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A lifestyle magazine for Central Florida's modern parents

A Parent’s Guide to the Disney Wish

Move over Mickey, Captain Minnie is now leading the crew on the new Disney Wish.

My family and I were invited to celebrate the christening voyage on the Disney Wish at the beginning of July 2022. After a three-night trip on the newest ship in the fleet, here’s my review, along with a few PLAY tips for your cruise.

Disclaimer: I’ve never considered myself a cruiser. All the booze-filled voyages I went on in my twenties were party ships bursting with rowdy crowds looking forward to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Large, boisterous groups in smoke-filled casinos weren’t my vibe, and even the onboard entertainment seemed cheesy and contrived. Each cruise left me underwhelmed, and afterward, I’d always say that I wished I’d just traveled directly to my destination.

However, that all changed after taking my first Disney Cruise in 2008, and my change of heart was further confirmed on the christening voyage of the Disney Dream in 2016. Simply put, the overall quality of the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is a major upgrade from other popular cruise experiences. You will not find better service, food, décor or Disney character experiences than you will find on the Disney Wish. It’s like a condensed version of all the popular theme parks and films in one experience.

Pre-Trip Prep

There are currently two itineraries offered on the Disney Wish: a three-night cruise or a four-night cruise. The itinerary for a three-night cruise includes one day at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, and one day at Nassau, Bahamas. If you opt for the four-night cruise, you’ll enjoy an additional day at sea, where you can truly explore all the ship has to offer.

Several weeks before our vacation, I had the kids choose and pack their outfits in individual resealable bags so there were no questions (read: arguments) about what they would be wearing. In addition to clothes, accessories and toiletries, we each packed our own refillable water bottle, sunscreen, spending cash for Disney merch and a mask and snorkel.

PLAY Tip: Skip the mask and snorkel rental on Castaway Cay and pack your own instead. It will save you about $20 per person, and then you can use that money toward tropical drinks and souvenir cups on the island.

With COVID safety protocols still in place on DCL, all guests are required to test negative a few days before their embarkation date. Because of this, we quarantined for a week before our trip to ensure that we wouldn’t have our vacation ruined by a positive result. DCL’s rule is that if anyone in your party gets sick, then no one is allowed to go on the voyage, so it’s well worth taking necessary precautions to avoid being forced to cancel or reschedule.

Accommodations

Disney’s legendary attention to detail is evident right from the start of your voyage. As soon as you step on board, your family is greeted with a royal welcome. You’ll receive a wishing wand while Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder wave to you from a balcony of the Grand Hall. This central hub is breathtaking. Every décor choice and the overall ambiance exudes an air of enchantment. From sparkling tapestries and extravagant chandeliers to a decadent theater and movie-style lighting, the Wish is hands down the most beautiful ship in the fleet, so get your cameras ready!

PLAY Tip: Stroll through the Grand Hall in the evening to see the twinkling light display on the magical ceiling.

The kids were eager to see our cabin, so we headed straight to our room as soon as we got on board. Most of the rooms available on the Wish have ocean views, and ours was no exception, boasting an epic waterscape. We stayed in a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah. The cabin is spacious by cruise standards, and our room could sleep up to five people with a queen bed, twin sleeper sofa, drop-down single bunk bed and a pull-down wall bed. Then there’s DCL’s signature split bath: one room with a shower/tub and sink and the other room with a sink and toilet. Plus, there’s a mini fridge and a lot of storage. For families who prefer not to have a balcony, there’s an Oceanview Stateroom that has extra-large porthole windows instead of verandahs. There are also a limited number of inside staterooms.

Exclusive to the Wish, each room is adorned with beautiful Disney artwork. There’s a different theme on each floor, ranging from Cinderella to Princess and the Frog to Sleeping Beauty to The Little Mermaid to Moana and more. It’s meant to be a surprise to see which room design you have when you arrive, but if you must know, there are plenty of spoilers online that list each floor’s theme. We were excited to see the beautiful Frozen artwork above our bed, couch and next to the sliders.

We stayed in room #7098, which was a perfect location because it was ship center, making it easy to access from any location. Our cabin was port side, which offered stunning sunrise views on the way to the Bahamas. The starboard side of the ship has a better view when you’re leaving Florida (cue waving at all the people at the Port Canaveral restaurants and Jetty Park beach during departure) and a sunset view on the way to the Bahamas. Some people consider the views when selecting their stateroom, but don’t stress too much about what side of the ship you’re on — both have beautiful views.

