an unusual framing story: a company of actors stumble on a magical treasure chest full of props and costumes and use them to put on a play of one of their favorite stories (The Little Mermaid, naturally). This gives the show license to use simple theatrical elements in multiple creative ways, like using a long roll of cloth or coil of rope for different props and effects, in some cases aided by clever use of digital projection. The final show is really effective, and the lead performers are Broadway caliber.
Disney’s Aladdin is a new version of the classic film shortened and adapted for the stage. The adaptation doesn’t really follow the Broadway version, but strays from the movie in some areas as well, mostly to condense events for time. The big songs are all present, plus a short new one where Jasmine laments her status as a metaphorical “bird in a gilded cage.” Like The Little Mermaid, it uses digital projection and LED backgrounds extensively and effectively.
Disney Cruise Line has in the past generally avoided using bands to provide music for lounges and stage shows, preferring to use pre-recorded music. The Wish, though, has an actual band, which is used for the Pirates Rocking Parlay Party and nighttime lounge entertainment. The Parlay Party is a new show for Pirate Night, which has Disney pirates (including Jack Sparrow) singing rock songs with a live band, bickering over some sort of map, and eventually touching off a huge fireworks show. The same musicians also appear in various combinations in the lounges at night, mostly in the Bayou, a New Orleans-themed lounge that offers regular live music. There is also a nifty show called Disney Victrophonics that cribs the Postmodern Jukebox idea of rearranging current pop songs and modern Disney songs in the style of 1920’s and 30’s jazz music. We saw two different bands on our two cruises, and they were both excellent.
The Wish offers two movie theaters versus just one on the other four ships. This allows for more movie showings during the cruise. The theaters are just as nice as on the other ships, but smaller. The top deck “Funnel Vision” screen has also been upgraded with new technology, and looks sharper and more colorful than the screen on the other ships.
The selection of content on the stateroom televisions has been pared down a bit from the on-demand options on other ships, but still offers a massive collection of Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel films. There is also a good selection of live TV channels, including all the major Disney and ESPN channels. There isn’t any Disney+ original content, shorts or TV series (other than whatever happens to be playing on a live channel), which was a minor disappointment.
The Wish has more lounges than on previous Disney ships, and they’re scattered around the ship rather than all being in one “adult” zone set aside on one deck. Our experience on previous ships was that every night the adults who wanted to stay up late would congregate in the adult area, making the rest of the ship feel quiet and empty. But on the Wish, all the main public decks have lounge areas scattered around, so the public areas feel livelier, with people strolling around and checking out the various venues.
The cocktail program on the Wish is very strong, with unique cocktails for each of the different lounges. There are some really unusual and interesting drinks, and each lounge has new things to discover on the menu.
The Wish lounges are more tied to Disney movies and series. On older DCL ships, there are really only one or two lounges with a Disney theme. In contrast, most of the lounges on the Wish are designed with a connection to a specific Disney character or movie.
The Keys Lounge on the Disney Magic, for example, has a “keyboard” theme, but no specific reference to a Disney property. However, on the Wish the piano bar is called Nightingales, which is a reference to a scene in Cinderella where she sings “Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale” while scrubbing the floor and watching bubbles float around the room. Nightingales uses a “bubble” motif for the décor and for the specialty drinks, many of which involve some sort of cool bubble effect. The Bayou lounge is a more direct reference to The Princess and the Frog, and has New Orleans influences in the décor and the drink menu. Also in keeping with the New Orleans theme, the Bayou offers live music at night. It’s nice to see the little nods to Disney history in more places on the Wish.
The pool deck fast food stations have been improved considerably on the Wish compared to the other ships. The new barbeque window (Mickey’s Smokestack Barbeque) offers surprisingly good brisket, ribs, chicken and pulled pork, with a range of tasty sides and a sauce bar with multiple options from spicy to sweet. Likewise, their Mexican window (Donald’s Cantina) is quite good, and operates roughly like a Chipotle restaurant: you choose a bowl, taco or burrito and then pick the fillings you like. Then you can add hot sauces and salsas from a sauce bar with plenty of choices. The pizza is better on the Wish than pizza we’ve had on other Disney ships, though it’s still not what you’d call “gourmet.” The burgers, fries and ice cream seem pretty much the same as on other Disney ships, i.e. perfectly fine.
The Marceline Market buffet food seems about the same as the food in the Cabanas buffet on the other four ships, though we liked the design of the seating areas and the flow of the space. The dining area is partitioned into rooms, each with subtle references to different classic Disney films. The overall design is meant to evoke the 1900’s Midwest of Walt Disney’s youth. Combining those different styles is a tall order to pull off, and we think Disney did it well.
