How the Disney Wish Raises the Bar for Family Entertainment on a Cruise Ship

When it comes to onboard entertainment, Disney really knows what it's doing.
Hero Zone on the Disney Wish (Photo: Amy Smith)
Hero Zone on the Disney Wish (Photo: Amy Smith)
  • My family and I tried out many of the activities on the Disney Wish. From dinner-and-a-show offerings to immersive games and even a thrill-ride at sea, there was plenty to do.
  • The Disney Wish entertainment offerings bring in a lot of the magic Disney is known for, and make for a cruise ship experience unlike any other.

Unsurprisingly, Disney does family cruising on a level unmatched by any other cruise line. A specialist in family cruises since its inaugural voyage in 1995, Disney Cruise Line has long been synonymous with kid-friendly entertainment at sea. But if you think it’s all Mickey and Minnie with a few princesses thrown in for good measure, you couldn’t be more wrong—or at least you’d be ignoring all of DCL’s other onboard entertainment. Onboard its newest ship Disney Wish, the cruise line has added even more fun things to do on the ship that the whole family can enjoy together.

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Family Entertainment on the Disney Wish

“Family is at the heart of everything we do,” says Laura Cabo, Portfolio Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. And whether it’s a new wrinkle to a family-favorite experience from the other Disney ships, a brand-new onboard obstacle course, or an immersive theater-in-the-round dining experience, Disney has truly raised its game again with the onboard family entertainment options.

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I had the experience many of the things to do on the Disney Wish during an early sailing. Here’s a look at the kid-friendly experiences that most impressed me.

Dinner and a Show

Two of the three rotational dining restaurants on the Disney Wish include a state-of-the-art show with dinner, and Disney Cruise Line doesn’t skimp on the meal or the entertainment.

Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure

Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure is a theater-in-the-round dining performance (Photo: Matt Stroshane)
Theater-in-the-round gets the Disney treatment at Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure (Photo: Matt Stroshane)

Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure is a lively theater-in-the-round experience with live musicians and actors portraying characters from Disney’s Frozen films all performing on a central stage. The meal is catered by Oaken’s “Hearty Party Planning Service” and infused with Nordic flavors.

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The show is all planned around your dining experience and incorporates everyone in the dining room as guests to Anna and Kristoff’s royal engagement party. During the evening, Elsa conjures her magic in spectacular fashion and a life-sized Olaf works his way around the space on a cart. Of course there’s plenty of music from the films, and families are invited to sing along and join a parade around the dining area.

Worlds of Marvel

Worlds of Marvel is the first-ever Marvel cinematic dining adventure (Photo: Amy Smith)
Worlds of Marvel immerses diners in the Marvel cinematic universe, complete with appearances by Ant-Man and The Wasp (Photo: Amy Smith)

Worlds of Marvel is the first-ever dining experience that puts families smack in the middle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the place settings to the food to the action on the screens around you, every square inch of the restaurant feels like a part of the show.

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Marvel heroes Ant-Man and The Wasp host families in a showcase of Avengers technology, including a “Quantum Core” centerpiece on every table that becomes an interactive part of the show. The food on the Worlds of Marvel menu feature flavors inspired by the settings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as spices from African Wakanda, hearty soups from Eastern Europe’s Sokovia, and, of course, shawarma from the Avengers’ home base of New York City.

For Marvel fans, this is a dining experience not to be missed—and there are few surprise guest stars (portrayed on screen in the restaurant by their real-life movie counterparts) that add to the fun.

Live Theatrical Stage Shows

My family loves live theater, and we love that Disney Cruise Line puts on live performances every night in the Walt Disney Theatre. On the Disney Wish, the space evokes an enchanted forest and spans three decks with both orchestra and balcony seating.

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Two brand-new shows are premiering on the Disney Wish during its inaugural season, including an fresh reimagining of The Little Mermaid.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Live performances like the reimagined Little Mermaid are one of the best parts of any Disney cruise (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Live performances like the reimagined Little Mermaid are a special part of a Disney sailing (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

A retelling of Disney’s classic 1989 animated film, the new Little Mermaid live production on the Disney Wish has a group of young storytellers cracking open a treasure chest and taking on the roles of familiar characters Ariel, Ursula, King Triton, Prince Eric, Sebastian, and Flounder, among others. The performance features new orchestrations of favorite songs like “Part of Your World,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” and “Under the Sea.” Innovative puppetry brings beloved characters like Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle (as well as Ursula’s henchmen Flotsam and Jetsam) to life. 

Other shows live theatrical stage shows in the Walt Disney Theater on the Disney Wish include “Seas the Adventure,” which is performed on the first night of the cruise as a way to kick off the voyage. In this show, Captain Minnie hands over the wheel of the ship to Goofy in a character-filled spectacular that features music from Finding Nemo, Princess and the Frog, Frozen, and a rousing rendition of “Go the Distance” from Hercules.

