Disney Wish, Bahamas, April 14-17, 2023

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 18, 2023, 8:41 PM | comments: 0

We were pretty fortunate to do the maiden voyage of the Wish last July, which is to say we have nearly useless bragging rights. It was so great though to spend five days exploring a completely new, and significantly different ship, even though it really wasn't quite done. We had been looking for an excuse to go back, not that we needed one, but our anniversary seemed like a pretty good reason. And then to make it more special, we decided to go the distance and book concierge for the special occasion. We've done concierge twice before, on the Dream, and found that the experience is kind of worth it, but you probably won't make up the cost in exercising the perks (mostly alcohol). So why do it again? The Wish has twice as many rooms, and an extremely well thought out lounge, sun deck and such that is fairly large in scope. So we figured we'd give it a shot.

The post-Covid check-in at the terminal is much better than the old system. Just as they've done in the hotels, they have cast members with iPads instead of people behind desks. The hard work of getting your photos and passports scanned happens at home on your computer, so they don't have to do much beyond making sure that you are you. Platinum Castaway and Concierge still have their own lines, and there was almost no one in either when we got there around 10:20. Once inside, they converted the very tip of the building that used to connect to the gangway into a larger concierge lounge, with a fridge full of beverages and room to stretch out. It's a little awkward because you have to pass the actual gangway where they scan you in, and there are no restrooms there.

Once onboard, around 11:30, we were ushered into 1923 (the "Walt" side) for lunch. It's the same menu that anyone can get in Arendelle, but that's fine since there isn't anything on the menu that interests me anyway. I was crazy starving, so I split from my family a little early to head up to Donald's Cantina on deck 11, where they have really fantastic tacos, burritos and bowls. New since last time, they have some kind of spicy green rice that's amazing, as well as more salsas and hot sauces. The counter service choices are a level up from the other ships, though it's frustrating that, except for the pizza, they're not usually open late. Given that this was only three nights, I did not get to eat all the things that I wanted. Marceline Market, the buffet, I only saw on day 3 for breakfast, and I never got a crack at the barbecue.

Concierge rooms are available at 12:30, so I ditched my backpack and changed into slob shorts and flip-flops. Diana and Simon caught up and we went into the concierge lounge. They were serving a bit of wine and sparkling wine, and some great snacks. We met some of the staff, all of whom came ashore to introduce themselves before we boarded, and did a quick walk around the decks. They have two underutilized hot tubs and a big waterfall seat (you'd have to see it). From here I also noticed that a SpaceX Falcon 9 had recently been plucked off of A Shortfall of Gravitas, one of the landing drone ships. First time I've seen one returned from space, though we saw launches on both of our previous cruises.

There were a few quick naps, Simon went off to the pools, the muster drill, and shortly before five we were offered the liquor of our choice. We became quite infatuated with the "Rose Diamond," a drink that they serve up in The Rose bar. It's lemon vodka, St. Germaine, Chambord and Prosecco, and it's magical. There's also nothing to dilute it beyond the shaking over ice, so you want to sip that one. As a picky eater, I probably have no right to say this, but I was disappointed that people weren't more adventurous at an open bar with experienced bartenders and premium spirits. Yeah, I'm looking at the people who ordered Bud Light or Malibu and Sprite. We discovered the diamond because I said, "Surprise me" with a signature drink.

For dinner the first night in Arendelle, we were just ten feet from the stage, a serious improvement compared to being essentially in the kitchen last time. Once again, I was super impressed, and this time Olaf-on-a-cart was working perfectly. They use some of the songs cut from Frozen 2, the extra songs on the deluxe soundtrack, which I respect. I wish they'd do "I Seek The Truth," which should have never been cut from the film. The food was pretty great, and I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed it all. It's not quite dinner theater, but hearing a violinist shred "Into The Unknown" is pretty great.

We returned to the lounge for another drink after dinner, and made our way to the Seas The Adventure show which was a largely forgettable. We also saw their updated Little Mermaid on the second night which had great performances, and it was better than the national tour from a few years ago, but it wasn't OMG musical material. But hey, another concierge perk, the popcorn is free, and not just bagged stuff.

After closing the concierge bar, we did some walking around to find the ship more like we were used to on the others, with the adult crowd being pretty thin. This was not the case for the maiden voyage because there were only a few hundred kids on that sailing, as dibs to book were ordered by number of previous cruises, meaning few kids. So it's very much like the old days of what we expected, great service, not busy bars. We met up with one of my former coworkers for drinks before scoring late night pizza.

Needless to say, our second day started slower. We never go into Nassau, because it's just another shitty tropical tourist trap. We usually try to score our Palo brunch then, which is free to Platinum Castaway Club members. They call it "Palo Steakhouse" on this ship, and the decor is different, but it's the same menu. Insanely good service for insanely good food. We mostly sat around throughout the day, which was kind of the point. Our only activity was another mixology class, a tradition, before dinner. Learned another variant on known recipes, this one being a "Peach Crush," which is vodka, peach schnapps, Prosecco and a little cranberry juice. Without the Prosecco, I call this a peach cosmo.

