The Disney Wish Cruise Ship: Our Photos and an Honest Review
The Disney Wish is the fifth custom-built ship to join the Disney Cruise Line fleet, joining the smaller Disney Magic (1998), Disney Wonder (1999), Disney Dream (2011), and Disney Fantasy (2012).
Maiden voyage: July 14, 2022
Size: 144,000 gross tons
Length: 1,119 feet (341 m)
Number of decks: 15
Number of cabins: 1,254
Number of cabins with Verandas: 877
Number of connecting doors to double cabin space: 451
Inside cabins: 121
Number of passengers at capacity: 4,000
Number of crew: 1,555
Year built: 2022
When you board the ship, a crew member will announce you by name to everyone in the Grand Hall, which is at the heart of the ship. That charming welcome is extended on all the Disney ships, but the Wish is the first to add a little performance balcony overlooking it all and a stage that can be used for various character appearances and diversions over the course of the cruise.
Most Disney cruises go to warm climates, so of course everyone wants to know what the pool decks look like. This is the main one on the Wish: Scattered across tiers on several levels, you'll find six pools—all of them small, all of them shallow (usually 2 feet deep), and each equipped with a lifeguard despite the pools' teeny sizes. (The generous supply of lifeguards was a running gag in our group: "Last night at dinner, the waiter poured me a cup of water and a lifeguard showed up!")
Skirting the high levels of the decks is AquaMouse, a two-rider raft flume that goes uphill and downhill and passes through a clear portion of tube that ventures briefly over the ocean. The company is marketing the ride as the "first Disney attraction at sea," but really, it's pretty much like AquaDuck, which already exists on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The difference is that AquaMouse has some added cartoon segments in the lift hill tunnel of the ride. It's easygoing fun and not too scary, but it's still AquaDuck plus screens.
Slide-a-saurus Rex, visible in yellow, is a basic helix-shaped slide. Not pictured, and located on the other side of that funnel, is the Toy Story Splash Zone, which is the toddler area. Built under a ledge to shelter young skin from strong sunlight, the zone features gently moving, bubbling, and spraying water, all themed after the film franchise.
At night, the main pools can be covered and turned into cinemas or performance zones, such as for the Pirate's Rockin' Parlay Party, during which a band of melodious pirates plays '80s hits (somehow, the mash-up works) and host a brief fireworks show over the sea.
Some of the most hyped elements of the Disney Wish are its restaurants. This one has an awkward name that most passengers forgo in favor of calling it "the Avengers restaurant." Dinner is interspersed with video of Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly delivering gentle, Burns and Allen–style banter as Ant-Man and the Wasp.
There's a plot involving your dinner and the cruise ship itself. Kids are encouraged to help save everyone from a supervillain by pressing a button on their dinner table "Quantum Core" centerpieces—the least stressful way to vanquish a villain, really.
The food you're served doesn't play with Ant-Man's size-shifting theme in the way that Disney California Adventure's Pym Test Kitchen does, which is a missed opportunity. But the Avengers restaurant still delivers a pleasant dinner, even if most of the innovation lies in watching screens.
My 13-year-old nephew, who I brought with me on my cruise, said this was one of his top three experiences on the Disney Wish. He loved the interactivity with the Quantum Core. He even ordered a kiddle mocktail in a light-up version of the Quantum Core (for an added fee).
This is only one of the speciality restaurants you'll go to over the course of your cruise. A key feature of Disney Cruise Line is that your party is scheduled to eat at all the big themed restaurants over the course of a vacation—there are no surcharges for the privilege, and you're accompanied by the same waitstaff so kids and crew can get to know each other over time.
The Arendelle restaurant is closer to a traditional dinner theatre. Positioned on a low deck at the back of the ship, it's a dining hall with a central platform stage. Here the main characters from the Frozen franchise gather to celebrate Anna and Kristoff's wedding and sing a few songs. Olaf doesn't get to sing "In Summer" himself, but he does make an appearance in another way.
Olaf shows up on a dessert cart, chaperoned by Arendelle shopkeeper Oaken, to interact with guests as they dine. The other Frozen characters arrive on their own two feet, which makes Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure a lot like the character meet-and-greet meals that are popular in the Disney theme parks.
(No, Disney star Jonathan Bassett, who is talking to Olaf here, is not part of the dinner show cast—he just happened to be one of the many people sailing on the Disney Wish with us.)
