No, you didn’t misread the title. “But wait a minute,” you say. “How can the writer possibly know if Disney is for me? I don’t like kids, I’m not the biggest fan of cartoons and I think I’d throw up if I saw Mickey dressed as a Roman soldier.”
As a solo traveler with no children, I thought the same thing when my boss assigned me to cover a land-based trip with Disney Cruise Line, which was showcasing some of its 2013 shore excursion offerings in Europe. (Disney Magic will be sailing four-, five-, seven- and 12-night itineraries there next summer.)
I gritted my teeth, packed my bags and braced myself for what I expected to be a week of cheesy character events. Then, using some of that legendary fairy dust, Disney blew my socks off. A Turkish bath in Kusadasi? Sure! Wine- and cheese-tasting in Rome while making my very own mosaic? You bet! Learning to row a gondola in Venice? Absolutely!
From active pursuits and sightseeing to shopping, the arts and good ol’ relaxation, there was something for every taste. The kicker? There were no children on the trip — just a group of adult journalists who had a great time — and we didn’t see a single character the entire week.
Disney is also extending its land-based “Adventures by Disney” offerings to Disney Magic passengers next year; a small number of cruisers can pay for the exclusive right to a dedicated set of guides and prearranged shore excursions, which include extra touches like snacks and meals, postcards (which they’ll mail for you from Vatican City), coins to toss into Trevi Fountain, surprise stops for gelato and even complimentary collector pins, which are all the rage among Disney fans.
Take a peek at the rundown of our activities below. Have kids? Don’t worry: There’s stuff for them, too!
A trip to St. John’s Basilica turned into a fun treasure hunt when a team of hired actors-turned-archeologists were looking for the missing piece of an ancient mosaic. A series of clues led our team to a treasure chest with the missing piece. The hunt continued at Ephesus, our next stop, which included a guided tour and a staged dig led by a retired archeologist. We later experienced a Turkish bath and had a “Dine Like a Roman” meal. (Let’s just say it involved costumes.)
Our adventures in Rome began in Villa Borghese park with a puppet show featuring well-known Italian character Pulcinella, a rather amusing genie and a woman on stilts. Later, we found ourselves at the Artstudio Cafe, making paste-by-color fish mosaics — an adults-only activity (including a meat and cheese aperitif and wine) to be offered to a handful of passengers. Our second day in Rome was the most tiring of trip, but it was also the most enjoyable. We started at the Vatican, where we saw the Pope flying back from his summer home, gazed at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and toured St. Peter’s Basilica. We stopped for lunch — a make-your-own-pizza experience, which was quirky and fun — before visiting the Trevi Fountain and then made our way to the Coliseum.
Our final stop was Venice, where we checked out a mask-making studio, chose white plaster masks and painted them ourselves before finishing them off with ribbons, feathers, glitter and other trimmings. We were also led on an after-hours tour of the Doge’s Palace in St. Mark’s Square. Our final day included a stop at a canalside boathouse, which was home to several kinds of gondolas. We were also instructed in the fine (and very difficult) art of gondola-rowing.
What’s your take? Would you give Disney a try? Leave your comments below.
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