PLAY Tip: If you’re booking a room with verandah, try to avoid the 10th floor because the pool deck above your balcony will block a bit of the sky view.

If you’re looking to splurge, you’re in luck. DCL has doubled the amount of concierge-level rooms and suites on the Wish. Concierge-level accommodations provide many upgrades, including access to the Concierge Lounge, which offers an extra-large indoor space with a full bar, snacks and character meet-and-greets. Additionally, the lounge leads to an outdoor terrace and private sundeck. These rooms also include a dedicated concierge who will help you with the first pick of any onboard reservations and excursions, priority check-in and boarding, free Wi-Fi and more.

For those really looking for luxury living, two of the Royal Suites are luxurious two-story palaces inspired by Princess Aurora. But the grandest of all rooms is the Wish Tower Suite, which sits high above everyone else because it’s located in the ship’s faux center funnel (those red towers that look like smokestacks) and overlooks the upper decks. This Moana-themed suite is 2,000 sq. ft., with four bedrooms and four and a half baths — it even has its own private entrance and elevator. Every detail is lavish and desirable, making it enchanted indeed.

Dining

If you’re familiar with DCL, you know they always bring their top game to the dining experiences. The Wish has three new restaurant concepts that guests will rotate through for dinner during their voyage.

1923 was the first restaurant in our dining rotation. It has a sophisticated Hollywood glam vibe and is decorated with original artwork and props from 16 Disney films. Expect an intimate, white tablecloth experience with gold table accents and elevated menu options that are presented as works of art. Each restaurant has a separate kid’s menu, of course, and you can also request off-menu items if necessary. 1923 offered my daughter’s favorite dessert: the Hollywood Hills Hot Chocolate Fudge Sundae. <Photo of Sundae>

On night two, we experienced the all-new Worlds of Marvel. Even though I’ve never seen an Avengers movie (gasp!), I was completely immersed in the cinematic-style adventure led by Ant-Man and The Wasp. I mean, who doesn’t love Paul Rudd? Each table has a Quantum Core centerpiece that families activate to shrink or grow objects on the screens that are part of the storyline playing out all around the dining room. The lighting and design of this space was fantastic, and at the end of the meal, the characters come to life for a quick visit in the dining room. Worlds of Marvel was where my son enjoyed what he says was the “best steak on the ship”: the Delmonico Rib-Eye Steak with Black Truffle Butter.

On our last night, we visited Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure, where we were participants in the celebration of Anna and Kristoff’s wedding engagement. Throughout our dinner, we watched Frozen character performances, sang songs and even joined a parade at the end. Keep your cameras handy for when Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Oaken visit your table to greet you individually. While the immersive aspect is the real draw, the restaurant is completely Norway-inspired through its interior and cuisine. A fun game while ordering is to see who can pronounce the menu items correctly. I had a good laugh trying to pronounce Kjottkake to our server. Arendelle served my husband’s favorite meal of the trip: Garlic & Thyme Roasted Beef Rib-Eye.

PLAY Tip: The Wish will be sailing out of Port Canaveral with options for a three- or four-night voyage to the Bahamas. The four-night cruise includes a special pirate-themed dinner, which will happen at the restaurant that you hit twice in your dining rotation. Be sure to dress in your finest pirate gear for the occasion!

If you’re looking for some time away from the kiddos, snag reservations at Palo Steakhouse or Enchanté. These adults-only restaurants are two of the fanciest spots on the ship and can be booked before your voyage for an extra charge.

The restaurants don’t stop there either. Marceline Market is a cafeteria-style eatery open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with beautiful ocean views. Up on Deck 11, there’s Mickey & Friends Festival of Food, an outdoor food court with grab-and-go grub from Mickey’s Smokestack Barbeque, Donald’s Cantina (burritos, tacos and bowls), Daisy’s Pizza Pie, Goofy’s Grill (dogs, burgers, tenders) and Sweet Minnie’s soft serve ice cream.

PLAY Tip: If you don’t get the opportunity to book dinner at Palo or Enchanté, there’s also a brunch option at Palo’s. Another good idea for a parents-only evening is to pop into Keg & Compass, a Viking-themed pub that doesn’t require reservations.

Ship Amenities

Beauty + Spa Services
While the whole ship is designed for relaxation and fun. If you’re looking for a little extra pampering and primping, here are the ship’s four self-care destinations.