Dinner was in 1923, the least interesting of the three, but the food was good. It's where they have my favorite tomato soup. All of the eating (and presumably some of the previous day's drinking) made me pretty uncomfortable, so I was content to relax in largely private spaces as it got later. The front deck off the concierge lounge was an amazing spot from which to watch the sunset, with just a light breeze as we cruised pretty slowly toward Castaway Cay.

We didn't get up terribly early on Castaway day, but did finally make it to breakfast around 9:45. I have no self-control, and I don't normally eat breakfast, but I load up on the scrambled eggs and potatoes. We exited the ship shortly thereafter, and the weather was the kind of hot that you want on a beach day. Simon insisted on taking the tram while we walked, and then he had to pick up the float that I pre-ordered. We all got pretty frustrated when the onboard chat failed to stay connected (it extends to the island when at Castaway Cay), so it was hard to explain to Simon where we were.

By 1pm, I was starting to get a little hungry, and it's my own fault. The food on the island is, probably OK for others, but my one option, the chicken, is always dry and terrible. They get the hot dogs right, if you eat hot dogs, but the food mostly blows and they have to know this already. But it's been bad for a decade. For awhile they had some spicy chicken sandwiches (think an elevated version of Wendy's spicy chicken), but that's gone. So I decided to go back to the ship, figuring that Diana and Simon would probably be an hour or so behind. I had the great Tex-Mex again onboard. Here's the thing, as our dinner servers pointed out, they can arrange to get me pretty much anything on the island. Concierge could have done it too I'm sure. And I know this from 23 cruises. But that feels so entitled and high-maintenance and I feel embarrassed to even ask about it. The picky eating is likely autism related, but I still feel bad about owning it.

The food thing has genuinely interfered with my beach zen. There have been times where we were first off the boat, spent the middle part at the Conched Out bar, and very nearly closed the island. Those were pretty great memories. It's weird how food still derails me in some ways, as a grown-ass adult.

The rest of the family resumed ship-based activities by mid-afternoon, and I was resolved to work through the lingering bloated feelings by walking about. It was at this point that I recalled one of my favorite and least favorite things about the Wish. The favorite is the mixed-used common venue, Luna, right in the middle. It's a brilliant space that you can see into when you go buy, inviting you to stop in. They do magicians and game shows and bingo in there. The least favorite thing is that the ship lacks a proper continuous loop promenade deck. I absolutely loathe this, because when you're eating and drinking for sport, movement is what keeps you going. We would always walk a few miles, at least once a day, on the other ships, but that loop doesn't exist on the Wish. So unless you like shuffleboard, there's almost no reason to even go out there. There are no decks that have straight-line outdoor walking/running room. I will be thankful for this on our summer trip to Northern Europe, which will be on the Dream.

Before dinner and pre-dinner drinks, I popped into the Hyperspace Lounge, which required reservations that we couldn't get on the first one. Now it's manageable, and I sat down at the bar to once again meet a bartender who worked in The Rose on the first trip. I challenged him to make me "something with rum," and he did a variation on the classic daiquiri. That's not a slushy, it's rum, lime juice and usually simple syrup, but he mixed it up with aged rum (Zacapa) and a little a little Prosecco instead of the syrup. It was not a Star Wars drink, but again, when you trust experienced bartenders to make stuff, they make great stuff.

The last dinner was in the Marvel restaurant, which I think is fun. The "quantum cores" on the tables vibrate and light up and have buttons, while the filmed stuff is custom for the ship and includes Ms. Marvel, Captain America (the new one) and the sexiest man alive (last year), Paul Rudd. I got a high-five from Spider-Man, which was awesome.

The last evening required Simon to be in bed at a reasonable time because he had school the next day, which also meant that he couldn't do the closing ceremony stuff at the kids clubs. He was lucky to even be there after we had a call from the youth counselors (story for another time), but he did get quite a few laps on the Aqua Mouse and the lifeguards remembered him from the maiden voyage. He even got a pin and a certificate from them, as "Happiest Aqua Mouse Rider." Despite our frustrations with him a lot of the time, DCL always manages to make him feel special and included, and their kindness is what a kid who doesn't easily fit in really needs from time to time.

I napped after lunch, so I was not ready to turn in. I closed the concierge bar, then wandered into Nightingale's, where we had the mixology, and made conversation with a guy who happened to be a software developer. When that closed, I did a few more laps around the quiet, empty common spaces. It was raining outside.

So was concierge worth it? For the three of us, this particular itinerary was about 90% more for three nights, which is to say, I would not describe it as a "value." On one hand, we only purchased two drinks the whole cruise, but we didn't drink thousands of dollars in alcohol either. The problem is that these 3 and 4-nigh Wish cruises are already more expensive per person, per night. Europe and Alaska are (mostly) significantly cheaper per night. So this ship and these Bahamas itineraries are in high demand. The only way this is a "good deal" is if you value the extra attention and service, the concierge spaces and the open bar. And while these are nice, you might not bother with other stuff on the ship. I'm glad that we did it, and got to see it, but there's no universe where the extra cost makes sense. You have to be OK with it just being a more premium experience, not proportionately more valuable. We may do it again years from now, but it won't be a habit. We could almost take two cruises for the same cost.


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