With the announcement that Disney’s newest ship, the Treasure, will sail in December 2024 we know now that the Maiden Voyage and inaugural season will go on sale to the general public on September 20, 2023.
With that in mind, I thought I would take time to share with you some of the things to consider when deciding if you’d like to try to sail on the Treasure’s Maiden Voyage or even some of the first few sailings during the Inaugural Season. I decided not to call them “pros and cons” because each person may find they fall into different categories for themselves.
First, let’s discuss what a Maiden Voyage is. In traditional, nautical terms, the Maiden Voyage is the first sailing after a ship has been accepted from the manufacturer after it’s been tested and “delivered.” In cruise ship sailings, the Maiden Voyage is the first sailing with paying customers. It’s generally accompanied by at least some pomp and circumstance and an overall feeling of excitement in the air.
Take the Maiden Voyage of the Disney Wish. Prior to her Maiden Voyage, there was a sailing for special guests, media, and other VIP’s following the christening ceremony and one additional before the Wish began sailing for the public. Sailing on the Maiden Voyage doesn’t mean you’ll be the first person to be onboard, it just means you are among the first passengers to pay for it.
With all that in mind, let’s look at some of the things you can expect from a Maiden Voyage.
Before you even set sail, something to consider is that booking to be onboard the Maiden Voyage can be somewhat difficult, depending on your Castaway Club status. While I don’t know what the exact capacity was set to for the Wish’s Maiden Voyage, it was certainly not at full capacity and rumored to have only 2,800 guests onboard. Since Disney has many Platinum Castaway Club members, they had to institute an additional tiered booking system when the Maiden went on sale. Platinum members are those who have completed at least ten sailings with DCL. To book the Wish’s Maiden, they opened first to Platinum cruisers with 25 or more sailings, then 20 or more, 15 or more, then the remaining Platinum cruisers, and so on.
Having a travel agent, like one of the agents from Dreams Unlimited Travel, is especially helpful when trying to get onboard a Maiden Voyage. My wife and I were in the “rest of the Platinum cruisers” group and didn’t think we were going to get a spot. My Dreams Unlimited agent had texted asking me for a different date, followed by a second text that said, “hold on, magic is happening.” While we didn’t get the room we had hoped for, she was able to get us an oceanview room and we were just thrilled to be onboard, period.
Changes in Dates or Rooms
Fast forward to a few months before the Wish was supposed to set sail and we were informed by Disney that the Maiden Voyage would be delayed by a month. Something that you need to keep in mind when booking a Maiden Voyage is that your sail date is very likely to change. I would suggest that before you book, you ensure that you’re flexible enough to be able to move your vacation time within at least a one-month window. The benefit, however, to it being moved is that it usually comes with a discount. In our case, we received 50% off our original fare, which made the cruise downright affordable.
One other change you should be prepared for, while not as likely, is a change of stateroom category. In our case, we received a series of emails a few days before our sailing advising us that Disney had to move us to another stateroom. We never found out that exact reason, but I speculate that the room we were supposed to be in was either not ready or had issues during the preview cruises before ours. This worked out in our favor as we were upgraded to an oceanview with veranda, which is what we had wanted originally. It’s unlikely that they would move you to a lower category of room, but, the moral of the story is, to set your expectations that the date and your stateroom may be changed.
While I can’t guarantee what you will experience on a future Maiden Voyage, we found on the Wish that special experiences were just about around every corner.
Starting with the Sail Away party, we were given champagne for a toast. Sharon Siskie, Senior Vice President and General Manager of DCL, opened the cruise with a toast to all those onboard just before we left port. Sharon, along with Thomas Mazloum, President of Disney Signature Experiences, were both onboard the Maiden Voyage along with various other members of leadership and could be seen talking to guests throughout the cruise.
One of the special activities I stumbled upon while we were in port at Nassau was the “Plaque Exchange.” A Plaque Exchange is an official maritime ceremony that’s just exactly what the name implies, an exchange of plaques between the cruise line and the Port of Call. Leaders and the Captain, I should say Captains (let’s not forget Captain Minnie), were present along with dignitaries and leaders from the Bahamas and Nassau. The plaques were presented for various things, such as Disney’s commitment to the environment and to the port of Nassau.
Another special experience occurred while I was taking a break in our stateroom. I thought I heard the sound of a marching band. Sure enough, I went out on our veranda, and there was a Bahamian marching band coming down the dock to bid us a bon voyage. It was such a neat experience and one I’ll never forget. We typically don’t get off the ship in Nassau, but with how much they did to welcome the Wish and the improvements they’re making to the port; we’ll definitely be visiting next time we dock there. The band continued to play until we had completely left the port.
“Free” Gifts & Exclusive Merchandise
From the moment we entered our room and every day following, we received some type of free gift from DCL to commemorate being on the Maiden Voyage. Some would argue that the “free gifts” are paid for as part of your reservation but, especially since we got 50% off the sailing, I count them as free. Gifts ranged from tote bags, lanyards, champagne flutes, and travel mugs, to candy, and a book about the Wish. The special and sought-after nature of the gifts is that they are adorned with the phrase “Maiden Voyage.” While many of these items may end up on eBay, we keep and treasure ours or donate them to a charity auction.
We were given the opportunity to pre-order the Maiden Voyage and Inaugural Season merchandise we wanted before boarding. Some of the items were limited edition and DCL conducted a lottery of sorts to see who would receive those limited-edition items while others were readily available. In our case, we received all the items we had pre-ordered. A benefit to pre-ordering is you can avoid the long lines at the gift shop as they tend to be long every time the stores are open.
Seeing the Ship Unfinished
This is one of those areas in which many would say is a con of a Maiden Voyage, but I personally enjoyed seeing some areas of the ship that may not have been completed. Walking around the ship it was obvious that there were things that hadn’t been finished before setting sail. From holes in the wall, marble pieces missing, lights not working, and deck areas sanded but not stained, you could tell the Wish wasn’t in her final state of completion. Each night you would see members of the construction team working on various areas of the ship to help get the Wish to its completed state.
Additionally, the entertainment team may not be ready to perform all the shows that the ship is advertised to have. In our case, Aladdin wasn’t ready, but we were instead treated to a special performance by Jodi Benson, known for her role as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. You may experience “technical difficulties” during the shows that do go on as the team is still working out the bugs of the new ship’s systems and learning how to operate the various equipment onboard. During “Disney Seas the Adventure”, we experienced one such technical difficulty in which one of the trap doors on stage didn’t function. They paused the show for a few minutes but then were able to go on.
The Overall Feeling Onboard
To me, this is the biggest positive. Our sailing aboard the Wish was our 14th and, while it’s always a good feeling to be onboard, the overall vibe around the ship during the Maiden Voyage was one I’ll not forget. Being onboard DCL, it’s typically easy for me as an introvert to talk to others because we usually share a common love of Disney but, on a Maiden Voyage, that feeling was multiplied. Around every corner, in every elevator, you found someone who wanted to share their feelings about the new ship. Whether those feelings were positive or negative, we all shared a common bond, and it made this cruise so enjoyable for us. We found ourselves so many times huddled to the side, meeting new people, and sharing our experiences and what we thought of the Wish. There was just this particular level of energy onboard that you felt from the moment you heard “Disney Wish, please welcome onboard the Thames family.”
Sailing a Maiden Voyage can be a little risky and at times can feel like you didn’t get what you paid for but, for me personally, I’ll definitely be onboard any DCL Maiden Voyages that I can. How about you? Will you try to be one of the lucky first passengers to experience the Disney Treasure?