  • Senses Spa & Salon: This full-service spa has everything from massages to facials. The Rainforest Day Pass is a great option for those looking for a little R&R. The pass gives you access to a tranquil co-ed oasis with luxurious open showers, heated loungers, a hammam, a frigidarium ice room and a private outdoor deck with swanky hanging loungers and whirlpools.
  • Untangled Salon: This luxurious salon is the perfect place for manis, pedis, haircuts and styles as well as skin treatments.
  • Hook’s Barbery: Dapper dudes will enjoy upscale grooming services, a bourbon bar and their own pedicure chair at this sophisticated barbery fit for any handsome captain.
  • Bippity Boppity Boutique: Magical makeovers happen here! Kids can choose to be transformed into their favorite Disney princess, knight, pirate or sea captain.

Pools and Slides
Instead of one big Mickey-shaped pool like I’ve seen on other DCL ships, the Wish has several small pools on multi-layer decks dispersing crowds into cozier spaces: some deep, some shallow, some with waterfalls and wading areas. There are six of them clustered together on the central deck, but there are also a few hidden gems!

If you’re looking for a more serene scene, the Quiet Cove, located at the rear of the ship, has an adults-only infinity pool, bar, lounge area and hot tub. But even though this spot is just for adults, it can still get pretty packed. The Chip ‘n Dale Pool is a good alternative. It has beverage service, a great view off the front of the ship, and kids can enjoy it too.

One of the biggest draws onboard is the AquaMouse. This elevated double raft slide is one of the first things you see as it wraps around the ship’s top deck. Disney is calling it their first “attraction at sea” because they’ve included an enclosed, inclined ramp at the beginning, where the two passengers watch a series of cartoons that set the story for the impending ride.

More fun spots on deck include the Toy Story Splash Zone for toddlers, Trixie’s Falls (a little pool with a waterfall and fountain) and the Slide-a-Saurus Rex, a corkscrew water slide that’s much less intimidating than the AquaMouse.

PLAY Tip: We were able to jump on the AquaMouse after dinner on our third night without any wait at all. It’s fun to ride at night, thanks to the amazing mood lighting.

Kid Adventures
There’s no question that the most ideal time to go on a Disney cruise is when your children can enjoy the Oceaneer’s Club, DCL’s kids-only zone. There are tailored spots for the tweens, teens and babies too!

  • Oceaneer’s Club (ages 3 to 12) – There’s no argument that this is the most magical place on this ship! While there are open house hours for families to explore the space together, the rest of the time is for kids only. Make this one of your first stops upon arrival so you can register your kids and receive an armband. After that, the kids can drop in — or slide in — whenever they would like. That’s right; there’s a 2-story slide that takes kids right into the Oceaneer’s Club to begin their adventure!

    Inside, kids will explore the Imagineer Lab, set up for exciting counselor-led STEM projects; the Ride Lab with large simulations and other interactive technology; Fairytale Hall, a royal space with an art room, gaming tablets, story time and more; and the Marvel Super Hero Academy, where kids can train with Spider-Man, Black Panther and others. But, no doubt, the most talked-about spot is the Star Wars Cargo Bay, where kids can push buttons, pull levers and look after exotic pets from other galaxies.
  • Edge (ages 11 to 14) and Vibe (ages 14 to 17) – These two funky lounges are creative hangouts for tweens and teens to meet new friends, play games, and chill with counselors who ensure that everyone’s having a good time.
  • It’s a Small World Nursery (6 months to 3 years) – This babysitting service is located adjacent to the Oceaneer’s Club. It’s available by reservation once you get on board.

Just for Adults
You can’t walk far without running into a gorgeous spot to grab an alcoholic drink on the Disney Wish. Some places are tucked away, like Keg & Compass (the ship’s pub and sports bar), where you can enjoy beers on tap, ciders and wine options. Others, like the Wishing Star Café and The Bayou, are open concept spaces you’ll walk right by when you leave the Grand Hall. I recommend heading to Nightingale’s Piano Bar (inspired by Cinderella) and ordering their signature cocktail, the Sweet Nightingale, which is served out of delicate, bird-shaped glass. The Rose is another elegant Beauty & the Beast-inspired space where adults can experience sophisticated Disney details while overlooking a view of the sea.

However, the Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge is the one with the most buzz! You’ll need to make a reservation for this hot spot after you get on board. Order out-of-this-world drinks as you overlook a window into space, complete with spaceship flybys as you visit different Star Wars planets at warp speed.

PLAY Tip: While DCL categorizes The Hyperspace Lounge as an adult-only experience, it’s actually open for all ages until 9 p.m. We took our Star Wars-loving kids early and ordered them the non-alcoholic drink options. The Porg souvenir glass is a hot item at Hyperspace Lounge. But be sure you don’t accidentally order the $5,000 drink served in a Camtono, a container seen in The Mandalorian.

