What the New Disney Wish Cruise Is Like for AdultsPhoto courtesy of Disney Travel Features disney wish
I was a fully grown man alone on a Disney cruise. And yes, I was acutely aware of that every second on board.
Fortunately my recent trip on the Disney Wish was a media event, and so I wasn’t alone in being alone. Although journalists were allowed to bring guests, I was not the only one whose families weren’t able to join them on the three-night trip. In fact, each night I ate dinner with the same group of other solo cruisers, three travel and entertainment writers in the same situation I was in, people who, for one reason or another, wound up on the Wish alone. And I probably knew another two dozen or so people onboard from seeing them at events like this. So I wasn’t truly alone, even if I had no family with me. Still, I am now uniquely qualified to discuss not just what it feels like to go on a cruise alone, or to go on a Disney cruise as an adult without children, but what it’s like to go on a Disney cruise alone as an adult.
I would not recommend going on a Disney cruise alone as an adult.
I would recommend the Disney Wish to adults who love cruises and Disney, whether they bring children with them or not. The Wish was clearly built with families in mind, and that includes a number of spaces for parents, which work perfectly well for any adult, with or without kids. From bars to restaurants to an entire adults-only deck, the Wish features more than enough to keep adults entertained for the whole cruise.
Before I get into specifics, here’s a brief overview of the Disney Wish. The fifth and biggest ship in Disney’s fleet holds up to 4000 guests and has its maiden voyage on July 14 (you can find booking info here), but recently hosted press for a jaunt down to Disney’s Castaway Cay island and back. You might not want to ever get off the boat, though, because there’s an almost overwhelming amount of things to do on board. Beyond the pools, hot tubs, and deck time you’d expect on a cruise, the Wish offers various interactive dining experiences, two new Broadway-style musicals, a number of themed bars (including the first Star Wars bar at sea), a water coaster designed by Disney Imagineers, a spa, a gym, individual exclusive hangout spots for different age groups, two movie theaters showing a constant rotation of Disney films (including first-run releases), and even a fireworks show at sea as part of a pirate-themed rock band performance. Even if you are alone, there’s so much to do that you’ll barely have time to think about it.
The spaces for kids are amazing, from the Mary Blair-style art of the nursery, to the Star Wars-themed room that’s as good as anything in Galaxy’s Edge (it’s home to an adorable Porg animatronic that is so lifelike you WILL want to free it from its cage). But I’m not here to talk about those. I’m here to talk about what it’s like to be an adult on the Disney Wish, so of course that means I’ll start with the bars—where I obviously spent most of my free time on the Wish.
The best Disney bars combine the company’s amazing facility for themed design with, uh, booze in a way that both Disney fans and serious barflies can appreciate. The Wish has several bars that live up to that legacy, from the Hyperspace Lounge, to the New Orleans-themed The Bayou. Found just next to the ship’s Grand Hall, The Bayou takes cues from The Princess and the Frog and the musical heritage of New Orleans to create a lush, inviting space decorated with lilies, Spanish moss, and magnolia trees. The cocktail list includes hurricanes and sazeracs (my fave), beignets are on the menu, and every night musicians perform on the bar’s small stage. The Bayou might not offer the thrill of the Hyperspace Lounge, but for my money it’s a better bar—and one that’s easier to get a seat at, despite becoming the de facto meet-up spot every night. The Hyperspace Lounge is next to The Bayou; it’s another immersive Star Wars bar almost as impressive as Oga’s Cantina or the Sublight Lounge, and you can read my full thoughts about it here.
Beyond The Bayou, the best bar on the Disney Wish is also the smallest. Hook’s Barbery is primarily a barber shop themed to Captain Hook’s private quarters, but it’s also home to a small “hidden” bar that specializes in whiskey and rum. There are only a few stools to sit on, but the smoked old fashioned I got there was probably the single best drink I had on the Wish. The space has the wood and leather aesthetic of a rich man’s library, with nautical details to reflect the theme, and a constant smell of smoke due to the drinks. It’s clearly intended for The Guys, be they Dads or Granddads or childless journalists traveling alone, and if you want a great drink without the noise or crowds of a bar, this is the place to go aboard the Wish.
If you’re in the mood for craft beer, mead, or vaguely Nordic cocktails, you can hit up Keg & Compass and its Viking seafarer theme. With a map of legendary Disney nautical locations above you, and portholes surrounded by intricate wood-carved octopi, Keg & Compass is even more water-themed than Captain Hook’s spot. If you’re in the mood for something fancy, head to The Rose, a cocktail lounge in the “adults only” area that includes the luxury restaurants Enchanté and Palo. With its Beauty and the Beast theme, The Rose is the most beautiful bar on the boat, with its striking backdrop of rose petals. The Rose is elegant and it knows it. (I had another old fashioned here. It was good, and I am consistent.) Meanwhile Nightingale’s is a piano bar themed to the song Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters sing terribly in the animated classic; it’s a small, sleek, classy space whose signature cocktails come in beautiful glasses shaped like the bird of the name. Make sure to get a drink or two here during your trip.
