Taking a Disney Cruise is always magical. But should you pick just any Disney Cruise or a cruise on the Disney Wish? Know that we have loads to say on the topic! If you’re a new Disney cruiser then you’ll want to know what to expect onboard the Disney Wish. If you’re a seasoned Disney cruiser then you NEED to know the 10 ways the Disney Wish is different from the other Disney cruise ships. Hopefully, this post gives you some insider information and helps ensure your next cruise is a success.
Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Wish, is all about “wow” moments. From the elaborate Grand Lobby chandelier to the kid’s slide into the Oceaneer Club. Even the new AquaMouse, Disney’s first attraction at sea, gets a lot of hype. There is much to see and do. Still, if you’ve ever sailed with Disney Cruise Line before on the Magic, Wonder, Fantasy, or Dream, you may be preoccupied with all the things that are missing. We’re not much for harping on how the Disney Wish is different from other Disney Cruise Ships. As each ship is perfect in its own right.
But, the way the Disney Wish was designed fundamentally changed the way we were able to cruise. We spent 6 days/5 and nights on the Disney Wish due to the hurricane stranding us at sea. As such, we had ample time to learn the boat and thought we’d share our findings.
For awareness, know that we have traveled on all the Disney Cruise Line ships. This drastically colors our opinion here. And potentially brings more contrast than a newbie Disney cruiser would notice. For us, Disney Cruise Ships are much like Target… filled with new things, placed in the same familiar layout, so you can simply show up and explore. As such a Disney Cruise is generally a comforting experience. The Disney Wish Cruise, however, gives us a different kind of experience. Hopefully, this post helps you prepare for your next cruise on the Disney Wish.
The Disney Wish Cruise Boat Layout is Confusing
If traveling on the Disney Wish, and you find yourself lost more than once, know that you’re not alone. With cruises on the Disney Wish available for 3 or 4-night excursions, there’s little time to learn each deck. One of the biggest ways the Disney Wish is Different from Other Disney Cruise Ships is the LA While the other Disney Cruise Ships have a familiar boat layout, comprised of midship elevators, a seamless Forward and Aft on each floor, a deck 4 that wraps the entire ship, and clearly marked public doorways, the Disney Wish does not. A glimpse at the deck plans of Disney Wish easily shows the issues.
From hidden adult spaces like The Rose, and Palo behind the Hero Zone and Hideaway. To requiring a hike up about 5 flights of on-deck stairs to get to the coffee shop, Cove Cafe on Deck 13, it takes a lot to learn this boat. While we typically saw most of the Disney Lounges on Cruise Ships in the same areas or the Recreation spaces all on the same side of the boat, this is not the case on the Wish.
Too Many Stairs
In fact, for some of the floors, you have to go down a flight of stairs on the Aft side, walk the length of the ship, and then up the stairs on the Forward side. Just to get to things on the same floor. This disconnected layout, amidst the winding halls, combining kid and adult spaces, makes it difficult to get a routine while onboard. Even Cove Cafe no longer has a walkthrough layout. This adult-only coffee shop is simply a room with a few tables and setee spaces. Issues with circulation spaces throughout the ship like this are common.
Our best advice here is to look at deck plans ahead of time. Take a picture of the cross-section of the boat on any floor, for easy access to a map. And plan on learning the boat on your first day so you can make the most of your trip. Don’t be surprised if you come to dead-end spaces and have to turn around to go back the way you came. This is one of the biggest ways the Disney Wish is Different from Other Disney Cruise Ships.
The Morning Show
One of our favorite parts of any Disney Cruise is turning on the early morning Cruise Director Morning show. We love having this on while we get ready for the day. This 15-minute show is shown on the other Disney Cruise Ships we’ve sailed and offers up a snapshot of the day’s activities. From what’s playing in the theaters, to special events in the lounges. The Cruise Director and Assistant Cruise Director take the small screen daily to give us this update. It also helped us to get to “know” our cruise director and assistant director, so that by the end of the trip they felt familiar, and like family.
On the Disney Wish, there is no morning show. At least not in its inaugural year, which is when we sailed. This was a disappointment for us, simply because we know how it is elsewhere. And it caused us to be on our phones more than we liked just to check on activities, and times in the app. We loved our Cruise Director on the Disney Wish, and he did a wonderful job, but we did miss this little piece of our Disney vacation routine.
No Pastry Cases at Coffee Shops
Every Disney Cruise ship has places to get coffee, thank goodness! And Coffee on the Disney Wish is easy to find! The Enchanted Sword, Cove Cafe, and Wishing Star are top-notch coffee places. But, and this is a big one for us, they DO NOT HAVE an accompanying pastry case. If you haven’t cruised on other Disney Cruise Ships this won’t be a crisis for you. For us, this was a huge issue. Mainly because it’s nice to grab a croissant with coffee in the early morning. Especially before the restaurants open. Or anytime throughout the day when you’re not up for a full meal, but need a snack.