Entertainment

Theaters and Shows
The Wish has three theaters to showcase some of the best Disney productions at sea. The Walt Disney Theater is a grand venue, where guests can see Broadway-style shows each night. The Little Mermaid and Disney Seas the Adventure are two new shows that are exclusively on the Wish. There’s also Wonderland Cinemas and Never Land Cinemas, where guests can watch new Disney movie releases (if you time it right) or classics on the big screen. They’re the nicest movie theaters I’ve ever seen, with exquisite details like Cheshire Cat cutouts on the walls and lighting effects that give off an ethereal vibe throughout the theater.

There are three other shows you won’t want to miss while on board. The first show is a deck party that takes place as you leave Port Canaveral. You’re immediately launched into vacay mode as many Disney characters take the stage on the top deck to kick off your Disney Wish experience. On the pirate-themed night of your cruise, those who can stay up late will be blown away by the Pirate’s Rockin’ Parlay Party, a musical performance followed by spectacular fireworks that are exclusive to DCL. It’s quite impressive! On the final evening, gather with fellow passengers and the Fairy Godmother to raise a wand and ignite a wow-worthy farewell show that includes characters, special effects and live performances.

Character Meet-and-Greets
Character meet-and-greets are the most prominent thing on any DCL ship, and they take place all over the ship! You don’t have to stress about booking a princess meet-and-greet, even though you’re welcome to do that too. You’ll see Mickey & Minnie walking around on deck, waving to the crowd. Princesses will visit the kid’s club for story time. Black Panther, Spider-Man and Ant-Man will train kids in the Marvel Super Hero Academy. Plus, you’ll see characters in every evening theater performance and meet them during two of the three dinner experiences! Seriously, it’s nothing like the Magic Kingdom, where the elusive Mickey Mouse is hard to find. Disney movies come to life all around you through character interactions on the Disney Wish; no special reservations required.

Ports of Call
There’s plenty to do exploring Castaway Cay and Nassau. However, you can also book optional excursions at either location if you want to add more to your itinerary. Castaway Cay includes lounge chairs and umbrellas, music, interactive activities (like hermit crab races), a floating dock with slides, plus a buffet lunch. There are also upgraded activities like a 5K run, bike rentals and a stingray experience where guests can touch and feed wild stingrays. Several different watercraft rentals are also available.

While you’re docked in Nassau, you can get off the ship to explore the nearby straw market, historical buildings and local eateries. You can also book an excursion, such as a trip to Atlantis or Blue Lagoon Island or a Jeep tour. DCL offers lots of excursions to choose from, but you can also save some money by doing research and booking activities on your own.

Things We Missed

Even with a scheduled day at sea, we still managed to miss a few experiences that I wished we hadn’t. On the upside, this is proof that you can go on the Wish several times and still have new experiences, but on the downside, there’s no escaping FOMO. Because it’s impossible to check out everything in one visit, make a plan to hit up your priorities. Remember to leave time for happy accidental discoveries on board.

  • Stingray Experience at Castaway Cay: Book this experience where you can feed, touch and snorkel among real-live stingrays! It’s around $50 per person, but looking back, it’s an adventure I wish I’d splurged on.
  • Olaf’s Royal Picnic: Families with kids ages 3 to 12 can have a summertime picnic at Arendelle restaurant and enjoy sing-alongs and performances with their favorite Frozen friends! The hall is decked out with a canopy of colorful flowers for the occasion. Plus, children receive an assortment of gifts and keepsakes, like a troll doll, picnic blanket and mandolin.
  • Incredi-Games: During scheduled times, families can race one another on giant inflatable obstacle courses that are set up inside the Hero Zone, a multi-purpose arena that also has basketball, air hockey and foosball. It looked like a lot of fun and a great workout too!

Want to set sail? Currently, the three-night starting prices are listed at $2,900–$3,500 for two adults and two children on the Disney Wish. The four-night cruises are around $3,800–$4,500, and that’s without any upgrades. To book a vacation on the Disney Wish, guests can visit disneycruise.com, call Disney Cruise Line at 888-325-2500 or contact an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Written by
Heather Reneau

Heather Reneau is an Oviedo mom of two and a graphic designer/art director with a natural flair for writing. Her entrepreneurial spirit has led her down many business paths, including conceiving and producing PLAYGROUND Magazine back in 2007. It's her passion to celebrate local people and spread the word about quality family businesses, services and events in Orlando and beyond.

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Written by Heather Reneau

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