This was my first Disney cruise, but fourth overall. I have also cruised with NCL twice, and Royal Caribbean. This cruise was overpriced, when you compare it with similar styled cruise lines
The food quality was substandard at best. Most of our meals came out lukewarm, heavily sauced, and over salted. This was consistent throughout the cruise. It's almost as Disney felt that since they were creating the Disney "magical" experience with the characters, that the adults and children wouldn't notice the lack of variety in food, fresh fruit or appetizing meals. I know that children's palates aren't as developed as adults, but please, there is just some much mac n' cheese (made with what seemed like velveeta), pizza and chicken fingers that a child can eat over the duration of a 7 day cruise. The orange and apple juice was only available during meal hours, so if you didn't plan ahead and bottle some for your stateroom, your child was drinking milk or from the soda station
We had a family deluxe oceanview. Our stateroom attendant was polite and did a great job of keeping our room clean, tidy, and well stocked withfresh towels, etc.
The Disney meet and greets were fantastic for the children. You have alot of opportunities during the cruise to meet with the different characters. If your little ones are looking at getting some autographs and pictures, you will want to get the majority of them as early on in the cruise as possible. Disney runs their ship lean, which means closer to the end of the cruise, you have less opportunity to meet the characters as many of them double for the evening entertainment. Also, for those families that didn't get their quota of photos earlier on in the cruise, they are now scrambling to get as many photos as they can before the end of the cruise. Picture taking is scheduled, and random all at the same time. Since there always seems to be a character(s) walking around on the ship, you often end up taking unplanned pictures causing you to miss other onboard activities. Due to the lineups sometimes taking a 1/2hr or more for photo taking, kids often end up getting cranky. If you can take turns with lineup duties, and have your little ones join you just before their photo is to be taken, you will make your life alot easier.
All three swimming pool areas for the younger babies, children and adults were extremely small and insufficient for the number of people onboard.
The evening (Broadway type) entertainment was also fantastic, and is definitely a higher calibre to what I've seen on other ships. The shows were done "Disney" style, and they didn't disappoint. The pirate party was also fantastic, with the fireworks show at the end - Awesome!
We did our own excursions and we were quite happy with the price and activities we were able to do on our own. I've always found that the excursions offered by cruise lines were higher than what you can get if you plan it yourself, but make sure you do your research beforehand, so you're not wasting time at port. If planning ahead isn't for you, then go with a pre-packaged excursion since there's bound to be at least one which, will interest you and your family.
If you want to see as many Disney characters as possible - than this is the cruise for you. If you are looking for the best quality cruise experience for your dollar, I would recommend a similar styled cruise which offers some character events and children programs.
Reading this review you might think that this cruise wasn't that bad, but please take into account that this itinerary only goes to 3 ports of call. Leaving alot of time spent using the amenities and onboard activities. Overall, this cruise was disappointing due to the cost, poor amenities, and the lack of quality food.
This is my sixth Disney cruise, and I wanted to give a thumbs up to the newly reconditioned Magic. The entertainment broadway style shows were fantastic, and the new Disney Dreams really were great.
However, the comedian really was quite bad, and to be quite frank, a lot of folks walked out on her.
As for excursions, if you go to St Marteen, stay on the boat. The water is too choppy for snorkeling and the reefs are nasty. The island is littered with plastic bags and tires -- a lot like the bad parts of New Jersey.
The Dolphin encounter on St. Marteen is a total waste and should be avoided as the service staff there does not care about the customer. I made Disney aware of this and they are looking into it.
Let me end on a very positive note -- the staff on the Magic are amazing. They truly cater to your every need and define service.
Truly you must experience the Magic it to believe it. From the moment you arrive, Disney goes above and beyond to create a stress-free vacation for families. After an easy pass through customs, we boarded the grand vessel and headed to deck seven to find our room. Disney's Magic boasts of the best cabins in the industry – and for good reason. The larger-than-average rooms allowed plenty of room to move around and a split bath makes it perfect for families. There's even sleeping privacy. The large verandahs are delightful for spending private family moments.
The entertainment begins the moment you step foot on to the ship. Disney characters meet and greet passengers and crew members are busy with smiles for everyone. A bon voyage deck party complete with live band and dancing was held (our kids were in the swimming pools before we even set sail). And as the whistle blew and we left the shore, I saw more than one person with tears in their eyes as the familiar strain of It's a Small World After All played.
We needn't have worried if the kids would need us. Theydidn't. They were too busy digging for whale bones, swimming, playing ping-pong and basketball, learning animation, creating their own volcanoes, dancing with princesses and meeting new friends. Since the children were happily involved in their own activities, my husband and I went to wine tastings, shows, relaxed and made new friends of our own.
The only challenge for the week is how to fit in all the wonderful activities. There's so much to do on the Magic. Thankfully, Disney's on top of this too. Each evening, an itinerary of the next day's line-up is delivered to your stateroom.
A favorite of our kids was the children's program. Nearly an entire deck is devoted to children's programming. The Oceaneer Club is for ages 3 to 7, while the Oceaneer Lab is for ages 8 to 12. Activities are further separated by appropriate age groups. For example, the 3 and 4 year olds, 8 and 9 year olds, etc. There is also a nursery for ages 3 months to 3 years and a teens-only supervised program.
Reassuring is Disney's commitment to a secured safe program. They take the security of the children very seriously and are constantly upgrading our security measures. Pagers are given to the parents so if a child desires to be picked up, mom and dad are only a quick page away. A password, which is provided at the beginning of the voyage, must be given for designated members of the party to pick-up a child. At times, our four-year old still experiences separation issues and his counselor Desta went above and beyond to make the transitions much easier.
On the ship there's something to fit everyone's tastes. And speaking of tastes, there not enough ink to talk about the delightful dining experiences. It's certainly true that one can literally eat their way around the clock (thank goodness for the exercise room). The nightly dining is superb as you and your wait staff rotate together between Parrot Cay, Lumiere's and Animator's Palate. There is also an adults-only option at Palo's. Palo's is an Italian restaurant overlooking the ocean (reservations are required). For those who need an in-between meal snack fix, there's a 24-hour pizza station, soda station, ice cream and more. (And don't forget about those midnight buffets.)