On other Disney Cruise Ships, a small pastry case is filled with select treats, muffins, and croissants, all of which are FREE, and available during the hours of the coffee shop. On the Disney Wish Cruise, there is no pastry case at the coffee shops. This means you can grab your morning coffee, but have to go in search of something to eat along with it, and only after the restaurants have opened. And when Cove Cafe is on Deck 13, 5 flights of stairs and a ship’s length away from Marceline Market, it leaves something to be desired. The same goes for Enchanted Sword and Wishing Star, on decks 4 and 5, both several flights of stairs away from any potential breakfast food or snack.
Limited Seating Nearby
Another loss compounded by this issue is that on the other boats the coffee places had ample seating nearby. Whether indoors or nearby on deck. For us, since vacation is about relaxing, we’d often grab a coffee, and grab a cozy seat for some time with a good book. Or just stop and sit to talk through the day’s plans. On the Disney Wish, coffee and seating and pastries were difficult to find.
No Seamless Walking Deck on Deck 4
The walking deck on Disney Cruises allows for not only walkers, runners, and strollers, but also easy views of the ocean. Unlike all the other Disney Cruise ships, the Disney Wish does not have a seamless deck 4 walking deck. Instead, Deck 4 is broken at both ends with staircases. And not just one flight that allows for a loop and then back down again. On both the forward and aft ends of the ship, you have to go up one or two flights of stairs on each side to loop the ship, before going back down again. Add in the fact that many times the stairs are gated earlier in the morning, and that’s another issue.
Include also that all accessibility has been taken away from this experience. For guests with accessibility issues using walkers, or wheelchairs, with children in strollers, or just combating arthritis the inclusion of stairs into the Deck 4 experience is somewhat tone-deaf. For Disney grown-ups looking for a way to get a workout in before starting their day, or just some steps in on an afternoon walk around the ship, the Disney Wish is lacking. So much so, that we instead had to fit in time at the gym to compete for available treadmills instead.
Again, while this wouldn’t be an issue for those newbie Disney Cruisers, for established cruisers who have come to love their early morning walks and jogs on deck, or afternoon strolls, this is a huge loss. HUGE. Especially since while a power walk on the deck looking at the ocean still feels like a vacation, being cooped up in a gym on a treadmill does not.
ESPN on FunnelVision
One of the more off-putting changes we noticed was the use of FunnelVision throughout this trip. Hopefully, this funnelvision schedule is still in flux, but we’ll share our experience so you can go prepared, in case you’re expecting something different. A large part of any Disney Cruise is the fact that it’s “Disney.” And while you don’t want that slapping you in the face, we assume you’ve chosen a Disney Cruise, because you like the “Disney” part.
Knowing that Deck 11, where you find the drink stations, pools, and quick service counters has FunnelVision playing Disney movies is a mainstay. On all Disney Cruise ships, this is the case. Whether you have children or not, you’re coming on a Disney cruise, because you want to experience Disney in some aspect, not necessarily the Fox Network. That said, our Disney Wish FunnelVision only played Disney movies intermittently, which was a bit of a shock to us.
FunnelVision mainly played a looping video of a Disney Wish timepiece that looked like an advert, promoting the Disney Wish. While a lovely video, and very pretty to watch, we’re already on the boat…who are you selling this cruise experience to? We’re already here, we already paid…we know the name of the boat.
Another mainstay in the Disney Cruise Experience is that in the evenings there are Disney films playing on FunnelVision. But, instead, there were several evenings on our cruise when we would meander up to Deck 11 to grab cocoas and take in the night sky with a Disney movie only to find ESPN on funnelvision instead. We get that our Disney dads and BFs love sports. But utilizing the ship’s main movie area, for the 5 guys watching sports, is ludicrous. While this area would have been filled with families until midnight on the other boats, Deck 11 was officially dead at like 9:30 pm on the Disney Wish. Save the few men hanging about to watch the game.
Ice Cream is Served, Not Self-Serve
Ahhhh…. free ice cream. Disney execs believe this is THE reason that Disney Cruisers keep coming back. Mind you we love ice cream, but if we’re spending thousands of dollars on a cruise, it’s not for the ice cream ( or the chicken fingers). On the Disney Wish, Ice Cream is Served, which means there is a line. And you’re not self-serving yourself anymore. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, we didn’t love seeing ice cream all over the place, because swirling ice cream yourself is difficult. That said, the new staff-served model does take away the freedom ( and maybe gluttony) available on the other ships. Of course, this may be the new normal.
What the staff-served ice cream change allowed for is as follows. 1. limited hours to get ice cream because at one point the food counter closes. 2. Fewer ice cream messes. 3. The ability to use less ice cream and take stock of supply. 4. The creation of Long Lines ( yay!) 5. A mental switch that says- do I really need this ice cream? This cast member has already seen me three times today.
