Adventures Onboard the Disney Wish

When I heard that Disney was building a new ship called the Disney Wish with three princess shows, a Frozen restaurant, and princess-themed staterooms, I just knew I had to find a way onboard. Last weekend, my wish came true at last! I embarked on a magical three-night cruise with stops at Port Canaveral in Florida, Nassau in the Bahamas, and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, and I'm here to tell you everything you need to know about the Disney Wish. Make sure you have plenty of time to read because this will be a long one! For your convenience and mine, I've divided this post into five sections:  The Ship, Shows, Dining, Characters, and the App, including a new onboard game called Uncharted Adventure. I will not be discussing the ports of call in this post because they did not have any princesses nor did I spend much time at them, but I would be happy to answer any additional questions that I didn't cover in this post in the comments.

The Ship


The moment I stepped foot aboard the Disney Wish, I wondered why I never thought about taking a Disney cruise sooner. These ships are beautiful works of art that are jam-packed with the gorgeous theming that Disney is famous for. The Wish, in particular, focuses heavily on princesses. From the outside alone, it has a beautiful sculpture of Rapunzel painting the name of the ship on the front. Each stateroom is themed after one of six princesses--Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Moana, Tiana, Rapunzel, or the two Frozen queens, Anna and Elsa. Unfortunately, Disney does not tell their guests which movie their chosen stateroom will be themed after, but there have been some crowd-sourced projects created for this purpose. I selected a room on Deck 11, which is mostly themed after Moana and The Little Mermaid hoping to get the latter, and I did! Painted on the wall behind the bed was a gorgeous mural of Ariel's underwater castle in Atlantica with silver foil accents for the bubbles and castle passageways that shimmered in the light. Hanging on the wall nearby was a lovely original Ariel artwork and a sketch of Flounder and Sebastian. The numbers outside each room have a small sculpture on them representing the theme of that floor. My deck had seashells on every door to represent the ocean theming of The Little Mermaid and Moana. These intricate details extended to the lamps, carpets, and elevators, spreading the magic in every direction.







The main portion of the ship is the breathtakingly beautiful Grand Hall, which is themed after Cinderella and her philosophy that a dream is a wish your heart makes. This is the first area you see when you step aboard. It is overlooked by a gorgeous chandelier of glittering stars that ends with the Wishing Star, the ship's most iconic feature, which lights up at various times throughout the cruise. On the floor of the Grand Hall is the famous gold Cinderella statue, which has some fun little details like her two mouse friends, Jaq and Gus, hiding underneath the back of her dress while Lucifer perches behind them with a teacup waiting for them. In front of the Grand Hall is a stage with the song lyrics "If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true" painted over it where the ship's host and hostess come out in lovely fairy tale-themed costumes cruise to encourage guests to wish upon the wishing star and to entertain them with stories. On the balcony above the stage, Cinderella and Prince Charming or Rapunzel and Fynn Rider can be spotted greeting guests as they enter the ship.





Every other part of the ship was also heavily themed after numerous Disney movies. The top of each stairwell contained artwork from different Disney films. Some of it was rare concept art from the films' conceptions while others were newer pieces. One painting that I found a bit perplexing was a newer one of princesses helping each other climb a wall. It stood out because the muted color palette was a strange diversion from Disney's normal bright colorful art, and the princesses themselves looked like off-brand knockoffs. Some features were vaguely recognizable while others looked like women from other cultures who bore little resemblance to specific Disney characters. I know some people really like this piece, but I felt like it didn't quite fit in with all the other character-specific art on the ship.






The ship had a smart layout that made it easy to get around. The second deck contained the Oceaneer's Club---the "kids only" section of the ship--which was decorated with gorgeous paintings and sketches of various Disney characters as well as themed rooms such as Rapunzel's art studio and Belle's library. We attended a fun session there about Disney Imagineering during one of its many open houses that allow adults to visit the area. Decks 3, 4, and 5 surround the Grand Hall and allow various views of the stage and Wishing Star. These decks also contain the majority of the Wish's shops, lounges, and bars, most of which are themed after Disney Princesses. My favorite bar was The Bayou, which was inspired by The Princess and the Frog and sits in an open area with beautiful white flowers covering the ceiling. The upper decks of the ship from 11 through 13 make up the outdoor sections where the pools, outdoor movie theater, and AquaMouse ride are located. This is also where the "adult-only" sections of the ship are. I found those sections pretty boring compared to the other areas due to their lack of theming.





