This past summer, Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) released the first of two boats in its new line of passenger vessels. Natasha has been on all the Disney cruise ships, so to keep that statement true and as a Christmas present to Rocky (selected among several options I gave him) we took a five-day Winter voyage on the Disney Wish. You can only book passage on the Wish for a 3 or 4- night voyage. I suspect they are doing this given high demand. You can book a longer trip on any of their other four DCL ships for less money, but the time frame and the lure of the new ship made The Wish our choice.
People like to complain and I had seen lots of negative comments about the ship. That included a review that ranked it last (5th) among the five Disney ships. That is pretty brutal for a brand-new ship. There are changes to the Wish that make it different from the previous Disney vessels, which I think is the primary reason for the complaints. All that said and maybe because I had read those reviews, The Disney Wish and our voyage on it exceeded our expectations.
My adult son Rocky has been living in Minnesota for a year and a half, hence the appeal of a Caribbean vacation in late January. To avoid carrying all his winter gear, he got a ride to the airport from his uncle (my brother) and slipped inside the terminal wearing only a lightweight jacket, tee, shirt, jeans, and athletic shoes. By the time I saw him in baggage claim in the Orlando airport (MCO), he had ditched the jacket, tee shirt, and jeans and was in shorts and the Grogu (Baby Yoda) shirt I had given him for his birthday and suggested he wear. What he didn’t know, was that I was wearing the same shirt. (He is a good sport and I could only get away with this because families wear matching shirts at Disney Parks all the time.)
For those unfamiliar with MCO, the arrivals, departures, and check-in counters are on level three. Baggage Claim in on Level two and the transfer buses are on level 1 on the B side. We chose to take the Disney transfers to insure we made the ship since we were flying in the day of the ships’s departure. We did take the earliest direct flights available to us from Houston and Minneapolis. Last time out of Cape Canaveral, all the vehicular traffic was held up getting into the port. This time, that was not a problem, but we by-passed the long line for cars, cabs, shuttles, and UBERs waiting to drop off at the cruise terminal. Either time, we had a cheaper, faster, and hassle-free transfer by booking through the cruise line. We also avoided the risk of missing the ship by using the company’s transportation. (At the end of the cruise, we were also one of the first groups off the ship.)
Once at the terminal, they confirmed we had our passports and our boarding passes and then we went through security. If you haven’t been on a cruise in a while, most of the things we used to do at check-in counters at the cruise terminal are now done on line (credit card submission, information forms, health forms, passport uploads, etc.). The room keys were outside our cabin doors. We had a bit of a wait due to a routine coast guard inspection that morning. Check-in was running just over an hour behind. Although running late, the process was smooth. We walked over to the boarding area when the group just before ours was called and when the line got short, we were able to board even before our group was called.
As with other Disney ships, crew members announce your family name as you enter the Grand Hall. After a look around and a greeting from Flynn and Rapunzel, we dropped off our carry-ons in the room, picked up our room keys at the cabin, and headed up to the buffet for a late lunch. Both Rocky and I had got up early-him at 4 am, me at 5 am-and we were both ready for something to eat and drink. At the back of the Marceline Market (deck 11 buffet) I found the fresh boiled seafood and enjoyed king crab legs and shrimp with a variety of dipping sauces. Cruise ship buffets are no longer walk up and serve yourself events. Crew members add food to your plate at your request. The Wish had a wide variety of food stations. You were able to get your own drinks, using a new glass each time. Water and fruit beverages were complimentary, as were soft drinks. Disney is the only cruise line at this price point that includes soft drinks at no additional cost. The venue is named for Marceline MO, Walt Disney’s hometown.
