Disney’s Magic Cruise gets an updated look!
A Magical Make Over: With a sprinkle of Pixie dust, Disney’s Magic Cruise gets an updated look…
The Disney Magic, the first ship in Disney Cruise Line’s fleet, originally launched 15 years ago. Everyone needs a make over after 15 years, and the ship was recently nipped and tucked (or “re-imagined” in Disney language.)
During six weeks in dry dock, the Magic received a stem-to-stern update. The Magic now features fresh new spaces and attractions. My family and I were recently able to spend 4 days aboard the ship. We have now sailed on all of the Disney Cruise Line ships – twice on the Wonder and on the media sailings for both the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. After five cruises, my family and I have amassed an impressive collection of DCL lanyards! Here is our travel diary.
After an easy drive from South Florida to Port Canaveral, we drop our luggage off curbside and park in the covered parking garage. It’s a cold and blustery day in Central Florida. (To all of the northerners, be fair! Fifty-five is downright freezing when you are used to 80-degree weather!)
We enter the port terminal and immediately see a cruise staffer waving to us wearing a giant white puffy Mickey Mouse hand. We all smile. We breezed through the lines inside since we had registered online in advance. (Visit click on “Planning Center” and fill out the forms prior to embarkation. It will make life much easier!)
We waited to take our obligatory photo with Mickey Mouse (dressed in his best captain’s uniform) in front of the model ship inside the port terminal. Soon it was time to board and with our Key to the World cards hanging from our necks, we head into the giant Mickey head shaped tunnel that leads passengers to the ship.
We stopped for more photos taken by a professional photographer, and just before we embarked, my daughter Alexandria asked if she could have a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar for dessert. And then I said something I have never said before. Ever. I don’t know if I was caught up in the excitement you feel just before a trip or the fact that I was so happy that my daughter (who is just a few weeks away from turning 11 and is almost-but-not-quite-yet a tween) is still young enough to be excited over a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar, but I turned to her and to her twin sister Sydney and I said, “From this point on, anything you ask, the answer will be yes.” (The photographer overheard this conversation and high-fived me right then and there.)
My husband flashed me a bit of a desperate, “What did you just say?” look and then he just smiled. Truth be told, we are very laid back parents and I’ve been known, for no special occasion in particular, to serve dessert first and then dinner. Life is short and sometimes you just have to have fun, especially when the kids are still little.
I now realize I should have put in some kind of official mom disclaimer such as “anything within reason” (requests of a horse and all new things that being with a lowercase i suddenly flashed into my mind,) but such is the power of a Disney Cruise. At that moment, all of the happy vibes and magical energy truly made me aspire to make my daughters’ wishes come true on this trip. That’s the thing about a Disney cruise — they just make you want you to say yes. They make you want to believe in the magic. That for right now, anything is possible.
We entered the lobby and heard the familiar hark, “The Disney Magic welcomes back the Cohen Family!” Each and every family is welcomed personally by name and is announced as if they were royalty, with the ship’s staff flanking them on either side in a grand receiving line in the lobby. This is probably the closest most people will ever get to feeling like a celebrity.
It was at that moment I felt like the vacation has officially begun.
We stepped into the grand 3-story atrium lobby which was completely transformed with new chandeliers, carpet and color schemes. We were welcomed by a bronze statue of Helmsman Mickey, decked out in a raincoat by a captain’s wheel. The statue was crafted by Walt Disney Imagineers to create a spirit of fun the minute you board.
Staterooms are not ready until the afternoon, and your luggage may not arrive until then, so it is necessary to bring a carry-on bag with bathing suits, sunscreen, a change of clothes and any other items you need for the first day including diapers or medication. (You will use this bag when it is time to go home too.)
We were encouraged to eat lunch at Cabanas, an indoor/outdoor buffet-style casual dining restaurant. With floor-to-ceiling windows, travelers can enjoy the view of the water as they eat. Lunch items may include soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers.
By the time we were done with lunch, and as if by magic, our luggage had arrived in our ocean view stateroom, which featured a queen-sized bed, (stow the suitcases underneath), a single convertible sofa sleeper and an upper berth pull-down bed. When made up each night by the Disney staff, the two looked like a bunk bed complete with a moveable little ladder. The split bathroom (one with a sink and toilet and another with a sink and a tub/shower) allows everyone to get ready quicker. There is also a fridge, a safe, and a flat screen TV in the cabin. The private balcony is the perfect spot to sip your morning coffee, read a book, or just catch the scenery as you sail.