On the second day, I found an opportunity to go on the AquaMouse, the ship's only ride. It's a tube ride on the top of the ship that pushes you through several screens portraying Mickey Mouse shorts on a conveyer belt. This is one case where I feel that I got more out of watching the ride on YouTube than seeing it in person, and here is why. Every time you pass a screen with a cartoon of Mickey and Minnie on it, cold water gets splashed in your face at a random time. Since my eyes are sensitive, and I had a scare earlier on the cruise when I got sunscreen in them and couldn't see, I was forced to turn away from the screens most of the time to avoid getting water in them. This caused me to miss a lot of the cartoons. The second part of the ride gets really wet, but it wasn't too fast or violent for me as someone who hates roller coasters. It was quite short considering that there was a 45-60 minute wait time.

Shows

One of the things I was most excited about experiencing on the Disney Wish was the nightly stage shows that took place at the Walt Disney Theatre. I was particularly eager to see the brand new show that was inspired by Disney's The Little Mermaid. In fact, I have so much to say about this show that I will likely write a separate post reviewing it. I am also aware that a new trailer debuted during my cruise for the upcoming live-action movie, but I haven't had time to collect my thoughts on that yet. What's unique about stage shows on Disney cruise ships is that they are exclusive to the ship and cannot be seen in any of the other venues that Disney owns. Because of that, they do not allow photography or recording during the shows. The Wish is a bit of an outlier to the exclusivity rule, though, since one of its shows was a repurposed version of one that used to be at Disney's California Adventure.

The first night's show was called "Seas the Adventure" and offered Goofy a chance in the spotlight. It was the shortest of the three, coming in at a mere half hour compared to the other two hour-long shows. It is a variety show that features various Disney characters performing one-offs of key songs from their movies, similar to many of the stage shows at the Disney Parks such as Mickey's Magical Map or the retired Dream Along With Mickey. This show is more cruise-centric to help guests get into the sailing mood. It starts with Captain Minnie allowing Goofy to take the helm for a bit. He gets confused and accidentally steers it into a number of Disney movie worlds in the style of Kingdom Hearts. Merida, Elsa, and Moana then show up to perform solos from each of their films. The climax of the show includes a huge Broadway-style number of "Down in New Orleans" with Mardi Gras dancers appearing all over the theater and culminates in a rare appearance of Tiana in the stylized white art deco dress she wore during the fantasy sequences of "Almost There." It was a fun show that was on par with any of the stage shows from the theme parks.


The second show, entitled "Disney's The Little Mermaid" was a retelling of the 1989 Disney classic with some modern twists. Having already seen the Broadway show and the recently shut-down Voyage of The Little Mermaid at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I was impressed that Disney is able to continue retelling this timeless story in new ways. This show features projections of the ocean, puppets resembling the animal companions from the animated film, and a giant treasure chest that serves as the centerpiece for the show's opening number and Ariel's grotto when she sings "Part of Your World." Though it does not contain any songs that were not in the original animated movie, there are a few new lines of dialogue, such as when Ariel talks about seeing Eric for the first time and says "In his eyes, I saw my reflection, and there, it looked like I could do anything!" The ending was also altered to give Ariel more agency, but in a different way from the Broadway show that is likely inspired by the changes the live-action movie will be making to the story.


The final show of the night was Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, my favorite stage show from Disney's California Adventure that retired a few years ago to make way for Frozen Live at the Hyperion. This was mostly the same show I remembered except for a few key changes. Modern projection technology was used to enhance certain scenes such as the Cave of Wonders and "A Whole New World" that would have come off as outdated if they were presented in their original format from the parks. The Genie's meta-commentary involved more cruise-related lines such as "Why are you looking at me like they just ran out of chicken nuggets on Deck 11?" Thankfully, Jasmine still sang my favorite solo, "To Be Free," but there were also some additional lines taken from the recent live-action remake, such as her obsession with maps and her desire to be sultan. The ending was altered from the sultan changing the law to let her marry Aladdin to letting Jasmine rule beside him and change the law herself.

