Crossing the pool deck on my way to lunch, I saw two mice. On most cruise ships, that would be cause for concern, but on Disney Wish, bumping into Mickey and Minnie is normal, reports Joanna Booth.
In fact, it’s populated by a host of colorful characters from the big screen. I was photobombed by Pluto in the elevator, got tips on the right web shot pose from Spiderman in the kids club, and sipped bright, steamy cocktails in the Star Wars. : Hyperspace Lounge. This truly out-of-the-ordinary bar is accessible via a sliding gate and its giant ‘window’ overlooks changing scenes of galaxies far, far away, specially designed for the ship by the team at Lucasfilm.
Disney Wish is the fifth in the Disney Cruise Line fleet (after Dream, Fancy, Wonder and Magic), embarking on a post-pandemic world hungry for experiences. For all those families who have spent much of the lockdown plugged into the Disney Plus streaming service, this is an opportunity to set sail into a parallel universe where their favorite fictional worlds come to life.
The line said cruise passenger he is closely watching Australia and New Zealand as a market.
The dining choices alone are reminiscent of the breadth of the Disney brand. In Arendelle, our Nordic feast was served with songs and dances from all Frozen favorites, lessons interspersed with table visits from Ana, Elsa and a charming Olaf the animatronic snowman . Under the low, bluish lights of Worlds of Marvel, I ate bao buns stuffed with pork belly as the screen in the wall lit up with original, interactive footage filmed just for Wish, starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie and Brie Larsen reprising their roles as Ant-Man, The Wasp, Captain America and Captain Marvel. Witty sides sparkled, sets exploded, and green screen technology showed superheroes rising from the decks of the Wish.
Even the onboard ice cream parlor – a nod to the mood-altering qualities of sugar – is populated by the emotional cast of Inside Out; order your cone next to the leaping yellow statue of Joy and pay raging red Anger.
Wish is the most fully realized Disney ship to date, with every experience and detail crafted around a movie, from Hook’s Barbery, where you can shave in a wood-paneled, vaguely pirate venue that also serves craft cocktails, to the one-of-a-kind Wish Tower suite, a two-story cabin located in the ship’s funnel with luxurious decor that references the world of Moana in the South Pacific.
This all-encompassing approach proved particularly challenging when it came to the pool deck, as Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Creative Director Danny Handke explained, “How can you add a story to a waterslide? ?” The expertise of the wider Disney brand came to the rescue, with the Mickey Shorts team collaborating on nine show stages for the Aqua Mouse water coaster. The mix of screens and splashes works well, and what qualifies as “Disney’s first attraction at sea” is a fast, fun race dotted with cartoon antics through water-filled tubes that curve around the upper deck and even project to the side of the boat.
Nowhere is more immersive than the Oceaneer Club. Accessible via a slide (parents can chicken out and use the stairs, though I recommend taking the plunge), this sprawling venue puts all other kids’ clubs in the shade. In Marvel Super Hero Academy, they can train with Spiderman, Black Panther, Iron Man and Captain Marvel, designing their own suits and technologies which they can then use to battle virtual villains.
Entering the Star Wars: Cargo Bay area feels like entering a movie set. It’s a dark, atmospheric space full of buttons to press and switches to throw, the belly of a spaceship filled with a host of cute intergalactic creatures kids can learn to handle – scaly musts, cats furry loth and big-eyed porgs. Again, Danny Handke called on the film crew to make it entirely authentic.
“One of the questions I asked was, ‘what color is porg poo?’ And Lucas Film came back and did it for us.The younger children are not forgotten, with a Mickey-themed play area and the Fairytale Hall, full of craft activities inspired by a range of Disney Princesses. Separate clubs serve as hangouts for tweens and teens, and there’s daycare for toddlers from six months to three years old — the latter the only option coming for an additional fee.
There are also plenty of things to do with the family. Two performances of quality West-End shows each night – performances on Wish include The Little Mermaid, with costumes made from recycled ocean plastic, and a new show created for the ship called Seas the Adventure – plus there’s pools, deck parties and a range of quizzes and family challenges. The most elaborate, Uncharted Adventure, is a voyage-time virtual treasure hunt where families can unlock new game elements by visiting each area of the ship.
While the Wish is undoubtedly kid-friendly, it’s also home to some softer-themed adult-only areas that will give parents a treat while the kids are busy elsewhere. A quiet pool, sundeck and bar are tucked away on the stern of the ship, a beautiful rainforest-style spa with an indoor and outdoor relaxation garden sits forward, and atop a trio of stylish, child-free spots are loosely around Beauty and the Beast. A refined French menu curated by Michelin-starred Arnaud Lallement is served in the shimmering, white and gold splendor of Enchante; Palo is a steakhouse with darker, darker decor, and The Rose is a chic bar with stunning ocean views.
These comfortable, spacious spaces and staterooms feel a bit like a more conventional ship, but as Thomas Mazloum, president of Disney Signature Experiences, tells me, “This is anything but a traditional cruise. We are an entertainment company; we happen to have a few ships. It’s storytelling, it’s immersive – it’s Disney.
Wish will spend the year in Port Canaveral, sailing on three- and four-night Bahamas cruises with stops at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. It’s the perfect tie-in with Orlando’s theme parks – an extra dose of salty Disney-scented enchantment on the high seas. The goal isn’t so much to see the world as to take a vacation in a reality alternative. With the current state of world affairs, I can see the pull.
How to do: A three-night cruise in a standard inside cabin on Disney Wish (0800 169 0742, disneyholidays.co.uk) from Port Canaveral on October 14 from £1,886 pp including flights from Gatwick, transfers and one night at the Hyatt MCO near Orlando Airport.
Disney Wish in numbers
60: The length of the hair on Rapunzel’s stern sculpture, in feet
4,400: The number of works of art around the ship
1966: The square footage of the Wish Tower Suite, located in the funnel of the ship
30: The percentage of crew members who are female
760: The length in feet of the Aqua Mouse Aqua Coaster
40: The number of flavors in the Joyful Sweets ice cream parlor
5,000: The dollar cost of Star Wars’ most expensive drink: Hyperspace Lounge
86: The average number of nationalities represented by Disney Cruise Line dining staff
30,000: LED lights are present in the Disney Wish Grand Hall
10,000: The number of gallons of used cooking oil recycled from galleys aboard Disney ships each week
For more information: https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/