What does Disney's sparkling new cruise ship offer that others don't? Theis trying different things to attract vacationers of all ages and types.
The ship has Disney's first ever onboard ride for thrill seekers; Avengers fights at dinner for the Marvel diehards; STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities in its kids club for education-conscious parents; an immersive Star Wars lounge for galactic travelers; and personalized adventures on passengers' phones for anyone who wants to be entertained from the moment they set foot on the ship.
As people plan to take their first big vacation after years of pandemic lockdowns, they're looking to find the best way to spend their money.
Disney invited me to check out its latest cruise ship early, before it sets sail on July 14 with passengers aboard. Check out all the info and first-look photos below, with advice on whether to spend your precious vacation time and dollars on this experience -- and it is an experience.
The first at-sea ride: Is it any different than a regular waterslide?
The AquaMouse is billed as Disney's first ride aboard a cruise ship. At first glance, it looks like any old waterslide found on any cruise ship in the world, so what's the difference here?
For starters, you don't just jump onto the slide. You get on board a ride vehicle -- a raft that can seat up to two people -- on a conveyer belt that takes you to the first part of the ride.
The preshow for the slide features two original Mickey Mouse short features. One called Scuba Scramble is a scuba diving adventure, and Swiss Meltdown is a skiing adventure set in the Alps.
This 760-foot waterslide also has lighting, audio and water effects before turning into a waterslide.
The AquaMouse wraps around the top deck and through one of the towers and takes almost two minutes to travel. It has a height requirement of 42 inches, or 48 to ride on the raft alone.
Immersive dining across Arendelle and Wakanda: How's Disney serving up unique experiences?
A Disney vacation isn't just about character visits anymore. It's also about including you in the action with those characters.
Disney Wish travelers will get two unique experiences when it comes to dining. Arendelle is a Frozen-themed banquet hall, and Worlds of Marvel is a restaurant with an Avengers theme.
In scenes featuring the actual actors from Marvel movies and TV shows, diners at Worlds of Marvel will experience a showcase by Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) as they take you through the latest technology from Pym, Stark Industries and more.
There'll be a live feed from the Avengers Academy in the kids club, where Black Panther and Spider-Man will appear as part of the show.
Ultron will make an appearance, leading to a final battle taking place on the deck of the ship that's "livestreamed" to the restaurant as Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), Captain America (Anthony Mackie) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) fight back. Diners will have to use the quantum core devices on their tables to help defeat Ultron.
At the Worlds of Marvel dining experience, you'll be served African foods to represent Wakanda and Eastern European cuisine as an homage to Sokovia, as well as food options from New York City, where the Avengers are headquartered.
Over in Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure, a more fairy tale-like story unfolds in the palace's stylings. The story picks up right after Frozen 2 ends, and there's a theatrical performance throughout your meal as Olaf and Elsa host an engagement celebration for Anna and Kristoff.
The restaurant will serve foods with a Nordic influence, and a band will perform Nordic versions of Frozen songs in between acts.
Both Arendelle and Marvel are included as two of your three nights of assigned dining (the third restaurant is 1923, which is themed as a 1920s Hollywood experience filled with concept art from Disney movies).
If you want to dine in peace without interaction or a show, you can also make reservations at three adult-exclusive dining options inspired by Beauty and the Beast: The Rose lounge; Palo Steakhouse, with a theme inspired by Cogsworth; and Enchanté, with decor inspired by Lumiere.
STEAM activities: What sets Disney's kids club apart?
Disney's Oceaneer Club isn't just an arts and crafts club or swim class for bored kids whose parents need a break. It's got a superhero academy, a Star Wars adventure, a fairy tale hall for story time, a Mickey playground and a mini science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) class with Imagineering activities like designing your own roller coaster and learning the secrets behind famous Disney rides and special effects.
The Star Wars journey will see kids learn how to feed, track and care for creatures from the movies, like the porg, Loth-cat and worrt, using AR on tablets. It'll also turn into a complete adventure as children help Rey and Chewbacca escape as stowaways and battle villains to help the Resistance.
The Marvel Super Hero Academy will see kids join a training session with Ant-Man and the Wasp, where they'll learn how to create and test Pym Particles to grow and shrink objects and people. Black Panther will help them defeat a villain who's trying to hack into the academy's system to steal tech from Wakanda.
Anna and Elsa will play with children, Belle will write new stories with them, Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder will take them on a scavenger hunt, and Captain Minnie will lead kids in the playground through games, dances, drills and mental stimulation based on STEAM principles.
Kids ages 3 to 12 are allowed in (tots smaller than that can attend the It's A Small World nursery at an additional cost, and there are lounging spaces for teens and tweens too).
Personalized experiences: How attached to your phone will you need to be?
Following the launch of, an immersive three-day adventure that's more than staying in a hotel, Disney isn't shying away from personalized, device-driven adventure storytelling. It's doubling down on it.
Disney Uncharted Adventure is an interactive story on the Disney Wish where augmented reality is used via guests' phones. The storyline follows Disney's wishing star going missing as guests are asked to help track it down across the ship and through the worlds of Peter Pan, Moana, Princess and the Frog and Finding Nemo -- which are all movies featuring water, whether it be the mermaid lagoon, the oceans, or the bayou. It's a customizable choose-your-own-adventure quest, so you get to pick which world you visit first and how you deal with obstacles.
Though it's not quite as intense as the Galactic Starcruiser, which has Star Wars-themed missions and moments almost every hour of the day, it does make guests who want to take part.
Playing the entire thing through from start to finish takes only a few hours, but the idea is to fit it in between activities and meals so it takes the whole cruise. The adventure lives all over the ship -- your phone will interact with screens, paintings and objects. Props on board will light up or react in various ways when you complete nearby tasks on your phone.
The adventure will involve solving puzzles, completing side quests and then battling Ursula as the conclusion to the cruise. You can link up to six devices for cooperative play or go at it solo.
Aside from Uncharted Adventure, Disney's Navigator app is essential to sailing on the Disney Wish. Much like how apps are used to book rides, shows and Lightning Lane entry to attractions at Disneyland and Disney World, you'll need the app to see your personal schedule, set reminders for what activities you want to do when and make reservations.
What's the cost, and how do you make reservations?
The cost of a three-night cruise on Disney Wish starts at $1,751 for two guests in an inside room. An ocean-view room is priced from $1,925 while a verandah room starts at $2,153 and a concierge room costs $4,313.
A four-night cruise is priced from $2,243 for an inside room for two adults, $2,507 for an ocean-view room, $2,803 for a verandah room and $5,843 for a concierge room.
You can book Disney cruises online. The Wish will sail to Disney's Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, as well as Nassau.