Dining

Delicious food may not be the first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the word "Disney," but it is one of the many things they excel at. Guests aboard the Disney Wish get automatically placed on a rotational dining schedule at three themed restaurants each night of the cruise--1923, a Disney animation-themed restaurant with two dining rooms named after Walt and Roy Disney, Worlds of Marvel, a Marvel-themed experience, and Arendelle, a Frozen-themed experience. I attended 1923 and Arendelle but skipped out on the Marvel one in favor of the optional premium adult dining experience at Palo Steakhouse, which is located on every Disney cruise ship. Though the food in all three restaurants was excellent, the rotational dining experiences were a little disappointing due to where were seated.





1923 was the only rotational dining experience on the ship that did not include a show, and because of that, it is essential to be seated somewhere that you can enjoy the gorgeous glass displays of concept art, maquettes, and character designs from Walt Disney Animation Studios over the years that are located in each aisle of the restaurant. We were seated in front of a blank wall with another blank wall behind us, and I needed to strain my head behind my back just to see the art display that was in front of the door where we came in. In order to enjoy the sights that the restaurant had to offer, I needed to get out of my seat and walk directly in the paths of the servers along the aisles, which was super awkward for everyone. Even though it was probably something I wasn't supposed to do, I'm glad I did it because some of my favorite displays were located all the way in the back of the restaurant, meaning I never would have seen them otherwise.



Palo Steakhouse is a premium dining experience for adults where everyone gets dressed up and treated like royalty. It was vaguely themed after Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast but had more of the ambiance of a fancy restaurant than one specific to Disney. Some highlights of the meal included a tortellini appetizer in a decadently delicious mushroom sauce and a rich chocolate soufflĂ© for dessert. Our server was very friendly and described every item on the menu to us in detail. She really went out of her way to make sure we had a wonderful experience. At the end of the meal, they presented a plate to us that said "Happy Anniversary" in chocolate syrup with an artistic design.



We ate at Arendelle three times during our cruise--for lunch on the first day, the rotational dinner on the final night, and a farewell breakfast on the morning we disembarked, so I'm pretty familiar with it by now. It is by far the biggest and most beautifully themed restaurant on the ship. The entryway takes you down a long hallway that is covered in paintings from and inspired by both Frozen movies along with themed bathrooms, wallpaper, and flooring. I loved eating lunch in such an immersive environment and couldn't wait to do the dinner show. That was when the problems began. The center of the restaurant is a square stage surrounded by long vertical tables on every end. The tables are very close together, and none of the seats face the stage directly, meaning that in order to see the show, you have to crane your head to the side or turn your seat around entirely, depending on where you sit. However, no matter how hard I tried to see the stage, there was almost always someone blocking me, whether it was the people sitting at the tables in front of me or the servers walking down the aisles in between.


The show is performed by Oaken and a few female performers in generic Nordic costumes who sing songs from both movies to celebrate Anna and Kristoff's engagement. At a certain point, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf enter and start performing. Then they come down to the tables and greet the guests, but they don't stop to pose for pictures like they do at regular character dining. Even though I had a nice interaction with Elsa where she complimented me on my Rapunzel Tiara, I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get a picture with her nor did I meet Anna and Kristoff at all, who I suppose went to the tables that Elsa didn't visit. An animatronic Olaf gives a pre-recorded message to each table but did not interact with the guests directly. The climax of the show looked like some sort of wedding ceremony for Anna and Kristoff, but by that point, the other guests and servers in the dining room had gotten so loud that I couldn't hear anything the actors were saying, and I could barely see them. I felt like I really missed out and got more out of watching the show on YouTube beforehand than I did from seeing it in person.

 

Characters


Meeting princesses is my absolute favorite thing about the Disney Parks. I love being able to talk to them about their stories and immerse myself in their fairy tale worlds. So when I saw that the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App instantly sold out for something called the "Royal Gathering," I contacted Disney to ask them about it. It turned out that the app wasn't very reliable since a spot opened up for the experience as soon as I connected to the ship's wi-fi. The Royal Gathering is a reservation to meet the four princesses on the Disney Wish: Cinderella, Moana, Belle, and Rapunzel. At first, I was under the impression that there was no other way to meet them or that it would be the only way to get a group photo, but it turned out that they were all available the next day even if you didn't have a reservation and didn't do group shots, so it's actually not a huge loss if you aren't able to book this prior to your cruise. I ended up getting two pictures with most of the princesses--once for the Royal Gathering, and again when they came out the following day. They all remembered me the second time and asked me all about my adventures on the ship. The second time I met Rapunzel was during a neat event they had on the last day of the cruise when all the characters came back out to give everyone a chance to for one final picture in case they missed anyone on the other days.


