I first sailed on Disney Cruise Line in 2003, reluctantly, on assignment, choosing the shortest possible sailing and contemplating my chances of survival if I jumped from one of the less ominous lower decks. After all, I was (and still am) a gay, (arguably) adult man on a premier family ship. I pictured days at sea without escape from hordes of little moppets hyped up on sugar and free ice cream, running amok from deck to deck. I just thought it wouldn’t be my scene.
Disney Wish, the cruiseline's newest ship.
I was wrong. Not only was it exactly my scene, I found a whopping number of adult-only venues and activities on the ships. Disney Cruise Line does a fantastic job of offering all age groups their own, age-appropriate diversions. I was delighted by the adult-only pool, gym, nightclubs, restaurant, and coffee bar, and impressed with the variety of dedicated spaces for kids, teens, and tweens. Unlike at the Disney Parks, which market vacations for sharing time with your family, DCL provides the opportunity for families to vacation together and never see each other till dinner, if that’s what they choose.
Worlds of Marvel cinematic dining experience
Eleven years after launching their first ship, Disney added to the fleet with Disney Dream and the following year, Disney Fantasy. Everything I liked about what are now called the “classic ships” was expanded, evolved, and extraordinary.
And now, here we are, another eleven years hence with another brand-spanking-new, sparkling jewel, Disney Wish. And once again, everything on board can be aptly described as next-level.
So why should you, LGBTQ+ traveler, set sail on the Wish? Just because it’s my scene? After all, it’s definitely not Atlantis or Olivia. But it is a unique experience at sea and, like I said, there’s something for everyone (except gamblers. No casino on board.). It’s also not bereft of other gays looking for fun, and it’s remarkably easy to find them and mingle, if that’s of interest. (Check out Nightingale’s, the piano bar for some “family.” Or the queue waiting to get a picture with Thor).
So what about you? Who are you? If you count yourself one or more of these folks… have I got a ship for you:
Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure
The Disney Queen: Come on, you know who you are. You have a collection of rainbow Mickey paraphernalia and Fantasmic as your ring tone. You don’t need me to convince you to sail. But what will especially delight you? How about dinner in the Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure with Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Oaken (fresh from his sauna), and an amazing animatronic Olaf coming around to your table? Or dining in Worlds of Marvel (the first-ever Marvel cinematic dining adventure) featuring an adventure with Ant-Man and The Wasp? Or what about the new utterly fantastic stage show, Disney Seas the Adventure, featuring a stunning mashup sung by Elsa, Merida, and Moana (three princesses who all eschew princes, thank you) and a finale led by Hercules? How about a pirate night (yes, you may indeed have use for that leather vest), fireworks at sea, and rainbow merch in the gift shops? It’s all there.
Full-sized gorgeous bath in some suites
The Design Maven: Aesthetically speaking, the Wish is eye-popping at every turn. Each space from the spectacular Grand Hall to your own stateroom is so meticulously and intentionally designed and plussed with detail, that there is constant discovery throughout your journey. The “motif of enchantment” was the mantra of the Imagineers and the Wish delivers in spades from the hundreds (literally) of different carpets to mosaics, tapestries, sculptures, lighting fixtures, and art. It’s beautiful, thoughtful, and thoroughly integrated but also whimsical and uniquely Disney.
The grand staircase
The Boujie Bitch: Looking for luxury? The Wish offers almost too many opportunities to plunk down your cash, from a two-story princess suite, (and another actually in one of the smoke-stacks), uber-high-end shopping opportunities, Enchanté, the adult dining experience curated by Chef Arnaud Lallement, holder of three Michelin stars, or the $5,000 cocktail available at Hyperspace Lounge, the Star Wars inspired bar. Senses spa has all of the decadence you’d expect, including couples’ suites which feature private hot tubs for enjoyment after your hot stone massage. But even if you’re fancy and frugal, everything about this ship whispers elegance. And the service that Disney is famous for, though increasingly elusive in the theme parks, is exceptional. Only on a Disney ship do your servers stay with you from night to night, getting to know you and your preferences so they can best cater to your every desire (well…almost).
The I-Hate-Disney-But-He-Made-Me-Come-Gay: I won’t lie, there’s a lot of Disney on board. But there are also a lot of opportunities to escape it, most notably in the myriad lounges (all with their own unique cocktail concoctions), on the top pool decks, in the Hero Zone sports arena, at the spa and salons (at Hook’s Barbery, you can get a shave and a pedicure while sipping bourbon from the hidden speakeasy), and most especially on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, an immaculate tropical paradise and port on every Wish sailing. On my last visit, over at Serenity Bay, the adult beach, I took an impromptu walk in the clear water with a stingray, who apparently was as interested in me as I was in him. Yes, you can spot Chip and Dale on the island, but before you run the other way, consider: where else can you take a picture of them while sporting a Speedo (you, not them. Although they have cute swimwear, too)?
The P-Flag Parent: On the elevator I encountered a fifteen-year-old proudly sporting a rainbow bandana. He volunteered that he was trans and gay without any fear of my reaction. That got me thinking about queer kids on board. So I dug around and found that just as in the parks (and, for that matter, entrenched in the Disney film culture), acceptance is a core value. At the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique, where lords and ladies will transform your kid into a princess or a knight, gender is of no concern. Billy wants to walk out in a Belle dress and pink hair extensions? He can. And now that Disney allows its own crew members greater freedom of expression, I saw a male officer in heels and another in a skirt. Both men and women sport hairstyles and jewelry all but announcing their sexuality. Even Captain Minnie is wearing pants on the Wish, modeling freedom of expression to kids of all ages.
The Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique
If there’s a complaint about this ship, it’s that there is just too much to take in on the short three- and four-day sailings. Which leaves only one remedy: When can we do this again?