A highlight of the week was the mid-week top deck pirate party. Passengers were encouraged to don their best pirate apparel and take part in lively fun. The party featured Captain Hook and Captain Mickey and dancing, food, and music kept the happy crowd on their feet. A sensational fireworks display capped the night off. To add to the theme, Disney showed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest throughout the entire week.
Disney has extended the on-ship magic to its private island – Castaway Cay. At this 1000-acre Bahamian island, families can get up close and personal with stingrays, snorkel, parasail, fish, go boating and more. Shop, dine and listen to live music amid the beautiful beaches. Or simply lay in a hammock as the gentle breeze of a palm tree blows. For adults wishing a little time alone, Serenity Bay is an adults-only beach. On the island, children can participate in organized activities. On our cruise, we had the luxury of two days at Castaway Cay. Its incredible beautiful and well worth two stops. Lending a helping hand to families, Disney suggests and reserves shore excursions for additional port stops. Ports can be extremely busy and crowded, so take their advice and let Disney handle the particulars.
There is so much to do and see yet Disney takes all the work out of it. Aside from the wonderful places and activities we were involved in; it's the people we miss. My son's new best friend lives 1000 miles away but is as close as e-mail, the crew who are from all over the world - new friends but truly not forgotten ones. Aptly said during our last evening "what you can't see with your eyes, lives in your heart."
Our family was on the Disney Magic on April 21, 2001. Our dream vacation quickly became a nightmare. The three small pools on board were very inadequate and dangerous. Too many children for the size of the pools.
The food was hit and miss. Sometimes good and more often bad.
The first day at sea, the waves were 10 -15 feet and everyone was sick. Many of the children were sick on deck. They failed to mention that in the brochure. Think about sea sickness before you book!!!!!!
Disney continued to disappoint us, the engines broke down in St. Thomas and a specialist had to be flown in. This took 12 hours. We left late and the last port, Castaway Kay was missed. The children were all looking forward to this port. It is their day on the beach. Disney just said Sorry.
Cruisers beware......they take our money and don't live up to their own standards of customer service. I personally will not ever visit Disney again. They have lost all their Magic............ Fellow Cruise Mate
We just returned from our first Disney Cruise. We had 13 in our group, daughters and husbands, and grandchildren(6,5,4,and 2 years of age.) The cruise was out of this world. I'm in a wheelchair, so we got a handicapped room. The room 7136 was out of this world. Roll in shower, grab bars and roll under sink. I also rented a mobility scooter from one of Disney's recommended companies. It was waiting for me when I got there.
The ship is very handicap accessible, plenty of handicap bathrooms all over the ship. Dinning was excellent, rode scooter to dinner and waiter moved it after I transferred to chair. Food was great all over the boat. Plenty of food to snack on 24 hours a day. Castaway Cay was wonderful. All walkways paved so the scooter worked well. Used a beach wheelchair to go onto beach and enjoy my grandchildren.
Food on island was fabulous, ribs, bbq chicken, corn on cob, chips, baked beans, salad, fruit and cookies. Pool were excellent for the children, they are on the 9th deck near the drink station and ice cream machines(open 24 hours), Pete's Boiler Bitesoffered Chicken tenders, hot dogs, hamburgers, FF all day long. The Buffett had the best prime rib ever. All food on the ship was excellent. Looking forward to our next Disney Cruise.
My family and I cruised on the Disney Magic February 4 to 11 on the Eastern Caribbean cruise. Our total number was 10. We included my wife, our 18-year-old son, our 4-year-old daughter, and me. My sister in law and her family accompanied us. They included my sister in law, her husband, a 17-year-old son, a 13-year-old son, an 11-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old daughter. As you can see, many age groups were represented. This is the second cruise I have taken, the first being 20 years before.
Before going further, I want to point out that literally everything is garishly decorated Disney style. Disney music plays constantly, Disney ice cream bars are served; everything has the Disney theme throughout. I adore Disney. I love Disney. For me and mine, the decorations are half the fun. If you do not feel as strongly about the Disney theme as I do, this may get on your nerves.
We arrived at the airport about 9 am. We immediately took the Disney bus to the port. The bus is equipped with TVs along the isle that played a Disney movie to entertain the little ones,and there are many little ones. The bus ride was comfortable and not too very long.
At the port we entered a very large waiting area. Considering the number of people the ship holds, there could have been more seating; much of the hall was just large open area. The lines for check in went extremely fast, in my opinion. About an hour or so before boarding, several Disney characters entered the hall to entertain the kids, big and little, and for photo ops.
As we boarded the ship, we traveled down a hallway and were given an opportunity to have a professional photo taken (one of many, many, many, probably the same on every cruise). When we boarded the ship we were greeted by many of the crew and officers. We were directed to the dining area for a buffet type lunch, nothing special but very palatable. There was a bon voyage party thrown on the deck as we pulled out of the harbor.
Our cabins, we had two connecting cabins between the 10 of us (I’ll get more room next time), seemed spacious enough to me. We had the two older boys with us as well as my daughter. We were in stateroom category 4, with a balcony. The balcony wasn’t huge but very adequate to sit on and read a book or have breakfast.
From what I have read, the dining is unique in that there are three dining rooms and all guests rotate through them during the cruise. The dining rooms are beautifully decorated in (what else) Disney themes. Your wait staff accompanies you on your tour through the different dining experiences. I found most of the food very good, maybe not five star cuisines, but well prepared, presented and tasty. There were several choices at each seating and the meals were themed to the dining rooms. Also, the kids had no problem choosing something to eat on each menu.
The entertainment was excellent, very family oriented and entertaining for young and old. There were full-blown stage performances, comedy acts, and musicians in the lounges and a pirate themed party on the deck one evening including fireworks. There were also many other events taking place, I assume standard faire on cruises, bingo, drink mixology, an art auction etc, etc.
