A Disney cruise can still cast a magic spell
Dave Monk gets caught up in the Disney spirit on a preview sailing aboard Disney Wish, Disney Cruise Line’s first new ship in 10 years.
Surging on the crest of a wave through a ship’s smokestack on an inflatable raft certainly put the fun into funnel for me.
I was one of the first to try out the AquaMouse attraction on Disney Wish’s christening voyage from Cape Canaveral in Florida and it was a splashing success.
The 760ft-long ‘watercoaster’ propels you along a tube way above deck, through the fake funnel and even briefly over the ocean before it loops back to its beginning, leaving you soaked but smiling.
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It’s also a time machine – I entered as an adult but left as a child. That’s the Disney magic – however hard you might try to resist you’re bound to fall under its spell.
Captain Minnie Mouse and her long-time friend Mickey aren’t the only lovable characters on board the 4,000-passenger ship. They’ve been joined by all sorts of princes, princesses, fairies, animals, sea creatures and even aliens.
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Don’t think grown-ups miss out, though. If they drop the kids off at one of the children’s clubs, they can pop into the Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge for cocktails inspired by destinations such as Batuu, Tatooine and Mustafar.
They might also be tempted to visit the Keg & Compass Bar, based on a 19th-century Norwegian sailor’s map room with oil paintings and intricate carvings, and sample three craft beers made specially for the ship.
I tried another brew – a strong 8.2 per cent offering called Kentucky Bourbon Ales – which left me as happy, sleepy and dopey as some of Snow White’s dwarves.
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As well as The Bayou lounge with a New Orleans feel and the Nightingale’s piano bar, adults can also enjoy the upmarket Palo steakhouse or Enchanté fine dining restaurant with maybe an after-dinner drink at the elegant bar called The Rose overlooking the sea.
When the whole family’s together, they can interact with Marvel heroes over dinner or tuck in at the Arendelle restaurant while enjoying a Frozen experience with live characters including Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf who not only put on an amazing performance but come along afterwards to chat at your table.
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The third main dining restaurant is called 1923, after the year Walt Disney started the company, and features original sketches.
A ‘rotational’ dining system means guests eat in a different venue every evening but keep the same waiting staff, who get to know them personally.
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Between meals, you can snack at the Marceline Market buffet, while the pool deck has a collection of stalls selling hot and cold snacks, such as Mickey’s Smokestack BBQ, Goofy’s Grill and Minnie’s Ice Cream. Plus all manner of colourful treats are on display at Inside Out: Joyful Sweets.
Disney Wish has 14 decks – including, unusually, a deck 13 – but a thousand stories.
Boarding passengers enter into Cinderella’s Grand Hall with its spectacular chandelier and statue of its most vintage princess (though a real-life character will often make an appearance too). Her glass slipper is also on display.
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All around the ship are references – some very subtle – to favourite films that you may have forgotten you loved as a child.
A new show called Seas The Adventure features Captain Minnie Mouse and her crew of lovable characters from Goofy to Crush – the turtle in Finding Nemo. You’ll also leave The Little Mermaid or Aladdin humming the catchy songs all the way back to your cabin.
Two cinemas show the latest Disney hits and the hair salon has a hint of the Rapunzel story– it’s called Untangled. Inside the men’s barber’s is a hidden surprise– in the evening it becomes a bourbon bar. Even the laundrette is spectacular.
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Children are entranced, of course, and you’ll meet many princesses showing off their new dresses from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on board.
“This is my best day ever,” I heard one little girl say as she was bought a new outfit.
But parents can have treats too – luxury shops sell high-class jewellery and the Rainforest Spa includes an outside area for the first time with hot tubs and loungers. To cool off, there’s always the fleet’s first ice lounge inside.
Another oasis of peace is the adults-only area at the stern called Quiet Cove with a bar, café and infinity pools. I spent a quiet hour there one evening just watching the sun set.
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Children’s clubs are split into age levels – from It’s A Small World nursery beginning at just six months old, the Oceaneer Club for three-year-olds upwards, the Edge club starting at 11 and the Vibe teen hangout for those aged 14 to 17.
“Some kids cry when it’s time to leave the club and go back to their parents,” one of the assistants told me with a laugh.
If you want, Disney can look after you from the moment you leave Orlando airport, taking you to a night at a hotel before a coach to Port Canaveral the next day.
Every cruise includes a day at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, where you can go snorkelling, cycling and boating, swimming in the turquoise waters – or simply relax on the beaches. Cabanas are available for hire at the adults-only Serenity Bay beach.
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Walking happily back to the ship gives you the chance to admire Rapunzel’s long hair at the ship’s stern.
Disney Wish is full of surprises such as a peaceful promenade deck and a large open area near the bow.
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That fake funnel is also home to a magnificent two-level suite that can sleep up to eight people. Entered by a private lift, the room inspired by Polynesian heroine Moana has two main bedrooms, a children’s room, a library that converts to a bedroom and four-and-a-half bathrooms.
Out on deck is a big screen – perfect for showing Disney films in the warm evenings at sea.
But the best spectacle is the fireworks for pirate night on every cruise – using fish-friendly pyrotechnics, of course.
All in all, it’s a whole new world. Your children’s wishes will come true on this ship. And so might yours…
A three-night cruise on Disney Wish leaving Port Canaveral on October 14 costs from £1,886pp, including flights from Gatwick (disneyholidays.co.uk; 0800 169 0742).