The staff-served ice cream model also bled over into Marceline Market as well. While at Cabanas, on the other Disney Cruise ships, you were able to grab a salad or fruits on your own, even those counters are now staff-served. Again, in a restaurant whose layout consists of a dozen individual counters, all of which amass a line of people to be served, this is an issue. Functionally, there is simply not enough circulation space in the walkways to accommodate two directions of traffic and also a line of people. We appreciate the money-saving mindset to limit food waste. But surely there is a better way than the current setup. As such, we often headed to 1923 for breakfast, and/or lunch instead of battling the crowds at Marceline.
Disney Wish Elevators are Different
One of the biggest learning curves on the Disney Wish is not only the new locations for elevators but also HOW to use them! Unlike other Disney Cruise ships or any cruise ships for that matter, the Disney Wish doesn’t have mid-ship elevators. Instead, the elevators available are located at the Forward and AFT ends of the ship. This makes learning the ship all the more important. Especially as you could be halfway across it, before realizing you needed to take the elevators on the other side. In addition to the elevators at each end of the ship, you will also find wingback staircases on each floor from Deck 1 to Deck 12.
The Elevator Buttons on the Disney Wish have been causing much grief, as they are “Contactless” and Proximity Sensing. This means that it can tell when your finger gets close to a button and activates it for you. There are elements of heat sensing capability here too. Add in the fact that these are very small, narrow elevators and many of the buttons will get activated automatically. As such, it’s not uncommon for the elevator to stop at random floors along your journey to where you are going.
There are only two general gift shops onboard the Disney Wish, Mickey’s Mainsail and Dorys. At Mickey’s Mainsail, you can find Disney Wish merchandise, things you’ll need for Pirate night, and a plethora of Disney souvenirs. Dory’s can be found on Deck 11 and includes some wonderful tees that you can only get onboard a Disney Cruise Ship. A smaller store, this is still a shop you will want to visit! That said, a general complaint regarding shopping opportunities onboard the Wish is that there are only 2 general shops. With the rest being high-end luxury item shops. Think Bvlgari, Kate Spade, Cartier, Tiffany & Co, etc. The issue here tends to be that people don’t go on Disney Cruises to do their luxury shopping. That said, while there are plenty of things to buy, the leaning toward the more expensive items is noticed.
The newest game to hit the high seas is one you can play on your phone. Much like the Midship Detective Agency Game on the Disney Fantasy and Dream, the Uncharted Adventure takes you all over the boat. This fun game doesn’t include a mystery but instead, sends you on a mission. The Unchartered Adventure engages framed images all over the boat that come alive with instructions on how to help. Working through the mission, you can help Mickey and Minnie collect all the pieces of the Wishing Star. This game can be played as a group, led by a “leader” in your family/ travel party. And includes a Finale! in the Luna Lounge where you have to help a cast member take down the bad guys on the big screen. A very fun game, only available on the Disney Wish.
A few notable things to share here. 1. This game does take time! So plan to give it an hour for each round of missions. There are several missions you can experience, by choosing certain constellation characters in the night sky on your phone. 2. This game will have you hunting ALL OVER THE BOAT. We were routinely sent from Deck 4 to Deck 11, back to Deck 6, and up to Deck 12 again. Lots of walking. 3. This game is also a bit physical. As you stand and wave your phone at the screen or try to catch fireflies with your phone you will be in the aisle. As such be aware of other guests that may need to pass, or play during less busy times throughout the ship.
AquaMouse on the Disney Wish
As Disney’s FIRST attraction at sea, the AquaMouse combines an on-deck closed water slide experience with a digital show experience inside. While this sounds like the coolest thing ever, let us be honest. We didn’t ride this attraction. Reviews for it ahead of our cruise were, and remain to be, sub-par. Unlike AquaDuck, the AquaMouse ride is mostly about the story inside. And as part of Mickey and Minnie’s travel company, Port Misadventures, you can experience two storylines; Swiss Meltdown and Scuba Scramble.
To experience this ride you watch screens throughout the 760-foot tube, where you raft along on the fast-moving water slide. While the AquaDuck on the other ships includes views of the ocean beyond, as it’s mostly see-through, that is not the case with the AquaMouse. This ride is about 2 minutes long, with only several seconds of clear tubing that allows you to see the ocean. The rest is filled with storytelling.
Disney Wish is Different from Other Disney Ships
If a Disney Wish Cruise is in your future, hopefully, this post has helped you get ready for your sailing. Be sure to read our Disney Wish Cruise Review. Or check out Where to Find Coffee on the Disney Wish. We have also shared a Disney Wish Guide to help you get a lay of the land. Happy Sailing.
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.