Disney's Truly Magical Voyage
Last October I had the pleasure of
cruising aboard the Disney
Magic. Along with its sister ship, the Wonder, Disney hopes to
recapture the old-fashioned allure of cruising.
Both ships are designed to emulate
classic liners of the past with their navy and white color scheme,
two classic red smoke stacks (one is functional, one is fake and
hosts an ESPN sports bar!), longer bow, and large bridge. Both ships
are simply stunning, and not just on the outside.
The Magic is 83,300 tons of fun, and carries 1,760
passengers and 945 crew. I expected a lot more "Disney" type
atmosphere onboard, and I was surprised with what I found. With an
art deco ambiance, classic teak decks, brass fixtures, and intimate
configuration, the ship is very user-friendly and easy on the eyes.
While subdued, the Disney touch is still there with
many whimsical yet endearing features: from a bronze Captain Mickey
statue in the atrium, to characters hanging from the back of the
ship, public address announcements which always say "Ladies and
gentlemen, boys and girls”, and the ship’s horn which plays "When
You Wish Upon A Star".
And yes, Mickey and Minnie are onboard and available
in person for autographs before dinner in the atrium. Other Disney
characters welcome guests as they return from Castaway Cay, the
line's private island. Overall, the Disney touch on the high seas is
both elegant and innovative.
Every stateroom includes a picture of Walt Disney and
his wife on the deck of a cruise ship, which I found to be a nice
testament to the man who started it all. Our cabin was a category 6
(Disney’s categories go from 1 to 12) deluxe stateroom with
Our verandah stateroom was magnificent – the nicest
I’ve experienced at sea thus far. According to Disney, the cabins on
the Disney Magic are about 25% larger than industry average. Disney
offers cabins that have a separate space, dividable by a curtain,
for as many as three extra persons. In fact, every cabin on the ship has
a third berth in the form of a convertible sofa – comfortable to sit
on as well as sleep on. Available in some cabins is a fourth bed
placed into the ceiling, and in some cabins, a fifth extra bed is
placed into the wall.
Another major innovation in the cabins is the
bathrooms, which are divided into a shower/bath compartment and a
toilet compartment. Each compartment has its own sink, mirror and
toiletries cabinet. This is really a great innovation, especially
Unique Dining Experiences
The food onboard is excellent. We enjoyed every meal.
Disney has a new concept called “rotation dining”. The rotation
dining system is where passengers dine with the same people and
waiters every night, but in three separate themed restaurants with
very different menus. This was a lot of fun for my girls. At ages 5
and 2, they can get antsy with a five-course meal. This system makes
it fun for all.
On our first night, we were assigned the most formal
restaurant: the French inspired Lumiere's. The dining room theme is
elegantly based on “Beauty and The Beast,” and you will find roses
everywhere. Food was more formal but nonetheless very traditional.
As with all dining areas, there is an extensive children’s menu.
The next night, we dined at the
Animator's Palette. This is one dining room with a lot of
atmosphere. The room, done entirely in black and white and covered
with drawings of Disney characters, gradually comes to full-color,
animated life. It’s really something to experience. The menu is
"California cuisine" but offers a variety options. Everyone gets the
same desert platter with an array of choices. The kids get Mickey
Mouse-shaped ice cream bars.
Parrot Cay is a buffet restaurant for breakfast and
lunch, however, at night it turns into a full service dining room.
The ambience is colorful, with a Caribbean flair. The menu offers
wonderful, Caribbean-inspired cuisine.
While I didn’t get a chance to experience Palo’s – the
adult only dining area – the raves from those who did dine there
make me want to cruise this ship again! It is reservation only, and
books up quickly. Palo’s offers Northern Italian cuisine and a vast
selection of wines.
Walt Disney Theatre
What would a Disney experience be without grand
entertainment? The Magic offers three original musical productions
in its three-deck-high, 955-seat Walt Disney Theatre. The shows with
talented entertainers make use of state-of-the-art sound, lighting,
staging, props and special effects. My 5-year-old loved the shows,
but my 2-year-old couldn’t sit still for more than 30 minutes, so we
had to leave early two nights out of three.
If you’re a sports fan and are worried about missing
the big game while cruising, chances are this bar will carry it. It
offers satellite sports so there’s always something on. The bar is
located in the forward faux smokestack. This was a lively place as
we were cruising during the World Series: the atmosphere was fun and
boisterous. The bar is filled with multiple TV screens, and one
towering two-story tall screen. The back of the bar is all glass and
overlooks the deck below. It’s quite impressive and unique to
Buena Vista Theater
You can eat popcorn, and watch Disney movies in the
Buena Vista Theatre. The theater also offers character shows and
Disney is heavily marketing the ship to adults
traveling without kids. In fact, during our cruise I noticed there
were more couples on board than families with children. Disney is
going all-out for this group by creating adult-only areas, dining
and entertainment. There is an adult-only pool, an adult-only
entertainment area, and on Castaway Cay, an adult-only beach
(Serenity Bay), with private cabanas where massages are offered.
For passengers looking for some pampering, the Magic's
spa offers a variety of beauty seminars and exercise classes in
addition to treatments available for a fee.
