PORT CANAVERAL — The Disney Wish, the first new ship in the Disney Cruise Line in 10 years, heads out of Port Canaveral for its first trip July 14 — a sold-out cruise to the Bahamas. The tricked-out ship will ferry families on three- and four-day excursions on a cruise full of theme park innovations.
Since the Disney Magic debuted in 1998, the cruise line’s ships have won numerous awards for best family cruising. With its many kids clubs, free sodas, elevated food and fireworks nights, the Disney cruises charge a premium. They tend to cost two to four times more than mainstream cruise lines like Carnival or Royal Caribbean, according to the consumer travel site Points Guy.
The Wish, at 1.2 million square feet, is the first in Disney’s Triton class of cruise ships and the largest by far of any previous Disney ship. It sets sail as the industry works to lure customers back after a 15-month shutdown during the pandemic.
We took a spin through its fifth ship in the fleet as Disney prepares to bring on two more in the next few years for travel-hungry consumers.
It is quite beautiful, looking like Cinderella’s castle has been turned into a cruise ship with a Grand Hall that welcomes cruisers. Star Wars, Marvel and “Frozen” also get special attention, bringing an almost theme park experience to a cruise ship.
Kids are handed a magic wand upon entry that, once employed, makes things magically happen in the atrium, setting the mood for the trip. The Grand Hall is where kids will find a slide to zip down to a kids club one deck below, and at midnight, the ceiling dances with lights for a “final kiss goodnight.”
The rest of the ship and the staterooms have a similar gleaming elegance that has hints of Cinderella but doesn’t go over the top on the kiddie images. The smartly designed rooms have a split bathroom with a shower in a separate room so more people can get ready at the same time.
Things to do
Other Disney cruise ships have waterslides, but this one has what they are calling an “attraction,” because, in addition to the getting wet part, there are screens with cartoons, lighting and special effects as you whoosh your way down the AquaMouse. During our preview, there were times it had a 45-minute wait and times it broke down. It felt just like Walt Disney World.
Looking to explore the Tampa Bay area?
Subscribe to our free One Day in Tampa Bay newsletter series
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
For teens, and also adults, the Hero Zone is an enclosed sport court that offers basketball, table games like pingpong and foosball and a generally fun hangout. There are six pools for families, plus an infinity pool for adults with their own bar and cafe.
One day of the trip is at Castaway Cay, an island in the Bahamas that was used by bootleggers and later drug smugglers before Disney bought a 99-year lease from the Bahamian government to have an island just for its passengers. So now cruisers land on a beautiful island with chairs and umbrellas already set up with lunch at the ready.
The Disney Wish has four kids clubs, from the nursery for ages 6 months to 3 years to an Oceaneer Club that has five themed rooms. Parents will marvel at its Star Wars props, Marvel Super Hero Academy and an Imagineering Lab where kids can design and test roller coasters.
Food and drinks
Dinner is an extension of the entertainment, with three distinct dining experiences that bring in some of Disney’s most popular brands.
Arendelle: This “Frozen”-themed eatery is designed like a royal food hall and includes a stage show celebrating the engagement of Anna and Kristoff as a theater in the round. The menu includes Scandinavian-inspired dishes, including a genius of food engineering called Elsa’s Royal Baked Scallops.
What arrives at the table looks like a pot pie. You pierce the pastry roof with your spoon and find perfectly cooked scallops in a shrimp tarragon bisque. So you have bread with your soup thanks to the pastry blanket.
Worlds of Marvel: Another marvel is a dinner experience that feels like you are sitting inside a video game. Diners are surrounded by dozens of screens for an interactive digital show that includes the Wish as a backdrop. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly make a very funny appearance as Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Rudd answers the popular internet question of why he doesn’t just shrink and go up Thanos’ butt to destroy him. “First of all, gross,” he says. Dishes pay homage to Marvel worlds, including Black Panther’s African Wakanda and the Avengers’ home base of New York City.
1923: The restaurant named for the year the Walt Disney company was founded has a menu inspired by California, and the walls are lined with classic cartoon characters and early archival drawings.
Other foods: A parenting pro tip is to look for the small silver buttons on the lower part of the drink stations, positioned so kids can push the buttons themselves and fill up their own cup. There is also unlimited soft-serve ice cream. For quick eats, visit Mickey and Friends Festival of Foods for tacos, barbecue, burgers and kid-friendly options. For breakfast and lunch, the buffet at Marceline Market is named for Walt Disney’s childhood hometown in Missouri, the inspiration behind Main Street U.S.A. at Disney’s theme parks.
Adult fans of Disney are easy to find and many choose these cruises even without kids. They will find lounges like the Bayou, right around the corner from the Grand Hall, that is strewn in magnolia flowers and velvet in a New Orleans-style from “The Princess and the Frog.” There’s also the Keg & Compass pub, which is decked out like an 1800s Norwegian sailor’s map room, and the Nightingale’s piano bar.
But the big draw when we were there, especially for Star Wars fans of legal age, was the Hyperspace Lounge. It is a high-end bar — as opposed to the grubby aesthetic of Oga’s Cantina at Hollywood Studios theme park that is based on the famous bar scene in the original movie.
This bar has a “space window” that displays ever-changing vistas, from floating rocks to ships and planets. The drinks are otherworldly, too, costing $15 to $20 each. Some, like the Chancellor with Hennessy and brandy, features the server shooting a tiny gun that produces a bubble full of smoke that lands on top of the glass. It doesn’t really add any flavor but it’s a dramatic way to start happy hour.
The adults-only pool and sundeck area has a small infinity pool that overlooks the back of the ship for a pretty amazing view. Disney ships do not offer alcohol packages like you see on other cruise lines — here, you’re paying $7 per beer. There also are no casinos.
The Senses Spa is bigger than the ones on other Disney ships, with a signature Rainforest Room that extends outside. It has scented showers, heated tile lounge chairs and hot tubs.
If you happen to be sailing when any new Disney, Star Wars, Marvel or Pixar movie premieres, it’ll launch in those theaters on the same day it does on land.
Live entertainment on the ship includes an “Aladdin” musical and an original production of “The Little Mermaid” with projections and puppetry. For fireworks at sea, a pirate deck party features Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Redd from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
If you go
Disney Wish: The newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line. The cost of a three-night cruise starts at $1,751 for two guests in an inside room. An ocean-view room starts at $1,925 while a verandah room starts at $2,153 and a concierge room that sleeps six to eight costs $4,313 and up. A four-night cruise is priced from $2,243 for an inside room for two adults, $2,507 for an ocean-view room, $2,803 for a verandah room and $5,843 for a concierge room. disneycruise.disney.go.com.