The ports we visited were enjoyable. Being a US Navy Vet, I have had the opportunity to do extensive travel, so I won’t comment too much here. Disney obviously steers its passengers towards family type land tours, which are my preference. I believe we could have gotten away much cheaper and probably with more activities if we went off on our own. My family’s absolute favorite was the private island Disney owns/rents/borrows. They have very nearly created a new theme park on this small island. There are all the standard water sports, beach time, buildings for shopping, and a huge catered beach party. It was a blast! We had reserved seats on the banana boat ride for our son and his older cousin, but they were “too cool” to be seen doing such petty events, so my wife and I went instead. Do not miss this! There is a very large family beach, an adult beach and a teenager beach, so the ‘too cool’ don’t have to hang out with Dad and Mom. There is also a kids (smaller children) area that has counselors and activities geared for the 7 and younger crowd while you go snorkel diving (also very worthwhile) and banana boat riding.
Disney has set up a very good series of programs for children. The areas are segregated into little ones (about 7 down) mid-aged kids (8 to 13) and teenagers (14 to 17). Each of the groups has their own areas to hang out, socialize and have a good time. There are trained people guiding activities for all the kids. The younger children can only enter or leave with a prearranged guardian. I could not pry my daughter out of the play area with a crow bar.
The disembarkation was smooth and painless (there were some tears, mostly mine).
The staff was the most gracious, friendliest, helpful and attendant people I have ever had service from. They work hard and deserve the tips we all should be giving them. My entire family agrees that the vacation was the best we have ever had. I personally found the price a bit higher than some other cruise lines but there is only one Disney. We want to try a different cruise line, we booked on the Freedom recently, but I will definitely travel on the Magic again. Anyone with children will find the Disney cruise line a great vacation.
My husband and I chose to take a 7 day Western Caribbean Cruise for our honeymoon 2 and a half years ago. Everything was PERFECT!!
We had such a wonderful time, our stateroom was beautiful, our steward was so incredibly attentive that when he found out it was our honeymoon, we came back to a stateroom w/rose petals scattered on the bed and our towels folded like 2 swans connected with a heart.
The food was FANTASTIC. Our 2 servers were attentive and knew what our likes and dislikes were. As honeymooners we experienced just about all of the adults only stuff, except for the spa.
We weren't bothered by the children AT ALL. We went to Palo and were so impressed that we also scheduled a brunch as well as our dinner.
Shows were great, activities were fun and well-organized, and I can't say enough about Castaway Cay, our favorite island BAR NONE!!
We now have a 15-month-old and a baby on the way. We CAN'T WAIT to take the 2 of them on a Disney Cruise when they are older.
Our honeymoon was fantastic and to this day we STILL reminisce on howwonderful it was and how we would do it again in a heartbeat!!
I recently had the pleasure of sailing aboard Disney's Magic. I want to start by saying I am so glad I sailed before I read some of the reviews. Based on some of the reviews, I would have have been "leary" of traveling with Disney, but thankfully, I experienced the "Magic" myself. The whole experience, from when the staff member met us at the terminal after flying into Orlando until we got off the bus back at the airport the following week, was more than I could have ever expected. If I thought I wanted something, someone was there ready to bring it to me.
The water was a little rough leaving Port Canaveral, but come to find out from one of the staff, it usually is rough with the currents changing, but we were assured that weather permitting, the waters would calm down...and they did! Although we were not able to dock in Grand Cayman or Castaway Cay because of winds, the Captain and staff were extememly apologetic and had onboard activities ready to roll within minutes of notifying us.
There were endless activites and food, food, food! The showsthe staff put on (in particular the 60's night, 70's night, 80's night and especially the finale on the last night) were the most entertaining shows I have ever been to, at land or sea!
There is something for everyone, whether you are 3 or 83. I traveled with 10 members of my family that ranged in age from 3 to 55 and every last one of us had the time of our lives. Members of my family have cruised on other lines, but Disney by far, exceeded all of our expectations. I highly recommend sailing with Disney!
Let's start with the basics and background information. On this trip were my wife (Darlene), our 9-year-old daughter (April), and myself (Bill). We are from Salt Lake City, Utah. In the past we have cruised 3 times with Princess and once with Premier on the Big Red Boat (Oceanic). This was our first cruise with Disney but we have been to Disney World and Disneyland many times.
We arrived in Orlando a week before the cruise to enjoy the theme parks and made our own air arrangements to save money. However, we did purchase Disney's round trip transfers from the airport to the ship. We were dropped off at the airport about 11:15 on the day of sailing and had no problem finding the Disney busses that would take us to the ship. There are plenty of Disney reps to help direct you to the right place. We were the first passengers on the next bus heading to the port and only had a short wait before we were on the road heading east. Disney handles this part of embarkation very well.
On board the bus a 40-minute video about theship and boarding procedures is shown. It's more commercial than informative but it did help pass the time quickly. Upon arrival at the pier the luggage is unloaded and you just have to pick up your carry on bags and head up the escalator to check in. Be sure to tag your non-carry on bags with the tags that Disney supplies so they can be sent to your stateroom.
At the top of the escalator are 25 or so check-in lines. The first three, to the left as you stand in line, are for non-US citizens. We were in the first line after that which moved faster than the others because if there weren't any non-US citizens checking in they would wave the next person in our line over. This was the short line. After receiving our room/charge cards we got in a second, very very very long line to board the ship. Considering how long the line was, it did move fairly quickly and I was too excited to be bothered by it anyway. :-)
Once onboard we had a "welcome aboard" photo taken before stepping into the ship's atrium. Disney's attention to detail is fabulous. You are met by a bronze Mickey at the helm and the staircases have iron carvings of many of the characters up the walls! Once onboard you are free to roam the ship or go straight to your stateroom, and we choose the latter to drop off our bags and see our home for the next week. We were in a Navigator's Veranda cabin, #7122, and it was by far the best stateroom we have ever stayed in! The bathrooms are unique and very convenient when traveling with 3 people. One bathroom has the toilet and a sink, the other the shower/bath and a sink. There is plenty of space to store your toiletries in both bathrooms. There is also ample space in the closet and dressers and desk to stash all your stuff when unpacked. Our only minor problem was storing the suitcases because 2 of them were too fat to fit under the bed. We solved this by opening one suitcase up and sliding it under that way. The other fit in the closet and still left plenty of room for clothes.
