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Cruise Review: Disney Wish

Even following a pandemic, wishes do still come true, and we have Disney Cruise Line (DCL) to thank for delivering its unmistakable brand — and fleet — of magic, wonder, dreams and fantasy to cruisers around the world.

It’s been a decade since the Disney Fantasy was introduced in 2012, and the new Disney Wish is ready to carry the torch forward in both a familiar and unexpected fashion.

At 144,000 gross tons and a guest capacity of 4,000, Wish is larger than the 130,000-gross-ton Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, despite carrying the same number of passengers.

Similar to other DCL ships, a triple-decker atrium first greets guests. But rather than taking on the aesthetics of art deco or art nouveau styles, the Grand Hall displays sweeping castle-like architecture to convey the ship’s overall theme of “enchantment.”

Disney Wish Vs. Disney Cruise Line’s Other Ships

From there, the ship’s layout has changed quite a bit from previous Disney vessels. As clients explore, they will discover a stunningly beautiful ship that is more colorful and more refined. Overall, large-scale spaces remain, as do splashes of expected character and constant storytelling. However, Wish features more intimate public venues, which punctuate the ship with greater frequency.

Private staterooms continue to feature guest-favorite split bathrooms (a shower and sink in one compartment, and a toilet and sink in another), and suites have gotten grander. For the first time, there’s now a 1,966-square-foot Concierge Wish Tower Suite (for up to eight customers) in the forward (faux) ship smokestack.

Among the 1,254 total cabins, there are 53 concierge staterooms and 23 concierge suites. With an expanded Concierge Lounge (a forward-facing observation area over the navigation bridge) and Concierge Private Sun Deck and pool, the exclusive set of offerings is even more of a ship-within-a-ship concept than ever before on a Disney ship.

For those not sleeping in the highest-tier categories, there is still plenty available to do. Like the ship’s spaced-out watering holes, six pools also dot terraced sun decks to eliminate central crowding.

Onboard Adventures

Evolving on the last two ships’ AquaDuck water coaster is the new AquaMouse, which is touted at the first full Disney attraction at sea. The narrative concept of adventuring with Mickey and Minnie as riders ascend and descend a similar aqua-blaster slide is very cute, but half of the duration is essentially a lift-climb ramp with video screens and water sprays, leaving only the back half for any real thrills. Slide-a-saurus Rex is a tamer alternative, along with the kiddie pool area of Trixie’s Falls and Toy Story Splash Zone.

The Disney’s Oceaneer Club kids’ facility has been relocated down to deck two — playfully reachable by a spiraling slide from the atrium. It altogether encompasses the colorful “It’s a Small World” Nursery, the majestic Fairytale Hall, the delightfully grungy Star Wars: Cargo Bay, the powerful Marvel Super Hero Academy, along with the all-new Walt Disney Imagineering Lab.

The latter is a replacement for the former Disney’s Oceaneer Lab and provides fun, interactive activities inspired by the very design group responsible for crafting Disney’s parks, resorts and ships worldwide. (The individual spaces can be cleverly subdivided, should they ever be open to older children or adults.)

What’s In Store for Tweens and Teens

Once again, tweens and teens get their own dedicated spaces with the bright Edge and urban Vibe, respectively. But young adults no longer have access to the nestled bow, which is instead reserved for the new outdoor section of the sublime Senses Spa rainforest room (thermal suite).

Ideal for kids and adults alike is the relocation of the sports court indoors as the two-level Hero Zone, which can be used for everything from basketball to a massive inflatable obstacle course themed to “The Incredibles” films.

What is probably most valuable to travel agents is that all family members can have their own independent experiences, and then still come back together for those special immersive experiences.

Kid- and Adult-Friendly Eats

As in the past, rotational dining is back in circulation for families to cycle through three main restaurants, but Animator’s Palate has been replaced with the less-interactive but more-cinematic Worlds of Marvel (complete with a hilarious cruise-centric script for Ant-Man and the Wasp via Avengers: Quantum Encounter, and more surprise visitors). Rounding out the other two restaurants are the elegant 1923 (showcasing classic Hollywood in a bistro setting and named after the year The Walt Disney Studios was founded), and Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure dinner theater celebrating the engagement of Anna and Kristoff along with Elsa, Oaken and Olaf in impressive audio-animatronic form.

Meanwhile, Marceline Market is a stylish food-hall-style buffet, and the pool grill has expanded greatly into the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods — it’s essentially a second alfresco buffet encompassing delicious grilled items, pizza and ice cream, as well as freshly introduced barbecue and Mexican food.

Disney also raised the bar on adult-only dining with Palo Steakhouse and a new Enchante by chef Arnaud Lallement. The Rose is a fine scenic bar funneling out to the two dining rooms, which are both inspired by the enchanted objects of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Bars and Lounges

Aside from the Cove Cafe and Quiet Cove Pool deck (at the back of the ship), there is no longer a grouped adults-only district onboard. Instead, bars and lounges are spread out into different areas for easier, non-secluded access.

Adults onboard Wish will especially approve of the debut of Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge (available to all ages during the day). An awesome bar themed to the luxurious side of the film franchise (with changing animated vistas of the galaxy) is a must-do experience for fans. (Just keep in mind that the space is so small that advance reservations were required during our pre-inaugural sailing.)

Nonetheless, smaller venues such as these do drive a greater sense of social mingling onboard, according to Jodi Bainter, director of travel agency sales at The Walt Disney Company.

"The change in the footprint is exciting, and it really allows [in] those spaces for all families to interact,” she said.

The change in the footprint is exciting, and it really allows [in] those spaces for all families to interact.

(Speaking of sales, there is no shortage of shopping opportunities onboard Wish, from extensive logo items and print-on-demand artwork to far more luxury brands than on past ships.)

Shows, Nightlife and Entertainment

Some final entertainment details were still being worked out ahead of the ship’s official July 14 maiden voyage, but we did get a taste for the welcome onboard show (where Captain Minnie encourages Goofy to take the helm), a return of pirate-themed fireworks, modernized “Disney The Little Mermaid” Broadway-style stage production and Disney Uncharted Adventure.

The latter will eventually be the evolution of the enchanted art found on previous ships wherein participants will use smartphones as spyglasses to unlock magic across the vessel, including the unique activation of shipboard fixtures and props as part of the game play.

Besides what’s staged in the main Walt Disney Theatre, there are also two cinemas on Wish to facilitate screening multiple films, in addition to movies on the line’s signature Funnel Vision, and the double-decker multipurpose Luna is home to family game shows, dancing and more.

What is probably most valuable to travel agents is that all family members can have their own independent experiences, and then still come back together for those special immersive experiences, Bainter says.

For agents looking to start selling the new Disney Wish, she suggests they visit and engage with the line’s business development managers in the field.

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