The Disney Wish, Disney Cruise Line’s fifth ship, just set sail on its maiden voyage. Disney fans have anxiously awaited the Wish since Disney announced its expansion over five years ago. During a preview cruise, we found the Wish filled with high tech innovations as well as high priced libations *cough* Kaiburr Crystal *cough*. But, as cruising is typically one of the most accessible ways to travel, how inclusive is the ship to those in wheelchairs?
My wife and I just rolled off the Disney Wish. She uses a manual wheelchair and wheeled walker to assist with limited mobility due to her multiple sclerosis (MS), and, all-in-all, Disney Cruise Line met her accommodation needs (with a couple of exceptions). Continue on for more details of our first-hand experience navigating the Disney Wish in a wheelchair.
Getting to the Ship
Before we get to the Disney Wish, some context: This was our first flight since January 2020. At that time, we just returned from a family trip to Orlando checking out new (at that time) additions to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. After our plane landed, we were not home 24 hours when my wife had a severe exacerbation of her MS that resulted in a week-long hospital stay. Fast forward to now, we’re learning how to travel with this new level of disability and tried to make the trip as seamless as possible.
We flew nonstop to Orlando, and Disney hosted us at the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs the night before the cruise – always a good practice to provide protection from missing your cruise due to a flight delay or cancellation. We were surprised our accessible room at Walt Disney World did not have the accommodations she needed. The front desk staff repeatedly said, “None of our ADA accessible rooms have grab bars by the toilet.” How could that be? This is a newer hotel that opened in July 2019. The experience raised concerns about accessibility on the Disney Wish.
Disney Cruise Line transferred us the following morning from Coronado Springs to Port Canaveral via a motor coach equipped with a wheelchair lift. At the cruise terminal, we were assisted through security, and directed to the closest elevator.
After we walked through the Mickey Mouse tunnel and across the gangway, we were on the ship. Everything, from the moment we stepped onto the Disney Cruise Line bus until we arrived on board the Disney Wish, was convenient and fully accessible. We still held our breath for the next stop, our stateroom.
Navigating the narrow hallway to our stateroom, combined with our experience at the Gran Destino, made us concerned about whether the room would meet my wife’s accessibility needs. However, once we opened the door to Disney Wish stateroom #8604, we found a wide, expansive room with plenty of space to navigate her wheelchair and wheeled walker, along with a fully accessible bath. The stateroom’s layout was well designed with the closet and desk shifted from the entranceway in order to widen the path. There was also a slight ramp leading to (and out of) the verandah thus eliminating the threshold. There was no threshold into the accessible bathroom either – making it so much easier to roll in and out of the stateroom’s different areas.
Our accessible bathroom did not use Disney Cruise Line’s typical split bath design. Instead, it had one large, open space with grab bars all around the toilet and shower. The shower had a roll-in design with hand-held head, linear drains in the floor, and a built-in, fold down seat. The night light switch was not an accessibility feature, but was much appreciated and a definite help for those with limited mobility.
Leading up to the Disney Wish debut, Disney Cruise Line promised luxurious staterooms that are peaceful retreats with ample room for families, plenty of storage, and upscale amenities. Even with our family’s increased accessibility needs, Disney met that lofty goal, and provided us with a stateroom where both my wife and I could rest and recharge as well as reconnect as we sat on our spacious veranda watching the water and scenery.
Finally, we could relax on this trip. However, there’s much more to a cruise than your stateroom.
Public Venue Accessibility
In general, all of the public spaces were accessible on the Disney Wish, with wide pathways, touch panels to open doors, and accessible public bathrooms with lowered sinks. I was pleased to see chairlifts on stairways on the outside upper decks as well. From top to bottom, the Disney Wish kept accessibility in mind for all of its public spaces.
