I am not a water slide man. I never have been. I haven’t been to a water park since the 1980s, and until last week the only cruise I’d ever been on was more about eating, drinking, and gambling than getting soaked. (Alaskan cruises have a very different vibe than Caribbean cruises.) And yet, when I boarded Disney Cruise Line’s latest ship, the Disney Wish, last week, one of the top things on my list was a trip on the Aquamouse water coaster, no matter how drenched it made me.
Disney hooked me by hyping the Aquamouse as not a water slide or a water coaster, but the first-ever Disney “attraction at sea.” I may not dig water parks, but I love theme parks, and the artistry and excitement of rides are the main reasons why. Nobody is better at designing rides than Disney’s Imagineers, so as soon as I was on board the Wish I threw my swim trunks on and went straight to the Aquamouse’s queue.
What makes the Aquamouse an “attraction” instead of a water slide? The key difference is that it has a story scene, of a sort. At the very beginning of the ride a lift hill slowly carries you and your raft up a fully enclosed pipe. Inside that pipe are a series of screens that play short cartoons in the style of Disney’s current Mickey Mouse shorts. Each loop is just a few seconds long, time enough for a single gag, and together they show what happens when Mickey and his pals head to the Swiss Alps to go sledding, only to find that the sun is melting all the ice and snow. It’s now an impromptu rafting adventure, instead—just like the one you’re about to embark on. You’ll see all of Mickey’s pals in these shorts, including a cameo from the Yeti from Disneyland’s Matterhorn, and once you’ve passed the last screen there’s no more story elements to the ride at all. The Aquamouse doesn’t have a story so much as a basic scenario, with a few cartoon gags to set the stage. The “attraction” part of the sales pitch might be a little exaggerated, but these cartoons do set the Aquamouse apart from other cruise ship water slides, so I won’t begrudge Disney for whipping up that “attraction at sea” tag.
At the top of that lift hill, after the final screen, your raft (which carries you and up to one other person) descends into a dark tube, with the kind of unpredictable gliding and banking you can expect from a slide. You’ll quickly enter into an open-air section—think of a skating half-pipe, but with three quarters instead—where water jets propel your raft up two small hills. From there you’ll skate into a transparent enclosed tube that gives you a beautiful view of the ocean before and below you. After a turn to the right your raft splashes into a short river, with physical props of Mickey and Minnie looking down from above; within seconds the ride is over, with you climbing out of your raft after it rises back up onto the loading conveyor belt. Since it doesn’t end in a swimming pool you won’t get nearly as wet as you would in a traditional water slide; the water jets and the ride-closing river are the biggest splashes you can expect. It’s all over in just under two minutes, with over half of that coming on the lift hill.
The Aquamouse is really fun, which is the most important thing about a water slide, and a crucial factor for any popular theme park attraction. I’m not sure if a minute of bite-sized cartoons justifies the “attraction at sea” branding—not only is the story a thin, barely developed one, but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I would say that some amount of minor audio-animatronics, as impractical as those would be on a cruise ship, would make Aquamouse a more fleshed-out and memorable ride. Still, those shorts do make it a unique experience with entertainment value beyond just the physical rush of the ride itself.
Even without the screens on the lift hill, the Aquamouse would still be a top selling point for the Disney Wish; its tube winds itself above the ship’s main deck, making it one of the most striking and visible features on board, especially when you see somebody shooting through the clear part of the tube near the ride’s end. The Aquamouse would be in high demand with or without those cartoons and their suggestion of a story; they’re just the extra grace note that so often elevates Disney’s theme park attractions above the competition’s. Perhaps if more water slides had flourishes like that I’d be in a bigger rush to throw my useless body down them? I guess I’ll find out whenever Disney announces the sure-to-be groundbreaking attractions coming to their next two cruise ships, which are both on the way. In the meantime I’d gladly ride the Aquamouse next time I’m back on the Disney Wish, although it wouldn’t necessarily be a top priority for me again.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.