At 4pm you have a mandatory fire drill, making sure everyone is present and knows what to do in the unlikely event of a real life emergency! At dinner (we had the 8:30pm seating) we met up with our "table-mates". We were lucky as they were all great people -Robin and Tony from San Diego with their daughter Lauren, and Jenny and Dave from Ohio - we all laughed, joked, told stories, and shared our experiences the whole time.
The ship itself is beautiful. Depending on where you are it ranges from elegant to fun. Although there is Disney stuff everywhere, you don't feel hit over the head by it, because most of it is subtle. There are plenty of characters about for those photo opportunities if you need proof that you went on a Disney cruise! :-) The restaurants are beautiful (Lumiere's) and fun (the others). The lounges are comfortable, and the main show theater is wonderful, with great sight lines. There is plenty of deck space. The Mickey and Goofy pools can get a bit crowded by late in the morning. Even the Quite Cove pool filled up on our days at sea. If you have kids that want to use the slide, get them up to the Mickey pool by 9am and they will be able to get a few trips down before it gets crowded and they have to stand in line. Everything is kept clean and in good condition. Seems like we couldn't walk very far without seeing a crewmember cleaning something.
They always had 24 hour self serve milk, water, ice, coffee, decaf, tea (with a wide variety of tea bags) outside of Topsiders deck 9. This was a convenient way to grab a quick cup of coffee and sit out on the veranda before heading out for breakfast.
The 4 restaurants on the Magic all have different themes. Palo requires you to make a reservation and pay an extra $5 per person but it is well worth it. The food there is outstanding! The best I have ever had on a cruise and better than 95% of the restaurants I've eaten in. Be sure to get the souffle for dessert, it is to die for! :-). When going to the other restaurants, arrive a few minutes later than your seating time. This will save you some time of standing in line. Our waiter's name was Dave, from Jamaica, and Boulent who is from Turkey assisted him. They both made dinner a pleasure for our tablemates and us.
I would rate the overall food quality as a step below what we are used to on Princess. Certainly not bad quality but not as good as it could be. The pizza from Pinocchio's on deck 9 was pretty good but the hamburger I had from Pluto's, also on deck 9, was poor. I didn't try the ice cream from Scoop's, deck 9, but my daughter says it was good so I'll take her word for it. :-)
Animators Palate has a black and white decor that changes to color by dessert. There are numerous screens around the restaurant with sketches from Disney movies that change from black and white to color. I really expected the change to color to be more elaborate and dramatic than it was but it did make for an interesting dinner.
Parrot Cay has a tropical theme and was probably my favorite restaurant as far as the decor is concerned. It is the most festive of the bunch.
Lumiere's is the most elegant with a large mural in the back featuring Beauty and the Beast and other characters from the movie. Note the use of roses in this restaurant. I thought it was a nice touch, though you might not 'get it' if you haven't seen the movie. :-)
Speaking of movies, one advantage to a Disney cruise is access to first run feature films. On our cruise we caught 'Atlantis' and I stayed up late one night to watch 'Pearl Harbor'. These movies are shown in the Buena Vista Theater on deck 5, aft. Some of the other movies playing were 'Castaway', 'Chocolat', 'Spy Kids', and 'Recess: School's Out'. I think there were a couple of others also. There are two movie channels on your stateroom TV as well. One played Disney animated classics and the other live action shows from other Disney studios.
We signed April up for the Oceaneer's Lab but she really didn't spend too much time doing their activities. She hooked up with a couple of friends she made on the ship and spent time 'exploring'. :-) We felt perfectly comfortable letting her do this with the 2 way radios we had taken with us. Just give her one and let her go!
Ports of call are St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. We'd been to St. Martin and St. Thomas before so there were no surprises there for us. Disney does offer a wide variety of shore excursions on both islands.
We chose the Golden Eagle Catamaran excursion on St. Martin. This includes as an hour or so ride over to an island for swimming and snorkeling as well as snacks and sandwiches and an open bar on the way back. Guess which part I liked more! The trip over was against the waves and very rough. Everyone in the front of the boat, where I was, got soaked from the waves. It was actually pretty fun.
On St. Thomas we took the Atlantis Submarine trip. This was probably worth doing once but is one of those things that now that I've done it I don't feel the need to ever do it again. One of the more interesting parts of the cruise happened as we were leaving St. Thomas. I was on the top deck watching us pull away from the dock. The ship was probably 30 or 40 feet from the dock when I noticed us stop and move back towards the dock! That's when another person up top with me noticed people on shore running for the ship. Talk about cutting it close! I don't know if they had lost track of time or had some other problem but I'd have a heart attack if I saw my ship starting to leave without me on it! I never found out who those people were, and I wonder if the captain might have paid them a visit later. :-)
Castaway Cay is a great private island experience. However, if you want a beach chair under an umbrella on the family beach you must be one of the first off the ship. We didn't get off for about 45 minutes after we were cleared and had to sit in the sun for the most part. We did manage to sneak a chair close enough to a palm tree to get some shade for the morning.
Disembarkation - In the morning you can have breakfast at the same restaurant where you had dinner the night before, or catch the buffet at Topsiders. First seating is served at 6:45 and second at 8:00. I was very glad to have second seating and catch that extra sleep. After breakfast you are free to leave the ship at your leisure, as long as it is by 9:00. :-) Found the bags easily, walked about 100 yards to the Delta check in area, and then hopped on the bus. It is a very smooth and easy transition back to the real world. If you're carrying a lot of bags you might want to consider using one of the porters to help you through customs and to the bus area.