The upper decks on the Wish bustle with activity with multiple little pools, a Toy Story themed splash zone, slides, FunnelVision, shows, parties, bars, AquaMouse water coaster, and more. For those in wheelchairs wanting to ride the AquaMouse, there is a chairlift available to hoist you to the loading platform. However, keep in mind, you will need assistance to transfer out of your chair into (and out of) the raft, and it is a very, very low seat on the ground. There are also lifts available for the pools, but these need to be arranged via Disney Cruise Line Special Services.
Wanting to grab a snack at one of the Mickey & Friends Festival of Food stations? Crew members are more than willing to help bring those chicken fingers, pizza slices, fresh salsa & chips, or even some of that sweet, sweet ice cream directly to your table or seat for those in wheelchairs.
Entertainment takes place regularly on the upper deck, including the sail-away party and Pirate’s Rockin’ Parlay Party that takes place at night with fireworks. Oftentimes, the deck can get quite busy during showtime, making it difficult for those in wheelchairs to see. Fortunately, there are designated on-deck viewing areas for those in wheelchairs on the Disney Wish.
Main Dining Locations
All of the restaurants on the Disney Wish were fully accessible for wheelchairs, and Disney Cruise Line has always done an exceptional job accommodating dietary restrictions as well. We noticed that our assigned table was always located near the entrance, so we did not have to navigate far through a busy restaurant to be seated. Also, after the first evening, our wait staff had already removed a chair before we arrived so my wife could easily roll up to her setting.
Buffets can sometimes be a challenge for those in wheelchairs with people coming and going to get food as well as trying to roll a chair while holding a tray. At Marceline Market, the Disney Wish’s quick service dining location, hosts offered to carry a tray for my wife’s food or have food or drinks brought directly to the table. Finally, don’t forget the complimentary, 24-hour, room service. While this is not an accessibility accommodation per se, having a continental breakfast delivered right to the room without having to get into a wheelchair and go up to Marceline Market is a huge help.
On any cruise, our family loves the rhythm of a fine dinner followed by a live show. The Walt Disney Theatre on the Disney Wish is a lush, elegant venue that spans three decks. Disney Cruise Line planned for those in wheelchairs with designated accessible seating. Simply head to the main doors of the Walt Disney Theatre on Deck 3 and a crew member will escort you down and through the accessible entrance on Deck 2 and the designated seating on the main floor. Following the show, a crew member will also come to assist you to the exit. This allowed us to relax, knowing we always had a seat for the show for my wife and the rest of our family and friends.
There is also wheelchair seating in the Wonderland and Never Land Cinemas on Deck 4. Just ask a crew member at the movie theater entrance if you have any trouble locating a seat.
Of course, not everything is perfectly accessible on the Disney Wish, and there were a couple of things that were challenging for mobility on board. As noted in our Disney Wish Tips article, not all elevators go to all upper floors. Every elevator goes up to Deck 11 – convenient for getting to the Marceline Market buffet. However, only some of them go to Decks 12, 13, and 14. This made it difficult to get to the Quiet Cove adult space on Deck 13. If an elevator stops at 11, it’s usually not that big of a deal to hike up a few steps to get to where you want to go. However, that’s simply not possible for someone in a wheelchair. We wish there was at least a mechanism to call a specific elevator so as not to spend time waiting for the proper one.
Our biggest disappointment was the layout of Deck 4’s outdoor promenade deck. Previous Disney ships had a walking/jogging track that encircled Deck 4, and this was always one of our favorite spots to stroll between dinner and the evening show. However, Deck 4 of the Disney Wish was just a short, straight section that ended with a wall on one end and stairs on the other. Cue, sad trombone … again, walking up a set of stairs would typically not be a problem for an evening, after-dinner stroll, but it is a barrier for those using a wheelchair.
We were pleased with the level of accessibility on the Disney Wish. When I asked my wife if the positives outweighed the difficulties of travel, she gave a resounding yes. After the past two and a half years, we needed a break, and the accessibility on the Disney Wish allowed us enjoy a vacation together where we could focus on each other.