Activities onboard included: a cooking demonstration
by a chef from Walt Disney World, a lecture by a Disney animation
artist, a line-dancing lesson, a wine-tasting (for a fee), as well
as bingo and other adults-only games and deck sports. The no-kids
ban in the entertainment areas enables the performers to use adult
humor at the ship's comedy club – the only one at sea. There are
also three lounges onboard: Promenade Lounge offers live jazz, Beat
Street and Route 66 offer a variety of musical entertainment. The
one adult feature Disney does not have is a casino. However, you can
find gambling during your Nassau stay.
Just For Kids & Teens
Talk about playing with a full deck!
Disney has the most expansive kid offerings at sea: nearly a full
deck area is devoted to just the little ones. Kids' programming runs
from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m.
There are two separate spaces: one for little kids and
one for big kids. The Oceaneer Club has activities for 3- to
5-year-olds and 6 to 8-year-olds. The Oceaneer Lab has interactive
activities for 9 & 10-year-olds and others for 11 &
For a fee, group babysitting is available for children
twelve weeks to two years old in the Oceaneer Club. Guests must sign
up their children on embarkation day. The cost is $11 per child per
hour, and $1 per additional child per hour.
All supervised activities are overseen by an extensive
number of kids' counselors. When you check your children in for
activities, you’ll be given a beeper, so counselors can contact you
at anytime. I found this to be wonderful.
For teens, there is the Common Grounds: a New
York-style coffeehouse with music, games, large-screen TV, a lounge
area, a coffee bar, and shipboard programs like photography,
movie-making, and improvisation. There is also the arcade area,
which has an expansive number of games and activities.
Disney’s spectacular 1,000-acre private island, which
is nestled on the northern tip of the Bahaman island of Abaco
(actual name is Gorda Cay). We were very fortunate to be able to
dock during our voyage. Disney advised me in September that we would
not be able to visit Castaway Cay. Hurricane Floyd damaged the
island so badly that it was shut down for 4 weeks. Fortunately, it
had just re-opened the week before our cruise.
When you step off the ship, there is a tram to take
you the Family Beach and the adult-only Serenity Bay Beach. The
place is pure paradise: a mile-long white sand beach with clear,
turquoise waters. Hang out on one of the beaches, under an umbrella,
a hammock, or go beachcombing. Take a swim, boatride, or try a
variety of other activities. The most popular activity was
snorkeling, as adults and kids alike had a blast spotting fish and
fake sunken treasure.
Sip a Pina Colada and listen to the live Bahamian band
play reggae and calypso tunes. The kids have their own area called
Scuttles Cove, which is supervised by the kids' counselors.
You can have lunch on the island at Cookie's Bar-B-Q,
named after the island chef. A lunch buffet with barbecue ribs,
shrimp, hotdog, fish, burger, dessert, fruits. The disappointing
part was that everyone had to be back on the ship by 4:00 PM. I wish
Disney would cut the Nassau stay and spend more time at their island
Without a doubt, the ship and its amenities are the
best part of the whole cruise. I would go on this ship again
anytime. There are some areas, however, that Disney really needs to
improve upon – most notably, dining room service.
I had the unusual occurrence of going on back-to-back
cruises: the Carnival Destiny in September, and the Magic in
October. The service on Carnival was superior to the Magic, which
may surprise some. Veteran cruisers I met aboard the Magic agreed:
the dining room staff needs a bit more refining. Point blank – many
people felt rushed at several meals. The staff is very young and
seemed to be overwhelmed with many duties. I’ve never felt rushed on
any of my previous 15 voyages.
Itineraries & Price
If you want to experience this fantastic ship, you
have several options. Current itineraries are three- and four-day
cruises with stops in Nassau, and Castaway Cay. In August, however,
two big changes will occur:
Starting on August 12, the Magic will offer seven-day
cruises to the Caribbean with stops in St. Thomas (with excursions
to St. John), St. Maarten, and Castaway Cay. The cruises are slated
to run through at least May of 2001. Also, in August, the Wonder
will add a new port-of-call to its four day itinerary by stopping in
Most Disney Magic passengers are booking the three- or
four-day cruise offerings as part of a seven-day package that
includes a stay at Walt Disney World. Disney has developed a system
where one only has to check in once for the ship and land vacation.
One key card opens the hotel room and cabin doors. The same key card
serves as a charge card at Walt Disney World and on the ship. Cruise
ship passengers travel between Walt Disney World and the ship, as
well as to and from the airport, in motorcoaches.
When Disney first started the cruise line back in
1998, the prices were astronomical and out of reach for an average
family of four. In 1999, Disney cut prices for children on an
average seven-day cruise-and-resort package (without air). The price
for children ages 3 to 17 traveling as a third, fourth or fifth
guest sharing a room was cut from $749 to $399. Children under two
cost $80, and adults (18 and over) pay $599. Depending on the
category and time of year, the first two adults pay anywhere from
$799 through $4029 per person.
To book or learn more about this and other Disney
Cruise Line vacations, see your travel agent, or call (800) 951-3532
or visit them online at Disney Cruise Line.
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