The classic characters--Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Pluto--also come out at various times throughout the cruise wearing different outfits each time. First, they came out in their ship crew uniforms with Minnie as captain, then you could meet them in their classic looks, and then they came out looking like sailors. There was also a Pirate Night where they came out dressed as pirates. I met most of them and had some great interactions, like Mickey gesturing that I was smart because I was dressed like Belle and told him that I like to read and write. Minnie twirled me around like a princess, and Goofy thought that my husband's hair reminded him of his floppy ears.

Uncharted Adventure/App

The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App is an essential tool for going on a Disney cruise that makes it easy to keep track of everything that was happening and where. The app is far from perfect. Certain sections change after you connect to the ship's wi-fi, which makes it hard to remember which category does what. The map of the ship is useful but very hard to find in the app. By far, the buggiest section was the "sneak preview" a.k.a. beta test for the new onboard game called Uncharted Adventure. This was one of the things I was most excited about doing on the cruise and spent the majority of the second day playing. While it was a lot of fun, it was also frustrating because it kept crashing our phones and didn't do what it was supposed to half the time.


Disney's Uncharted Adventure is the cruise line version of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, which involves running around to hidden screens all over the park and unlocking secret minigames in an attempt to save the Disney characters from evil. The biggest difference is that Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is played with a set of collectible trading cards that are held up to secret cameras to activate the cutscenes in the park, while Uncharted Adventure is played through the phone app. Unlike the app, trading cards can't crash, so the Magic Kingdom version has a lot less potential for bugs. Uncharted Adventure has four sets of quests that take place all over the ship with the goal of collecting the stolen pieces of the Wishing Star and restoring their magic. After finding and activating the correct hidden screens, you can play games with characters from Moana, The Princess and the Frog, Peter Pan, and Finding Nemo. Once you find all four pieces, you can watch and play the finale live with other passengers at a scheduled time.

The first problem we had was starting the minigames. Once you find the right screen (which could be anywhere on the ship, regardless of where you were sent last), you must scan the wishing star icon or artwork with your smartphone to activate the game. This usually works, but not always. There were some parts where we needed to turn off the app and turn it back on again to force it to send us to a new location because the last one wouldn't activate. This is a time-consuming process because the game has a long loading screen. Another issue is that some of the games require you to tilt your phone up and down or left and right to control your avatar. It was exceedingly difficult to move my phone at the exact angle I needed to in order to move my character in the direction I wanted them to go. Many times they would go the opposite way! The best minigames were the ones that used augmented reality to make it look like things were appearing on the ship or tapping the phone to interact with the ship's environment.


The live finale took place at a scheduled time in the ship's Luna Lounge and allowed players to participate in the final set of games together and watch the final cutscenes on the biggest screen yet. It was hosted by a live cast member who participated in the story. Jodi Benson contributed her voice to the finale for a character she rarely gets to play. Needless to say, it was a huge treat for fans of The Little Mermaid that was full of surprises. In the end, playing the game was a worthwhile endeavor that gave me a lot of exercise and allowed me to explore the ship in a unique way, but there are many bugs that need to be addressed before it can complete its preview/beta test.

Conclusion

I'm really impressed that you got this far! Congratulations on coming to the end of this monstrosity of a blog post, and great job keeping up! The Disney Wish is a gorgeous ship that's full of magical experiences, especially for princess fans. If you have the means to book a cruise, you should absolutely do so. There is so much to see and do from the shows to the dining to the adventure game. If this is something that isn't plausible to you, take solace in knowing that some parts of it are actually better to watch online, such as the AquaMouse ride and the Arendelle dinner show. If there is absolutely anything else that you want to know about this ship that I didn't cover in my review, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I will answer any questions I can. Thanks for reading and have a magical day!

Comments

Alysa Salzberg said…
I really enjoyed your thorough review - I felt like I was there!
Thank you for sharing all of this, and for the photos. My favorite was the view looking down onto the flowery carpet where a number of Disney princesses are walking around. So magical!
I’m so glad you had a good time and thanks again for sharing this!
Unknown said…
Wow, what a great review! My favorite part was definitely your description of The Bayou bar, and the picture of the pretty ceiling. Also, I'm very excited to read your take on The Little Mermaid trailer once you post it!
Unknown said…
Thanks for the review! I like the sound of that game, I really miss the sorceress game at the parks.
(This is Kat, BTW!)

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