Arendelle: A Frozen Dinner Adventure is a clever dinner show with new takes on great Frozen songs, appearances by the main characters, and some live musicians who do a great job. There are breaks for food and conversation, and the whole thing is paced pretty well (and will presumably get even better as they work out the best timing of service breaks). We enjoyed it a lot. We did think the big finale was slightly underwhelming, but it seems like the kind of thing that can be tweaked over time.
1923 is a beautiful restaurant with tasteful displays of art and artifacts from the long history of Disney animation. The restaurant is divided into two separate wings, named for Walt and Roy Disney. Each wing is then divided into multiple smaller areas with partitions, which really helps it feel like a quiet Hollywood restaurant rather than a huge cruise dining hall.
Less Successful New Features
- The Marvel dinner show was loud and distracting, pretty much through the entire dinner.
- Hyperspace Lounge was disappointing and felt far less Star Wars-y than Oga’s Cantina.
- Lots of prime space is devoted to extremely high-end luxury goods stores selling watches, jewelry and handbags.
A Deeper Look
The Marvel Dinner Show
The Worlds of Marvel restaurant itself is nicely designed, with the kind of high-tech “future science” look anyone would recognize from Marvel movies like Iron Man or Avengers. There’s a show during dinner, which involves watching a short Marvel adventure on big displays, with some breaks for each meal course. The short itself is supposed to be a live feed from the Disney Wish itself, where Ant-Man and The Wasp are performing experiments in the onboard Pym laboratory. It’s a fun show, and stars Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as Ant-Man and The Wasp. There are the usual Marvel movie complications (spoiler alert: things don’t go according to plan!), and cameo appearances by other Marvel characters.
In between segments of this story, though, the screens played a continuous stream of random clips from the various Marvel movies, with the sound turned up. They weren’t connected to the main Ant-Man & Wasp story, at least not in a way that we could discern, and for us, the clips were distracting and didn’t enhance the experience.
At the very end of the meal/show, after the major problems have been resolved and the villains are vanquished, live performers wearing the Ant-Man and Wasp costumes come out and finish off the show with a short (about 5 minute) scripted scene as they move through the dining room. There’s no stunts or action, just some banter and dialogue. The performers sync up their body movements to the prerecorded voices of Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly (you can’t see their faces because of the design of the costumes). It really didn’t feel like the audience was interacting with the characters to any significant degree, and overall we felt like the “live” ending was short and anticlimactic.
The Hyperspace Lounge is a Star Wars themed bar, offering a viewscreen showing various views of planets and spaceships from the Star Wars universe going by. Every few minutes, the bar goes into “hyperspace” and travels to a different planet in the Star Wars universe. The rest of the room is ostensibly themed to look like a specific spaceship from the movies (the flagship of the criminal mastermind Dryden Vos, from the movie Solo), but it just doesn’t feel much like a Star Wars environment. Unlike the amazing theming Disney did for Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or even the Cargo Bay area of the Wish’s kids club, the Hyperspace Lounge feels sterile and under-decorated. The viewscreen is nifty and the cocktails are striking, but overall it was a letdown.
The other problem with Hyperspace Lounge is that everyone wants to see it, but it’s very small. It’s pretty common to get inside to find all the seats filled and possibly a few people standing around waiting for a table. Our advice is to just keep checking back – it’s not a lounge that people tend to stay in very long, so tables turn over pretty regularly. And don’t be afraid to ask if you can share a table – folks have generally been very friendly.
There is a significant amount of space devoted to stores for expensive luxury goods. This is not a huge problem per se — it’s pretty easy to avoid areas that don’t appeal to you, and most cruise lines have a fair amount of space devoted to luxury shopping. It just makes the ship feel a little more like a floating mall than the other four Disney ships. Like the other ships, there are two stores mostly devoted to Disney Cruise Line souvenirs, clothes, mugs, etc., and one that has a mix of high-end licensed Disney goods like Dooney & Bourke handbags and Tommy Bahama shirts, plus other non-Disney goods. Then there’s a large jewelry store, a large store with high-end handbags, and two different fancy watch stores. For regular Disney cruisers, it’s a noticeable change. We couldn’t help feeling like some of that space would have been better used expanding the size of some of the more popular lounges.
The Bottom Line
The Disney Wish represents a new evolution in Disney’s cruise-ship design. It incorporates many new ideas, mostly good ones, and is absolutely a great ship to take a cruise on. The things that are less successful are hardly disasters, and will almost certainly get better over time. We can recommend it wholeheartedly. That said, just as the creation of the Dream and Fantasy didn’t make the Wonder and Magic obsolete, this new ship doesn’t make the older ships irrelevant. Those who love the previous Disney ships will continue to love them and rightly so – they all are among the best cruise ships at sea.