Overall I thought this was a terrific vacation. Although Disney probably won't be my choice for our next cruise, I would not hesitate to cruise with them again someday. If you were considering Disney, I'd say go for it! It's not a completely traditional cruise experience but it is a lot of fun!
This is a review of my first Disney cruise experience traveling with my grandchildren Jake, age 9; and Hannah, age 6. I have taken several cruises, both alone and traveling with family members; therefore, I could not help but compare this cruise with others.
THE FLIGHT FROM CALIFORNIA
I had paid $1686 for the air add on to get from California to the cruise. This is the highest air portion I have ever paid so that I was surprised to find they had booked us on TWA, the worst airline for service that I have ever flown. Disney does not tell you about your airline arrangements until too late to make any changes so we were stuck. Although the tickets said 'snack' on both legs of the flight, we were served a total of one overly sweet muffin and a very small portion of applesauce on the first leg; then only a tiny bag of pretzels on the second leg. This was the only food served for a nine hour flight time beginning at 5:30 AM required check in with arrival in Orlando at about 5:30 PM including a short stop inSt. Louis. I assume this is legal treatment of passengers, but it surely is not a good way to treat small children. They were both extremely hungry by the time we arrived in Orlando, even though I had brought a few snacks in my carry on. I am not an especially experienced traveler. If I know that TWA gives such poor service, surely the Disney air travel department must know the same thing. I do not know why they would want the first impression of our Disney adventure to be so bad when it could be avoided by using a different airline.
When we arrived at the Orlando airport I had to file a claim for the damage to my new suitcase before we could leave the baggage area. I was told there was nothing they could do there and to turn the suitcase in for repairs after we got back home. After stopping to eat we went looking for a van to take us to the hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel itself is right in the airport. The room was one of the nicest I have ever had. It had a large furnished balcony, bath with double sinks, and every conceivable amenity. The kids were enchanted with the fountains and aviary in the large hallway outside our room. Unfortunately, I had promised them that they could swim when we got to the hotel, to make them feel better when hungry and tired on the plane. The fact that it was raining had no bearing on the situation in their minds, so off we went to find the pool. There were many people playing in the pool in spite of the rain. Both children had a great time and met several of their fellow cruisers while playing for over an hour in an extremely deluxe area with fountains shooting water into the pool. Luckily the weather was warm and there was no wind so that we just got wet, not cold. Since the hotel was located in the airport there were many choices for breakfast the next morning in addition to the hotel restaurant. There were also several shops in the airport area by the hotel so we bought a few last minute items before going to the lobby for our bus to the port.
On all of my other Florida based cruises we checked in for the cruise right at the hotel so that we just walked onto the ship when we got to the pier. While we were at the hotel Disney just gave us bus passes for the fifty minute ride to Port Canaveral; so that we had to go through the whole check in at the pier. Although not as convenient as hotel check in, the process was easy so that we were on the ship within half an hour after our arrival at the port.
After we were on the ship we were told that it would be an hour before we would be allowed to put our bags into our cabin We were to carry them with us to the buffet. We decided to wait until we could get rid of our bags to eat.
THE MUG SITUATION
I went to the guest services area to get the charge privileges removed from the children's room keys, and to buy the soft drink stickers I had read about in the literature sent by Disney with the cruise tickets. I had read that there would be a sticker for $28 that would allow unlimited sodas for children under twelve at any bar the whole week. This was $10 more than I had ever paid before, but I had told the kids that I would do it. When I tried to buy the sticker for their room cards, I was told that the program had changed. Now it was $35 to purchase a gaudy plastic Disney Magic mug. This mug was to be carried with the person any time he or she might want a drink. The mug would be filled free of charge all week at any bar. I found this program to be very inconvenient. With the old program the child had to feel thirsty and then initiate action to get a soda. Carrying the mug around with them reminded them to want a soda, which I feel increased the quantity of sodas that they drank. Hannah set her mug on a bench during the time we were leaving port and it was gone when she turned around to pick it up. It had been in her possession for less than two hours. Guest services were very courteous when they replaced it free of charge since I had the receipt. They had indelible markers to put the names on the mugs to help avoid a repeat of the problem. There was no access to sodas from the children's area on deck 5 so Hannah quit carrying her mug around with her and usually did not have it with her when she wanted a soda. We spent quite a bit of time in the afternoon going down to the cabin to get Hannah's mug when she wanted a soda. The only positive aspect of the new program, that I can see, is that adults can also have the mugs. Since sodas are free at meals and our week was generally overcast and cool, it would have been less expensive and much more convenient to just buy a couple of sodas each day as they wanted them. Maybe if the weather had been hot I would have felt the mugs were a better value, but they would have remained an inconvenient nuisance.
At 1:30 PM we were finally allowed to go to our stateroom and put down our carry ons. Our larger cases were waiting for us at the door. Our stateroom was far forward on deck 2 (number 2015) in the lowest cost category. Although the travel agent had informed Disney that we were three traveling together and that I wanted twin beds, it was set up with towels for two people and had a king size bed. One drawer was put in wrong and kept another from working. After two requests, finally, after 10:00 PM, the drawer was fixed, another towel delivered, and the bed configuration changed to twins. After these modifications the main cabin area was adequate for three with a sofa that converted to a bed at night. What we thought was a small refrigerator turned out to be a built in ice chest. As there is no supply of ice directly available to passengers, this was too much trouble to bother with. The television was small, but had a good picture and a nice selection of channels. The bath was a reasonable size for a cruise ship, but has no bar or space for the third set of towels, except inside the shower. There is no medicine cabinet; just a small shelf over the sink. This makes the bath a bit inconvenient for three persons. An unusual amenity for this cabin category is a small tub with a continental shower. There is also a well lighted make up mirror and a hair dryer. As the week went on we found the sound control to be excellent; we seldom heard any noise when inside the cabin except from the hallway, not even running water. The beds were very soft and uncomfortable with no back support. I always felt like I was falling out because the bed was slightly slanted away from the wall. Although we kept the air conditioning dial set at the coldest setting, the cabin was always warm and usually quite stuffy so that sleeping was not pleasant and it was hard to wake the children in the morning. We did not notice this problem during the day, maybe because we were in the cabin for only short periods at a time, except when sleeping. The hallways, even on the lowest passenger deck, were adequately wide, well lit, and gave no feeling of claustrophobia. I have never been on a ship with a cabin in the lowest category as nicely appointed or as uncomfortable as this one was.
