My Family Just Took a Disney Cruise—Here’s Everything I Wish I’d Known


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Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

I want to start by saying that as someone who has long suffered from motion sickness, I’ve never had any desire to go on a cruise. I’d even go so far as to firmly state I’d never go on a cruise. That all changed last winter when my in-laws expressed their desire for our whole family to take a Disney cruise together to celebrate the holidays. Armed with a bag full of prescription meds, a ton of anxiety, and two very excited kids, I boarded the newest boat in the Disney Cruise fleet, the Disney Wish for a four-night Very Merrytime-themed cruise. And pause for shock, I did not get seasick AND our whole family had the best time. If I had to rate the overall experience, my Disney Wish cruise review would be a 9 out of 10 with the following breakdown by category:

  • Accommodations: 10/10
  • Food: 7.5/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Kids Activities: 10/10
  • Adult Activities: 9/10
  • Entertainment: 10/10
  • Cleanliness: 10/10

Read on for my Disney Wish Cruise review, including everything we loved and everything I wish I had known before we took our Disney cruise to help you plan the best experience.

My Disney Wish Cruise Review

Why We Chose a Disney Wish Cruise for Our Family Vacation

At ages 3 and 5, my boys love all things Disney but are both on the smaller side, so they would be shorter than many of the ride height requirements at Disney World or Disneyland. The Disney Wish Cruise gave them a mini taste of the Disney experience, but in an environment they could enjoy and manage. I think it is the perfect experience for families with young kids.

The Disney Wish Cruise was also ideal for traveling with a large multi-generational group full of different ages, physical abilities, and interests. If one of the kids wanted to go meet Spiderman, and one wanted to visit the Princesses, it was easy to do it all without anyone having to participate in an activity they didn’t enjoy. With the amazing and super safe kids-only Oceaneers Club (ages 3-12), my husband and I were even able to sneak in a little kid-free time to enjoy the adults-only experiences and let my kids have a bit of independence.

About the Disney Wish

The Disney Wish is the newest boat in the Disney Cruise fleet, and everything felt new and in perfect condition. I mentioned several times to my husband how much active maintenance was happening on board to keep everything running smoothly, looking amazing, and being perfectly clean. It is the first boat with this layout to also feature an attraction at sea, The Aquamouse water coaster (which was a blast). Coming in December 2024 is the Disney Treasure cruise ship, which will feature longer seven-night itineraries to both the eastern and western Caribbean.

Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

Planning a Disney Cruise

The Disney Wish offers two different cruise lengths, three-night and four-night, and sails exclusively from Cape Canaveral to the Bahamas and Disney’s two private islands, Castaway Cay and Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point.

After flying into Orlando, we used a transfer service (with rented car seats) to take us to and from the airport, which was just about an hour away. Many of our fellow passengers added a trip to Walt Disney World to the front or back of their cruise to round out their vacation. Given the ages of my kids, I think this would have been too much for them and us—and the trip felt like the perfect length. We booked our cruise 10 months in advance via a travel agent who specialized in Disney experiences and who had been on the ship herself. She handled all of the booking details, issues, transfers, and more. I highly recommend using a planner when booking at Disney if you are able.

Disney Cruise Theme Options

They also offer various themed trips based on seasonality, Halloween on the High Seas, and a Very Merrytime Cruise. While I haven’t experienced the non-theme cruises, I will say the holiday decor on the ship and Castaway Cay was phenomenal and such a fun and festive experience for all of us. The decor on board and the themed character outfits are what you would expect if you have ever visited the parks during the holiday season.

disney wish cruise review
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

The Disney Navigator App

Most of the planning for your trip will happen via the Disney Navigator App several months in advance of your trip. Once you download the app, you can handle all of your pre-boarding documents, check-in, reserve in-room kids’ items, and book both port adventures and onboard experiences. We were able to upload all of our passport information and onboard security information, such as a selfie and family code word for checking kids in and out of the kids club, as well as assign charging privileges (a great feature for those with kids old enough to buy things). Every adult member of your party will need the app to be able to communicate onboard without purchasing the extra wifi (plans are priced per day and are $$$). 

