There's a brand new Disney Cruise Line (DCL) ship in town, and it's a bit different than the other ships in the fleet. Focused on the theme of "enchantment," the Disney Wish has been called Disney's "castle on the sea" by the imagineers who created it. But with three and four-night sailings on the new ship averaging more than $3,500 for an interior stateroom for four, the questions remain — is a cruise on the Wish worth it for multi-generational families traveling together? And, for families needing more than one stateroom, is a Disney cruise worth the splurge?
When DCL invited media and their guests to experience the Disney Wish firsthand, there was no question in my mind who I'd invite to share my cabin: my parents, who are my ultimate travel buddies. Why bring my 60-something mom and dad rather than friends my age? There are many reasons, one of which being their no-nonsense style of critiquing the destinations I visit as a travel writer.
Cruising is also popular among people their age: According to the 2022 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook from Cruise Lines International Association, the average age of cruise tourists between 2018 and 2020 was 47. A whopping 33% of cruise guests in that time frame were over the age of 60, and 32% of passengers fell between the ages of 40 and 59.
My parents have a unique view of DCL, too. The cruise line is known for its family-friendly activities, sure, but as 57 and 63 year olds, they know there's also always something going on for adults aboard Disney ships, from themed bars and cocktails to lavish days at the spa.
After sailing on 12 different cruises with me, from DCL to Carnival Cruise Line, I knew my empty nester parents would have some things to say about this luxurious new ship, designed to be more intimate and high-end than other Disney cruise liners. Curious whether or not the Wish is worth the cost for those traveling with parents and grandparents in addition to kids? These are the best and worst parts of the ship, from my parents' perspective.
Aboard the Wish, affordable cocktails abound
DCL is one of the only cruise lines that fails to offer some sort of drink package for guests to add on to their voyage. While not being able to pre-pay for cocktails, beer and other specialty drinks may be a downfall for some, my parents didn't feel it hindered their experience. The cocktails aboard the Disney Wish were affordable and delicious: lounges and bars exist all over the ship, from a sleek Star Wars-themed lounge to a hidden speakeasy specializing in old-fashioneds.
My mom, whose favorite princess is Cinderella, loved Nightingale's, a lounge inspired by the song "Sing Sweet Nightingale" from the animated classic. Not one to spend a lot on cocktails, she found a drink here she loved, that was only $14. An added bonus was the pianist, who played Disney songs and encouraged guests to sing along.
My dad, a Star Wars fan, enjoyed Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, a bar where guests are blasted into hyperspace and transported to planets within the franchise. Here, he ordered an infused bourbon drink that came with a bright blue embossed ice cube, which slowly melted and turned the drink into a glittery cocktail. The space-themed drink was $20: slightly more expensive than my mom's cocktail of choice, but hey, we were on vacation.
1923 felt like a date night
Something my parents love about cruising with Disney is the rotational dining at dinner. Each DCL ship, including the Wish, has three main dining rooms guests rotate between throughout their cruise. Aboard the Wish, both agreed their favorite restaurant was 1923, an elegant steakhouse-style restaurant where sketches and memoribilia from Walt Disney Animation Studios are on display.
My parents found the beautiful dining room to be like an upscale restaurant — one where they could have an onboard date night if reservations weren't available for (or they didn't want to spend additional money on) Palo or Enchanté, the adults-only restaurants on the ship.
The food at 1923 leans heavily into modern California cuisine, with dishes like seared tuna with sesame brittle as an appetizer, a peppercorn-crusted filet for an entree and Fuji apple cheesecake for dessert.
The adult pool was a child-free oasis
The Disney Wish has an entire pool and bar area — Quiet Cove — that's adults-only (completely child-free), which my parents enjoyed. The bar served refreshing drinks made with citrus and watermelon, and even some with entire popsicles in the glass. While my mom loved hanging out in the infinity pool, the first on any Disney ship, my dad enjoyed finding a shady spot on a cushioned lounge chair to kick his sandals off and take a nap.
My mom's only complaint? The pools were small. As the ship sails at full capacity throughout its first season, there may not be a lot of room in the adult pools if you decide to go later in the afternoon to cool off.