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The Walt Disney Theatre also stages a version of the popular “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular,” a fast-paced musical comedy proven to be a favorite across the cruise line and Disney theme parks, though the Aladdin performance was not included in our early preview cruise.

Not all of the live productions take place in the Walt Disney Theatre. Families can also take to the upper decks on Pirate Night for the premiere of Pirate’s Rockin’ Parlay Party. This new show re-imagines Disney Cruise Line’s signature “Pirates In The Caribbean” party, and has Captain Redd (related to a famous red head in the parks’ Pirates of the Caribbean ride) hosting the extravaganza backed by a live rock band. Captain Jack Sparrow joins the fun, and fireworks blaze across the sky to end the festivities. 

Venues for Families to Play Together

Family entertainment on the Disney Wish goes beyond just sitting back and watching the show. There are plenty of opportunities for families to play together, including game shows, trivia contests, and heroic feats of epic proportions.

Luna is the next-generation family entertainment club on the Disney Wish (Photo: Amy Smith)
The Disney Wish is home to Luna, a family entertainment club with interactive shows (Photo: Amy Smith)

Our family has always enjoyed heading to the D-Lounge on other Disney Cruise Line ships to take part in family-friendly entertainment such as karaoke, game shows, and dance parties, not to mention partaking in a smoothie or two.

Luna is the next-generation family entertainment club on the Disney Wish. At the center of Luna is a stage equipped with a two-story LED screen. The venue hosts a variety of interactive shows such as the Disney Songbook talent show and the live grand finale event for the Disney Uncharted Adventure ship-wide mobile game. During the day, Luna is open to all, and in the evenings, it’s an adult-exclusive lounge (the ship’s Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge is another great evening hang out spot for adults).

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Next is Hero Zone, a fully enclosed sports court with an elaborate Incredibles-themed inflatable obstacle course where families can challenge each other for victory (available at select times during each voyage). Spectators can cheer on from the balcony as families face off head-to-head in the Incredi-Games high-energy game show. Also, Jack-Jack’s Diaper Dash now gets its own track in the Hero Zone.

The Incredi-Games take place in the Hero Zone sports arena aboard the Disney Wish (Photo: Amy Smith)
The Incredi-Games take place in the Hero Zone sports arena aboard the Disney Wish (Photo: Amy Smith)

Over a decade ago, Disney Cruise Line’s Dream and Fantasy ships debuted the innovative AquaDuck water coaster. Now, Walt Disney Imagineers have “plussed” this water ride with the debut of AquaMouse on the Disney Wish. Families will get wet on this first-ever Disney attraction at sea as they ride their rafts 760 feet around the top deck of the ship. Along the way scenes from The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse animated shorts play as riders are doused with water and lighting effects.

The Mickey Mouse-themed AquaMouse is Disney's first attraction at sea (Photo: Amy Smith)
The Mickey Mouse-themed AquaMouse is Disney’s first attraction at sea (Photo: Amy Smith)

Finally, it all comes back to food. Inside Out: Joyful Sweets is a whimsical ice cream and candy shop featuring the delightful emotions from the Pixar film Inside Out. Who says you can’t play with your food? Make over-the-top concoctions using 16 flavors of ice cream, 20 flavors of gelato, and variety of toppings, fruit compotes, and sauces, then take your creation to the Headquarters control center and indulge your tastebuds as you gaze out the windows of the mind to the big blue world beyond.

Joyful Sweets is a whimsical sweets shop featuring the delightful emotions from Inside Out (Photo: Amy Smith)
Joyful Sweets is a whimsical sweets shop featuring the delightful emotions from Inside Out (Photo: Amy Smith)

Oceaneer Club

The kids’ clubs aboard the Disney Wish go big on entertainment, too, with plenty of Disney characters in the mix. There’s the Marvel Super Hero Academy, where kids design super suits and then put them to the (virtual) test. At Star Wars: Cargo Bay, kids get to be intergalactic creature handlers, managing mischievous beings from around the galaxy. In Fairytale Hall, princesses rule with an art studio, library, and virtual games based on the characters in Frozen. Walt Disney Imagineering Lab lets kids design their own roller coaster, and Mickey and Minnie’s Captain Deck is a play area just for little kids.

Of course, there are plenty of other space for families to connect and play together on the pool deck (the deck parties dial up the fun) and around the ship as well (stop by the Grand Hall to see what’s on stage). Like all Disney cruise ships, the Wish was designed to delight and inspire kids and kids-at-heart. And on that count, it’s mission accomplished.

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Dave Parfitt
Dave Parfitt is a freelance travel writer interested in illuminating transformative family travel, multi-generational travel, inclusive and accessible travel, under-the-radar destinations, and immersive, authentic experiences. Dave's work has appeared in Lonely Planet, AAA, Fox News Travel, US News & World Report, FamilyVacationist, TravelAge West, USA Today, and Family Circle, to name a few. An academic with a PhD in neuroscience, Dave also works as an educational developer at a four-year college in Western New York when not in a theme park, national park, or on a cruise or road trip with his family.