Disney Wish Onboard Experience

From the moment we stepped onto the ship, my kids were in heaven. As you walk into the grand hall, each child is handed a Wish wand, and your family’s arrival is announced over the ship-wide intercom system, “Welcome Aboard Wolf Family!”

disney wish review
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

What to Know Upon Arrival

When you board the ship, your luggage is taken via a porter and delivered to your room several hours later, so I recommend wearing a bathing suit on board and packing anything you might need for a few hours in your carry-on. You can’t immediately access your room, so make sure you don’t bring too much that you will have to lug around. We boarded in Group 2, and it was the best decision we made on the trip as we had the ship mainly to ourselves for several hours. We headed straight for the kid’s splash pad and water slide and were able to enjoy these busy attractions without any other guests for over two hours. My 5-year-old and husband were even able to do the AquaMouse without a wait twice, as the wait was over 90 minutes during the duration of our trip.

Disney Wish Staterooms

While we didn’t spend a ton of time in our room resting, I was most surprised by this space as it was so much lovelier and more comfortable than I had expected for a family of four. We selected the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, and they truly thought of everything when they designed the space. Outfitted with a crazy comfortable Queen bed (I am very picky about my bed) with super soft Frette linens and comfortable pillows as well as convertible kids bunk beds, we really had space for everyone. The Disney Wish also offers inside staterooms, oceanview rooms without a verandah, and concierge-level, all Disney-themed, of course.

The kids’ bed setup was such a hit that my 5-year-old declared he wanted to take the bed home with him. The top bunk comes out of the ceiling, and the couch becomes the bottom bunk. You are assigned a room attendant who takes care of your space for the duration of your trip, and they visit twice daily to store and make the kids’ beds, as well as service the room. Turndown service was a really fun experience for the kids with a daily towel animal and chocolate on their pillows.

The kids’ and adults’ spaces are separated by a heavy-duty curtain, which is ideal for different bedtimes and privacy. Other family favorite features of the room were the Disney+ and unlimited Disney movies and shows on the TV, a large verandah with killer views, and a split bathroom set up (one space with toilet/sink and one with shower/tub and sink). The bathrooms were as nice as the room and spacious, considering you are on a boat. The water pressure was excellent in the shower, and the bathrooms were outfitted with Elemis bath products. 

Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

Disney Character Meet-and-Greets Onboard

Throughout your trip, you will have ample opportunities to meet characters in various locations around the ship, and most are available more than once a day. Your Disney Navigator App tells you each day who will be available where and when. While lines can get fairly long (20-30 minutes), many are short! We were able to meet all of the classic Disney characters, as well as Captain Hook, Spider-Man, and Chewbacca. For Princess lovers, there is also the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience.

Another great way to see characters is in group live performances, which is a blast for little kiddos. We were able to attend the Tree Lighting, a Santa Storytime, as well as the Pirate Party and got to see many of the characters perform together. Those three experiences were highlights of the trip for my kids. 

Disney Wish Pools and Outdoor Spaces

The outdoor recreation spaces on board are amazing and a dream for little kids. The main pool deck is broken out into five smaller circular pools (2-4.5 feet deep), all facing a massive movie screen that plays Disney movies on a loop. This area also features two large bars for adults and Mickey’s Food Hall featuring grab-and-go lunch ranging from tacos to pizza. Donald’s Cantina was my favorite meal of the trip—the chicken tacos were amazing!

Disney Wish Onboard Kids Clubs

Both of my boys were able to enjoy the Oceaneer Kids Club during our time at sea. To visit the club, you must be fully potty trained and between ages 3-12. I felt very comfortable with the security of the club as well as the thorough check-in and check-out process. To arrive, kids tap their magic band and are then invited to slide down a two-floor slide into the club. The club has different themed rooms, including Marvel and Star Wars, as well as craft activities and kid’s adventures. Many of the characters even visit kid’s clubs for interactive experiences with them.

My boys got to go on an animal rescue mission in the Star Wars cargo bay that they thought was the absolute coolest experience of their lives. When kids are ready to head out, they just let a counselor know, and you get a notification in your app that they are ready to get picked up. My 3-year-old’s limit was around 90 minutes at a time, but my 5-year-old loved it. 

Onboard Adult Entertainment

When the boys were at the kids club, my husband and I explored the adult-only pool and bar area on the highest level at the back of the ship. Complete with extra plush and comfortable chaise lounges, the space was perfect for a cocktail and reading a book. The adult-only area has hot tubs as well as a glass-walled infinity pool.