After our lunch, we went roaming around the ship while we waiting for our luggage to be delivered to our room. One of the advantages of the Disney transfers was that we gave them our luggage at the airport-tagged with the ship identification we were sent in the mail-and didn’t have to worry about it again until it was delivered to our cabin onboard. We were particularly interested in finding out where the Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge was; that was a definite on our visit list. We also wanted to find the COVE which is the pool, bar, and hot tub area restricted to adults. If you are looking for information and experiences about traveling on the Wish with children, you won’t find it here. In fact, we were focused on the adult offerings the cruise provided. Since were sailing at a time most schools were in session, most of the children on board were very young.
Every ship has a muster drill and ours was just prior to the time we pulled away from the pier. Fortunately, you sit comfortably in the muster station and don’t have to queue on the outside decks. Our luggage had made it to our room, so after the drill we unpacked and watched the sail away from our balcony. We often get a outside cabin on Disney ships since we are rarely in the room, but we went for the balcony this time as it wasn’t that much more. By looking at the room, you can tell this is a new ship. There are plugs and USB ports everywhere you might want them. This is especially great if you use a CPAP machine like me. We could both plug everything in at the same time if we wanted to. If you are tempted to stay in the room, the wonderful flatscreen gives you access to all the Disney movies and shows you could hope for. Although not unique to the Wish, there are some Disney room features that I particularly like. There is a curtain that separates the sofa sleeping area from the queen bed. Also there are two separate bathroom areas, both with a sink. One has the tub/shower and the other the toilet. The shower was really nice with a glass door that swung both in and out. (The plug wasn’t in the best place as I kept stepping on it during my shower and when turned in the door hit the clothes line, but these details were overshadowed by this better than typical cruise ship bathroom.) One of the other things I like on these Disney ship is the metal door which allows people to add magnetic decorations. Some families go all out on their decorations, even adding a mail pouch so those not staying in their cabin can leave notes.
Dining aboard a Disney ship is a little different, you have assigned seating and you, your table mates, and your servers rotate between the unique and included theme restaurants onboard. In highly recommend the second seating for adult parties. The staff will tell you that they intentionally rush the first seating since it is mostly parties with small children. Second seating is quieter and served at a more relaxed pace. It does mean you go to the stage entertainment early (6 or 6:30), but we found that it gave us more free time to explore the adult areas on the ship. There are speciality (pay) restaurants that are very nice and I have eaten at some aboard Disney ships, but on a short sailing like this, it just isn’t necessary unless you want to completely avoid children. One of the restaurants in the rotation is duplicated on the 4-night sailing, but you don’t know which night that will be until you board so it is harder to get reservations. You are also likely to miss some of the evening entertainment if you are booked into a specialty restaurant. It all depends on your priorities. Some adults might enjoy a night or two at those venues.
The first night was a short (30-minute) welcome aboard show and I was kind of indifferent to it and wanted to check out some of the new adult venues, but Rocky wanted to go so we headed over to the Walt Disney Theater about 15 minutes before show time. The theater was almost packed and there really weren’t great seats left even for a party of two. After testing this for the shows (3 of 4 nights of the cruise), I found that you really need to get there 30 minutes before the show for a good seat and maybe even earlier if you have a large party and all want to sit together. The show was terrific and I am so glad we didn’t miss it. It was the best welcome show I ever saw on a Disney ship, probably the best welcome show I have seen on the almost 40 cruises I have been on.
Afterwards we thought we would try our luck at getting into the Hyperspace Lounge since it was nearby on Deck 3. The reviews had all complained about getting in. When the ship first set sail you had to have a reservation, but that is no longer the case. During busier times, there is a sign out asking you to limit you stay to 45 minutes and they will deliver the check to insure you keep to that time frame. We actually headed right over after the show and got in this small venue. There aren’t a lot of decorations, but the highlight is the window. The idea is you are on a lounge on a cruiser in space and periodically the cruiser goes into hyperdrive and you are transported to outside another planet with a different view outside the window.
The other draw is the clever drinks, especially those where the server forms a bubble on top that grows and eventually breaks into smoke. There are some pricier options, but most of cocktails range from $15-20. We had such a great time, chatting with other patrons, watching the planet window and hyperspace mode, and trying out the cocktails.