After a mandatory afternoon safety drill, we registered our daughters at Oceaneer Lab, a four-zone play space and activity center open to 3-to-12-year-old children. Located at Dec 5, Midship, the Lab has gone through a complete re-design and features Pixie Hollow, The Mickey Mouse Club, Andy’s Room and Marvel’s Avengers Academy. It’s the hubbub for creativity and fun.
As part of the registration process, the girls received Oceaneer Bands. These ID bands have also been updated. The waterproof yellow band was secured to their wrist and was kept on for the duration of the cruise. A quick tap against a light-up Mickey head checks the kids into and out of the play spaces.
The bands are also linked to photos of each child that pop up in the computer and are registered to the parents. The bands allow Youth Activities Cast Members to keep an accurate count and a general location of each child within the secured Youth Activities spaces on the ship. Note: These bands are different than the Magic Bands used at the parks.
One of the Marvel-ous new kid spaces features the Marvel heroes. Now that Marvel and the Walt Disney Company have joined forces, kids can experience the Marvel Avengers Academy on the Magic. Using technology and costumes, kids can virtually suit up in Iron Man’s suit of armor, throw down Thor’s hammer or defend with Captain America’s shield and assume the role of various Marvel characters. In simulated training exercise, children are able to hone their target practice, flight simulation skills and unleash their own inner super heroes. The action plays out on a giant video screen. There are also computer games, arts and crafts, and surprise Super Hero visits, allowing children to immerse themselves in the story through role-play. It’s all really terrifically techie. I overheard many parents asking if they too could become Iron Man. (Yes, but only during open house. And parents, do let the little ones go first.)
Just adjacent to Marvel’s Avengers Academy is Andy’s Room, a two-story area where Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story comes to life. Set up to look like Andy’s bedroom, the play space is filled with all of Andy’s best buddies including Hamm, the pink piggy bank, Mr. Potato Head (complete with removable eyes, ears and all of his other parts), and a Slinky the Dog slide. Everything in Andy’s Room is built large-scale size making the kids feel toy-sized.
The third play space in the Oceaneer Club is The Mickey Mouse Club. This room has a retro feel, splashed in classic Mickey colors of red, yellow and black, and is the perfect place for kids to play games and create crafts on the Mickey Mouse ear-shaped tables.
The enchanted land of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends comes alive in Pixie Hollow, another play zone. In this magical forest setting, kids can play dress up (Tinker Bell’s teapot house serves as a costume closet!) and create crafts while sitting atop stools shaped like acorns and mushrooms. There is also a wall of computers (wrapped in “branches”) where the kids can play computer games. Children can also enjoy crafts and storytelling sessions in Pixie Hollow.
The Oceaneer Club is open from 9am to Midnight and is the perfect place for kids to play while parents have their own fun.
Connected to the Oceaneer Club is the Oceaneer Lab. Parents should note that children have the ability to move back and forth between Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab. A secure, kid’s only hallway connects the two youth spaces, so children can move freely and experience activities between both areas.
Disney’s Oceaneer Lab on the Disney Magic takes 3-to-12-year-olds on a journey of discovery, exploration and adventures. At this new pirate-themed area, children get hands-on to create experiments and art projects at an animator’s studio, pirate workshop and lab, while Navigator Simulators let young buccaneers steer a ship through the mysterious waters of The Caribbean.
For those families sailing with teens ages 14 to 17, you can be sure they will spend much of their time at Vibe. Tucked into a faux funnel on the Magic, Vibe is a teen-only hangout spot open from 11am to 2am. (Parents, take note, although designated as a teens-only hangout, Vibe is chaperoned by DCL counselors who monitor the teens in such a way to make them feel as unrestricted and comfortable as possible, so there’s no need to worry about make-out sessions or hook ups with new friends! There’s a strict no PDA rule at Vibe.)
Disney Imagineers designed Vibe to resemble a funky loft apartment with a bit of a hip urban coffee house and a university student center thrown in for good measure. Vibe features an eclectic collection of plush couches, mismatched chairs and beanbag chairs, giving it that cool college dorm room feel.
Vibe features a full bar that serves a large selection of non-alcoholic beverages, including fruit smoothies and soft drinks. With a dance floor, music, multiple plasma-screen TVs, Internet access, video games, piles of board games, DVD players, teen dance parties and karaoke, Vibe is the perfect chill-out spot.
And for the youngest cruisers, babies ages 3 months to 3 years, is the all new It’s A Small World Nursery. Redesigned in the style of Disney Legend animator Mary Blair, the nursery’s décor is a patchwork of colorful shapes from the “it’s a small world” attraction, providing a soothing environment that infants and toddlers are sure to enjoy.