I would have loved to spend more time in this space as it was my favorite on the ship. The Cove Bar had a great cocktail menu and a selection of wine and beer. Throughout the ship are a variety of different themed bar spaces, from The Bayou (The Princess & The Frog) complete with floral ceilings, to the Hyperspace Lounge (Star Wars), with smoking cocktails and interactive exhibits throughout. However you like to spend your kid-free time, there is something for everyone on board, and the decor in the adults-only spaces is truly incredible. 

family vacation photo aboard the Disney Wish
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

Dining Options on the Disney Wish

In addition to the plethora of bars on board, the Disney Wish has so many options for food. For breakfast, we did a mix of continental breakfast (via room service door card the night before) and Marcelline Market (a massive buffet). Both had a solid list of choices depending on what you enjoy (hot or cold), and the fare was pretty standard. I found that it was pretty easy to find healthier fare if you were looking for it. For lunch, we visited Marcelline Market and the various spots at Mickey’s Food Hall, which are all buffet-style meals.

Dinner was the only time we had a sit-down a la carte meal, but that worked perfectly for our family. The Wish has three main restaurants that you rotate through for dinner. You are assigned a restaurant and a table number each night. My favorite part of this experience was the service. I can not stress enough that my experience with the cast members on board was 10/10. They made the experience special. I have never been more blown away by a staff going out of their way to accommodate us and ensure we had a great time.

All three restaurants were themed, and two had interactive elements: Arendelle (Frozen), 1923, and World of Marvels. Arendelle was our favorite experience as it was the most immersive with live music and a show. My kids kept asking if we could go back, but we only had that location one evening. The fourth night was a repeat of 1923 but with a different Pirate-themed menu.

All locations had several options of an appetizer, salad, soup, entree, and dessert for you to select from, as well as a multi-course kids menu. These meals are all included in your rate, but alcohol is not, so you will have that added to your “key to the world” card and be charged automatically throughout the trip to the card on file. We didn’t check out any of the premium dining options as our kids did not want to go to the kids club in the evenings, but the spaces were beautiful, and the food looked delicious. 

Onboard Evening Entertainment

After our meal during the first seating at 5:45 p.m., we headed out to enjoy one of the many evening programming activities. Highlights for us were visiting the onboard movie theater, where we were able to see both new Disney movies The Marvels and Wish, and the live show of Aladdin. All of these were excellent, and the first-come first-serve seating was easy to come by, and we were able to get into everything we wanted to see. 

disney wish onboard entertainment
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

Disney Cruise Excursions and Port Adventures

During our four-night cruise, we had two days at the port with the opportunity to disembark if we wished, and one full day at sea. Before sailing, we had planned to disembark in both Nassau in the Bahamas and Disney’s Castaway Cay. I had researched the Nassau port adventure options in the Disney Navigator App and selected a dolphin swim experience that was available for ages 3 and up. They also offered a variety of other port activities for older kids and adults, such as visits to Atlantis and sightseeing Jeep tours, but they were not age-appropriate for our group. Two weeks before sailing, our dolphin experience was canceled, so we decided to stay on the ship—and I am happy that we did! We experienced smaller crowds and got to enjoy the water slides with the kids and the adults-only pool with much smaller crowds than the day at sea.

My kids are early risers, so they woke up just as we arrived at Castaway Cay, and we were able to eat our room service breakfast and drink coffee as we watched the boat dock from our private verandah. After breakfast, we decided to get ready and head out early to explore the island, which is much larger than what I had expected. It has multiple beaches, including an adults-only beach, an on-island kids club area, multiple restaurants, bars, stores, and several in-water attractions, including a play structure and two water slides.

disney cruise review
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

After going through security and showing our documents, we were able to get off the ship and explore. The holiday decorations extended to the island as well, and they were my favorite of the whole trip. We decided to walk (about half a mile) to Family Beach Two and found waterfront loungers (all with umbrellas) in front of the in-water play structure so we could easily watch our kids. Each lounge spot comes with towels, two chaise lounges, two chairs, and an umbrella. Private cabanas are available for rental, but we didn’t feel this was necessary.

Our kids immediately wanted to swim, and we enjoyed the in-water jungle gym, building sandcastles, and enjoying the water slide into the ocean all morning long. Waiters were available at your seat for adult beverages, which was a nice perk for me and my husband. All of the restaurants on Castaway Cay serve the same BBQ menu that ranges from ribs to burgers and includes cold salads, fruit, and soft serve. This was my least favorite meal of the trip, but it still offered an option for everyone.

We had planned to rent two double kayaks ($30 each) to take the kids out on the island, but this excursion was canceled due to wind. The island also offers hiking trails and a Castaway Cay 5K run (that you can do at your own pace), but we learned about this too late. We would have loved to put the boys into the kids club and do this, as it looked like a blast, and you even received a fun medal at the end. This was my favorite day of the trip as I loved experiencing the crystal clear waters and white sand beach with my boys.