After eating at the Topsider Buffet where the food was adequate, but nothing special, we took our own tour of the ship. The overall impression of the ship is that of a classic liner. The decor is beautiful without being overdone. Since it was raining we did not spend a lot of time up on the deck with the pools, but it looked inviting with lots of white plastic deck chairs and a few tables. Deck 5 had the Oceaneer children's programs so we registered the kids and picked up the pager that would have cost me $150 if I had lost or damaged it. I was required to sign in and pick Hannah up personally with a password, but Jake could sign himself in and out since I gave him permission to do so. The facilities in both areas looked very inviting and the counselors were friendly. Hannah was anxious to come back and check it out more thoroughly. Deck 4 has a beautiful outside teak promenade, covered, but open to the sea on the rail side. On the promenade there are lots of wonderful, old fashioned, wooden deck chairs with thick blue fabric pads on them. The Walt Disney theater is also on deck 4 all the way forward. It is an old time theater, beautifully decorated, but no banquettes, overstuffed chairs, or drink tables. Just rows of comfortable seats, each with a drink holder and good sight lines to the stage. A second, smaller theater is on deck 5. Most of the public areas are on decks 3 and 4 including guest services, the restaurants, and the adult area, Beat Street. I loved the fun and funky decor of Beat Street. It was done by someone with a good imagination, but not overdone.
During our tour of the ship it was time for the safety drill. The drill was uncomfortable mostly because of the humidity. We gathered in our assembly station with our life jackets on. Instructions about what to do in an emergency were announced over the public address system and we were dismissed without going to the actual lifeboat area. I think it was the shortest safety drill in which I have ever participated. After the drill we finished our tour of the ship and gathered on deck 4 to watch the ship pull away from the dock. It was overcast and raining so I guess the cruise staff decided to forego the departure celebration that had been mentioned over the PA system. There were lots of passengers at the appointed place, but no sign of the cruise staff or any celebration.
The Disney line is unusual in that the show for the late dinner seating passengers is before dinner, rather than after. One advantage of this arrangement is that early seating passengers do not fill up the good seats to see the show a second time since they are at dinner. You also do not have to rush through dinner to get to the show in time to get a good seat. The kids enjoyed the variety show with bits from shows to come later in the week. The show was more a preview of coming attractions and introduction of the staff and captain than a show for entertainment. Jake particularly enjoyed the juggler. It was a pleasant forty minutes. All of the main, before dinner, shows during the week were designed to appeal more to the children in the audience than to adult tastes. I found them to be pleasant diversions that the kids enjoyed, but with a sort of amateur feel. One night there was just a showing of the new Disney movie, Atlantis, the Lost Empire. The Disney Dreams show featuring various Disney characters was the most polished production.
After the preview show we went down to the 'Off Beat' lounge on Beat Street to catch the dueling pianos act. It was well done. Hannah joined other children on stage for a couple of audience participation numbers. Paul and Tamara were accomplished on the piano and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their enjoyment was transmitted to the audience.
In our stateroom was a card telling us that we would dine at table 32 every night. The restaurant; however, changed each night. The first night our restaurant was Parrots Cay where the decor and the menu had a tropical theme. Our servers in every restaurant were Nadege from France and Gurkan from Turkey. They gave unfailingly excellent service and were always friendly and willing to do anything they could to make the dining experience more enjoyable. It was not their fault that the quality of the food ranged from mediocre to very good with an occasional burst of excellence. Dinners were more to the good side with breakfast being barely edible. The scrambled eggs in the sit down restaurant were mixed with so much water that it was leaching out onto the plate and I could not eat them. The omelet was better. Our dining companions were the Rafferty family from outside of Philadelphia who had three children of similar ages to Jake and Hannah. The youngest four became good friends both at mealtime and out and about the ship. The first night Jake and Hannah were given children's menus with very limited stereotypical kid selections, but there was no objection when Jake ordered a full meal from the adult menu which he fully enjoyed. Every night he was given the children's menu and every night he ordered off of my menu. I guess the servers had been told that children get the children's menu. The gumbo soup was very good and the steak cooked rare as I had ordered. Unfortunately the steak tasted as though it had been marinated in grapefruit juice. I did not try Palo, the adult restaurant, as I had come on this cruise to be with my grandchildren. Hannah often had lunch with the children of the Oceaneer club up at Topsider on deck 9. Jake and I ate in Lumiere's for a sit down lunch. If Hannah ate with us, we would first go up to Pluto's doghouse and get a hot dog which we took into the restaurant. There was never any objection from the staff. Service at lunch was always excellent, but the food was just OK except for the soups, which were generally delicious.
After dinner we headed for the cabin to settle two excited kids for the night. It was after 10:00 PM, but our cabin had still not been configured as twin beds as I had requested at about 2:00 PM. I called guest services again and they sent a man to change the room from king size bed to twins. After he left, the kids got into bed, but Jake said his sheets on the converted sofa smelled awful and he could not sleep in the bed. He put his pillow on the floor and was planning to sleep there when I remembered a trick I had read about. We took a fresh bar of bath soap and rubbed it very lightly over all surfaces of the pillow and sheets. It smelled good enough that he could sleep in the bed. Of course, Hannah then had to have the same treatment for her bed. I just hoped they wouldn't get a rash from the soap. Luckily there was no problem. I suspect that the sheets had been folded into the sofa unused for too long. He did not have the problem again.