Each specialty dining location has its own menu of specialty cocktails for adults—the Frozen Fractals concoction is bright blue and twinkles in the light when you stir.
And the Arendelle dinner is distinguished by another cruise ship innovation: It's the first restaurant I know that has been configured to usher guests to exit through a souvenir shop.
After the excitement of the Avengers and Arendelle, the third major restaurant, 1923, is likely to bore small kids. Its main appeal is class—and that's for the adults. This restaurant has two halves, Walt Disney and Roy Disney, which are stylistically similar and identical of menu.
The adult beverages are less twee than at the other restaurants. This drink, the Buena Vista Boulevardier, is a blend of rye, Campari, and Lillet Rouge topped with a chocolate disk. That's a combo ($12 on our sailing) that we wouldn't have thought of ourselves, but it worked very nicely.
There are a few restaurants you have to pay extra to access. One of them is the steakhouse, Palo, which has splendid wraparound ocean views, costs $45 per person, has a dress code, and is only for diners aged 18 and older. You'll need to make reservations.
One additional waiter-service restaurant is even more exclusive: Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement (dinner: an extra $125–$195 per person) is an intimate high-deck space with ocean views that's intended to woo high-spending adults with specialty ingredients and award-level preparation. Other Disney ships have Remy for their special-occasion meal services; the Wish has Enchanté. Most families won't see the inside of either.
Most mega cruise ships have a buffet where you can go without having reservations for all three meals. For the Disney Wish, that space is Marceline, wrapping around the aft section of deck 11.
The setup is as regular cruisers expect: various stations serving various genres of food. The food is included in your cruise fare, sodas and juices are free, and there's a bar where you can pay for alcohol or specialty coffee.
We were surprised and pleased to find some atypical items here: Most American cruise ships don't serve congee and fried rice for breakfast (though both dishes are popular morning options in Asia), but the Disney Wish does. So if you get weary of standing in line for bacon and those ever-popular Mickey waffles, you can dip into the alternative fare.
Sometimes, Marceline will close for a few hours in mid-afternoon, but you won't go hungry: Near the pools, there are stations for burgers and hot dogs, pizza, burritos and tacos, and barbecue to fill the hours between restaurant seatings.
Disney's kids' clubs truly set the cruise line apart from its competitors. Instead of installing casinos aboard ships, Disney gives all that space to children, and the kids-only areas are kitted out like no other line's.
This is the slide from the Grand Hall to the Oceaneer Club, geared toward kids aged 3 to 12.
And just take a look at some of the rooms inside. The next few photos were taken in the Oceaneer Club—no grown-ups allowed except to drop off or pick up their offspring.
Oceaneer Club has several major elements. One of them is Fairytale Hall, a hub for crafts and storytelling, which itself has three parts: Belle's Library, Anna and Elsa's Sommerhus, and Rapunzel's Art Studio (pictured).
Another section exclusively for kids aged 3 to 12, Walt Disney Imagineering Lab lets kids approximate what it's like to be one of Disney's famous Imagineers. Youngsters get to design a roller coaster they can then ride (safely) in a small motion simulator. Sorcerer Mickey also makes character appearances here occasionally.
Also in the no-adults-allowed club for kids aged 3 to 12, the Marvel Super Hero Academy looks cool enough when it's dormant, but at appointed times, it mounts "Avengers: Mission Training," which Disney calls "a gesture-based game where [players] put their new suits and skills to the test as they virtually battle bad guys." An appearance by Black Panther often figures into the game.
"Throughout the cruise, [kids] use augmented reality-enabled datapads to track and study the creatures on a series of special assignments," Disney's promotional material explains. "The new crew actually joins an important mission to deliver a pair of secret stowaways, Rey and Chewbacca, back to the Resistance."
Just look at the detail in this room! It's something that, again, only kids have access to. It's not for adults.
Side note: When I took my first cruise in 1982 on Carnival's Tropicale, all the kids really had was a dim room with play-per-quarter Centipede and Tempest video games.
Above, here's more of that delicious Star Wars-themed area for kids.
Kids aged 11 to 14 (including those who qualify for the huge Oceaneer Club but prefer a hangout that's more intimate and ocean-facing) can visit Edge, a zone dedicated to them that's fashioned after an urban loft. There's a stylized Mickey Mouse statue here that proved popular for photos.
