The Disney Wish is filled with highly themed restaurants and lounges, and one of the first ones you are bound to encounter is The Bayou, located on Deck 3, just forward of the Grand Hall. This lounge, inspired by “The Princess and the Frog,” clearly evokes images of Louisiana with elegant and immersive décor, and a menu inspired by New Orleans.
Disney Cruise Line describes The Bayou like this:
“Unwind over spirited cocktails, live music, and warm Southern hospitality. Or let the good times roll with a specialty coffee and a plate of our sugary, light-and-fluffy signature beignets. Either way, magic is sure to follow.
From the moment you enter The Bayou, you’ll be spellbound. Enchanting bronze statues of Tiana and Prince Naveen stand nearby, while the mystical marsh where the pair took refuge in the film springs to life, complete with flourishing magnolia blossoms, lily pad light fixtures, and a canopy of twinkling fireflies overhead. And paying a nod to New Orleans’ iconic wrought-iron balconies are 2 gazebos, one at either end of the bar—the perfect setting for small, intimate gatherings.“
As The Bayou is immediately forward of the Grand Hall, many passengers will see it within minutes of boarding the Disney Wish. The aforementioned magnolia blossoms hang from the ceiling, and the calm lighting suggests fireflies. The deep greens give off an unmistakable Tiana vibe. Richly upholstered chairs and booths in the lounge area create an intimate look, and the massive arc of the bar runs almost the entire width of the space. Another counter in the bar area faces the stage, and can seat 10-12 people.
Once inside, the space isn’t perhaps as intimate as a glance from the outside might suggest. Busy passageways run down each side of the lounge, where passengers can be seen either congregating outside the nearby Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge or perusing expensive timepieces in the nearby shops. While the interior of the space is intended to transport you to the bayous of Louisiana, the illusion is hard to embrace, due to the location, rather than the impeccable interior design of the space. It’s as if Tiana has created a space to lay low and hide from the First Order — a crossover story nobody needs. I feel that the space would benefit from obscuring some of those sightlines, either by adding lattice, more vegetation, or even actually adding a few walls, as the entire length of the lounge is fully open on both flanks.
The menu has a decidedly New Orleans flair, with classics like beignets, Hurricanes, and Sazeracs. We visited on multiple occasions to sample as much as we could. Traditional menus are available in the lounge and at the bar, and there’s also a themed menu on a tablet.
Mama’s Special – $19
Tiana is a master chef, especially known for making unforgettable beignets, but for unknown reasons, she has outsourced the task to Mama Odie, and it shows. We ordered Mama’s Special, for $19. It includes three beignets, a chocolate dipping sauce, and some pieces of chocolate. Due to fear of repercussions from Mama Odie, I will just say the beignets were somewhat forgettable. Instead of the light and fluffy texture we were promised, these were the consistency of a dinner roll and were maybe even heavy. I am not going to complain about the flavor of any deep fried dough coated in powdered sugar, but these missed the mark when it came to texture and feel. They say cooking is an art and baking is a science. After a life spent in the swamp making gumbo and practicing voodoo, Mama Odie is clearly not into science. It was like someone who had never eaten a beignet looked up the recipe on Wikipedia. These are not terrible, but I don’t believe they are up to Tiana’s standards.
Sazerac – $15
Pernod Absinthe, Sazerac Rye and Peychaud’s Bitters
This was a perfectly reasonable representation. The Sazerac is known as one of America’s oldest cocktails and has become a sort of symbol of New Orleans. The absinthe flavor was muted, never making an attempt at taking center stage. This was spot-on.
Smoked Fashioned – $20
Bayou Rum XO Mardi Gras and Bitters
This is a perfectly balanced rum take on an old fashioned, perhaps a rum lover’s alternative to the fantastic old fashioned bar at Hook’s Barbery. We give it a thumbs up.
Hurricane – $12
Bayou Reserve, Passion Fruit, Lime
My experiences drinking Hurricanes come almost exclusively from cheap ones served through a Bourbon Street window in New Orleans, or from Pat O’Brien’s. This cocktail was allegedly created in Queens, New York, in the 1930s, but has become strongly associated with New Orleans in the decades since. It was supposedly created as a pretense to get rid of cheap rum by making it sweet enough that people wouldn’t care about the rum’s quality. A New Orleans themed bar needs to have this on the menu, and they need to get it right. The iteration I was served at The Bayou fell short of all previous experiences. Instead of its signature red hues, this was an odd shade of orange. It was murky and tasted like POG juice. I was unable to finish it. In fairness, I did see Hurricanes later in the voyage that other people ordered, and they looked a lot better, but this was a Category 4 failure.
Absinthe Frappe – $10
Pernod Absinthe, Anisette, Abita Vanilla Cream Soda
My traveling partner, Tom Corless, ordered the Absinthe Frappe because I refused to. I don’t particularly care for absinthe, though it was tolerable in my Sazerac. The United States government banned the drink until 2007, but some of the greatest creative minds of all time were known absinthe devotees: Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and Vincent Van Gogh, among others. Despite the allure of potential creative superpowers, I was not interested.
I confess I saw some other reviews of this drink prior to embarkation, and they were not good. This version actually looked better than pictures I had seen on social media. Tom thought the absinthe frappe was great, if perhaps a bit too large for such a powerful flavor. He was truly enjoying it. He offered a taste to me. All I tasted was a frozen version of Good & Plenty, a licorice candy that haunted my dreams as a child. The cream soda was buried. A man to my right remarked that his was “great.” I suppose being flanked by two positive reviews means I should give it the green light. The problem was me, not the drink.
There is one observation that is worth pointing out to those of you planning to visit The Bayou aboard the Disney Wish: We felt the staffing wasn’t up to par. In particular, on our second visit, the bar was totally overwhelmed. There were approximately 30 guests in the lounge and bar combined, and as far as we could tell, only one bartender and one server on duty. They were doing their best to handle the surge in patrons, but failing. This was during an afternoon when the ship was moored at Castaway Cay, and only a small number of bars aboard the Wish were operating. When they were unable to find an item they were looking for, they took turns going into the back looking for something, and were unable to complete their orders. This was amplified when it started to rain on Castaway Cay, and thirsty passengers streamed back onto the ship, packing The Bayou. We observed a Cast Member coming from Keg & Compass to try to help stem the overwhelming tide of orders, but it was too little, too late. These are issues we expect to see ironed out over the course of the next few months as the Disney Wish gets into a rhythm and smooths out their operations and staffing issues.
The Bayou is a beautiful lounge that features a thoughtful menu that had a few misses and a few hits. While we didn’t observe the live music, it’s reasonable to think the vibe can only be enhanced when the talented performers aboard the Wish take The Bayou’s stage. The potential of this lounge is tremendous, and with a few tweaks here and there, it can become a real favorite. Like Mama Odie says, they just gotta “Dig a Little Deeper.”