The cabin's split bathrooms were a major time-saver
DCL helps make their staterooms more efficient on the Wish through split bathrooms: one for ... doing your business ... and the other for showering.
Inside our cabin, there was one bathroom with a toilet and sink and another with a sink and shower. This meant we could all get dressed and ready for the day at once, without waiting for our turn to get into the bathroom. In true dad fashion, mine made a point to tell us about the nightlight he discovered in the bathroom with the toilet, which was appreciated at night when no one had to turn on bright lights to see.
Fireworks at sea
Just like at Disney Parks, DCL shoots off fireworks on one night of the voyage. What my parents loved most about the Disney Wish was that the deck party didn't overlap with our dinner experience.
The four other DCL ships each hold a "pirate night" — a themed dinner and deck party for which a different Caribbean-themed menu is served at the rotational dining restaurants. My parents often say this is their least-favorite menu on Disney ships, so they were elated on our three-night cruise when we were able to experience the regular menu at our appointed restaurant on night of the fireworks, then go to the deck party later in the evening.
Another dad tip? To get the most from the Pirate's Rockin' Parlay Party, ask a cast member what side of the ship to stand on to see the fireworks best. Enlisting the help of an employee, who sees the show way more often, can help secure the perfect spot to see everything, from the stage to the fireworks in the sky above the ship.
The adults missed the ... adult district
An area from the other Disney ships that my parents missed on the Wish is the adults-only district. Other DCL ships have a dedicated area for grown-ups that turns into an adults-only space each night. There, lounges, bars and entertainment are all clustered together in one spot. But on the Wish, that's not the case.
My mom was disappointed: Aboard the Wish, the various lounges across the ship turn adults-only at 9:00 p.m., but it's not the same vibe. Instead, guests have to walk in main areas like the ship's atrium to get from place to place.
My dad also saw this as a downfall to the new ship. One of his favorite things about a Disney cruise is staying out until midnight, when comedians perform and it's easy to make friends with other guests seated around you at the bar. He struggled to do either of those things on our voyage because the lounges were often packed with people, with little room to find a table or bar stool.
Shade is limited — and the ship decks are painfully hot
There's little shade to be had on the decks of the Wish, something my parents found to be a negative. My mom pointed out that, in the family pool areas near ship's the large outdoor movie screen, there was no shade at all. The decks were so hot, in fact, that she burned her feet walking from her deck chair to the pool.
My dad, who often seeks shade instead of putting on sunscreen, was dismayed at the lack of shaded spots around the ship. In the adults area, none of the pools had a shade cover, and the few shaded tables under the bar awning were quickly occupied each time a party got up.
There was also a lack of breeze at the dining tables on the outdoor decks. My dad said it felt like a greenhouse, and both agreed if they sailed aboard the Wish again, they'd bring the meals served around the Wish's pool deck inside — to an air-conditioned location — to eat.
The paper activity schedule is gone
On previous DCL sailings the Navigator, the cruise line's name for their paper schedule of activities, was dropped in our cabin the night before. Since both of my parents are planners, they like to have a rough idea of what they want to do each day on the ship. Having to use the DCL app on their phone to scroll through the day's agenda was somewhat challenging for them, especially my dad who's not the most tech-savvy.
They go on vacation to get away from their phones, they pointed out, and weren't fans of having to pull out their devices for everything from seeing what time characters would be out and about on the ship to telling the dining room staff their table number at dinner.
My parents' hot take? Three — or even four — nights on the Disney Wish was not enough. The ship is huge and there's so much to do that they really didn't have time to relax, as they were so busy trying to get to every bar, see each show and explore the ship. While the cruise was fun, when they returned home they needed a rest day, filled with naps and comfy pajamas. (And so did I.)
The bottom line: If you're unsure about a vacation aboard the Disney Wish, consider one of the other four Disney ships. The fare of over $4,000 for a three-night cruise on the Disney Wish (in an ocean-facing stateroom) is just a few hundred dollars more than a seven-night cruise on the Disney Fantasy for the same room type. If you want to see the latest from the Walt Disney Company and be one of the first to clink glasses at Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, the Wish may be for you.
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