There are other bars throughout the ship, places on deck you can walk up to and grab a beer, mai tai, or margarita. If you’re without kids, though, you’ll probably spend most of your deck time in Quiet Cove, the official adults only area at the ship’s far aft end. Its main bar features a shaded, open-air lounge where you can sit and watch the ocean spread out around you. When it’s not too crowded, this is the most relaxing spot on the Wish. Quiet Cove is also home to the Cove Café, a warm, welcoming coffee bar that serves cold brew cocktails and wine, and serves as a good break from the sun and heat.
When Quiet Cove isn’t too crowded, it’s a peaceful little paradise amid a loud and busy ship. It has an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean, so if you’ve ever wanted to contemplate all of creation while floating in a pool, here’s your chance. It’s flanked by two circular lounges where you can sit with your feet in a shallow pool while drinking and chatting with friends or strangers. On either side of this area you’ll find rows of chairs on deck for sunning or relaxing, and two different hot tubs. There are only two criticisms I heard about Quiet Cove while onboard. The first is that one end is right next to the Aquamouse attraction, and so the ride audio can be heard in a constant loop, which isn’t especially conducive to relaxation. The other just speaks to how popular this area is with adults: that infinity pool was so crowded that whatever peacefulness it was meant to inspire was hard to achieve. Except for the day at Castaway Cay, the infinity pool was basically elbow-to-elbow the entire cruise, giving it a real party atmosphere. It turns out Quiet Cove isn’t so quiet when you have a ship full of thirsty writers and influencers.
What about when they get hungry, too? The Wish has five restaurants on board, along with two food hall-style areas for when you want a quick bite. Three of those five restaurants are themed and part of a rotation where you’ll eat at each one once during your cruise. The other two are adults-only restaurants that require reservations, formal or semi-formal attire, and a separate fee (other food is all-inclusive). And of the two food halls, one is located on deck, near the main pool area, with a variety of fast food options, while the other had hours I never quite got used to. (When you’re locked into a 5:45 dinner every night, you don’t necessarily want to eat lunch at a place that doesn’t start serving it until noon.)
Let’s start with the adults-only spaces—the ones most pertinent to what we’re talking about here. I did not get a chance to eat at either Enchanté or Palo, but I’ve walked through them, seen the menus, and talked to others who did land reservations; based on all of that, if I returned to the Disney Wish I would definitely prioritize a reservation to at least one of them. Enchanté is the ritzier of the two; it’s a small but tastefully appointed room themed lightly to Beauty and the Beast’s candle maître’d Lumiere, with a prix fixe menu devised by Chef Arnaud Lallement, whose restaurant in France, L’Assiette Champenoise, has been awarded three Michelin stars. (That’s some serious business.) Enchanté serves a five course brunch menu for $75, and has a few options for dinner. A six course dinner menu is $125, while the nine course “Collection” is $195. Champagne and wine experiences are available for $140 and $115, respectively. It also has an a la carte menu for dinner. The menu will change with the seasons, and currently features dishes like wild halibut with onion confit and vermouth sauce, squab pigeon fermiere with turnip relish and pigeon jus, and grilled beef with poivrade artichoke and beef jus. In other words, stuff kids wouldn’t touch even if they could get through the door. Given the reputation of the chef and the amount of courses involved, I’m actually surprised Enchanté doesn’t cost more. Yes, it’s a steep bill, but not compared to many prix fixe menus I’ve had in restaurants, and given the premiums we’re all used to paying for food at Disney theme parks, I’m surprised they don’t charge more for their highest-end option at sea. One writer from our singles group skipped the rotation on the last night to try out Enchanté, and said it was one of the best meals she’s ever had.
If you’ve been on a Disney cruise before, you might recognize the name Palo. This steakhouse concept is found on every Disney ship, generally with a menu that mixes Italian classics with the kind of cuts you’d expect from a current high-end steakhouse. A four course prezzo fisso menu costs $45, and you can also order off an a la carte menu. Steak prices range from $25 for a six ounce angus beef tenderloin steak, to $62 for a 28 ounce angus porterhouse; there’s also a small Wagyu selection. Themed to Cogsworth, the Beast’s butler and Lumiere’s clockwork counterpart, Palo is a more approachable and affordable take on high-end dining than Enchanté. Again, it requires a reservation, and dress is formal or semi-formal.
The other three restaurants are for all ages, and two of them have show components directed primarily at children. Each one essentially offers a three- or four-course meal, with an appetizer, a soup or salad, an entree, and a dessert. Alcohol costs extra, but other drinks are free.