After the Lounge, it was time to head over to our 8:15 late seating dinner reservations. Tonight we are dining in World of Marvel. The current show is centered around Ant Man and the Wasp. The movie featuring these characters is due out in a few months. My suspicion is that that the story will change to feature different Marvel characters and story lines after the AntMan movie has been out for a while. We are at a 6-top tables, but there are only four of us assigned to it. We learned when we were boarding that there are about 3500 passengers rather than the 4000 full capacity that the ship often sails with. One of the reasons we chose to travel at this time was knowing that hopefully there would be fewer passengers since most children are in school. Our table companions were a mother and daughter traveling together. The daughter is about 5 years older than Rocky.
Once everyone was seated, met the servers, and ordered, the screen show began. There is a story and build up to a big finish. Parts of the event are interactive using a device that sits on the table. Both the 30-years-olds at our table really got into it. The story develops in parts, but the screens are also on and showing pictures throughout the dinner. Dinners are multiple courses and you can have has many or as few as you would like. They also take the theme seriously with the tableware featuring the Avengers logo.
Some past guests really found the screens distracting and annoying during diner and the teenager at the table next to us lost interest and left for his cabin as soon as his second course was served, but most of the guests seemed to enjoy it. I could see where it would entertain small children who otherwise get bored sitting through a multi-course dinner. You can’t know Rocky without being initiated into the Marvel Universe so I knew the characters and I found the experience a fun change from normal cruise dining. There are surprise appearances at the end of the show (although the waiters tell you that someone may come). The characters just walk through, no stopping for individual photos or autographs, but it is a nice way to end the experience.
Finding activities aboard the Disney ships is a little different than it has been in the past. After both dinner seatings and both of the main stage (Walt Disney Theater) performances are over, there is lots of activity in the main hall on the multiple decks that open to it. The photographers are finishing up with the optional background photos and lots of characters are milling around. We walked by Daisy Duck and had to get a photo for my mom. It is not so much the character that she loves, but my Dad did a great Donald Duck imitation so she identifies with his sweetheart Daisy. There are no longer any printed schedules on the Disney cruise ships. The Navigator is now available via the cruise line app. You put your phone in airplane mode and log into the Disney wifi (free of charge) to use the app. Other internet access comes with a fee. It took me a while to find things on the app and some of the program descriptions weren’t clear, but we used it to decide where we were headed after dinner.
I had done “silent discos” aboard other cruise ships and at my college reunion parties and I encouraged Rocky to try it out. It wasn’t starting until later so we stopped by the venue to see what was goin on. There were ending one of quip competitions which clearly were very popular given the crowded venue and the number of quiz scheduled throughout each day of the cruise. We decided to walk around a bit and check out the pub and barber shop on board. We returned to Luna Lounge later to catch the musical act that proceeded the silent disco. We were treated to an awesome performance of this group that included the ship’s primary musicians, one of the actors (he was the Genie in Aladdin later in the week), a female singer, and one of the dancers who was easily spotted on stage throughout the week by her height. The music was fabulous, the vocals outstanding, and the tap dancing phenomenal. Look for the “Disney Victrophonics” on your app schedule and don’t miss their performance.
After the Victrophonics performance, we stayed in Luna for the Silent DJ Party. This event is not unique to Disney. Participants are given headphones with multiple tracts of music. The headphones light up in different colors for each tract so you can tell which tract your neighbor is listening to. To the outside observer, you see lots of people dancing and even singing, but you don’t know where the music is coming from. It can be very entertaining even if you are not participating.
We participated and Rocky loved it. We danced the entire time, not sitting down once. One of our table mates was also there. I was proud of myself as a parent for instilling this love of music and dancing in my son. We were literally the last two dancers on the floor, although sweaty and moving slower by the time the event ended. I took another shower when I got back to the cabin. What a great start to our week aboard The Disney Wish.
There is more to come from the Caribbean and aboard The Disney Wish…Natasha.