Available at an additional charge, It’s a Small World Nursery lets adults take part in more grown-up adventures on and off the ship while their children are safely cared for by trained Disney counselors.
An acclimation zone will help little ones adjust to the nursery, and the main play features a soft surface floor surrounded by colorful, kid-sized tables and chairs where toddlers can enjoy crafts, books and games. It resembles a preschool classroom and is a great place for age-specific play.
At 4:15pm the Sail Away Celebration Party began. This high-energy, dance party extravaganza stars Disney Cruise crew members and all of the Disney characters bedecked in special cruise attire. Roving cameras project crowd images onto the jumbo screen, and as confetti and streamers swirls through the sky, the captain blasted the horn to announce our departure, however, it was not the usual single-note blast, but rather the first measure of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” heralding the start of the cruise with that special Disney touch.
Even though it was cold (most people were bundled up in heavy coats) the weather did not keep the excitement down. The sail-away celebration officially heralds the beginning of your cruise vacation and gets you into fun mode!
After the sail away party, it was time to get ready for the show Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story. The musical presents a sort of sequel to the original story line, and throws in a “what if” scenario; with the help of a wicked fairy Godfather, the wicked step-sisters have another shot at marrying Prince Charming. It’s sort of like a Disney-fied version of the movie “Sliding Doors”.
The story includes the familiar themes of self-esteem and that what’s on the inside is more important than external beauty. Twice Charmed is a very complex show and it is hard to believe they can fit in all of the costume and scenery changes in the hour-long performance.
Now that my daughters are older, we opted for the later dining time (8pm). When the girls were younger, we ate at the main seating time of 5:30pm, but it required getting out of the pool no later than 4pm to allow enough time for everyone to get ready. Consider what dinner time will work best for your family.
Disney’s dining system allows passengers to rotate to one of three distinctly themed restaurants each night, and the servers follow from venue to venue.
Our favorite restaurant continues to be Animator’s Palate, which serves up something more than just delicious food. The uber-creative new dinner show called Drawn to Magic celebrates the art of Disney animation. During this show, guests see the evolution of animation from pencil test, to ink and paint, and finally, storytelling.
As you enter the black and white restaurant, pencil sketches of Disney characters appear one stroke at a time on oversized screens. Ariel, Snow White, and Pluto, along with all of the other Disney characters slowly take shape.
Throughout the meal, the Disney character sketches transform from stark black and white line drawings to brilliant color. Soon the pencil sketches come to life before your eyes and turn into full-color animated characters, all amid the familiar classic orchestral themes of Disney movies playing overhead. It’s hypnotic to watch the complete evolution of the characters transform from a sketch into moving pictures.
During the finale, the lights dim and the once black and white décor gets washed in vibrant colors. The servers parade around the restaurant with Mickey Mouse as their leader.
As with every cruise, we fell in love with our server. Kat from the United Kingdom was our adorable beverage server, complete with proper British accent and a sweet smile. Most of the servers are young 20-something adults from all over the world.
On a previous cruise, another beverage server from England, Morag had won us over with the way she asked if we wanted ketchup. “Would you like some sauce?” she would ask in a perfect British accent. To this day, my daughters still refer to ketchup as “sauce”.
Kat could not have done more for my daughters, even going so far as to cutting up the fruit plate for Alexandria (she had a race with, Ricky our food server, who simultaneously cut up the fruit for Sydney), and drew cute puzzles for the girls to try to solve in crayon right on the white table cloth.
Mom confession: I’ve always secretly thought how perfect it would be if I could persuade one of these 20-something girls to come live with me and my family. I mean, what better place to find a nanny than on a Disney Cruise Line. I don’t think the NSA could conduct a better background check!
After dinner the girls headed to the Oceaneer Club and my husband and I went to Fathoms, an 18 and older club, to watch the Match Your Mate Game Show.
Soon we were all pretty tired and headed back to the stateroom to plan the next day. We were greeted with a playful “towelgami” monkey waiting for us with chocolates, as was the case each night. The bunk beds had also been made up.
There are a variety of activities throughout the day, so it is imperative to read the Personal Navigator newsletter that is delivered to your stateroom each night with details about the next day’s schedule of events and activities by start and end time. You cannot get the schedule beforehand. It is impossible to do everything, so we planned out the things we wanted to do. Some activities are offered at a few different times so pick what works best for your schedule and be sure to plan some down time for the kids.
Day 2 to come…with the AquaDunk, the teen Chill Spa, and Disney’s Castaway Cay!