By Katie, Head of Cruise & Stay
DISNEY WISH is Disney Cruise Line’s first new ship in a decade and piqued my interest the moment it was announced. Poised as the one that would bring Disney Cruise Line into a modern era, it promised more magic at sea than ever before … and to say I was excited to receive an invite to join an exclusive preview cruise is an understatement.
Not only am I a complete cruise enthusiast, but my second-place holiday would have to be Walt Disney World Resort because I am also an adult Disney fan. The thought of Disney on a cruise ship was just mind-blowing, and despite having been on many different cruise lines over the years, the opportunity had never arisen to try this one. After spending a few days at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, I headed to Port Canaveral, Disney Cruise Line’s home port, for what was to be the start of a truly enchanted sailing.
A First Encounter
EMBARKATION DAY is always exciting, but this one had that extra-special sprinkling of Disney magic. As I pulled up at the terminal, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful dark-blue hull and Rapunzel hanging from the back of the ship with her paintbrush in hand. Even the building itself was something quite unique, with a Mickey Mouse theme throughout. From the moment you arrive, it’s quite obvious that you’re set for an experience filled with magical moments that will last a lifetime.
Stepping on board the ship was unlike any experience I have ever had – I was very overwhelmed by the exuberance of it all. A cast member announces your arrival to your fellow guests, as if you are appearing at one of Cinderella’s grand balls. I chose to be introduced slightly unusually, with the cast member exclaiming “please welcome aboard the Disney Wish, Bolsover Cruise Club!” I arrived into the atrium – or as Disney calls it, the Grand Hall – which is strikingly beautiful, and unlike any other atrium I have ever seen. It is designed to be like the ballroom of a castle and manages to achieve just that without feeling staged.
Fun for All the Family
DISNEY WISH is designed to feel as though you are inside a beautiful and modern Cinderella’s castle. On reflection, it was without a doubt the most luxurious family cruise I have ever sailed on; it is very clever how subtle the Disney influence is in some venues, and how completely immersive it is in others, so you can choose just how Disney-filled you want your holiday to be. There are plenty of adult-only options to choose from, including a sundeck to rival six-star cruise lines, exquisite dining options such as Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement, where guests can indulge in cuisine with a French flair. Sit back and relax in sophisticated bars like Nightingale’s where you’ll hear the pianist play the classic melody of ‘Sweet Nightingale’. Or, experience pure bliss at the world-class Senses Spa & Salon, a nature-inspired oasis including the Rainforest, an indoor area that contains heated lounges, fountains and more.
All accommodations and suites are styled with an influence from each of Disney’s famous princess fairy tales; the bathrooms are bright and modern with a separate toilet and shower room. The most stunning, in my opinion, is the Aurora Royal Suite with Verandah – Sleeping Beauty would be more than comfortable resting her head there forever.
As you would expect, the kids’ club is on a whole new level – it’s even accessible from a slide that runs straight into the heart of Disney’s Oceaneer Club. I spent a lot of time in children’s clubs on cruise ships growing up and loved them so much that it was hard for my parents to drag me out, but they were nothing compared to those on Disney Wish. Parents, be warned that your children will want to stay in these kids’ clubs for the whole cruise … but luckily, they stay open until midnight.
The kids’ club is divided into worlds; aspiring princesses can head to Fairytale Hall, where iconic Disney characters will visit throughout the day to take part in activities. There is also Rapaunzel’s Art Studio, as well as Anna and Elsa’s summer cabin which holds a series of games hosted by Olaf himself. There’s even Belle’s Library, a cosy corner for reading and acting out stories – there may be a guest appearance! Youngsters might want to head to the Marvel Super Hero Academy where they will be trained on how to become a superhero. For intergalactic adventures, kids can visit the Star Wars™ Cargo Bay where they feel as though they are on board a real spaceship.
Out on deck, there are pools ranging in size and depth to suit your children, as well as a giant outdoor movie screen showcasing Disney films throughout the day. There’s also a Toy Story Splash Zone, and Disney’s first attraction at sea, the AquaMouse, an immersive storytelling waterslide. The options really are endless.
A Feast for the Senses
THE DINING EXPERIENCES on board Disney Wish were just incredible and really surpassed my expectations. The service was outstanding in each one I tried; some featured theatrical and interactive performances, and the food is certainly of a premium standard. Evening meals work on a rotational system, allowing guests to experience each of the three main dining areas: Worlds of Marvel, 1923 and Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure. In an extra-special touch, your waiters will follow you around the rotational dining restaurants, ensuring they provide a more personalised service. My waiter knew my name and drink preference by the end of the first evening, and his service was exceptionally attentive.
My personal favourite was 1923; it is a real nod to Disney’s history, as it is named after the year Disney was founded. It features a classic American grill and is tastefully decorated with classic animation sketches and original movie props. The contents of these walls must be worth a staggering fortune! Worlds of Marvel is a fun family dinner, where a string of MARVEL Super Heroes appear on board Disney Wish to save the day. Finally, Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure is another family fun evening, with Elsa, Olaf, and Oaken hosting a musical engagement party for Anna and Kristoff, with guests invited to join them.
While the three main restaurants are included in the cruise fare, adults can opt to dine in either of the speciality restaurants Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement and Palo Steakhouse for an additional charge. These restaurants are beautifully designed and are a great option for a more romantic night at sea.
I must give mention to Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, which is extremely cool, even if you’re not particularly familiar with Star Wars™. You’re transported to a bar on a travelling spaceship, where a large virtual window depicts scenes of the universe as you travel through space.
MY FAVOURITE evening onboard Disney Wish was definitely Pirate Night, a deck party that puts all other deck parties to the test. I have never seen so many people attend and get involved, it was honestly amazing. Most of my fellow cruisers dressed as pirates (with some taking it more seriously than others) and we danced the night away in the middle of the Caribbean. A band performed, and Captain Jack Sparrow joined the party, inevitably setting off a firework display – that’s right, a fireworks display on a cruise ship! As if that’s not magical enough, the fireworks explode and turn into fish food to feed Nemo and his friends.
During the cruise, we made a stop at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private Caribbean escape. This is a gorgeous tiny island with long white sand beaches, shallow clear blue waters and a plethora of activities to choose from. I opted for Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach, where I spent the whole day laying on sunbeds in the really shallow water – it was heaven. There are various cool secrets to discover around the island, and my top fact is that if you go snorkelling around the shoreline, you will find items like King Triton’s sword and Maui’s Hook. There are barbeques dotted across the island, as well as different bars, watersports, bike rides and character meet and greets. It really is a fun day that you can tailor to suit how you want your holiday, and features on most Disney Cruise Line Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries.
Overall, Disney Wish was more incredible than I ever could have dreamt it would be. This is a cruise ship like no other, it transports you to another world whilst travelling in luxury; the design, food, service and entertainment are all immaculate, with the crew (or cast members, as they like to be known) constantly going to infinity and beyond. I would love to be a child again to be able to experience this ship from a youngster’s point of view, because honestly, they would have the most amazing time interacting with characters, making new friends, and immersing themselves in magical worlds. But Disney Wish is certainly not just for families. If my time on board taught me one thing, it’s that even as a young adult, I would go back on this ship again in a heartbeat with my partner, and with no children. Take my advice and make your next wish the Disney Wish!