Disney Cruise Castaway Cay
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

What to Pack for a Disney Cruise

Our total itinerary was five nights (four on the ship and one in Florida before embarkation), and with a small stateroom and four people sharing it, I wanted to pack light. We each had a small personal item and carry-on roller bag and did not check luggage.

Before sailing, you will download and check in via the Disney Navigator App, which allows you to request larger kid essentials in advance. We were able to secure a bed rail for my 3-year-old son, which worked out perfectly. If you are traveling with a baby, you can request a crib and diaper pail. Disney really thinks of everything, so don’t bother packing floaties for kids, as they provide lifejackets on board and at Castaway Cay. Children in diapers (including swim diapers) are NOT allowed in any of the pools, just in the Toy Story Splash pad, so don’t bother bringing a float for them either. 

The Disney Navigator App suggested that the vibe on board was “cruise casual” unless dining at the two luxury restaurants that required more formal attire. We took this advice and packed casually, and it felt completely appropriate at all of the locations. Sundresses, shorts, and sandals were seen throughout the dining rooms and were on the fancier end of what most people were wearing. Ladies, leave your heels at home—you won’t need them! A pair of nicer flat sandals are plenty. If you are sailing to a warm weather destination, you really just need comfortable clothes, lots of bathing suits, and a sweatshirt for evenings when it is cooler up on deck. 

Castaway Cay
Source: Alexandra Pagar-Wolf

As far as pre-purchasing Disney-themed gear, I only bought and brought one item for my boys, which were darling Disney Cruise-themed Hawaiian shirts. They wore them to dinner the first night as well as to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Many more frequent Disney travelers had several coordinated shirts as well as door decorations/magnets that they used on board. While those are certainly fun touches to the experience, it won’t ruin the experience if you don’t do this for your family. We didn’t, and my kids never mentioned it. 

Disney Cruises are full of programming, but one of the highlights for many, including our family, was Pirate Party night! Kids (and adults) are all encouraged to don their finest Pirate Costumes for dinner and then attend the Pirate party on the pool deck that evening. I didn’t realize this until two days before we left, so I brought along our Melissa & Doug pirate costumes (sans sword and hat), and they worked perfectly! Packing a costume for your kids is 100 percent a MUST DO as the whole ship is dressed up in their Captain Hook finery.

The other items I am glad I brought were a large pool/beach tote for me, swim goggles, snorkels for kids, and a small kids float for the ocean at Castaway Cay. I also highly recommend packing an empty water bottle for every member of your family. Outside of the buffet-style dining areas, we felt drinking water was pretty hard to come by. There are no bottles in your room, so being able to fill our own was very helpful. We love these filtered bottles to ensure we are all drinking the safest water possible. 

Disney Cruise Packing Tips

Logan Carry-on Suitcase

For kid-friendly luggage, I highly recommend the Logan as it is extremely durable, has great pockets, and is easy for them to maneuver around independently.

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Etsy | The Goofy Boutique
Disney Cruise Kid’s Shirt

Both my boys wore this Disney Cruise themed shirt multiple times. The cute pattern also comes in a dress.

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Melissa & Doug
Pirate Costume

Packing a kid’s costume for the pirate party is a must! We saw some amazing and elaborate costumes, so feel free to get really into it.

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Beach Toys Set

We spent $40 on two beach toy sets at Castaway Cay, as did many of the other parents I saw, so packing a travel beach toy set can save you some money.

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Disney Cruise Prices

The booking for the cruise was $5,600, which included accommodation, meals, and recreation (including kids club) for the four of us, trip protection, fees, and prepaid gratuity. Airfare, alcohol, souvenirs, port adventures, some dining options, and accommodations in Florida the night before we boarded were not included. Our final incidental bill for our family on board was an additional $1,500, which included premium food and beverage, photo purchases from ship photographers, and souvenirs.

Is a Disney Cruise Worth the Cost?

In my opinion, YES! While it is a large investment for a family vacation, the amount that you get on board is very worth it. Not only do you receive three meals a day, including a seated a la carte dinner experience, but you also have access to the kids club, the private island, character meet-and-greets, in-theater films, Broadway-style shows, and more. The hospitality we experienced on board from the cast members was on par, if not better, than my experience staying at five-star hotels, and my kids had the time of their lives. Core memories were made for our family, and I know my kids will be talking about this for years to come.

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