My personal favorite of the three is the one without a show. 1923 reminds me of Walt’s, a lauded restaurant at Disneyland Paris that overlooks that park’s version of Main Street USA. Both are full of artifacts from the company’s history, with 1923 displaying sketches, models, photos, and other glimpses into the process of creating some of Disney’s most beloved animated classics. 1923 also boasts a menu of inspired takes on old-fashioned dining-salmon filets, racks of lamb, roast chicken. The peppered filet mignon was the best thing I ate on board the Wish, a wonderful cut cooked to perfection. We ate at 1923 on the first night of the cruise, and it set the right note of Disney-saturated luxury, as I could study sketches from Snow White while eating duck confit. 1923 welcomes families, but of the three rotational dinner spots it is easily the one with the most appeal for adults—or at least adults who aren’t huge fans of Marvel and Frozen.
Yes, the other two restaurants in the rotation are themed to two of Disney’s biggest properties of the last decade. Worlds of Marvel offers a three- or four-course meal amid a (lightly) interactive superhero experience called Avengers: Quantum Encounter. (The show and the restaurant have their own names.) If you told 10-year-old me, who absolutely loved Dr. Hank Pym as the retired hero-turned-science advisor in West Coast Avengers in the ‘80s, that Ant-Man would someday be the main star in a show on a Disney cruise ship, I’d be confused in like a half-dozen different ways. This show stars Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly reprising their Marvel Cinematic Universe roles (pre-taped, of course; Paul Rudd doesn’t live on a Disney boat now) in a light-hearted adventure starring Ultron, Anthony Mackie’s Captain America, and both Captain and Ms. Marvel (Brie Larson and Iman Vellani make appearances), and that at one point involves the entire Disney Wish ship being shrunk down to the size of an atom. (I’m like 75% sure that didn’t actually happen.) Paul Rudd’s reliable charm carries this whole thing pretty far; he’s just as funny and likable as he is in almost every movie he’s ever made. The rest of the writing isn’t the sharpest, and this absolutely would not work as a film outside the context of a cruise show dinner, but again, Rudd makes up for a lot, and the children in the dining room were ecstatic, especially when Ant-Man and the Wasp show up in person (helmets on, of course) at the end of the meal. The show is the full draw here; the less said about the food the better, as across the board it was the least favorite meal among our ragtag group of loners. (I’ve got to mention the absurd Pym Doughnut Sundae, though, which layers a pecan brownie, dulce de leche ice cream, caramel fudge sauce, a chocolate glazed mini-donut, whipped cream, and a chocolate wafer in a glass; it’s absolutely delicious, but I’m pretty sure eating the whole thing would’ve killed me.)
Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure is a much better combination of food and entertainment, and I say that as somebody who catches every Marvel movie on opening weekend and has never actually finished watching Frozen. (It’s hard to stay awake on flights.) This live musical production has a small stage in the round, where musicians and actors portraying Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Oaken perform songs from the movies. It’s Anna and Kristoff’s engagement party, and we’re all invited to Arendelle’s Great Hall to celebrate, you see. When the performers aren’t on stage, they’re walking throughout the dining room, greeting guests and posing for photos; this includes a large talking puppet of Olaf the snowman, whose body, face and eyes move and emote with lifelike accuracy. The show is fun, and the decor, with regal wallpaper and various paintings and busts of the royal family, is sumptuous. The food is also a step up from Worlds of Marvel, with Elsa’s Royal Baked Scallops and the Jarlsberg Cheese and Rosemary Ham Tart particular favorites at our table. Expect items inspired by Frozen’s Scandinavian heritage, but catered towards an American palate. Of all the restaurants, Arendelle is the most like what I expected from a Disney cruise: a fanciful bit of live theater that all ages can enjoy, in a delightfully themed environment, and with slightly exotic food that’s not too unusual to alienate most guests.
And then there are the two food halls, or food courts, or whatever you’d like to call them. Marceline Market, named after Walt’s hometown, is home to almost a dozen stalls offering different types of food. This is the most the Disney Wish felt like other cruises I’ve been on, as you can just walk into the Market and grab plates of prepared food from the different stations. You can find pizza, sandwiches, salads, seafood, vegetarian options, and more, all served buffet style at lunch. It’s also open for breakfast and dinner, although given the nature of the rotational dining plan, and the allure of the two adults-only restaurants, I’m not sure who would eat dinner here. There’s a similar series of food stands on the main deck, themed to the current series of Mickey Mouse animated shorts. Mickey & Friends Festival of Food is like a fast food-only complement to Marceline Market, with different Disney characters “running” each stand. I didn’t eat from Donald’s Cantina, but if there’s anybody I trust to serve me a good taco or burrito, it’s a cartoon duck ready to fight anybody at any time. The Festival of Food features a solid barbecue stand, good burgers, and Disney Cruise Line’s famous chicken tenders. Between my early dinner time (5:45 p.m.) and Marceline Market being closed between 11 a.m. and noon, I ate lunch at the Festival of Food on two of my three days aboard; it serves pretty much all day. (Also given my early dinners, I wound up ordering room service a couple of times late at night; it’s all part of the all-inclusive plan, although sodas weren’t free from room service.) Nothing from The Festival of Food was exceptional, but it was all perfectly good, quick, familiar favorites that I could scarf down fast before hitting the pool or the water coaster. (Or while waiting for it to not be too early to get a drink.)