Sunday morning the kids did not open a single eye until well after 10:00 AM so we had a leisurely morning in the cabin followed by BBQ ribs at Lumiere's. They were tougher and chewier than I expected them to be, but had good flavor. The tablespoon of coleslaw on the plate was very good.
The Oceaneer program for the children was excellent. We were given a list of the activities for the week for each age group when they registered. The facilities for them were extensive. Any time we were not swimming or at dinner Hannah was in the Oceaneer club in the 5-7 group, by her own choice. She liked the counselors, the other kids, and the activities, especially the slide. If you wished, you could leave kids in there all day from 9:00 AM until midnight. They even took them to meals up at Topsider. They ate in a separate room at little tables with multi-section trays. There was a little of several bit of several foods that a kid favorites already on their trays when they arrived, and they could have more of anything they liked. To get from the children's area to the Topsider the children marched single file through the stair ways form deck 5 to deck 9 singing a marching song. Counselors were on every landing to keep the line of well over 100 three to seven year olds moving along. I happened to be on the stair way one day while they were on their way to lunch. They looked happy, adorable, and well supervised. When it was not raining we took Hannah out of Oceaneer's club for swimming in the afternoon, the daily show, and dinner with the family. After dinner she often wanted to go back to the club for the evening activity. If you have a 5-7 year old be sure to go to the pajama party. They got to color and keep a small pillow that Hannah really values even though we are home from the cruise. Jake was more selective about which activities he did with the Oceaneer's lab for 8-9 year olds. He enjoyed the computer games, playing Pictionary, and the secret spy party. One day he had checked himself out of the lab, but could not find Hannah and me. He went over to Hannah's club and had the counselors page me to find out where we were. Very handy! I also found it delightfully peaceful to take my shower and relax after lunch each day while they were in their respective areas for a couple of hours.
It was cold and windy on Sunday afternoon, but the kids were determined to swim and go on the twisty slide into Mickey's pool. They played for over an hour until the foul smelling fumes from the funnel just over the pool for small children were so bad that I could not stand it any more. After the swim we took Hannah back to the Oceaneer's club to have dinner with the kids at her request. Then Jake and I dressed for the Captain's welcome evening and Hercules the Muse-kal. The performance was quite corny to me, but Jake laughed a lot so it must depend on your age and taste. Dinner at Lumiere's was pleasant; our table companions added to our mealtime enjoyment. Jake and I had well prepared rack of lamb with an unusual, but tasty, mix of tomato, green pepper, and zucchini. The meals had a nice balance of meat and vegetable. Hannah was still not ready to leave when we picked her up after 10:00 PM to go back to the cabin for bedtime.
INPUT FROM THE YOUNGER SET
Each day I asked the kids to help me write this review by telling me what they thought was good and not so good about the cruise. On the first day Hannah said the best part was looking around the ship by ourselves and that all of the people were very nice, both passengers and crew members. Today her favorites were the slide at Mickey's pool and doing experiments in the Oceaneer's lab. They used goggles and studied gasses using Jell-O and balloons and other things. She also liked the Spy Kids movie that they saw. She did not like losing her mug and too much rain. Jake's high points were the food, which he called awesome; playing Pictionary with the kids in the lab; and Hercules, the Muse-kal, especially the actor who played Hades. He did not like the safety drill that he found too uncomfortable in the humidity and he thought Mickey's pool too shallow for a nine year old. In his opinion it is only for really little kids.
MONDAY AND TUESDAY
Monday was more rain and substantially the same activities. Because few people were outside, all of the indoor activities were extremely overcrowded. Disney needs to have a plan B for rainy days. There were not enough indoor activities to keep even most of the people occupied. We finally got a seat at the 2:00 PM Island Magic show by coming a half an hour early. It was a production involving seven large Disney characters and a cruise staff person who tied the show together. It was cute, the children in the audience loved it. After the show Jake and I went up to 'Scoops' where there is free ice cream and fruit most of the day. We had sundaes made to order. Next Jake was off to the lab to build a wacky racer with the 8-9 year olds. I spent my free time relaxing on the promenade in one of the comfortable wooden deck chairs until 'family time' in the lab when Hannah and I could play the computer games too. The kids really enjoyed the magic show before dinner. I also found it to be one of the better shows of the week. Unfortunately the ship was really rocking and Jake got seasick at dinner so that he and I missed the display of colors in the animator's palette restaurant. (Although you eat in the restaurant twice, they only do the color show once.) Hannah spent the evening with the Rafferty family while I stayed with Jake out on deck until his stomach settled down. The nurse in the medical facility gave me instructions for making him feel better. Within an hour after taking the recommended pill he was feeling good enough to want something to eat.
Tuesday morning the kids slept late again. We had not eaten breakfast on the ship yet. We docked in St. Maartin. I went ashore to call my daughter, but the phones on St. Maartin will not accept prepaid cards except those purchased on St. Maartin. Lila will have to wait until tomorrow to hear that the kids are fine. Both kids stayed in their lab and club most of the day. It warmed up in the afternoon for the first time so I collected them to swim in Goofy's pool. It is very poorly designed. The high walls to contain sloshing due to the rocking of the ship are so close to the pool that a parent cannot see in to be sure that the kids are all right unless sitting on the edge of the pool. Most ships have the higher walls set back a few feet from the pool with tiles between the pool and the slosh walls so that you can see the people down in the pool from a chair on deck. by the end of the week the teenagers had pretty well taken over Goofy's pool so that it was not really safe for Hannah to swim there even though she is a pretty good swimmer. After swimming we watched the movie Atlantis, the Lost Empire and ate dinner in Parrots Cay again. The pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes were good, but nothing special.
INPUT FROM JAKE AND HANNAH
Jake's favorite activities have been those in the lab including the bride tour, Bingo, and making the wacky racers. He also like the Atlantis movie. He did not like being seasick and losing his lunch in the restaurant. (I do not think the servers or people at nearby tables were thrilled with it either.) Hannah liked playing with the kids at the pool and going on the pool slide. She reported that it was faster and better today than when it was cold. The also liked the PJ party in the club. She did not like getting up so late that she missed going to lunch with the kids nor missing dinner dessert to go to the PJ party.