The club for the oldest kids is Vibe, high up on the 12th deck with great ocean views befitting kids who want to feel like they're having a cruise experience.
Vibe's official age range is 14 to 17, but staff members have discretion to stretch that minimum age downward if your kid is a grown-up 13. That was the case with my nephew, who later declared Vibe his favorite space on the Disney Wish—he especially loved the coffee machine.
Hero Zone, a few steps from Vibe, is the ship's all-purpose sports center. Here, it's set for basketball below, but there are a few table games (like puck slides) on the mezzanine.
For preannounced time slots, the inflatable Incredi-Course fills the Hero Zone for obstacle challenges. (The course is packed away most of the time.)
One more kids' space before we move on to grown-up diversions: The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique presents essentially the same royal makeovers for kids as its counterparts at the Disney theme parks do. Makeovers start at around $200, and a few of the dresses offered to kids are exclusive to Disney Cruise Line.
There's a serious salon for adults, too. That's Untangled Salon (pictured above), and, a few steps away, it has a tiny pirate-themed counterpart for men in Hook's Barbery.
And while there isn't a casino on board, there is the Senses Spa as well as a Senses Fitness center.
There are plenty of bars on board (although some are for beer and wine only, and one caters to those seeking healthy juices and drinks), but the most ballyhooed is Hyperspace Lounge. Like the adult-only Skyline Lounge on Disney's Fantasy and Dream, the main feature is a large back wall where giant images are regularly changed.
But instead of showing world cities, as on the other ships, Hyperspace Lounge pauses to linger at computer-animated stops across a Star Wars–themed galaxy. Every so often, you hear a rattling sound, the stars streak across the screen just like when spaceships hit hyperspace in the movies, and you're delivered to a new vista for a while.
Yes, there's a little-ordered $5,000 drink that distracted much of the travel press in its coverage, but otherwise the experience for regular drinks (generally $10–$20 each) falls short. There are blue ice cubes. There's a well-used smoker gun. There are designs on foam that only show up under a UV light that your server shines before walking away again (so you'd better take a picture while the waiter is there).
But to me, Hyperspace Lounge is another missed opportunity. The décor, for example, has none of the excitement or detail of the Star Wars: Cargo Bay kids' area we showed you earlier. In fact, although the two spaces are only a few decks apart, they look like they were designed by two disconnected teams with vastly different budgets.
The Hyperspace ceiling is mostly plain, and some of the only flourishes meant to signify galactic panache are some tanks of bubbling water. Oga's Cantina uses those at Galaxy's Edge at the Disney parks, too, but as part of an eye-pleasing riot of steampunk decoration.
Hyperspace Lounge has no characters, and the drink recipes are so complex that servers have a hard time keeping up with demand.
The bar also suffers from its own promotion: It simply isn't large enough for everyone who wants to get in, so securing a time slot adds a level of red tape that frequent guests of the Disney parks will know well—you might have to drop by several times before you finally score.
Most adults' drinking time will be spent in other spaces.
The Bayou (pictured above) is right outside Hyperspace Lounge's closed "airlock" door, so don't be surprised if you end up here after failing to get into Hyperspace Lounge. The Bayou lacks direct ocean views but it has musicians at night. Around the corner, Nightingale's is an intimate ocean-facing piano bar (most likely to be open in the evening and later). The three cocktail locations form a little hub for entertainment on deck 3.
The nautical-themed Keg & Compass, on deck 5, is the ship's equivalent of a sports bar—it's where games and broadcast events are likely to be shown. There are a few beers on tap that are brewed expressly for the Disney Wish.
Triton Lounge (pictured above), across the corridor from Keg & Compass on deck 5, has the perfect setup for comedy or cabaret, but there was none scheduled on my abbreviated preview cruise.
Luna, spanning decks 4 and 5, is a space that was created for the Wish. Luna functions as a lavish cabaret-like performance space. Disney says it will transition from family entertainment during the day to adult-oriented entertainment by night.
Another perk of Disney Cruise Line ships: Since Disney owns the rights to a significant chunk of American popular entertainment, ships can show vacationers the same movies that are simultaneously playing in the movie theaters on land. Don't go to the movies right before boarding the Disney Wish. Save your money, because at least two current selections will be playing repeatedly, day and night, in the two classy screening rooms on deck 4.