Of course there’s more to the Wish than food and drink. Two Broadway-style shows are performed in the Fantasia-themed Walt Disney Theater. One of them is an updated take on 1989’s The Little Mermaid; the other, Disney Seas the Adventure, is like a Disney jukebox musical, with Goofy starring as an accident-prone crewman who sets the Wish off course and through signature songs from a variety of Disney animated films. (It’s very well-staged and well-performed, but don’t go looking for much sense in the storyline.) Although both have young children in mind, they’re produced well enough to entertain adults who enjoy live theater. On Pirate Night a pirate-themed cover band led by Captain Redd plays a series of ‘80s hits as a prologue to a fireworks show. The cruise also hosts scavenger hunts and trivia games for guests, again for all ages. If you’re looking for something to do at night besides drink, the Wish offers a lot that should appeal to adults. The ship also features a number of stores, from Disney gift shops, to luxury stores selling high-end jewelry and watches.
Finally, every Disney Wish cruise includes a day at Castaway Cay. Disney’s private island in the Bahamas features three beaches, including one specifically and exclusively for adults. If you want to keep your insulation from children alive on the island, head to Serenity Bay, where you can soak and swim without having to hear the joyful sound of children’s laughter. Castaway Cay also offers several activities, from bike rentals to parasailing; snorkeling is a favorite, and if you take that route keep an eye open (but masked, obviously) for various Disney references hidden beneath the sea. Castaway Cay is as relaxing as you can imagine, but if you hope to see as much of the Wish as possible during your trip, this is also a great time to stay onboard and enjoy the boat’s amenities without the wait or crowds.
As you can see, there’s more to do, eat, and drink aboard the Disney Wish than you’ll be able to knock out on a three or four day cruise. If you simply wanted to know if it had things that would to appeal to adults, you can rest easy: it does, in spades. Would I recommend the Disney Wish to adults, though, especially when cruises on other lines would cost less?
It really all comes down to how much you care about Disney. And not Star Wars or Marvel specifically; the only Star Wars space geared for adults here is the one bar, whereas outside the restaurant the only Marvel space is off limits for adults (although there might be an open house for anybody to check it out; that’s how I was able to visit it.) You have to love Disney, from Mickey and his pals, to the full-length features, to get the full measure of the Disney Wish. If you’re the kind of person who would photograph mosaics of Pinocchio scenes at a coffee bar themed to the movie, you’d love the Wish. If you’ll stop in a hallway just to check out a series of Cinderella-themed tapestries, or spend time inspecting the Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland details in a movie theater, the Wish is the cruise for you. If you’re excited to see Eyvind Earle’s concept art for Sleeping Beauty framed on the wall of a staircase, or versions of Star Wars and Marvel characters painted in the distinctive style of Mary Blair’s It’s a Small World art, you’ve probably already booked your Wish cruise.
The best and most Disney thing about the Disney Wish isn’t the experiences. It’s the details. It isn’t the Aquamouse attraction, or the elaborate dinner shows, or the cool themed bars, but the sense of being immersed in all things Disney for a few days. It’s similar to how it feels to stay on resort at Disney World, only on the high seas, in a setting that maximizes that sense of immersion. It’s walking down the hall and noticing Jiminy Cricket or the Sword in the Stone in the carpet pattern, or bumping into characters like Mickey, Minnie, and Donald in their seafaring clothes. If you aren’t going on the Wish with children, and won’t be able to see that sense of awe and wonder on their face as they see their favorite Disney characters at sea, you’ll need to have a bit of that child in yourself to fully appreciate what makes this cruise special.
The “Disney Adult” is roundly mocked and derided online (I’m going to write something about that soon), but you shouldn’t be ashamed of what you like—of what brings you joy. If the art of Disney makes you happy, the Disney Wish will make you happy, even if you don’t care about its food, drinks, or activities. The question isn’t if you, as an adult, should book a trip on the Disney Wish; the question is if your love of Disney is enough to make the Wish a better alternative to other, cheaper, non-Disney cruises. That’s for you to decide. As for myself, I’d probably have another trip already booked if it fit my budget—at least if my wife or family were able to come with me this time.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.