WEDNESDAY AND ST. THOMAS
We started with a continental breakfast ordered from room service. They brought the food as ordered at the requested time. Although our order card said three persons, we received only one napkin and neither straws nor glasses for the cartons of milk.
The open air taxi to get to town from the pier was $3.00 per person for a ride of about two miles. It was drizzly while we shopped then came a downpour while we were in the open sided taxi returning to the ship. I did not explore the beach since it was raining off and on. When we got back on the ship we had dinner in Lumiere's. The roast breast of duck with orange sauce was very good. Jake and I had to skip dessert to get to his family party with the oceaneers. The time frames for the children's activities assume the early dinner sitting. We had to rush dinner and/or skip dessert on two occasions in order to make it to the activities that the kids had chosen. Even then we were a little late arriving.
THURSDAY AND THE CHARACTER BREAKFAST
On the first day each family was given a ticket for a particular day to attend the character breakfast. Our assigned day was Thursday. The food was the worst I have ever been served at breakfast. In fact, it was so bad that none of us ate what we had ordered, not even the rubbery pancakes. There were about six costumed Disney characters going from table to table. They were very patient about signing autographs and posing for pictures with the kids. I was pleasantly surprised on this ship that there were no professional photographers intruding on mealtimes with gimmicks for pictures. The daily navigator stated where the photographers would be and the passengers went to them is they wanted pictures taken. The lines for pictures with the Disney characters in the atrium were very long each time they were scheduled. After breakfast Hannah went to her club to make gooey flubber while Jake participated in the activities with his group on the sports deck. He won a medal for jumping rope the longest time. After this Jake and I went to the seafood buffet while Hannah had lunch with the Oceaneers. The seafood buffet had a nice variety of offerings.
Thursday evening was the talent show for which Jake had signed up to do an Irish step dance. He had practiced earlier in the week and arranged for the technician to play his CD at the appropriate band at the rehearsal earlier in the day. This was not a contest, but a show, so that all of the performers could feel good about their contribution. All of the children were enthusiastic with varying degrees of skill. I have never been on a ship where participation in a show, game, or contest was not acknowledged in some fashion, usually with a small souvenir. Disney gave the children nothing to commemorate the occasion, not even a computer printed certificate.
Dinner was semi-formal. The menu had excellent choices including lobster tails. The lobster was delicious as was the cherries jubilee. After dinner Jake and I played shuffleboard while Hannah 'hung out' with the Rafferty children until bedtime.
A serious negative aspect today was that Mrs. Rafferty received word that her grandmother had died. She went to guest services to get help getting the number of the hotel where her family was staying. They would give her no assistance at all, even though she knew the name of the hotel and the city it was in. She was quite distressed at dinner that she could not contact her family. I was very surprised to hear this as guest services had been so helpful to me when I needed a place for the kids to practice their dancing as I had told their mother that they would. They had even gone to some trouble to find me a portable CD player. They had also been very helpful in putting me through to the nurse when nobody was answering the phone in the medical center when Jake was seasick and I was unsure what to do for a young child.
Friday morning I let the kids sleep until 10:00 AM then we dressed in our swimsuits and put on lots of sun screen for the day on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Departure from the ship was quick and easy since most of the passengers had already left the ship. The tram to all main areas was waiting so we hopped on and rode to the BBQ lunch. The food was not especially tasty, but it was fun having a picnic in such a beautiful setting. After lunch I checked Hannah into Scuttles Cove with the oceaneers after which Jake went to try snorkeling. Since he was using my fins, he had a little trouble at first. He got it mastered soon enough to swim for over two hours before I made him get out of the water. We had our own equipment so we did not have to pay the expensive rental fee. Jake was required to wear a floatation vest while in the snorkeling area, but did not have to pay any rental fee to use it. I also had to wear a vest, for no charge, while I was teaching him how to use the fins and when I swam out to have him come back in closer to shore. There were plenty of lifeguards all along the beach and out in the water.
After Jake was doing fine on his own, I rested for awhile in a hammock provided on the beach then went to get Hannah so she could have her turn swimming. The family beach was beautiful with plenty of chairs and loungers, but because there were so many people the water was somewhat crowded and cloudy. I did not get a chance to see if the adult beach was more pristine. Jake saw many fish and was thrilled. At the end of the week both kids agreed that Castaway Cay was the very best part of the week. Luckily it did not rain on that day.
When we returned to the ship the first thing they wanted to do was to swim in Goofy's pool until I made them get out so we could pack our main cases for putting in the hall after dinner. Dinner was international night. Good, but nothing special. Tips for all we tipped came to $230 for the three of us.
Debarkation was the easiest it has been on any cruise that I have taken. Late sitting passengers were required to bring their carry ons to breakfast at 8:00 AM. After breakfast we just walked off the ship, picked up our luggage from the customs area, and proceeded to our bus to the airport. The kids spent some time figuring out how we might get from our departing bus to one of the ones arriving for embarkation. They had had a wonderful time and wanted to start over again.
My overall evaluation is that the cruise is overpriced for the cruise quality provided for adults. The children's program is excellent in all respects. Most members of the staff and crew were friendly and helpful. The food is not as consistently good as it should be on a cruise advertised to be of high quality and the bed was uncomfortable. Castaway Cay was well planned and a wonderful way to spend a day. All cruised nickel and dime the passengers for extras to increase their 'on board revenue.' Disney quarter and dollars them. Many items cost more for comparable purchases on the Disney ship and there seemed to be more of them. The only places I noticed that Disney was not more expensive was that the sods at meals were without extra charge and the swim vests, if you own you own equipment for snorkeling, were free. I did not allow my grandchildren to play the arcade games or to buy the expensive nonalcoholic drinks with souvenir glass, and they still had a great time.