Disney cruises are also known for their top-tier stage shows, and the biggest ones are mounted nightly in the Walt Disney Theatre (1,274 seats, with a balcony). The company manages to hire some of the best young voices in the business, and true to form, some of the singers on the Wish will give you goosebumps. Sets and costumes are also among the most impressive you'll find on the seas.
Most entertainment is geared to reinforcing the company's most popular stories and songs. On the Wish, the three main shows during the maiden voyage were new stagings of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin as well as a jukebox revue of Disney hits. The presentation is far beyond what other lines can do, and it's fun—as long as you like seeing the Disney canon again and again. Most kids do.
There's plenty of shopping, of course, across multiple stores that are priced everywhere from the high end to the really high end. There's also plenty of merch that's specific to the Disney Wish, from clothing to toys—Disney knows its fans love to collect souvenirs from across its range of businesses.
This is the largest shop, but there are several spread around the ship, from the pool deck to the entertainment zone.
There's also a sizable laundry room, and not a miserable closet like some ships give you. Someone at Disney HQ must have had a great sense of humor to give the room this name—fairy-tale princess Cinderella worked hard to meet a prince so she could get out of doing laundry. Still, it's a well-equipped facility and you can charge everything to your room card.
(Pro tip: Make sure to twist the knob on the dryer to increase your dry time before pressing the start button; otherwise you may end up paying for a 1-minute cycle.)
Now for a quick look at a stateroom. You can see the shelves to the right, but there are also two closets (including a safe) behind that built-in. Make sure to specify how many people you need your room to accommodate—some units have pullout sofas, some have drop-down cots, and some don't. If your party can't fit in one cabin, you can rent adjoining ones.
Beds have night-lights for individual reading plus convenient outlets (both electrical and USB) for charging things bedside.
The TV has a full menu of Disney movies for free streaming, which is nice. But we sometimes had a hard time contacting our porter to make simple requests: The phone system routed all our requests to the general switchboard. On one occasion that resulted in a 20-minute hold just to ask for our room's Murphy bed to be opened.
The desk drawers contain a hair dryer, so you don't have to pack one. There's a European-style pin outlet, too, plus some more U.S./Canada-style outlets and some additional USB ports.
The shower/tub room is separate from the cubicle with the toilet (and both of them have sinks), so families can maximize their morning routines.
Naturally, there are some very lush suite options for people with the spending cash. These rooms all come with concierges and access to private areas that people in standard cabins can't use.
The most notable of these lavish quarters is the Wish Tower Suite, which is installed in the forward funnel. It turns out the front smokestack isn't a smokestack at all and is just there for looks—or for your own private 1,966-square-foot duplex suite. No other cruise ship has a luxury suite in one of the funnels. True, the location means views of the ocean aren't as expansive as in the other types of suites, but the bragging rights are unparalleled.
The price for a typical 3-night sailing is $21,000, so just keep on wishing.
Like most modern cruise ships, the Disney Wish could use a few more quiet spaces to sit and read. There are small ship-side promenades on decks 4 and 5 that don't encircle the ship, and of course there are heaps of loungers in the sun on the top decks. The higher you go, away from the pools, the more likely you'll find a free chair.
I'm partial to these cozy porthole seats off the Grand Hall on deck 3.
Disney Cruise Line is already a premium-priced product, and the Wish, being its newest and hottest ship, is priced the highest. (For lower prices, choose older ships.)
For October 2022 sailings, a typical price for a 3-night sailing would be $2,140 for two guests. (All cabins are priced per person, double occupancy.) But don't quote us on that, because the prices are ever-shifting depending on date and cabin category.
Generally speaking, a Verandah stateroom, which has a small balcony, is $100–$200 more than an Oceanview cabin, which just has a window. There are a few inside cabins with a screen that displays what's outside the ship at any given moment, and those are about $100–$200 less than an Oceanview room.
The fare includes meals and basic nonalcoholic drinks (including on Castaway Cay) as well as live entertainment, youth clubs, and access to the water slides. Special activities may be charged.
Disney Wish's inaugural season is comprised of 3- and 4-night cruises to Nassau in the Bahamas and to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (pictured above). Cruises depart from Port Canaveral, Florida, which is an hour's drive east of Orlando.